The Guardian’s special focus on Most Impactful and Award-winning CEOs that contributed to Nigeria’s GDP growth in 2021 Part 2
How localization of security printing will create more revenue for the government by Okonkwo
Given the attendant challenges of forgery and identity theft across the world, Nigeria’s leading security printing company, Superflux International Limited has continued to be at the forefront in the production and supply of essential documents such as cheques, ballot papers, certificates, transcripts, OMR sheets, property ownership documents, revenue documents, toll stickers, tickets and postage stamps among others with security embedded features which are locally manufactured at its 12,000 square meter fully automated printing facility in the heart of Lagos.
At the helm of affairs in this reputable and integrity-driven enterprise is Gabriel Okonkwo – a seasoned banker and innovative business executive who has successfully piloted the affairs of the company as the Managing Director/CEO since January, 2018.
With over two decades working in the banking industry from internal control, information systems audit, operations to project management, he was a member of the MICR Technical Implementation Committee at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and played an important role in the writing and implementation of the first version of the Nigeria Cheque Standard which was introduced in 2006. He joined Superflux in 2007 as the Group Head, Business Development and rose to the position of Chief Operating Officer (COO) in 2014 before he was elevated to his current position.
Accredited by the Central Bank of Nigeria, Central Bank of Zambia, as well as the Central Bank of some West African countries, Okonkwo explained that through innovation and creativity, Superflux has continued to be a pacesetter in the area of security printing in Nigeria.
In his words, “We strive to ensure that we provide excellent service delivery to our numerous customers. As a manufacturing company, we understand the importance of creativity and innovation, therefore, we invest a good percentage of our earnings on personnel, research and development. Our workforce are not only the best hands available. Also, we expose them to overseas and local trainings. This enables us to keep abreast with global best practices and come up with cost-effective products that satisfies our customers’ needs.”
Speaking further, the astute CEO, who also doubles as the Vice President, Superflux Group, gave insight into how Superflux in its 23years of existence has been preventing cases of fraud especially in the financial sector. According to him, through highly sophisticated security printing solutions, Superflux embeds a wide range of covert and overt security features which prevents fraudulent reproduction or alteration of sensitive and valuable documents.
In addition, Superflux also has a state-of-the-art forensic laboratory where fraud instruments are analyzed and leads are generated in identifying perpetrators. He stressed that “fraudsters commit their nefarious acts with the expectation that their identities will remain hidden, but with our forensic facility, we can carry out post-mortem on fraud instruments, especially cheques to unearth leads that could assist in identifying the perpetrators”, he informed.
Given the modern equipment and the technical know-how of personnel at Superflux, one would wonder why security printing jobs are still being done outside the country, whereas such jobs would have brought about an increase in employment as well as the GDP of the country when done locally by the likes of Superflux whose feat in the industry cannot be underplayed. Okonkwo stated that some security printing jobs are contracted to foreign firms when such could have been done locally with the highest level of technology.
He therefore urged the government to address the situation with urgency as it would certainly be of no value to the federal government if the trend continues. In his words, “Localization of these printing jobs will obviously create jobs for our teeming unemployed youths and translate to more revenue for both the Federal and the various State governments where the companies are located. Other agencies of government should take a cue from the way the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) handled issues relating to the printing of cheque books for the Nigerian banking industry.
When the Nigeria Cheque Standard was introduced in 2006, the CBN licensed 14 security printers to print cheque books for Nigerian banks. Only three out of the 14 printers were based in Nigeria while the other eleven were foreign based. The CBN however gave the foreign based companies about five years to set-up production facilities in Nigeria if they must continue to print cheque books for Nigerian banks. They all failed to comply and the CBN in 2013 revoked their licenses with only the three local based printers left to produce cheque books.”
He continued, “To the disappointment of the foreign printers whose expectation was that the three Nigerian printers which include Superflux would not be able to cope, we seamlessly took up the challenge and we have continued to supply all the cheque book requirements of Nigerian banks and some other African countries. We hope that our work will continue to speak for us and engender a change of attitude for those that still have the tendency to take printing jobs abroad.”
Similarly, he placed emphasis on the issue of foreign exchange in the country as another challenge faced by the company. According to him, the FX situation is crippling the manufacturing sector especially for those required to import raw materials for production given the high exchange rates and scarcity of foreign currencies. He explained that the situation has resulted in the escalating cost of freight.
Aside that, the inefficiencies at the ports with regards to clearing of goods and movement of goods from the ports to the factory with the attendant epileptic power situation which has left manufacturers to rely on diesel to power generators are some of the other challenges faced. Despite all these and the current Covid-19 situation which is stifling the growth of business, Okonkwo has continued to lead the company in terms of turnover and profitability. “These challenges have forced some manufacturers to relocate to some neighboring countries. Unfortunately, we do not have such luxury of relocating even if we wanted to, as our regulators, the Central Bank of Nigeria will not permit it”, he said.
With product offering extending to large scale commercial printing including printing of transaction forms, books, brochure, magazines, calendars, diaries, labels, office stationeries, production of envelopes and thermal/POS rolls; variable data printing products such as statements, bills, e-dividend advice, vouchers, share certificates. Okonkwo informed that the company is looking towards expanding its portfolio in reaction to emerging trends in e-payment solutions. In the short term however, the company is working on secure IT-based and alternative payment solutions.
- KENNEDY OKONKWO: Committed To Building Modern, Exquisitely Comfortable Homes, Affordable To Majority of Nigerians
He is one of the shinning lights in the Real Estate Sector in Nigeria, whose achievements have become a sort of a yardstick for the measurement of standard for many of his contemporaries. Dr. Kennedy Okonkwo, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Nedcomoaks Limited has discovered his professional purpose early in life, and he is driving this through his adherence to high standards, handwork and focus.
A proven authority in Africa’s property development sector, he is a developer who is challenged by the housing deficiency for the growing population of Nigeria and Africa at large.
Born 44 years ago, Dr. Okonkwo bagged a B.Sc. degree in Psychology at the University of Ibadan in 2001, MBA in Marketing at the Lagos State University in 2006, and was conferred with an honorary doctorate degree by the European-American University, Commonwealth of Dominica.
He established Nedcomoaks Limited in 2007, a company that specializes in real estate development, project consultancy and management, provision of architectural and civil designs, a significant proficiency in construction with modern technology and facilities management, and has since grown to become a key player in the real sector in Africa.
Powered by the vision of building a better, more comfortable world and driven by the belief that everyone deserves a befitting space to call home, the company and its subsidiaries: Victoria Crest Homes, Dream Estate Lekki Limited and Dream Facility Management Co., have constantly pushed the boundaries in building modern, exquisitely comfortable homes that majority of Nigerians can afford.
A visionary entrepreneur with eyes for details, Okonkwo explained what motivated him to become a real estate manager thus “Growing up, we lived in environment where many people lacked a proper roof over their heads, and it is the main factor that has motivated someone like me to venture into the real estate industry.
I realized that as one of man’s basic needs, availability of shelter is very important in determining the overall well-being of any group of people. A man without a roof over his head can be limited in his thinking and ambition. Therefore, it was that desire to play my role in reducing the housing decifit in our country that inspired me to venture into provision of high quality and functional houses to people who value quality at affordable price.”
On the factors behind Nedcomoaks Limited’s sustained success story, he said that “Every dream has to be realistic because if your dream is not big enough to scare you then you have limited vision. I have come to understand that we have dominated for a while in the Lekki-Ajah axis as a major player because we are known for our track record delivery.
Our company was registered since 2007 while I was a paid employee somewhere else, but I left in order to focus on Nedcomoaks’ growth. Over the years, the company has built its reputation through the quality of services we render. We have always prioritized clients’ satisfaction above profit-making, and this has helped to project us positively to our clients and prospective clients.
At Nedcomoaks, we do not cut corners because we have always worked in line with our long-term goals. Today, our projects have become our major selling point. We delivered 587 houses last year, and this year we are doing our best despite the challenges of inflation which have skyrocketed a lot of input costs.
We have hope to deliver projects that we have embarked upon in time, without sacrificing quality. Also, Nedcomoaks has in place a strong corporate governance and our team of highly-motivated professionals are focused towards achieving our set goals in line with our corporate vision.
People from a few other African countries, who have seen the quality of our delivered projects have invited us to come to their countries and replicate what they have seen, and we hope to to deliver projects in few other countries in Africa in few years’ time”
When asked about his experience in the industry in the last few years, and the impact of COVID-19 on the real estate sector in Nigeria, Okonkwo noted that “the pandemic only brought us new innovations, and learning points. The number one vaccine everyone needs is to have a home. Hence, we were able to develop homes, and it becomes paramount that we need to further look at the home to see how we can enhance it to create more value for our subscribers because today more people have to work from home.
In response to this new normal, we want to install 5G network into all our estates. We did not know that a thing like COVID-19 would come and people will begin to work from home, there will be needs for virtual offices in our homes to make working remotely from any location possible when we decided that 24 hours power supply should be fixed in all our estates. This was not done because of COVID-19, but all of those have helped our subscribers and also give us reasons to plan ahead.
We have also come to realize that some of our kids will attend to classes from home, the capacity and potentials are there, meetings can hold anytime in an office space. Therefore, we must consider homes that present a healthy lifestyle opportunity, homes where you have gyms, estates where you have games area, green garden, beautiful trees planted in the estates, and other things. A place you do not get tired of the environment. You can imagine an estate with a classical walkway, estate designed in such a way that children can ride bicycle freely without fear.
Estates should be designed to be secure and be a place where one can live, work and play. COVID-19 surely brought new challenges, but because we have always incorporated innovative concepts in our designs, execution and delivery, our subscribers have not had major issues with adapting their lifestyles during this period.
The truth is that the outbreak of the pandemic is affecting disposable incomes of many families, but as an innovative real estate organization, Nedcomoaks is providing services that suit subscribers and clients purse, interestingly, this is what we have been doing before now.
We make our aspirations affordable and make sure we put in place modern facilities that every 21st Century community should have potable drinking water, 24-hour electricity and functional estate security network with CCTV cameras.”
He added that “During the #EndSARS protest, all those living in our estates were sleeping peacefully, while some homes were burgled, ours were at peace, because of the high security that we have put in place. And that is what gives our clients confidence that we have their interest at heart.”
Although, Kennedy Okonkwo has become a signature for competence and a household name in the sector, but the real estate entrepreneur and philanthropist is not yet resting on his laurels. Speaking on the future of his company, he stressed that “We will continue to build on our competence and improve on our capability. Our employees are one of the reasons for our success story, we shall continue to prioritize their welfare. We have put in place a strong corporate governance which has been helping to strengthen our system and process.
We plan, strategize, execute and make projection, but the future belongs to God, and with God in our side, we are sure that in 30 years from now, Nedcomoaks will still be there. The company has been structured in such a way that there is a succession plan on ground, because that is the problem with most owners of organization being operated by the founder. My plan is that Nedcomoaks will outlive me, my wife and those that are holding key position in the company today.
Our company is becoming a training ground in the industry as at today. When you mention 10 real estate property development companies in Lagos or Nigeria, you will see at least one former staff of Nedcomoaks there, and it’s a major pass mark for me. It means that Nedccomoaks is grooming people for expansion and growth in the industry ”
Apart from his personal achievements, the founder of the Kennedy Okonkwo Programme for Tech Entrepreneurs and sponsor of the Eti Osa community Oba’s Cup has mentored many young professionals, even those outside the real estate sector.
His advice to young professionals and CEOs that “They should be focused and avoid unnecessary distraction. The best way to grow is by thinking of ways to provide services in innovative ways and be focused on long term gains, instead of immediate gratification. Do not abuse trust and shun cutting corners.”
In appreciation of his professional contributions and philanthropic deeds, Dr. Kennedy Okonkwo has received several awards, among which are the African Achievers Award, Peace Legend Icon of the Year, 2019, African Achievers Award, Excellence in Enterprise and Business Innovation Award, 2019, Nigerian Entrepreneurs Award, 2018 and African Business Personality of the Year Award, 2017, amongst others.
- BELLO MAIGARI: A Change Agent, Touching People’s Life Through Pragmatic Leadership
Dr. Bello Maigari, the Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer at the National Lottery Trust Fund (NLTF) is a dynamic professional playing his role in driving the Change Agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari administration through innovative approach to Nigeria’s economic development. He has entrenched pragmatic and sterling leadership style of innovation and all-inclusiveness in piloting the affairs of the National Lottery Trust Fund.
An indigene of Gombe State born about 57 years ago, Maigari attended Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria, where he bagged a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics, Master of Science degree in Politics and International Affairs, and another Master’s degree in Business Administration. He started his public service career in 1989 in Bauchi before moving to the Nigerian Telecommunications PLC in 1996.
He later joined the National Lottery Trust Fund in 2011 as the Coordinator, Lagos Office, and rose to become Director, Operations in 2014 where he served until 2017. Distinguished by his developmental approach to work, he was appointed as the Fund’s Chief Executive Officer in February, 2018.
The NLTF is a Federal Government agency that was created under the section of the National Lottery Act 2005 to expedite the national development goals of the country by promoting a clear passage to funding from the lottery in order to facilitate great and life-changing projects that can also be sustainable so as to create a lasting impact on the lives of people and their communities.
Determined to make NLTF better than he met it, the pragmatic public servant adopted and drive his vision with the saying of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo that “Those of us placed in a position of leadership must be prepared to set a worthy example of unselfishness, and self-sacrifice, then the people will all follow our footsteps readily.” This has made it easy for him to provide exemplary and transparent leadership which has raised the bar of excellence at the Federal Government owned agency.
Since he assumed office as NLTF’s CEO, he has dutifully and relentlessly intensified efforts towards fulfilling the agency’s mandate. In line with his patriotic vision for the Fund, he operated an open-door policy which has further boosted the agency staff morale. All these have helped his administration in embarking on effective statutory collection and remittable to the trust fund for intervention across the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria.
Speaking on gaming in Nigeria and what the government is doing to make sure that its agencies get the statutory dues from gaming and lottery business, Dr Maigari said that there are roughly 60 million Nigerians aged between 18 and 40 involved in active betting, adding that despite a huge number of people engaged in betting, the Nigerian government-generated less than N1 billion from the gaming industry in 2019.
According to the NLTF boss, “The government was working to acquire a Central Monitoring System (CMS) for the gaming industry for maximum regulation and curbing of leakages. As we speak, the industry is worth almost N2 trillion. The fact that the industry has gone this far is due to the level playing ground established by the government.
Although, lottery and gaming businesses are flourishing across the nooks and crannies of Nigeria, but sadly, the return to government coffers has been poor. Fortunately, however, in the last few years, the Federal Government has reawakened and we are currently working to establish a CMS that will see to the streamlining of revenue that will accrue to the government.”
Through the leadership of Dr Bello Maigari, the NLTF has continued to focus on critical areas of national life and economy by promoting access to proper and accurate diagnosis of ailments to facilitate correct and appropriate treatment. Hence, since 2018 till date, the Agency has procured and donated medical equipment to healthcare institutions to promote all-inclusive healthcare coverage across Nigeria.
Some of these life-saving interventions are listed as follows:
- Funded the purchase of ultra-sound machine and digital x-ray machine at Aisha Mohammed Buhari General Hospital, Jegal, Kebbi State on March 12, 2018.
- Funded the intervention and presentation of first aid boxes and accessories to selected public secondary schools throughout the nation including Federal Capital Territory (FCT), to guarantee access to prompt treatment in cases of emergencies, commissioned on April 5 2018.
- Funded the intervention and presentation of anesthetic machines, hydraulic operation table, BP apparatus’, stool with castor, blood bank, hematocri centrifuge and sponge holding forceps to General Hospital Toro, Bauchi State on July 3, 2018.
- Funded the intervention and presentation of ultra sound machines, X-ray machines, and Autoclave, Ezza North LGA, Ebonyi State on August 2, 2018.
- Funded the intervention and presentation of ultra sound machines, x-ray machines and some vital medical equipment to comprehensive Primary Health Center, Okunde-Boki,Cross River State on December 6, 2018.
- Funded the intervention and presentation of ultra sound machine, x-ray machine and autoclaves at General Hospital, Daura, Katsina State on December 13, 2018
- Funded the intervention of vital medical equipment to seven healthcare facilities namely: General Hospital Hong Adamawa State, in 2019; Federal Medical Centre, Yola, Adamawa State, 2019; Federal Teaching Hospital, Gombe State in 2019; Primary Heath Care Centre, Ijeru Oba-Ogbomosho, Oyo state, in 2019; Primary Healthcare Center, Iresapa-Ogbomoso, Oyo state. In 2019; Specialist Hospital, Gombe State in 2019; Primary Healthcare Clinic, New-Karu, Nasarawa State, in 2019.
- Building, furnishing and equipping of an ultra- modern mortuary complex in Hong Federal Hospital, Adamawa State in 2019.
- Funded the intervention for building, furnishing and equipping of the Katsina State COVID-19 ICU Treatment Centre in General Hospital, Daura,Katsina State in 2020.
- Funded the intervention for the purchase and donation of emergency personal protective equipment (PPE) and kits across the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria in 2021.
- Funded the intervention and presentation of cardiotocograph (CTG), single gestation equipment phototherapy machines, hydraulic delivery beds equipped with monitors, Olympus microscope, blood banks and a host of other important medical equipment to Onikan Health Centre, Lagos State, August, 2020.
- Funded the intervention and presentation of vital medical equipments to General Hospital, Ovia South- West, Edo State, September, 2020.
Other measurable strategic achievements recorded under Dr. Maigari as the CEO include and not limited to ensuring direct payment of statutory remittance into the Treasury Single Account (TSA) of the trust fund, in line with provision of the extant laws, and the recovery of over N1billion backlog of remittances due to the Fund from some licensees and sports betting companies.
Furthermore, strategic efforts are ongoing to recover over N20billion backlog of remittances from licensees, sport betting and permit holders, and the agency has secured approval jointly with the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC) for the establishment of a central monitoring system for lottery and gaming in Nigeria.
ENGR EBERECHUKWU OJI: A Distinguished Engineer, Driven By Excellence, Sustained By Integrity
The profession and field of engineering are crucial to the technological advancement of any nation. However, in Nigeria, the field of engineering practice has not seen much development compared to the developed countries in the world in spite of efforts being made by regulatory agencies like COREN, NUC and others.
Nevertheless, despite the unsavoury state of affairs, some notable Nigerian engineers have continued to prove their mettle in the comity of other professionals in tune with best practice and excellent job delivery. Amongst these outstanding ones today is the indefatigable and innovative Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, ND Western Limited, Engr. Eberechukwu Oji.
A thoroughbred engineering professional, groomed in the halls of some of the best academic institutions on this planet, and refined in the stables of few of the best corporate players in the global oil and gas industry, Engr. Oji is distinguished by his technical know-how and managerial capability. Thus, with the competence and capacity he has brought to the Nigerian Oil and Gas Sector, nobody can begrudge his deserved rise and inspirational achievements.
He is a Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) and a Chattered Engineer of the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), he is equipped with a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) ,Warwick University, United Kingdom, a Master’s in Technology (M.Tech) Petroleum Engineering, Curtin University, Australia, a Master’s in Engineering (M.Eng), Electrical & Electronics Engineering and a Bachelor’s degree (B.Eng) in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Universities of Benin and Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO), respectively.
Experienced and hardworking, Oji was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of ND Western Limited – an independent Nigerian oil and gas exploration and production company made up of a consortium of four companies comprising the Niger Delta Petroleum Resources Limited (NDPR), Petrolin Trading Limited (PETROLIN), FIRST Exploration & Petroleum Development OML 34 Limited, and Walter-Smith Exploration and Production Limited in March 2020.
Since he came on board as ND Western’s CEO, the resourceful engineer has continued to put corporate vision to work by efficiently leading the organization’s management team, and this has made the oil exploration and production company one of the integrity-driven firms that cannot be ignored in the nation’s Oil and Gas sector.
Prior to joining ND Western, his fields of experience included exploration and production, oil and gas accountability from Reservoir to Export Point operations as Chief Operating Officer (COO), Neconde Energy Limited. Upstream and Midstream Oil & Gas Senior executive leadership, Operations Management of Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) plant accountable for the Train 6 Operations. He also worked as Regional Discipline Manager for Maintenance for Shell Companies in Nigeria and Gabon.
Apart from these, the outstanding professional had rendered his service as Asset Manager for SPDC’s Central Hub Asset with over 1.2bscf/d of gas production and 50kbopd oil producing facilities. Similarly, he had been involved in major project management as Operations Readiness Lead for Offshore, Maintenance, HSE and Logistics in Kashagan Project, Kazakhstan, and as Global Field Development Consultant with significant front-end field development experience with projects in the Netherlands, UK, Norway, Singapore, Australia, United States, Bangalore, etc.
His fields of experience, that span over 25 years, cover major projects delivery, front-end field development, field operations, facility maintenance, well intervention, gas plant operations, compressor station operations, asset management, new business development, country entry, commercial deal negotiation, community relations management, government relations management amongst others.
In this brief chat with The Guardian on his recognition as one of “Nigeria’s Most Distinguished Icons of the Engeering Practice in National Development”, Engr. Oji speaks on his career, the Nigerian Content Act and the impact on the engineering practice in Nigeria, ND Western’s achievement factors, amongst other issues. Excepts …
What can you describe as the factors that influenced your career choice?
My career choice was influenced by my early childhood where I was privileged to watch an engineer come in to install a generator for the school where I grew up in. The engineer left a strong impression on me that I decided at that young age that when I grow up, I will be an engineer.
After my M.Eng and BEng in Electrical & Electronics Engineering from University of Benin and Federal University of Technology Owerri, respectively, I proceeded to Curtin University, Australia where I had a Master’s in Technology. Therefter, I did an MBA at the Warwick University, United Kingdom. I started my career as an engineer with the Royal Dutch Shell Company, and I have worked in different facets of the oil and gas industry in over 25 years and, still working.
How would you assess the practice of engineering in Nigeria, and the performance of indigenous engineering firms operating in oil and gas industry in the last 20 years?
In my opinion, Engineering in Nigeria is key to our national development in terms of infrastructural development and other industrial and economic goals we want to achieve as a country. But it is quite of a mixed feeling for me if you talk about engineering development in the past 20 years.
I and many other engineers around my age are products of quality engineering education and training which has given reason to so many indigenous engineering companies we have today who can deliver and are delivering value for service. However, there is still a long way to go in terms of investment in Research and Development (R & D), Patent registrations, Higher Institutions and Industry collaborations, using local engineering talents to drive Industrialization etc. There is still quite a lot of work to do in the indigenous engineering arena but we must acknowledge the tremendous progress made so far.
What do you think can be done to improve on the level of participation of indigenous engineering firms and professionals in the infrastructural development of the country?
Kudos must be given to the Federal Government, who through the Nigerian Content Act has really helped indigenous engineering firms to have a stake in the development of the Nigeria Oil and Gas sector. Nevertheless, wholistically, the challenge faced by most companies is access to funding and skilled workforce. There should be a deliberate act that initiates an engineering R & D funding bank, and our education/training curriculum should be revised to meet current engineering developmental standards.
Furthermore, ND Western is committed to the development of skillsets and capacity relevant for the Oil and Gas industry of the future which is why we are re-launching the former Shell Intensive Training Programme in our Edjeba facility, Warri, for development of young graduates and technicians to grow our own timber of the needed technical capacity in our industry and to continuously update the skills and competence of our existing work force within the industry. This facility and training will be open to other Oil Companies and Service companies who may be interested to train their staff and young graduates in the program.
To what extent has Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development (Local Content Act) 20210 contributed to the building of capacity among the indigenous firms since the Act came into operation?
The Nigeria Local Content Act has been a great success. The Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) has done a good job of promoting the involvement of local Nigerian companies in the provision of goods and services in the Nigerian Oil and Gas sector that was previously dominated by foreign contractors and suppliers.
Increasingly, the capacity building has been growing over the years with indigenous operators taking over marginal fields and OMLs from the OICs and running the assets very creditably.
To the last point, ND Western Limited is an excellent example to showcase the growth and development of Nigeria Independent Operators over the last one decade. We have shown that local Nigerian Operators can operate assets to global standards incorporating ESG standards, creating job opportunities and paying significant royalties to the government. The same story is true for local refineries currently owned and operated by indigenous Nigerian companies such as NDPR and Waltersmith.
Despite the challenges that are involved in managing business entities in Nigeria, ND Western Limited has continued to maintain its growth and corporate integrity. What factors can you ascribe to this achievement?
ND Western Limited has achieved so much by holding on to her core values. We value our people, deeply entrench our Health, Safety, Security & Environment (HSSE) culture, our people are highly competent displaying a high level of integrity and honesty. There is great teamwork within the organization top-to-bottom, which reflects in the organization’s high performance.
ND Western is template example of a very solid and successful Partnership that is enduring and doing well as consortium Partners including NDPR, FIRST E&P, Waltersmith and Petrolin Trading.
We have a very solid governance structure with both local and international diverse mix of experience and knowledge to guide the business to the success we have seen today.
As an experienced engineer and manager of men and material, how can you explain your role in providing mentorship to young professionals, especially engineers, who are the future of the practice in Nigeria?
I have facilitated the set-up of the Future Leaders Network (FLN) and Women’s Network within ND Western to enable our young men and women explore their creative minds both individually and as groups with the goal of enabling growth, in their career, socially and mentally. Although, these networks are in their adolescence stages, we can see a lot of potentials being exhibited within these networks. These structures enable young practitioners in the industry to interact with seasoned professionals to support their development and aspirations. The Networks are ND Western flagship mentoring platform to grow the leaders of the future in our industry.
What advice do you have for young Nigerians who are looking up to an outstanding professional like you?
It is important to remain focused, diligent, persistent while building an excellent work ethic. Whatever you do, make sure you develop a core technical competence and commit to continuous professional development throughout your career. Submit to the guidance of technical and leadership mentors and find a career sponsor in your organization as you grow. These are the recipe for building and sustaining an outstanding career.
How TILT Group Is Driving High-Value Infrastructure Projects For National Development And Shared Prosperity by Habeeb Okunola
TILT Group is a multi-million dollar diversified Nigerian conglomerate working globally in a vast range of fields. Its all-encompassing subsidiary companies are proof of its diversity and far-reaching potential as it confidently carries out its role as an international solutions provider in sectors such as construction, energy, oil and gas, agriculture, marine, technology and media, amongst others.
Group Managing Director/CEO of the Group, Akosin Habeeb Okunola – a Nigerian entrepreneur whose vision is in complete alignment with the government’s National Development Plan has since inception guided TILT Group’s rapid growth from being a local company to a multinational consortium. The company’s flagship, which is construction, began operation in Lagos in 2009. Since then, the organisation has built a name and legacy in Nigeria’s key economic sectors spanning agriculture, marine and the energy sector with a plan to extend to other sectors and markets in Africa.
Habeeb Okunola, a dynamic Nigerian Entrepreneur and philanthropist whose accomplishments were crowned in 2019 having won the ‘Excellence in Business Leadership and Community Development’ award at the Pan-African Humanitarian Summit and Awards (PAHSA) held in Abu Dhabi, is quintessential business leader and a clear acknowledgement of his forward-thinking business acumen, and his significant achievements in humanitarian initiatives as well as socio-economic development.
In his words, Okunlola described the Group’s origins and mission as “it started with construction in 2009, in Lagos State, since then we have built a name and legacy in Nigeria’s key economic sectors spanning agriculture, marine and the energy sector; with plans to extend to other sectors in and markets in Africa.”
Since inception, the group has also subjected herself to towing the path of global best practices, as well as giving serious attention to the impact of its projects in the communities it works in. Ditto, the environment at large by keeping operations environmentally-friendly. No fewer than 80 communities and 3,000 underserved Nigerians have been impacted through TILT Groups Corporate Social Responsibility activities which cut across education, financial inclusion prison and security reforms and humanitarian emergencies.
TILT Group has incorporated diversification as its driving principle in growing the nation’s economy and in the provision of sustainable development solutions. Client-focused with a reliable and proactive business approach, TILT Energy’s commitment to delivering exceptional quality and timely successful energy projects has guaranteed its strategic role within the oil and gas industry.
TILT Energy, a subsidiary of TILT Group; is an integrated energy company servicing the international oil and gas industry, has a mission to provide solutions to energy projects through the implementation of innovative technology, competitive tendering, professional management and an outstanding safety record. It focuses upon providing a wide range of specialized solutions including local construction of class certified vessels, installation of pipelines, the engineering and fabrication of process equipment, providing gas compression services for the oil and gas sector and E&P products and services.
Speaking on past projects which included the installations of the Warri refinery and the deployment of off grid solar solutions in Kaduna State, Okunola said “We have a strategic partnership with Schneider Electric which allows us to provide a wide range of automation and instrumental solutions. Currently, we are working on the upgrade and overhaul of critical power infrastructure including turbines and gas boosters for power plants in Nigeria. These are high value projects which will have a positive impact on our balance sheet.”
With a mission to becoming a leading integrated company in sub-Saharan Africa over the next few years, TILT Energy also understands the importance of diversification and is also set on becoming an essential and quality solutions provider in the renewable energy industry but also understands the importance of the opportunity and growth that lie in Nigeria’s future as gas hub.
Okunola added that the group “is focused on having a public-private partnership with government in terms of providing power and other critical infrastructure and we are going to be investors in that”, states Okunola. “We are talking with our partners across the world in this regard but however there is keen interest in the Middle East and Asia. Nigeria is the biggest country in Africa, with the largest economy and you want to play in that system. So, every real investor who knows what they are doing will want to be in Nigeria. The numbers are there, the GDP is rising.”
In complete alignment with the government’s initiatives of local content of endorsing its Year of Gas vision and mission, TILT Energy is dedicated to the cause of providing reliable and competitive products, services and solutions to the oil and gas sector as a means to boost national economic growth, and it is herein that, according to Okunola, lies the secret of the Group’s abounding success.
He noted that “At the moment, we are one of the fastest growing indigenous companies in Africa and our aim over the next 20 years is to ensure we are a major player on the International Oil Company Service”
TILT Construction, the civil engineering focused subsidiary of the Group, has successfully executed over 700 civil infrastructure, heavy industrial and building projects across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria leveraging global best practices, as well as giving serious attention to the impact of projects in communities they work and on the environment by keeping their operations environmentally friendly.
As a progressive partner in the delivery of the SDGs in Nigeria, the Group has carried out major construction of schools, primary healthcare centres, stadiums, amongst other structures in different parts of the country. We just completed a 120-kilometre road in Taraba State and we intend to start with Lagos State. We are also constructing the ultra-modern Visual Arts Centre and ICT Hub in Ilorin, Kwara State.”
Okunola stressed that “For us, the SDGs have become central to our sustainability operations. We have made SDG 9, 11 and 17 central to our sustainability strategy by integrating circular economy principles into all our activities, as well as helping create smart cities by using smart technologies to help cut carbon, increase resilience and improve quality of life.
Clients include prestigious establishments such as the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Niger Delta Power Holding Company Limited (NDPHC), Kaduna State Government, Kwara State Government, Nigerian Immigration Service and the Nigerian Air Force.
Although TILT Group is propelled by its sweeping global innovative outlook, it is also deeply committed to casting an inner glance at growing and supporting the nation through the promotion of local content. Okunola declared that “We have proven ourselves as an indigenous company to reckon with by pioneering what is being done in the western world here in Nigeria: using home-grown talents and locally sourced materials.
Within the TILT Group, we have a marine division that offers total solutions, from concept design to construction for new builds. We recently delivered Ballistic Security Patrol Boats to the Nigerian Ports Authorities, and currently we are building a 500tonne self-propelled fuel barge and 500tonne self-propelled water barge for the Nigerian Navy. The boats will be the first ever class-certified fuel barge to be built in Nigeria with 100% local content (locally produced materials, personnel and financing).”
Since its inception, the Group has been dedicated to implementing global best practices in business and humanitarianism. This is visible through its unflinching commitments to developments development initiatives and active membership in the SDGs Private Sector Advisory Group. They have implemented numerous philanthropic activities in underserved rural and displaced communities in Nigeria and Benin Republic with a view to improving healthcare promoting quality education and female empowerment and enhancing financial inclusion, amongst other issues.
So far, no fewer than 5,000 out of school children have been provided with scholarships up to tertiary level, more than 700 youths have been offered SME grants and over 1500 low-income women uplifted from the threshold of poverty through its financial inclusion programme ‘She Saves Nigeria’. In a similar vein, the Group was a frontline donor in the wake of COVID19: they swung into action by donating prevention kits [sanitisers, N95 masks, gloves and soaps] to health facilities and communities across the South West states in Nigeria.
The conglomerate, TILT Group of Companies, is that magnificent and unique entity where thinking out-of-the-box, diversification, innovation and ambition in both business enterprise and humanitarian principles are in perfect balance, providing the fertile soil for the propagation of Nigeria’s health and wealth.
Despite the challenges presented throughout 2020, the international environment is set to rebound over the upcoming years, and TILT Group is evolving by digitising its process and operation to match up with global trends and best practices. Okunola states, “Moving forward, we have begun making investments in technology; through TILT Asset Management, which seeks to provide Artificial Intelligence and blockchain solutions for entities and organisations.” TILT Asset Management is also focusing on education technology, data analytics and fintech, which are disrupting the financial sector and the society at large. Okunola continues, “We know the technology space is the place where we must be an active player rather than being a participant. It’s not going to be just about what is “normal” anymore but what is possible.”
Meanwhile, before establishing TILT Group, Habeeb Okunola held various management positions in market development and project management in leading companies in the United Kingdom and Nigeria. He is a businessman of international repute, whose experience in conceiving business transactions has given him access to Presidents, Prime Ministers and leaders of international organisations.
Inspired by some of the world’s reputable philosophers who believe that the world is guided by insight and reason, Okunola has selflessly submitted yourself to the pursuit of the greatest good for the greatest number. He is an accomplished author who has written down his thoughts on life and on the business scene in his book titled “The Little Bites of Inspiration” and “The Truly Rich”. In the book “The Truly Rich”, Okunola, through objectivity borne out of experience, articulated the hopes and needs of the poor as well as what the ultra-rich can do to enable the economic self-empowerment of individuals
Over the last decade, his philanthropic gestures implemented through the vehicle of his non-profit organisation (Habeeb Okunola Foundation) have impacted thousands of people, most especially in the area of Financial Inclusion, Education, Health and Prison Reforms. This reflects his favourite saying: “empowerment is the proof of wealth”.
From Abu Dhabi in UAE to the United Kingdom; and From Benin Republic to Singapore, Mr Okunola’s reputation for his entrepreneurship accomplishments, sustainable grassroots development and commitment to humanitarian causes is not only assured but also recognised. Apart from being a recipient of a multitude of global honours, Mr Habeeb Okunola, is a First-Class Chief in his home country Nigeria. He is the Akosin of Yorubaland, and also the Aare Tayese of Iseyinland.
Habeeb Olalekan Okunola is an alumnus of the Harvard Business School and University of Lagos and takes interest in a few things. Besides living a life devoted to giving and engaging in business activities, he also finds recreation in table tennis and football.
In recognition of his innovative ideas and remarkable achievements, Habeeb Okunola has received several awards and testaments in and outside Nigeria. These include: Outstanding Global Entrepreneur at the Nigeria National Awards by the Office of the Citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2021; Outstanding Global Entrepreneur, 2021 at the Nigeria National Awards by Office of the Citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Humanitarian of the Year 2021 at the International Day for Slavery and its Abolition organized by Go Culture International.
Also, he was featured by Forbes Among 48 Nigerians shaping Nigeria Economic Powerhouse, 2020; Excellence in Business, Leadership & Community Development Award – Abu Dhabi, UAE by Pan African Leadership and Entrepreneurship Development Center, 2019; Award for Humanity & Enterprise 2019, United Kingdom London by Africa Advancement Forum; Nelson Mandela Leadership Award of Service to Humanity 2019 by ECOWAS Youth Council; Defender of the Less Privileged Award 2019 by the National Association of Oduduwa Students; Icon of Youth Emancipation 2019 by the Yoruba Youth Council; Agunechemba (Lion that shied his people) Award, 2019 by the Igbo Youth Association; Award for Excellence and Business Innovation 2019 by Nigeria Entrepreneurs Award.
Why Telnet wants to be the core partner in every industry by Folorunso Aliu
Immersed in a strong belief in changing the odds for the benefit of humanity through innovation, diligence and hard work, Folorunso Aliu has made name for himself as a quintessential CEO whose enterprising acumen sets him miles ahead of his contemporaries. It is no gainsaying that this contributed to his rise from the bottom of the ladder as an intern many years ago to becoming the Group Managing Director of Telnet (Nigeria) Limited – the parent company for iTECO (Nigeria) Limited and Softworks Limited.
In the course of his career at Telnet, the Obafemi Awolowo University graduate of Computer Engineering was involved in the building of some of the earliest networks, e-security and network optimization roll out for financial institutions in Nigeria from the ground up.
In 2003, he served as the Head of Network Support and subsequently became the National Coordinator of Network Support in 2005 for iTECO, where he successfully grew the revenue and annuity income of the company from a small enterprise into a multimillion dollar going-concern.
In 2007, he became the Managing Director of iTECO and later Group Project Director for Strategic Projects. During this period, he also doubled as the director responsible for the Northern Nigeria region of Telnet Group’s operations before his eventual rise to the top, where he oversees the entire operations of the company, while also offering leadership.
As one of the firms at the vanguard of ICT development in Nigeria, the Telnet Group has continued to deliver giant strides in the InfoTech space in its 36 years of existence. Given its position as a pioneer in the provision of FinTech solutions, the company has impacted Nigerians by making it possible to conduct financial transactions seamlessly, taking away the challenges peculiar with the banking sector two decades ago.
According to Aliu, “Telnet is all about making life better for the average Nigerian which is why the company has continued to be to the forefront of relevance in its 36 years of existence. A number of companies started with us, but they have been confined to history. Some of the solutions we developed in the past have taken this country forward and changed the landscape tremendously. A lot of young people did not know what it means to cash a cheque at a bank 20 years ago. Some do not even know what a cheque looks like, because most transactions are now done online.
He noted that “We birthed the first FinTech entity in Nigeria. In the area of mobile payment, we are happy to say that we birthed what is today, the largest mobile money operator in Nigeria. We have made changes beyond money making; we affect people’s lives positively and that is what we are all about.”
Speaking further, Aliu insisted that “ICT deployment in Nigeria is at an appreciable level given the fact that ICT deployment has become predominant in certain areas which has positioned us above some advanced nations. We may not be where we want to be, and the truth is that we are far from where we should be.
To be candid, some advanced nations are not close to what we have achieved in terms of mobile payment. Even in terms of telephony, we have gone far ahead of some countries because they are still making use of landlines in those countries, but because we did not have enough landlines, we leapfrogged to GSM migration and we have been able to achieve a lot as a result of this”, he added.
A Certified Management Consultant (CMC) and Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants (FIMC), Aliu is no doubt an authority to reckon with both locally and internationally in the InfoTech space. His resourcefulness at getting results has been evident in the operations of the company since he came on board, with notable awards and recognitions coming the way of the Telnet Group. His leadership skills have also endeared him to young professionals who look up to him for mentorship.
With the goal of penetrating every sector of the economy through innovative solutions, the MBA graduate of the Lagos Business School said the company aims to be at the core of productivity in every public and private organization.
“The strategy is not just to add value, but to be the core partner in every industry. Currently, we are developing solutions that will make both private and public organizations tick. The goal is to be the core partner of every organization. We want to be the catalyst that will bring about a Nigeria where people demand service and government and private sectors delivers to the people by bringing innovation to manufacturing, oil and gas, power, healthcare, agriculture and SMEs.”