Sahcol’s plan to stay afloat, by Owolabi
How have the activities of your company impacted on the Nigerian economy since inception?
Ans: We have been building this company for close to three years now. Since the beginning this year things have not been looking very well. Business volumes have been reduced at the airports including handling activities which have also slowed down. Economy is looking down.
The exchange rate has gone haywire which is affecting business activities. So, everybody is watching the government to know which direction it is driving the economy. But that not withstanding, we have continued to manage the little resources at our disposal to develop our facilities including the new warehouses we have put up and to run the company. Very important to mention is the type of chairman we have, in the person of Chief Taiwo Afolabi who believes in building a world class company and making sure that it is properly managed for effective results.
Are you worried that up till now the government has not been able to provide direction on which way the economy is going?
Ans: I am not worried because I believe the government is taking its time to make sure that things are done very properly. It is better to take one step at a time that will turn things around than to hurry things that will collapse within a short time. Let us continue to pray and watch that this government will do things right as it promised. Everybody must tighten his or her belt and follow the new economic regime of the government. Those who are doing their genuine business I believe, will be given the right environment the continue their business, while fraudulent people will not a breathing space in the new regime.
Most of your clients are airlines, both domestic and international. How many of them meet their financial obligations to your company?
The international airlines meet their financial obligations to us. The local airlines have been having financial problems here and there. A lot of them have been finding difficult to pay for our services.
How does this affect your operations?
It is affecting us adversely. But we have to look inwards to make sure we do not ground our activities because of lack of payments from the local airlines.
We have about 26 airports in Nigeria. How many of these airports does your company cover?
We cover about 14 of them.
How many of these airports you cover are viable?
Only a few of them are viable, others are not. What we do is to use the ones that are viable to sustain the nonviable ones in order to meet the demands of our customers.
The viable airports in terms of our handling jobs include: Lagos, Abuja, Portharcourt, Enugu, Kano and other old airports where you have frequent flights going to. But where you have one or two aircraft going to, such airports cannot be viable. When the economy start booming, the airlines will pick up.
Recently, Nahco was reported to be planning to lay off its staff due to the present economic down turn. Do you have any of such plans?
Yes, we are also going to sack some of our staff. I will not use the phrase ‘lay off’. I want to use the word ‘reduce’ staff because of the workload. You can see our warehouse, there is nothing in it. No cargo. It is empty. People are not bringing goods like before. So, we cannot keep workers who we are paying salaries and they are not doing anything. Therefore, we want to have the number of staff we will be able to pay. Right now we are not owing any staff his or her salary. We are up to date in salary payment. The type of chairman we have he does not like owing any person. He prefers to have small number of staff he can pay, than having too many people he cannot pay.
What is your workforce now?
So far now, we have about 1000 staff.
How soon do you plan this retrenchment of your workers?
As soon as possible. But I can assure you that it will have human face. It is not going to be a witch hunt. We have not retrenched staff for the past three years, while others have repeatedly sacked their staff. We do not want to reduce the services we are offering to our customers with the new facilities we have.