MEET FRANK OSHANUGOR
American Trained Cyber-Security Expert Takes Rice Production Factory To Ubulu-Uku
By Frank Oshanugor
The people of Ubulu-Uku in Aniocha South Local Government Area of Delta State have every reason to raise their shoulders high as a fellow citizen, Mr. Collins Nwaka, who retired from the State Department in United States of America has returned home to set up a multi million naira rice factory after working for about 25 years as a cyber security expert.
In an exclusive interview with AtlanticNewsOnline recently, Nwaka said the desire to partake in developing Ubulu-Uku (his place of birth), providing jobs for some of the unemployed youths in the community and ultimately reducing the number of those getting involved in crime were the factors that compelled him to locate the factory at Ubulu-Uku. In his words, “locating the factory at Ubulu-Uku is to ensure that the town can be seen in the map.”
The factory which effectively became operational in March, 2021 is solely owned by Nwaka who revealed that about half a billion naira had already gone into the rice project. “This is a solo effort, there is no partnership currently, no outside investor as it stands,” he emphasised.
At present, the rice factory which gets its raw products from Benue, Taraba and Kwara states is producing a daily average of 250 (50kg) bags of KJI brand. This figure is however below the installed capacity as the factory for now has a serious energy challenge that has made it to constantly run on industrial generator.
According to the cyber security expert turned rice producer, “I have brand new equipment for processing. The machine is called full rice processing mill from beginning to the end. It is in a perfectly working condition with one ton processing capacity that produces average of 20/30 bags per hour. In a day, it produces between 150/250 bags of rice and this translate to about 1000/1200 per week.”
“However, there is the biggest challenge of electricity. Since March 2021 to date, my factory has been functioning on generator to power the production plant. I am spending about N12,000 daily on diesel for five-production unit. There is no constant electricity at Ubulu-Uku particularly the area of the town where the factory is located.”
He pointed out that the only time there would be light is at night and “I cannot function at night because there is no way I can employ people to work for me at night. Moreso, running the plant at night would create noise pollution which will ultimately disturb people. Even when the light comes at night, it is usually between 90/105 volts, not even up to half current.”
Nwaka emphasised that the current state of electricity cannot power even a single unit of the factory which has six combined units that must function simultaneously. Explaining the production process, he said the raw rice goes through the Feeder, Disowner, Elevator, Sharpener, Separator, Furnisher, Warmer and finally Bagging.
According to him, “every single one of these units has its own power generator which is the machine and every single one is running from 25/30 kilowatts. The combined power of the entire unit is 132 kilowatts of the plant.”
Since the factory for now depends on rice farmers in the three northern states of Benue, Taraba and Kwara for its raw products, there are also the challenge of transportation, insecurity and occasional breakdown of vehicles conveying the raw rice from the north.
Speaking further on the challenges of the factory in current time, Nwaka who has invested all his retirement fund into the business expressed dismay by the fact that in spite of the availability of finance institutions that can give loans, accessibility has become an issue. He would therefore ask for any form of government subsidy.
With a total staff strength of 22 currently on his pay roll, the KJI rice producer is looking forward to providing more employment opportunities for his people. These 22 members of staff are not all stationed at Ubulu-Uku as the company has a raw material gathering and production outlet also in Kwara State. According to him, some of the staff are into marketing while some are in the store to attend to distributors.
With a strong determination to help in developing his area and empowering more jobless youths, Nwaka has however expressed disappointment with the indifference largely being shown to his efforts by his own fellow citizens of Ubulu-Uku who do not patronize his rice product like people from other places.
Explaining this with some air of emotion, Nwaka said “one way I find myself dismayed is the fact that currently, I have sixteen distributors of my KJI rice in Lagos, Ogun, Ondo and Kwara States, yet in my home state of Delta where the factory is located, I do not currently have a single distributor. It is a bit disappointing and I honestly feel dismayed.”
In terms of quality, KJI rice ranks among the best locally produced brands in the market and prizes are also within reasonable range. According to him, “KJI rice sells like hot cake in a place like Lagos. My distributors sell a bag for N26,000/N27,000 to retailers and retailers can sell for N30,000 or more. However, at Ubulu-Uku we sell between N22,000/N24,000 yet the patronage is still very low. So with this, one cannot really understand why my own people would not want to patronize us. We have been doing community advertising by distributing flyers telling our people about the existence of the factory and availability of high grade rice at reasonable prizes, yet not much has changed in terms of their patronage.”
At the age of twelve, Mr. Collins Nwaka was taken to the United States of America where he had his education up to the university level obtaining several qualifications in different disciplines. On graduation, he found himself working in the State Department, initially as a Data Analyst and as time went on, with the dawn of cyber hackers, cyber criminal activities in a more pronounced form, the defence system to tackle the emerging criminal activities also became more evolved.
“So gradually from data analysis to introductory technology infrastructure, obviously we began to work. I would say that my set was the first set of cyber security experts that emerged in the United States. I put in about 25 years in service working as a cyber security expert before I retired and decided to return home.”
Ask Nwaka how did he get into agriculture related area after over two decades in cyber security, his response would be that, “the reality is that I have always been a farmer at heart. My grand fathers on both sides (paternal & maternal) were into peasant farming and I have always enjoyed the notion of the simple fact that at the end of every type of activity in life, one thing becomes predominant in human existence which is sustenance by way of food. Every human being must eat first before thinking of the next level of security.”
He explained further that when he did market feasibility in 2012 which was the first towards establishing business, “it became apparent to me that at the end of every activity, everybody would still have to eat. What made me choose production of rice above every other thing is that in my locality, we already have yam, cassava from which garri is made. One thing we did not have which was predominantly in the northern part of the country is rice. I decided to go into rice production as a way of bringing it closer to my people because if we do not evolve with time, opportunities may elude us.”