Chief Mrs Lucy Ajayi is the Executive Director Trade fair international complex. In this exclusive interview with Lolo Onyegbule, Lucy who has significantly transformed Trade Fair to becoming a stronger international market base in less than two year she assumed office, disclosed reasons behind her success, drumming support for President Buhari, and how she was able to generate over N1 billion naira into the federation account.
May we meet you?
My name is Lucy Ajayi, I am the Executive Director Trade fair international.
What plans do you have to improve infrastructures in the complex especially roads within the complex?
By February ending work will begin in earnest on the five kilometer road that has been hanging. When the construction is completed, it will be a land mark victory because when I came in here the first thing the traders complained about was that they were in bondage and that they were made to pay unnecessary levies and the roads are bad and their trucks are falling. because of the roads . Immediately I came I did some palliative measures on the road so that we will have less or no containers falling off trucks and goods being destroyed. This is my agency, and I have to do the right thing.
What other things have you put in place?
When I came in, I discovered that some of the stakeholders didn’t have a proper agreement because they didn’t even pay into the government account. Many of them didn’t even know if they were stakeholders. The first thing I did when I came into office was to revalidated all their papers and I didn’t witch hunt anybody. Because if I knew that you didn’t pay to the federal government purse and you are a stakeholder and you have papers that I do not recognize I am supposed to take the things off you but my presidents said we should give a human face to what we are doing and there is executive order of ease of doing business. So I calmed down, I listened to them and felt that if I were to be in their shoes and somebody comes and I pay to a government agent and you are telling that because you have revoked or you are no more with that agent automatically my contract is revoked, I will not be happy. My president didn’t tell me go and revalidate or and go and revoke, but he said go and listen to their problems and see how we can move trade fair and Nigeria forward. And I discovered they actually have a receipt of paying so much money to someone’s personal purse and not to the federal government. When I came I said just get us a percentage revalidate your papers and let me see all the stakeholders so that you have your proper papers. And they were all happy for that. At any given time they had my support. And because they had my support every step, the traders said to me Madam Lucy Ajayi, Buhari we do not know but because he sent you and you have done this, and because we want to have that same peace and ease of doing business and because of you, we will vote for Buhari
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Let’s talk about ease of doing business and limiting it to your constituency. We are aware that this is an international trade fair and people here are mostly importers and make use of forex. In the last four years, Nigeria has not had it pleasant and businessmen have been complaining bitterly and you are asking them to vote for the reelection of President Buhari. What are the guaranty that in the next four years, the ease of doing business that they clamour for will be realised?
I am happy stakeholders are here. A nation does not get destroyed just in one day. We have inherited this, it is just manifesting. And we are lucky that we have been able to manage it well. How much forex did those who came in 1999 leave? Their own finance minister was saying that we were going into recession because of their bad policies and we came and was able to manage the situation. They should be happy that they can still import. In trade fair they are not all importers and we are trying to encourage indigenous companies and firms. We have everything, people come here and export our raw materials and process it, just like our petrol why don’t we develop these things here. Go to Aba, if they sew a suit you will think it is from UK, or Italy,. Why don’t we encourage indigenous businesses. With this policy, look at the trader money policy and what they are doing in the market. Rome was not build in a day. We actually recognize that there is a difficulty but I am saying that we have saved enough so that we can repair those difficulties in the next four years.
Since you assumed office have you been able to generate internally revenue?
When I came in I met 44 million naira but right now we have been able to generate over one billion naira into the federation account. Not just the TSA but the consolidated account. Before now we usually have 34, 44 million as my budget but right now I met over six hundred million of my budget, and the budget presentation they asked me you only have 44 million, how do you intend to fund the huge budget I told them that I have studied the market and we can generate more than that. And they approved 1. Something billion as budget. So that is progress for us. We have the borders close to us but the bad roads are discouraging us. To get a truck in here you pay through your nose because of the road. You are talking about Forex, but I am talking about how to bring in goods into this place, they are being hit one, two, three but if you have four problems and one is being solved gradually there will be ease of doing business.
In the past, there used to be violence here but we no more here about it. What was the magic wand you used?
Nigerians are human beings, if you talk to them, and treat them as one, they will listen to you and you listen to them, they will do the right thing. When I came here, of course there was pocket of violence, even when l got the letter, I had to stay in Abuja for 8 months because I couldn’t possess my office. For eight months I was in Abuja trying to get the possession of my office. And there was a time my PA was attacked and his Ipad was spoilt it was that bad.
Those people they call the bad boys they are actually good boys. It is just because they were jobless and redundant. I brought them in, asked them if they would like to do something to earn a living and be responsible. I asked them to look around and I empowered you. That is the youth. I am also mother of the youth. I asked them that this is what Buhari have for the youth. If you think you can be empowered in here find something to do and when they did, I empowered them. Those are the ones who drove the PDP people away not even the policemen . How many policemen do I have here to drive the PDPs away. Those were my boys who I empowered. Some of them where born here no attention from the government. When I came here they said there was no federal presence here and they weren’t going to pay me. The money that I started accumulating was arrears of 16 years that they didn’t pay because they claimed there was no federal presence here. And I told them I will bring federal presence.
In the past, the international chamber of commerce used to hold its annual trade fair here but because of the bad road, the dusty environment a few years ago, it was moved to TBS.
How do you intend to bring them back here , since this place is bigger?
Point of correction. That was one of the reasons. The main reason was that the concessionaire over billed them times ten, and they couldn’t pay. They are not comfortable in TBS and they speak with me. *The* process is ongoing to bring them back
Finally, you said Buhari has done so well for the people here. Can you itemize, some of the things you think he has done?
I am an APC Chieftain, and I have embarked on several rally to sensitive the Amuwo Odofin Local government in support of President Buhari’s reelection. We want people to know that Buhari has done so well and deserve to be reelected. We are doing this because when you don’t sensitise people they will assume.
Specifically I want to limit President Buhari’s achievement to myself. When I came in here, last year I know the state in which I met this place. People who come to trader fair know how the place was and how it is now. It was like a market and it was supposed to be an international trade fair. We had to work to bring back the glory of this trade fair. We had someone who ran the affairs of this place under the past administration; I don’t want to call the name of the party. For nine years he never brought a dime to the purse of the federal government and it was supposed to be a developmental contract or concession and it was obvious he did the opposite. But since I came in which is barely two years, about a year and some months ago I have been able to make a difference because my principal, President Muhammed Buhari gave me all the freedom to do all I need to do. But as I am speaking with you, since I was appointed I haven’t seen the president. But he has given me a mandate, he doesn’t know how I will achieve that mandate but I will achieve it. I won’t say former Executive Directors didn’t do well but they were not given enough freedom. But President Buhari gives mandate and freedom to execute.