Wednesday, June 15, 2016 1:36 pm
Sierra Leone is experiencing major road rehabilitation in the South-Eastern Region, embarked upon by a Nigerian Construction Firm, First Tricon Construction Company, that specializes on roads and bridges. Government officials in the Country and in the Sub-Region have applauded the giant strides by the Company, resulting in bringing economic development to the people
By Abubakar Hashim/Sierra Leone
Our field trip to Moyamba, Taiama, Bo, Bandajuma and Pujehun, all in the Southern region of Sierra Leone, was quite remarkable and rewarding. These towns were completely inaccessible some months ago. Vehicles used to be abandoned on the roads. Passengers used to disembark to push vehicles away from thick mud, to continue designated journeys. These sad episodes are now past memories. Thanks to First Tricon, a Nigerian Construction giant, presently rated among the best construction companies in Sierra Leone.
We commenced our field trip to Moyamba Township, a 7 km asphaltic concrete road, with covered line drains and paved with two bridges and walk-ways. The road is now fully completed. Moyamba is the home town of former President Late Siaka Stevens. It is also the city of the famous West African prestigious school, the Harford School for Girls. The town is widely known for its serenity and its indigenes quite friendly.
Due to versatility of the Moyamba township road, First Tricon Company was awarded a much bigger contract, from Moyamba to Shenge, an 84.3 km road project. It will commence in October, after the rains. Some palliative works have been done to make it motorable for vehicles and passable for commuters.
Our next port of call was Taiama to Njala town. It was breath- taking. Njala is the home of the famous Africa Agriculture University, one of the oldest and best institutions in Africa, Njala University. The road is an 11.4 km road, with 75 percent completed, with 3 bridges. This project has brought the University closer to its students, lecturers and local residents. “God go bless FirstTricon Construction”, a local resident told us during the tour visit.
On our journey from Taiama, we visited Bo, the second largest city in Sierra Leone. Bo is the main works yard of the company. It has quarry, both mobile and stationary, it has batching plants to produce concrete, it also have asphaltic plants, an Elkon product from Turkey. The yard is a large and vast area, with a couple of bends, closed to the Bo Mini-stadium.
We slept in Bo, commenced the following day on another field trip. Bo – Bandajuma road was our next port of call. It leads to Bandajuma – Pujehun road project, handled also by First Tricon. It is a 24 km project. It is 35 percent on-going, with box and pipe culverts along the way.
It leads us to Pujehun Township, a 6.3 km road that is now fully completed. Pujehun is the home of intellectuals and has produced prominent sons and daughters of the country. It is a quiet, sleepy and sprawling town. From Pujehun town, there is an ongoing Pujehun to Gbondapy, a 17.8 km road to commence in October this year. There is also the Mattru road, a 79 km road, also to commence in October. There is also the Mattru Township road, a 4.4 km that is 65 percent complete. The Bonthe Township road project, a 7.8 km road, is 50 percent complete. The Kenema Township road project, a 6.5 km will commence in October.
All these road projects, embarked upon by First Tricon are fully funded by the government of Sierra Leone. This is quite impressive and encouraging as African governments are now looking inward for financial undertakings of such gigantic nature.
When President Ernest Koroma first came to power in 2007, he remarked: “I’ll turn the entire country into a construction work yard”. This is exactly what we saw in our field visit in all these road construction sites in the South-Eastern districts of Sierra Leone.
First Tricon Construction company has truly achieved a remarkable stride in the construction enterprise in Sierra Leone. Today, it is rated among the top ten companies in the country and one of the fastest growing construction companies in the West African Sub-region.
Here is our interview with the Executive chairman:
Olumuyiwa: Secret of First Tricon’s construction success in Sierra Leone
Remi Olumuyiwa is the Executive Chairman, First Tricon Construction Company Limited. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts (Hons) degree in 1982 from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria with a second Class Upper Division. He has attended various advance level training courses in Aviation, Management and Project Management both at home and abroad. Olumuyiwa began his career with the defunct Nigeria Airways in 1985 as a young executive management trainee, with the logistics and flight operations department. He was appointed the chairman of the Hajj Operations Committee, a group mandated to carry out the airlift of over 40,000 pilgrims to Saudi Arabia in 1999. Following a successful airlift, he was promoted and moved to the office of the Managing Director to serve as his Special Assistant, a position he held from 1999 to 2004. He left Nigeria Airways in 2004 and went into private consulting in Aviation Management. He then became the Technical Adviser to the Minister of Aviation from 2005 to 2006. In this interview with ADEMOLA ADEGBAMIGBE and ABUBAKAR HASHIM, he explains his company’s activities in Sierra Leone and why it is successful
What are the reasons behind your impressive works on- going in Sierra Leone?
Ok. Thank you very much and I think I want to believe it is my pleasure having The News here with us. We know that the NEWS has been on for very many years. I used to be an ardent follower of founders of The NEWS right from when they were in African Concord many years ago. I used to work at the Airport then.
You asked us quite a challenging question which is, what is the reason behind our impressive works. I am happy that you have gone to our sites and you have seen what we are doing and I am happy that you can report what you have seen and what we are doing are quite impressive.
We want to attribute number one reason to the grace of God. In other words, where we are today, who we are today, what we are today are essentially by the grace of God. Our going to Sierra Leone was by God’s grace and we got there and opportunities were opened to us and we believe it wouldn’t have come to us except by God. So we believe in providence, we believe in God.
Number two is the fact that we met a government, when I say a government, I mean the government of Sierra Leone, headed by President Ernest Koroma, a government that is sincere and has a genuine, honest plan in infrastructure, especially roads infrastructure.
You know it is one thing for you to believe in a course and you profess what you believe by saying it, it is another for you to go beyond saying it to doing it. So what we saw in Sierra Leone is a government that professes what it believes in as one of its cardinal plans for the nation, agenda for change, agenda for prosperity. So they don’t only believe in it but they have carried it out with a lot of commitment, they are committed to infrastructure. So this is where I think the government has excelled and I am not talking in the abstract, the development in infrastructure that we see, especially roads in Sierra Leone is tangible, it is something you can see, it is something you can touch and it is something you can feel.
Very many years ago when we used to go to Sierra Leone, if you compare that time to now, you can see an appreciable change and that is what the government has really done with roads infrastructure. A lot has taken place but we work in the south. If you go to Freetown, I would say between 75 per cent and 85 per cent of the roads have been rehabilitated. That is a major milestone. They have done quite a lot and what makes it interesting really is the fact that these things are being carried out when they say the resources are scarce. You know that is a general problem.
Even in the African nations, you will find out that the roads they started suddenly stopped but because the government is committed, the President tried as much as possible to see that every road project that he has signed, actually take off and completed. In other words, their priority is making sure that roads are built, so they really have taken a very great stride in that respect and it is not just to Freetown alone, it spans the cross section of the country. Most of the roads in the townships and also the trunk roads are rehabilitated, they are tarred. So, I beleive government should be commended in this respect, you know, but how does that apply to us, you see it is the commitment that you see in government that drives some of us contractors to go the extra mile. We had some instances that we spent our own scarce resources to fulfill government projects. Yes, there might be challenges in financing but when you see a government that is committed, they always make sure that somehow the money gets paid, although it may be delayed. That is one thing that you can get from this government, they are committed to it and they carry out their commitment to the letter and that’s where I know where there is a will, there is always a way and that’s what they have demonstrated. Their road infrastructure is second to none. They have done well.
Number three, we have our partners, and when I talk about our partners, I am talking about financial partners, the banks for instance. We started with Keystone Bank and we are still with them, we are with Ecobank and Ecobank has demonstrated a very high level of professionalism. The bank does not only listen to you, its officials sit down with you, listen and look for solutions to your problems. They don’t say no. They will look for a way to solve the problem. If I say that they also go beyond their way that certain needs are met, I think I will give them kudos for that. Also, we have our private partners. When we are in tight corners we go to them, they help us too in financing. Really that has helped us to deliver on our road projects. Of course, the last one is that we are committed to our vision, and our vision is that we want to be a leader in civil engineering solutions in our chosen markets.
Your company is among the best in Sierra Leone – in terms of rating. Are you planning to expand your activities to other countries?
Yes, we will do but quickly. One of our chosen markets has been in Sierra Leone, we are moving and I believe we are moving to other parts of West Africa which we are already doing – Liberia, Ghana, Cote d’Vore and the rest of them. We want to be the leader in all of these places.
Yes. Just like I have said, our vision really is to expand to other West African countries. Indeed we are “West Afro Centric,” if I may say that. We want to spread to other parts of West Africa. We actually have been invited to Liberia, we are going to Ghana and we are also going to get a foot hold in Cote d’ivore.
You are fully concentrated in the southern side of Sierra Leone, are you also planning to expand to other parts of Sierra Leone?
Yes but for now, No. Why do I say No? Our strategy is to remain for now in the south eastern part of the country, because we don’t want to spread ourselves thin. Our mission statement is to deliver projects in time with the best quality and consistent with customer expectation. So if we are scattered everywhere because we want to make that name, it will not be fine. We just want to be the major player in the southern part of the country. So if there is any job to be done in the south, they will look for us, so we want to be the master in the south.
When was your company first formed?
We were established in Sierra Leone in 2011, and then we started work that same year in that country, we started work with the township roads. We built Moyamba, which we have completed, we built Pujehun, which we have completed, Mattru, which we have completed. It is because of the access to those roads that is still slowing us down. Bonthe is also an island where work is on-going, we have done quite a lot of work there. We have completed over 60% of Taiama road which is the University road. What is holding us is because they have also expanded, what is interesting is that we should have completed the road but because as we go along, as we are taking these road projects, the scope keeps expanding so they keep varying it, they say ok, you have done this much, can you do this more. So they add some other road networks to what we are doing, it is on-going, if we are not meeting their expectations, I don’t think they would add to what we are doing.
What is your vision for the company? Where do you want to take it to, in the next five or six years?
Ok. That’s very interesting. The immediate future of the company if I would say, we want to be first, number one in our chosen market now, which is Sierra Leone and we also want to spread to other parts of West Africa. Like I said we have been invited to Liberia, we are going to Ghana and Cote d’ ivore. But if you are talking about the future, maybe because I believe in God and there is a scripture in Jeremiah 26:11 where the Bible says that “For I know the thoughts I have towards you”, thoughts of peace and future and to give you hope. Some other versions will tell you ‘of expected end’.
Now our future is determined by God’s thought towards us, and this future I can make bold clearly here that we have
a great future and not just that, we have a prosperous future and I want to say with all my heart, that there is a future to believe. It is a future to believe in and we will achieve our goals by the grace of God.