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Corporate Personality of The Month (22nd Jan 2003) Tell your friends about this page! Email it to them.

“THINGS WILL GET BETTER…”

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) annually organise what has often been referred to as the biggest and the best fair in Africa. But what goes into the successful hosting of such a monumental event is not normally reported. Heading the team that makes the Lagos International Trade Fair possible is Mr. Herbert Ademola Ajayi, the Chairman Trade Fair Board and the Vice President of the LCCI. In this interview he bears his mind on what goes on behind the scene in terms of organisation and planning the Lagos International Trade Fair, read on:

Please sir, can you introduce yourself?

Mr. Ajayi: My name is Herbert Ademola Ajayi, I am the chairman of the Trade Fair Board, the Vice President of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Can you give us a brief history of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry?

Mr. Ajayi: The LCCI was formed in 1888 and has since then been involved in advocacy and the promotion of the interest of the private sector, businesses and services.

Can you give us a  brief history of the Lagos International Trade Fair sir?

Mr. Ajayi: Well, the history of the Lagos International Trade Fair is a bit long, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry is involved in the fair annually, this is about the 22nd or so fair. A number of them hah been held here (International Trade Fair Complex, Badagry Expressway), until about 1995 or so when the PTF asked that we move out so they can - you know the Petroleum Trust Fund - renovate the complex and so we did move out but to our surprise we found that nothing was done until the time we decided that we had to come back here when Tafawa Balewa Square where we moved to was becoming too cumbersome, it’s choked up and there is no elbow room. When we couldn’t do anything, we decided that we better come back to this place, but even then in the last 3 years we have been trying to come back here. This year we have been promised that by the time you come, this will be on ground, this will be done, that will be done but we found that these things are not being done, sometime they may not even be in the budget (Lagos State Government). So, we were pushed to the wall. We have a social contract with the business community, the international community, with Nigerians who believe that the Lagos Chamber is the organiser of the biggest and best trade fair in this part of the world and so we had to take it on headlong and see what we can do and that is why we are here.

Please, what have been your challenges and problems at this year fair?

Mr. Ajayi: Well the challenges have been to do with, one the venue. The venue which you see now cost us millions and a lot of sweat and labour to get it to anything worth using at all, that was a great challenge because that also involve having to sort out water, electricity, telephone, communication even for the roads we had to lobby and work hard and see that the roads are improved. We also have of course the challenge of security, though we are not responsible for security at such but we want those who are here to be safe and secure, so we had to do a lot of work which I cannot disclose to ensure to some extent as much as we can the security of life and property. Another challenge also had to do again with the customary resistance of visitors who feel coming to Lagos Badagry Expressway is going to be a hell of a problem to get to the venue, so we had to introduce shuttle buses and they are working, we believe they have  relieved the additional pressure we would have brought on that very heavy road. We have done our best so far, but I am sure we could do better as it were, but we are believing that this are part of the things we had to do, there are many things that had to be done, to keep the place clean, secure and reduce the hawkers menace of course which is still present inspite of all we’ve done it has become a phenomenon that this country itself is made up of hawkers on the road and everywhere I hope hawkers wont soon have to go to churches and mosques that are everywhere, they want to hawk everywhere you know and that is one of the big challenge we have,  we are even now still looking into how to reduce it if we cannot completely eliminate such a menace.

Sir, what are your observation at this year fair in terms of exhibitors, the turn-out of exhibitors, visitors, logistics and your alliance with Chivalry the people that manage the gate and the marketing?

Mr. Ajayi: Well, we are pleased with the attendance because we have far more exhibitors than we had last year but we also observed that some of the exhibitors, very many of the small exhibitors did not even register with us, but they are on ground and that is causing us a lot of losses. But visitors are certainly quite as many as last year, last year it was about 250,000 visitors but this year we are hoping that visitors may go up to as much as 400,000 or 500,000 visitors in 10 days. Now we have used Chivalry to manage the gate, they are our franchisee, the same as we have used Cross Country bus as our official shuttle buses operator and they have the franchise to operate the buses. We use some banks to market and they include Hallmark Bank, Afribank, Omega Bank, National Bank, Trade Bank and some of these banks we use them this year to do some marketing for us. Then we have like the organised private sector, we used a number of people, we used the Police, LASTMA, Bureau of Public Works, so in various area we have got to co-opt people to do certain things in order that we can get a properly organised trade fair, we apologise to our exhibitors and visitors for the seeming disorder in some places, we accept that it could be better, but it could also be worse. We’ve done what we can and we will still continue until the very last day we will continue to see what can be done to improve. Thank you very much.

Can you give us a parting comment sir?

Mr. Ajayi: The comment is that we have a social contract with Nigerians, with businessmen, and with the international community to hold this fair on the first week of November every year and we want to continue to do it and we are going to continue to improve the very first step of coming to the most difficult terrain for holding an international trade fair. We believe that the very expensive and bold step of coming here has made us to have certain things on ground which should make it a little easier next year and in the years to come, not only for us but for exhibitors because some of them have also put down structures which they want to come back to in future and we also have had promises that the road will be fixed and a lot of things will done. So we hope to welcome our exhibitors, more of them and our visitors to the exhibits and we are hoping that next year we will have many of them coming and we will be pleased to welcome them.

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