For Aspira Nigeria Ltd, which is part of Lee Group of Companies (second highest employer in Kano after the state government), its most daunting challenge in keeping its machines running used to be frequent power cuts until it turned to gas.
Sami Jafaar, MD Aspira Nigeria Ltd in an interview with BusinessDay said that the problem with fluctuating diesel prices, the pollution problems that it brings including increased carbon emission and leaving the factory facility dirty forced him to look for alternatives.
It turned to Clarke Energy a multinational specialist in engineering, installation, and maintenance of distributed power generation solutions to install a gas power plant.
Yiannis Tsantilas, Managing Director of Clarke Energy in Nigeria commented
“The leaders at Aspira Nig Ltd are visionaries and enthusiastic about transformations. Our relationship with Aspira Nigeria yielded 4 megawatts (MW) power plant installed in the initial phase of the project. The capacity will be upscaled to 10 megawatts (MW) at the later phase. The project represents a critical breakthrough in the northern part of Nigeria because it will eventually utilise gas that will be supplied into the region through the AKK pipeline, which implies that the customer will access more available and affordable gas, add value to the gas supply network, increase its productivity and improve cost per product. Additionally, it will allow competitiveness in the local and export markets.”
Clarke Energy delivered the entire power plant solution which includes its designs, technical drawings, engines, installation, commissioning and currently provides maintenance of the equipment.
The plant is currently powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG) delivered to the facility.
Aspira is one of the earliest companies to adopt this mode of power generation and says it has seen huge benefits on account of it.
Jafaar said that apart from reduced cost, a key benefit of the gas plant is that it has virtually eliminated downtime due to power cuts and damage to some sensitive factory equipment.
He said the benefits have been enormous prominent of which is cost savings which have made the company’s product competitive in the market. It has reduced their carbon emissions and uninterrupted power which bodes well given the sensitive nature of the factory machines, manufacturing processes and the end products.
“This is of utmost importance to us because we can now expand more and be more competitive even in regions where there are gas pipelines. This is because the price of diesel to gas stays increasingly significant,” said Jafaar.
Improved power is making the company increase capacity, expand the factory facilities, and even hire more people.
Aspira commenced its operations in 2009 in Kano, where it manufactures cosmetics, detergents, personal care and hygiene products which apply to many key sectors. It is part of a workforce of 20,000 employees under Lee Group of Companies.
Lee Group also has other investments in manufacturing of steel, plastic bag and footwear. Additionally, it possesses one of the biggest bakeries in the north and is going into sugar production.
According to Jafaar, who has a banking and finance degree, combating the security challenges in the north will help businesses thrive. Delay in clearing goods at the port poses another challenge.
“The impact of the 2016 recession in Nigeria and the devaluation of the Naira were major challenges but things got worse with the outbreak of the Coronavirus.
“The market is there but for manufacturers like us, the main problem is obtaining foreign exchange, because we need it to buy raw materials. For example, palm oil produced locally is not enough for food as well as for feedstock in the manufacturing sector. Nigeria is not producing up to 50 percent of what the market needs so we have to import palm oil, but devaluation is an issue.”
Jafaar said the Nigerian market is very big and versatile. The people are resilient, knowledgeable, open to trying new things, and care very much about prices as well as the quality of the products.
The company says it has a nationwide distribution system and even ships some of its products outside the country into Niger, Chad, Togo, Benin Republic, Cameroon, takes them as far as Sudan and it is looking to expand to more areas.