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Focus on Nigeria’s 100 most proactive, result-driven CEOs in 2020 – Part Three

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Even before the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the outlook for the world economy – and especially developing countries like Nigeria – was fragile, as global GDP growth was estimated to be only 2.5% in 2020.

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Based on this unanticipated and unpleasant reality, the consequences have been devastating and enormous on business organisations, whereby a number of them have resorted to downsizing and laying off staff in order to cut down costs, improve operational capacity, and effectively deliver on set target.

However, despite the daunting challenges and dire outcome on the fortunes of many, some result- driven Chief Executives have been able to
navigate their organizations to optimal operational effectiveness, efficiency, and visibility. These they have made possible through the application of ingenious management practices, prudent management of resources, as well as excellent, proactive and innovative solutions and ideas in achieving set goals and objectives

While they defy the apparent harsh economic environment by piloting the affairs of their companies to profitability, these exceptional men and women deserve recognition for their out-of-the-box innovations and enviable CSR interventions. Indeed, they deserve laurels in their efforts and contributions to the stability and growth of the nation’s economy, as well as modelling other upcoming businesses.

In this Special Annual Series, The Guardian features some of the selected CEOs of excellence in this outgoing year, 2020.

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JOYCE OJEMUDIA: Accomplished Amazon, Core Professional, Astute Manager of Resources
With over twenty years’ experience in insurance sales, business development, risk management, claims administration, reinsurance, and a proven track record of revitalizing businesses, Mrs. Joyce Ojemudia, an accomplished professional and astute manager of resources, is the Managing Director/CEO, African Alliance Insurance PLC. 

Widely recognised as the most experienced and strongest Specialist Life Assurance Office in Nigeria, African Alliance Insurance’s core competencies are a creative combination of Protection (Term Assurance and Group Life), Savings and Investment Products and over the years, African Alliance has established a solid reputation for excellent customer service and prompt claims settlement.

Predictably, there is a nexus between the well-being of an organisation and its leadership. Therefore, it comes as no surprise when she was asked about the passion that activated her career, Ojemudia, a Fellow of the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria, an Associate of both the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria and the Institute of Chartered Economists of Nigeria, and also the current President, the Professional Insurance Ladies Association (PILA), said “as a woman of faith, my entire life is a testimony of faith and a passion for excellence.”

While attributing her success to God’s grace backed with a staunch belief in hardwork and a ceaseless drive for excellence, the African Alliance boss noted that there was no magic behind the re-positioning of the company to the path of phenomenal growth and significant strength. To her, it is sheer determination, re-strategising, restructuring, and building on a solid heritage. 

According to her, “As a 61-year-old insurer, one thing we have going for us is a very good heritage and a long history of support and commitment to our stakeholders across all walks of life. When I came on board, I merely went about tapping into that goodwill by setting the tone for rigorous internal restructuring, a bold move, if I may say. We also decided to up our sales game in order to grow revenue whilst keeping an eye on our expenses. Above all, we are committed to paying claims.” 

She disclosed that “in the last quarter of 2020, African Alliance paid over N2.5bn in claims and has equally paid N967m in claims within the first 40 days of 2021. Indeed, it is our obligation to our policyholders that has transformed us into a company that pays claims promptly.”

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Concerning her experience in the industry vis-à-vis the disruption brought by COVID-19 Ojemudi submitted that having worked with various companies and rose through the ranks as a standout sales person, I have seen the industry grow from strength to strength to the point of embracing digital technology to drive the business which has helped surmounting most recent challenges, chief of which was the COVID-19 pandemic that challenged the economy of the world. 

I tell you that, the industry has never been this prepared for eventualities. The new normal has made a lot of insurance companies work virtually and yet deliver on KPIs in the 2020 business year and are still waxing stronger in 2021 using digital platform.

In her advice to young entrepreneurs, the insurance guru harped on innovation, focus, commitment, and a rational belief in self and a selfless belief in the Almighty. 

“Only adequate funding can solve Nigeria’s housing problems” – Idowu-Agida
Oladipo Pius Idowu-Agida, an innovator, a disruptive aficionado with over 12 years’ experience in the Real Estate Sector, is a member, the Chartered Institute of Marketing, United Kingdom. His education and expertise span various aspects of Real Estate: Business Development, Sales & Marketing, Strategy Operations, Client Relationship Management, Construction, Project Management. He is the Managing Director/CEO, Dradrock Real Estate Limited.

With a Bachelor of Education degree in Guardian and Counseling/Political Science from the University of Ibadan, a Master’s degree in Managerial Psychology (MMP), University of Lagos; an MBA from the prestigious Lagos Business School, degrees from Pan-Atlantic University, Nigeria, and IESE Business School, Barcelona, Spain, Idowu-Agida has a rare and remarkable passion for people, and capacity building. It is therefore not surprising why he continues to pursue excellence in the Real Estate Sector.

In his submission concerning tackling housing funding problems in Nigeria, the Dradrock boss said “Whilst a plethora of problems have been identified as constraining the development of real estate in Nigeria, there seems to be an overwhelming acceptance of the lack of access to credit, project funding, and inadequate finance as the problem that portends a more profound impact on the development of housing in Nigeria.” 

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He stressed that “most studies have shown that this problem has become a paradox in developing the Real Estate sector in the country. It is also instructive to observe that the National Housing Policy (NHP) of 1990 identified finance as one of the most crucial components of adequate housing delivery. That is, once the finance problem is solved, housing delivery would be adequately taken care of.”

To him, “the issue of funding, which has always been a critical variable that affects real estate development as enunciated in the NHP led to the promulgation of the National Housing Fund (NHF) Decree in 1991, albeit very little or no solutions.”  

He spoke further that “housing deficit has been a recurring conversation in the past couple of years. According to a recent report by Price Waterhouse Coopers, there is a present deficit of over 17 million houses in Nigeria, and this requires about 700,000 new homes to be built yearly, when compared to the less than 100,000 units of houses constructed annually. It is imperative to note that these studies indicate having the right funding and mortgage as critical to meeting the deficit challenge.

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To increase the supply of housing in Nigeria, we need to increase demand equally. The most significant factor in increasing the demand and supply for the housing sector is the availability of funds to the home buyers and developers. Therefore, sometimes, the funding can as well be at the demand end much as it can be on the supply side.”

His recommendations to reverse the current trend include “enactment of enabling laws that would allow operators access to credit and project financing facilities to sort out the supply-side, while mortgage facilities protect the supply demand-side. Secondly, every Real Estate company must be registered under a Real Estate governing body like the Lagos State Real Estate Authority (LASRERA). Once done, loans for verified projects of Real Estate companies through commercial banks becomes easier.

Also, commercial banks should be made to put aside a certain percentage of their profit before tax (PBT) to a trust fund like a Real Estate Trust Fund which will serve the purpose of Real Estate projects for developers and accessible to only verified projects from registered Real Estate companies. Lastly, government should strengthen Primary Mortgage Institutions (PMI’s) by reviewing current legislation on which they were established.”

How NITDA is sustaining data protection, promoting Nigeria’s digital economy through NAVSA by Kashifu 
Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors. Life is full of challenges that make one strong. The trials in life inculcate courage if taken as challenges. – Dr Anil Kumar Sinha

Despite all the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is gratifying to note that for us at the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), the pandemic presented us an opportunity to accelerate the nation’s drive towards digitalization. 

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In one year, we succeeded in crafting the most far-reaching and inclusive support strategy on how to support our innovators – a document that has become the guiding principle of our various policies and programs. We have re-imagined agriculture through the National Adopted Village for Smart Agriculture (NAVSA). NAVSA is an end-to-end model for modernizing agriculture and endearing young people to the soil. 

We launched the National Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Centre to enable our young people have necessary environment and support to hone their skills. On top of these, we organized the most celebrated Global Privacy Day event with speakers and attendees from Europe, America, African Union Commission, etc. I dare say that NITDA’s influence and impact was felt more during and after the pandemic because we had the right leadership support and clear vision to make a difference in the lives of Nigerians.

Time and space constraint would not allow me to reel out all the achievements of the Agency in the last few years, permit me however, to speak on our IT regulatory efforts especially as regards data protection.  The world is undergoing a digital revolution with significant implications for global economies and livelihoods. The digital economy fosters growth and productivity. The emerging economic architecture indicates that education, health, religion, society will interact more through digital mediums than physical. The currency of such economic structure is data, those who understand the mechanics of personal data processing and analytics will continuously be at the forefront of the new economic order.

Data has become the most critical resource in the Digital Economy. With the Digital Economy accounting for 17.8% of the GDP, the value of personal, economic, social, and other types would continue to surge. Regulating the use of personal data became critical for a number of reasons which include the prevalence of transactional internet, that has brought about rising violations of privacy rights by digital companies, the need for Nigerian businesses to show compliance with international data protection laws, creation of a new sector to compete favourably with our African counterparts and the world, among others.

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NITDA’s implementation of the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation has been acknowledged as sterling, going by the Agency’s appointment as the Vice Chair of the African Union TWG on Data Localisation and Harmonisation; full membership of the Common Thread Network (CTN). CTN is a network of Commonwealth nations’ data protection authorities. The CTN is hosted by the UK Information Commissioner’s Office. This strategic alliance would provide needed help in capacity development, mentoring, and cross border enforcement.

Our efforts have also led to the creation of 2,686 new jobs; development of data protection sector which is valued at N2,295,240,000 as at October, 2020; issuance of the only punitive data breach sanction in Africa for the year 2020; issuance of Guidelines on Use of Personal Data by Public Institutions, 2020; issuance of the NDPR Implementation Framework 2020; publication of the only Data Protection implementation report in Africa for 2020 among others.

This is one out of our many regulatory and developmental efforts to unleash the genius of Nigeria and create opportunities for our teeming young population.

KASHIFU INUWA ABDULLAHI, CCIE: Young, Innovative, Savvy, Versatile Professional, Inspiring Excellence 

Malam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, the Director General of the National Agency for Information Technology Development (NITDA)

Malam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, the Director General of the National Agency for Information Technology Development (NITDA), is no doubt, one of the ‘young turks’ spearheading the country’s aggressive drive to develop a world class IT industry. From his vantage position as the DG of NITDA, the soft-spoken Abdullahi has been leading an explosive growth in the development of IT infrastructure and the development and deepening of the Digital economy in Nigeria.

A thoroughbred IT professional, Abdullahi has an impressive resume especially in public sector IT development, policy formulation and implementation in the IT sector. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Science from the Tafawa Balewa University in the early 2000s, and he has followed this up with various professional courses in Management and Leadership from top-notch universities round the world.

He holds an Executive Diploma in Management from Harvard University, another Executive Diploma in Leadership from the University of Cambridge and a Professional Certificate from Oxford University, United Kingdom. Abdullahi has also attended a Senior Management Executive Program of the prestigious IMD Business School, Switzerland. Similarly, he participated in the Top Management Executive Training Programmes at world famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan Business School, among others. 

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Obviously, all of these have enhanced his management capabilities and stood him well for the challenges of managing Nigeria’s IT policy formulation and development, growth strategy implementation.

Apart from being a Cisco Certified Internet Work Expert, CCIE, Malam Abdullahi has over 15 years professional IT and management experience to his name. He actually began his professional career at the Galaxy Backbone Ltd (GBB)- the Federal Government-owned broadband fibre-optic service provider, as a network engineer and Solution architect. Few years later, in 2014, he left Galaxy Backbone as Senior Network Engineer to join the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as Technology Architect.

While at the CBN, he had primary responsibility to develop the Technology Architecture Repository (TAR), which was a critical component of upscaling the apex bank’s Information technology infrastructure. He was also part of the team that undertook rationalization of software of the CBN to achieve cost savings and value –for-money.

In 2017, Malam Abdullahi was tapped from the CBN by the then DG of NITDA Dr. Isa Ali Pantami (currently the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy) to join him at the Agency as his Technical Assistant. Invariably, Malam Abdullahi performed creditably well in his role as Technical Assistant to Dr. Pantami.It was a period of stellar achievements for NITDA.

Notable milestones include organizing and staging eNigeria Annual International Conference and Exhibition for IT, which draws IT and Digital experts and professionals and companies from all over the world to Nigeria and initiating the Innovation Challenge – a competition among the country’s budding IT innovators, meant to grow innovation and entrepreneurship in IT.

In September, 2019, Malam Abdullahi was appointed the Director General of NITDA following the departure of Dr. Pantami on his appointment as Nigeria’s new Minister for Communications and Digital economy.

Malam Abdullahi’s appointment as DG, NITDA was a great testament to the highly productive working relationship he had with his boss, Dr. Pantami while the latter headed the Agency.

Consequently, Malam Abdullahi has steered the Agency along the path of working creatively and assiduously for the growth of the IT sector in Nigeria. Under the direction of Malam Abdullahi, NITDA has achieved several milestones in barely two years. 

Early last year when the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic presented a major challenge to all countries around the world, Malam Abdullahi rose to the challenge and developed various digital remote working strategies and plans to keep on working and also assisted the government in continuing its public service to Nigerians.

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Malam Abdullahi or simply ‘Kashifu’ as he is fondly called by friends, colleagues and associates, continues to provide able leadership to NITDA in its onerous duty of catalyzing the growth of the IT sector in Nigeria.

HARRISON AGBOIFOH: Business Development Expert, Strategic Planner With Passion for Excellence

Mallam Kashifu Inuwa AbdullahiWith an Associate degree in Project Finance, Capital Market and Real Estate from the prestigious Harvard Business School, USA, Dr. Harrison Agboifoh, the Chief Executive Officer, Landmark Corporate Realty Limited, is a multitalented, business development expert, and strategic planner, who has years of experience in different sectors. A seasoned Chartered Accountant, Banker and Real Estate Developer, he is a man with a great vision to make housing affordable for Nigerians.

Dr. Harrison Agboifoh, the Chief Executive Officer, Landmark Corporate Realty Limited

Apart from being an alumnus of the Lagos State University and the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, he has received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from the European-American University for his commitment to the development of real estate in Nigeria. He is also a Fellow, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).

A result-oriented CEO driven to establish strategic and mutually-beneficial partnerships and relationships with people and organizations, Agboifoh is reputed for his investments in the Nigerian Maritime Industry. Very adept at creating strategic alliances with organization leaders to effectively align with and support key business initiatives, he excels at building and retaining performance teams by developing and motivating skilled professionals. His skill set cuts across business development, revenue generation, and strategic planning.

Speaking on the objectives of establishing Landmark Corporate Realty Ltd, he said the company, which commenced operations in June 2010 with portfolios in Real Estate Marketing, Real Estate Brokerage, Real Estate Investment and Construction, is on a journey to transforming the real estate business in Nigeria with an array of projects/estates that are developing faster than others that commenced business about the same time the company began its operations.

He disclosed that the company is “presently involved in the sales of housing units and land to interested subscribers. Our plots of land are situated mainly in Ibeju-Lekki axis (before Dangote Refinery) in Lagos State. We also have plots for sale in Ogun State and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Landmark’s Estates are an embodiment of beauty and style, strategically located in fast growing environments.”

He listed a number of on-going projects which include the Beachfront Parks & Gardens Phase I & II, Eleko, Ibeju-Lekki, Meridian Boulevard, Okun Ajah by Abraham Adesanya, Queen’s Park Estate, Mowe/Ofada Phase I & II, Queen’s Park Estate and Queen’s Garden Estate, Simawa, Queen’s Garden (Avocado Terraces, Diana and Elizabeth Courts), Riverview, Isheri-North G.R.A, Queen’s Park and Queen’s Garden Estates, Kuje, Abuja.

Other housing units are located at Avocado Homes, Lakowe Golf Course and the newest baby De Avocado Smart Homes, Abijo GRA – all within Ibeju-Lekki axis.

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He added that “apart from being blessed with dedicated and committed staff who will stop at nothing to deliver top notch, quality and value-adding services, Landmark Corporate Realty’s board of directors consist of seasoned professionals who have worked in different fields of endeavour at various times before venturing into the Real Estate Industry. They are patriotic Nigerians with a quest to make housing affordable for all income earners in the country. 

That is why our rich clientele cuts across all strata of the society – from businessmen/women to salary earners. we also have clients in diaspora who have confidence in our brand by virtue of their relationship with the company’s representatives all over the world.

SEGUN OGUNSANYA: Consistent, Result-Oriented Achiever, Notable Leader In Corporate Nigeria
His peers in the nation’s telecom sector are few.  His reputation has become a reference statement of competence and resourcefulness. While his accomplishments are ringing endorsements of value and productivity. 

Segun Ogunsanya, Managing Director/CEO, Airtel Networks Limited

Mr. Segun Ogunsanya, Managing Director/CEO, Airtel Networks Limited, is an Engineer and a Chartered Accountant by profession with over 27 years’ experience garnered across multiple geographies, organizations and diverse sectors such as telecoms, consulting, Banking, and Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG). He joined Airtel Nigeria in 2012 and he has repositioned the company to become profitable as the 2nd largest telecommunications company by revenue, serving over 50 million subscribers.

Ogunsanya started his career in Finance at The Coca-Cola Company and gradually transitioned into senior leadership roles with the various bottling operations of Company across diverse markets and countries in Africa. In his last stint as the Managing Director/CEO, Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company Nigeria – the first African to be appointed – he was responsible for over $1bn revenue operations, annually.

He was also the CEO of the Kenya operations for Coca-Cola Sabco, where he was instrumental in successfully turning around the business. Prior to this, he worked with Ecobank Transnational where, as the Managing Director, Retail Banking for Africa, he was responsible for the operations across 28 countries.

Apart from manufacturing and banking, Mr. Ogunsanya has consulting experience, having worked with Arthur Anderson & Co. Nigeria where he was involved in Audit, Tax Advisory, setting up new businesses, and profit improvement services.

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In 2012, he was appointed a member of the Implementation and Technical Committee of Strategic Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Policy by the Federal Government of Nigeria. He was a Member, Business Support Group, which was set up to provide a platform for anchoring the views of the Organized Private Sector on the development of a National Integrated Infrastructure Master Plan for the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2013.

A director on the board of Nigeria Economic Summit Group – the foremost private sector advocacy group in Nigeria – he also served on the board of the following organizations at various times:

The Coca-Cola Holdings, Kenya; Coca-Cola Juice Company, Kenya (BSK Limited); Board of Trustees of Machakos Institute of Developmental Studies (Kenya); American Chambers of Commerce, Ghana (Vice President); Board of Trustees of the Post Graduate Medical School of Ghana; Junior Achievers, Ghana Chapter; ICT Advisory Board, Nigeria.

Mr. Ogunsanya holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from University of Ife, Nigeria. Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Institute of Credit Administration and Institute of Directors in Nigeria, he is also a Honorary Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Food, Science & Technology. He is a member of the prestigious Lagos Metropolitan Club and the Ikoyi Club.

PROFESSOR MUHAMMAD BELLO ABUBAKAR: Visionary, Innovative, Result-Driven Technocrat with Positive Impact 
Muhammad Abubakar, a professor of Petroleum Geosciences, is an innovative and focused technocrat and has over two decades of working experience spanning the academia, oil and gas exploration, research, development and innovation institutions. He is a strategic thinker with strong leadership and management skills and an impressive exposure to global best practice in the field of energy. 

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Prior to his appointment as Managing Director/CEO, Galaxy Backbone Limited (GBB), he was the Executive Director and a Principal start-up for the establishment and development of the National Centre for Petroleum Research and Development of the Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN), where he spearheaded a cross-cutting edge research that developed the conceptual exploration model deployed in the successful oil and gas exploration in the frontier basin of the Northeast Nigeria. He was also a Research Consultant to NNPC on oil and gas exploration.

To provide a new perspective to the running of GBB and to ensure better alignment with government’s objective of creating a digital economy, President Muhammad Buhari appointed Professor Muhammad Abubakar as the new CEO of the company on the 23rd December, 2019. The appointment was not only timely but was putting a round peg on a round hole. He assumed office on 2nd January, 2020 to commence a mission of improving the performance and relevance of the organization.

Coincidentally, his assumption of office was soon followed by the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic which brought about a lockdown, ravaged the economy, and challenged the attainment of governance and business objectives globally. Despite the challenges, the determined CEO embarked on changing the fortune of the organization by ensuring improvements in all areas of its operations.

To ensure efficiency and cost reduction in service delivery, Professor Abubakar initiated the review of the procurement strategy for the GBB. Bandwidth capacity requirements of the organization were aggregated and re-designed to ensure efficient and effective way of utilizing technical resources. This has provided significant cost savings and improved quality of services via better network traffic management. The bulk purchase of bandwidth and optimization of resources brought about the save of about 37 percent of the initial cost.

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To articulate and communicate the position where Professor Abubakar will like to see Galaxy Backbone in the next five years, he led the organization to develop a 5-year Strategic Business Plan. Underpinned by six strategic pillars, the Business Plan (Galaxy 3.0 – Strategic Business Plan) identified the goals for the next five years and the activities to be conducted to achieve the set-up goals which are tailored towards delivering the GBB mandate and support the key policies of the Federal Government championed by the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy under the leadership of Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami). 

To ensure efficiency and cost reduction in service delivery, Professor Abubakar initiated the review of the procurement strategy for service capacity. Bandwidth capacity requirements of the organization were aggregated and re-designed to ensure efficient and effective way of utilizing technical resources. This has provided significant cost savings and improved quality of services via better network traffic management. For instance, a total of about N100M, which amounts to about 37 percent of the initial cost was saved through bulk purchase of bandwidth and optimization of resources.

Also, to improve the effectiveness and the efficiency of Galaxy Backbone, Abubakar reviewed the structure of the organization to better position it to deliver value to all stakeholders and improve service delivery across the value chain from engagement and planning to implementation and support. He also introduced functional units and departments that will align the organization better with the drive of the Federal Government towards promotion of Digital Economy.

Under his proactive and visionary leadership and with the support of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, GBB rose up to the challenge of the time putting in place virtual interaction platforms to facilitate communication and collaboration in government from the Federal Executive level to intra-MDA levels. In addition, Abubakar also provided connectivity at the residences of key government officers to ensure seamless interaction during lockdown and movement restrictions required to manage COVID-19 pandemic.

With respect to the operational efficiency of Galaxy Backbone, Professor Abubakar spearheaded many initiatives to drive improvement, promote agility, cut costs, and improve the quality of services. From technical and financial effectiveness to human resources and capability development, a number of initiatives has been implemented to better position GBB. He is also driving many initiatives that will promote collaboration and partnership with all stakeholders which include government institutions, MDA customers, suppliers and channel partners.

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Also, in continuation of instilling best practices in GBB activities and operations, he ensures continuous maintenance of international standards certifications acquired by GBB, ISO 270001 Information Security Management System (ISMS). It is worthy to note to mention that under the leadership of Professor Abubakar, Galaxy Backbone is exploring various partnership initiatives to optimize value delivery to stakeholders and these initiatives includes Cyber Security, Cloud Computing and e-Connect.

Despite obvious challenges, he has recorded a number of unprecedented achievements for the GBB’s organizational growth, registered its value proposition in the minds of all stakeholders and secured government support for better value delivery.

“At GPC, integrity is our hallmark in business” – Okonji
As salt has no need to look like other ingredients, so are men of true impact and worth do not struggle for recognition but their results speak for them. This reflects the personality of the CEO, GPC Energy & Logistics Mr. Okonji Chukwudi Elvis, an indigene of Igbusor in Delta State. 

CEO, GPC Energy & Logistics Mr. Okonji Chukwudi Elvis

With consolidated credentials in Banking & Finance from the University of Calabar, an MBA from the University of Uyo, a Senior Management course from the prestigious Lagos Business School and Leadership course from Crown field University in the United Kingdom, Okonji started his career in the banking sector where he rose to the level of a Senior Manager. At his eleventh year, he decided to carve a niche for himself, resigned and went into private business.

In his words, “While in the Banking Sector, I was in charge of importation of fertilizers into Nigeria. In the course of that assignment, I saw loopholes in the Haulage/Transport sector and the challenges we faced in distributing the commodities. We usually engage middle men for operations. Eventually, I picked interest in the Haulage business and I invited a few friends and colleagues to start our own haulage business but a lot of them expressed fear about the sector, seeing it as a business for touts. 

Nevertheless, I was not deterred. Only a young colleague of mine who was a management trainee in the bank shared my dream. Presently, he is an Executive Director in the company.  We kicked off the business on the 15th November, 2010 with just 5 trucks. Interestingly, with 10 years in the same business friends were scared of diving into, we have made a name in the industry. Today, GPC is a brand to reckon with in the Haulage/transport sector.

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From my experience in the banking sector, I understood that every successful business runs on a Model. At GPC, structures, corporate governance and business processes are in place, and we have been running on these models over the years. Banks partner with us and we also get suppliers credit as far as China, Germany, Demlak, D man desir Group, etc. Our partners are Nestle, PZ, Nigerian Breweries, Guinness, etc. Integrity remains our hallmark.

Unfortunately, the Haulage sector that has not received adequate attention from government despite its strategic significance to the economy and critical economic metrics. Logistics/transportation costs feed directly into distribution expenses of manufacturers which are subsequently transferred to consumers via price adjustments. This is reflected in the persistent rise in FPI from

With spiraling inflation, rising energy costs, double digit interest rates, local currency devaluation, paucity of foreign exchange for raw material imports, congested ports, high incidence of touting, double taxation, there might be no end in sight to the escalating food and commodity prices. For example, transport cost for a 40ft container within Lagos has risen astronomically due to the increased journey time associated with port congestion, high cost of diesel, and other inefficiencies. Transporters are left with no option than to transfer these inefficiencies through price increases to manufacturers and ultimately, consumers.

The critical resource for the industry is trucks which are predominantly imported from Europe and China. Thus, the industry is heavily reliant on foreign exchange. Dwindling reserves and instability in oil prices thereby pose a major risk within the industry. Diversification into potential foreign exchange earners such as agriculture and cross border logistics to mitigate foreign exchange risks are medium term industry trends.

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Government must realize that transportation is the linkage between imported, manufactured, and cultivated goods to final consumers. Thus, without the sector, trade is impossible. It must therefore declare a sectoral emergency and implement sector wide reforms, concessions, and subsidies to limit the impact of these economic inefficiencies on transporters, manufacturers, and its citizenry. We recommend the creation of a Transport Bank to support the sector with tailored financing solutions at single digit interest rates.

The industry is highly leveraged, labour and capital intensive. COVID-19 brought to the fore the risk of pandemics and nature forcing immediate shutdown of businesses. Given the huge obligations associated with heavy duty truck haulage, strategic cash reserves to cover a minimum of 6-12months operations is ideal to sustain operations well into an unforeseen occurrence.

Post COVID-19, we expect industry players to deepen their core competencies, build strategic reserves, review their finance strategy, diversify, enshrine situation analysis, and risk management to guarantee sustainability. We also envisage modifications to contractual clauses relating to endemics and pandemics.

Recently, TSL successfully listed its bonds on the FMDQ, the bond was guaranteed by Infra Credit. We at GPC are already in discussions to list a N50billion bond program to facilitate our rapidly expanding business. Tenors of 7+years suited for long term financing and depreciation of assets are more realistic in this market.

“Govt needs to promote policies that will make housing affordable” Surakat

Babatunde Surakat is the Managing Director/CEO, Ridgewell Construction Company Limited

Babatunde Surakat is the Managing Director/CEO, Ridgewell Construction Company Limited – one of Nigeria’s fastest growing and most dynamic construction company with operations that cut across building construction (commercial and residential), facilities management, property development, and a builder’s mart.

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He bagged a bachelor degree in Business Management and Information Technology from the University of Plymouth, United Kingdom, as well as an MBA and MSc from the University of Wales, UK. He is also an alumnus of Harvard and the Lagos Business School.

Combining eight years of banking experience in Zenith Bank, Stanbic IBTC and the Royal Bank of Scotland, Surakat has contributed greatly to the growth of the company as a major player in the construction industry. He sits on the board of a number of companies which includes South Bridge Construction Company, Sureheight Logistics and Procurement Company, Cresswell Facility Management Company and Surhi Nigeria Limited.

Journey into Real Estate business
I delved into Construction and Real Estate for various reasons. The first is based on my desire to create something worthy and distinct, and with all modesty, all our projects can certainly be described as such. Secondly, the opportunities in the sector are limitless, because there will always be demand for sheltering.

Thirdly, the sector is multifaceted, with proper strategy and a competent management team, the business allows one to offer a diverse range of services (construction, real estate, facility management, property management, etc.). All these make the business thrilling, positively challenging and highly fulfilling for me.

Bridging the imbalance in supply and demand of housing
To ramp up housing supply, direct government intervention in form of accelerated and increased funding, affordable housing trusts, tax breaks, incentives and better infrastructure would need to be implemented.

The current housing market and supply chain, and the policy interventions, are incapable of stimulating economic growth or delivering homes on the scale needed to meet the present demand, let alone the backlog of decades of under supply. Another main issue in the house deficit challenge is urbanisation. This has led to limited accessibility to land, which further compounds the problems of housing provision that urban and regional planning is aiming to solve.

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Government needs to assertively promote policies that will place much emphasis on accessibility to land and enhance reduction in the cost of building materials. This could be achieved by promoting appropriate laws, overhauling the lack of standardisation and reforming the distorted urban planning system.

Ridgewell’s contribution to housing in Nigeria
Despite the feeble public investment, foreign exchange volatility, reduced earning power and the global economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are still highly active in the development of projects which are aimed at residential customers and corporate clientele. In 2020, we completed 60 single family homes and in 2021, we have 80 single family homes slated for completion by year end. Apart from our premium units, we plan to cumulate funds from selected private investors to build commercial estates across various locations in Nigeria.

Mortgage financing in Nigeria
Mortgage Financing and lending are gradually becoming significant in Nigeria as several financial institutions, including the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC), have increased their footprint in the affordable housing market through the provision of loans and advances of over $3.4 billion to customers.

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However, due to the relatively low receptivity and stringent regulations to long-term borrowing in Nigeria, the Federal Government needs to support the Mortgage Industry, by granting special payment waivers on loans, providing fit-for-purpose and targeted funds, and other pre-payment privileges to stimulate the scheme and encourage citizens.

Ridgewell in the next five years
Our desire and vision to be the foremost construction company in Africa forms the core of our short- and long-term goals. In five years, with increased wealth of experience, we want to be able to convert every problem into opportunity, with our team and project controls seamlessly poised to effectively adapt to the changes and challenges posed to the industry, and ultimately, convert that into exponential business success.

DEJI MACAULAY: Deploying Exceptional Business Skills, Delivering Successful Enterprise Solutions, Growing Nigeria’s Digital Economy

Ayodeji Macaulay, CEO of Truthware Solutions Limited

Deji Macaulay, an experienced Sales and Operations Leader, with proven ability to manage and deploy complex multi-million dollars commercial projects with exceptional business skills, is the CEO of Truthware Solutions Limited. He has led the company to deliver successful enterprise solutions in Telecommunications, Health-Care and Gaming, in several African countries. He has also won several awards including BusinessDay’s Nigerian Business Leadership Award. 

Macaulay is a Systems Engineering graduate from the University of Lagos and certified by multiple institutes including NIIT, Cisco, ITIL and more. He has strong solution delivery experience within Telecommunications/IT and Mobile Financial Services Industry in Nigeria, Ghana, Benin Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, Angola, Romania.

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Speaking about his background and the passion that brought his career to life, the Systems’ Engineer from the University of Lagos said he started as “a systems integrator in the Telecommunications Industry. Soon, I was promoted to a Service Delivery Manager, after which I became a full time Sales Manager. 

As an IT Salesman, I discovered that my core technical background gave me a huge advantage in my ability to design products and sell solutions to my customers. Using my new-found business knowledge, I decided to setup a Telecoms Engineering firm in partnership with my longtime friend and university classmate Samuel Ishie, who was at the time the Head of IT at a Health Insurance company. That is why till date in Truthware we have a Telecoms department and a Health-Care Technology department. 

We had previously developed a robot together about 9 years earlier which failed to go to market, so it was quite easy for us to come together to build a new company.”

He disclosed that “the magic behind Truthware Solutions Limited’s path of phenomenal growth and significant strength is borne out of several things that we are doing right in the company. 

Firstly, there is a clear division of labor and responsibilities amongst all teams – team members own their responsibilities and are very committed to their tasks. This culture of ownership and commitment is very important to us. We also spend a lot of time improving and evolving our products. You might find that in the IT business, products need constant re-evaluations and evolutions to stay relevant and useful over a long period of time. One of the biggest contributors to our growth is our customer management strategy. 

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In Truthware, we have a policy of “Make Profitable Customers, Keep Profitable Customers”. Meaning, as soon as we acquire a new customer, we spend a lot of effort ensuring they are satisfied. We constantly engage customers, so we are aligned with their long-term goals and always available to advise and assist them. This way, we become more than a vendor – we become a strategic partner to our customers. If you can keep your existing customers and acquire new ones, you will definitely see the company grow.”

Concerning the day-t-day experience in running the company, the development in the industry, and the disruption brought about by COVID-19, Macaulay has this to say “My company experience has really evolved over the years. In the earlier years, management staff spent a lot of time executing operational tasks. This was the case primarily because when we started, Truthware was much smaller with very few staff – we were all operational and hands-on. However, as the company started to grow and as we employed more people, the management staff started to evolve into leadership roles and we all had to adapt and even study how to lead the company in terms of strategy, optimal operations, company culture, staff welfare and the rest. The IT industry in Nigeria is perhaps one of the crown jewels of Africa. 

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There is so much talent and creativity in the Nigerian IT Industry it is easy to be fascinated every day. This keeps us on our toes and makes us proud to see our industry thriving. Nigeria is definitely playing its part in the ongoing IT revolution happening globally. As for COVID-19, I would say we were really caught by surprise. We had to make serious adaptations to the way we work, the way we engage our customers and also made an expedition into the retail side of IT to provide services directly to end-users during the lockdown. 

Seemingly, some IT companies have grown during the pandemic because of the urgent need for digitization across several industries. At Truthware, we assisted our customers to make those urgent digital adaptations and were fortunate to grow and employ more people during the pandemic, to service the urgent needs of our customers.”

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According to the IT guru, the “most trying moment was definitely the year when a government policy completely collapsed half of our product lines. The financial losses were so huge that we almost closed down. Luckily, we had two advantages on our side. Firstly, we had a sister company in Ghana that operated and sold its own versions of that product vertical. Secondly, we had another product vertical that was virtually unaffected. We were able to perform some financial management to keep the Nigerian business afloat for over a year until it fully recovered. Since then, we have made it part of our strategy to always have more than one key product vertical and ensure to expand to other countries and regions – a way to hedge against unforeseen circumstances. Perhaps all verticals and countries and regions would not collapse at the same time.”

In terms of the local content policy, Macaulay admitted thatgovernment has put a lot of effort towards encouraging local content and financing creative ventures. The engagement between industry regulators and stakeholders has also greatly improved. Therefore, we can see that government is postured to support and protect local businesses especially SMEs. However, Government needs to urgently look into the issues of multiple taxation, accessibility of funds, security, policy making and policy stability, so as to improve the Nigerian business eco-system. 

Nigerian entrepreneurs are very tenacious people who strive to succeed against massive and unimaginable odds. It is very clear that a lot young people are willing to work hard and be successful if given the right opportunities and an enabling environment.”

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