The Guardian’s special focus on Most Impactful and Award-winning CEOs that contributed to Nigeria’s GDP growth in 2021 Part 5
AMB. (DR.) OLABISI AKANBI: Highly Resourceful Professional, Dynamic Entrepreneur With Social Consciousness
Amb. (Dr.) Olabisi Akanbi, Chief Executive Officer, Labo Group is a relatively young entrepreneur with an innovative mind whose managerial ingenuity has opened doors of opportunities for many Nigerians who are benefitting from his patriotic vision. The versatile manager of resources with knack for excellence is a focused and hardworking Nigerian whose fast-growing business entities and philanthropic deeds have shown that this nation is blessed with outstanding professionals who see opportunities where many are complaining of challenges.
Educated at St. Patrick’s College, London where he bagged a Bachelor of Science degree, and at Cavendish College, London where he earned a Master’s degree in International Business Management, the dynamic entrepreneur worked in the United Kingdom before his patriotic desire to contribute to the economic development of his motherland brought him to Nigeria. Thus, in 2004, he established the Labo Group, a fast-growing integrated marketing communication organization with interests in construction, real estate, automobile, publishing. entertainment.
Built on a foundation of strong corporate governance, Labo Group has continued to maintain its growth and corporate integrity. One of the subsidiaries is La-Faith Property Limited – a fully indigenous construction, contracting, and real estate management company with over a decade of construction experience and has been involved in major projects in Banana Island, Magodo GRA, Parkview Estate Ikoyi, Alimosho, OPIC Isheri. Presently, it is building detached smart homes at highly competitive rate at Ibeju-Lekki and Isheri North.
According to Akanbi, who had a stint a construction company in the UK, “Having understudied a few of the construction/real estate firms in Nigeria, I realized that we could improve on the value being offered. That is what triggered the establishment of La-Faith Property.”
Meanwhile, in line with his vision of empowering youths in Nigeria, Labo Entertainment, another company in the Group, has been committed to connecting music talents to stardom. The likes of Dotman and DJ Tough are music stars signed to Labo Entertainment Limited.
Similarly, the astute CEO also has a stake in the automobile industry with Labo Autos Limited, an automobile company that deals in sales of state-of-the-art vehicles, while Facebuk Magazine Limited, another subsidiary of the Group, is a publication media company that carryout printing of magazine and all media activities for Labo Group.
He is equally the Founder, Labo Foundation, an NGO saddled with the responsibility of giving hope to the less privileged. Recently, the serial entrepreneur added Labo Agric Farms to the Group.
In his words, “Labo Group’s track record of success is what we are bringing into agriculture. As a team, we want to make a big difference with our modest effort through the investment in animal husbandry and crop farming on the several acres of land in Ajebo, Ogun State. Apart from taking more youths off the street, this is our way of playing a role in achieving food security in Nigeria and achieving a future of shared prosperity for all the stakeholders in this investment.”
It does not come as a surprise that in recognition of his managerial competence and philanthropic deeds, Olabisi Akanbi, a recipient of many awards was conferred with a Honorary Doctorate degree by the European American University and was also conferred with the Youth Ambassador Award in appreciation of the Group’s efforts towards engaging Nigerian youths, positively. In addition, Labo Entertainment won Best Record Label at the City People Music Awards in 2018 just as the real estate subsidiary of the Group has been recognized for adding value in the Nigerian real estate sector.
SKALID OBI: Driving Energy Distribution Nationwide, Through Technology
With an objective to build the largest energy distribution network in Nigeria, Cydene Energy Limited – one of the nation’s fast growing petroleum commodities distribution companies, has in its five years of existence cut a niche for itself in delivering convenience and providing customers with opportunities for value added services.
Within just half a decade, the company has simultaneously grown its retail and commercial network across Nigeria, becoming a more respected brand while opening opportunities in surrounding markets. By leveraging on technology through the Cydene Express mobile application for door-to-door distribution of diesel and cooking gas, the young energy company has built strategic relationships which has helped in positioning the brand to manage the flow of energy from, into and across key markets nationwide.
Meanwhile, for those who are more familiar with Cydene Energy and its helmsman, these formidable credentials and enviable status would not have come as a surprise. Young, savvy and enterprising, Skalid Obi, CEO of Cydene Energy Limited is a go-getter any day and has won the admiration of many in the industry even among his peers.
Having worked with an oil company importing refined products into the Nigerian market through bulk storage, Obi said he was inspired by identifying a gap and the opportunity of distribution after a couple months of liaising with truckers. He figured out the need for a better system of managing logistics to the end users. This birthed the creation of Cydene Energy.
Speaking on the strategies he adopted over the years that has helped in expanding his company’s portfolio, Obi explained that the company is “consistently improving its processes and finding sustainable ways to automate the very core of our operations. In the last couple of months, we have simplified our cooking gas and diesel delivery service by giving the end users a mobile app to interface with.”
According to him, benefits associated with the Cydene Express mobile app include the e-wallet platform which promotes one of Nigeria’s quests to economic liberation, through cashless policy. All transactions are done within the application and this helps with increased convenience and reduced risk of cash related crimes.
Concerning the opportunities resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the highly resourceful CEO noted that “COVID-19 impact is the identification of behavioural trends and the reception of the new generation of consumers to embracing solutions. That has helped shape the ideas behind the CEX innovation and continually keeps us on our toes to cater to the new era. COVID-19 is here to stay, we must embrace the new reality and adapt accordingly.”
He added that he has been able to “scale up Cydene Energy services despite the attendant challenges in the Nigerian business environment through APIs. We have third party logistics handling 10% of our gas deliveries in areas with little or no LPG plants available. Digital/technical know-how of operating smartphones is up there in our list of challenges. We have had to setup regular sessions and even 24/7 Call/WhatsApp customer support service to this effect.”
In his words, “Within the next five years, Cydene Express should be handling one-third of all energy transactions. The framework has proven to be efficient and sustainable. As long as we stay committed to our distribution channels, there is absolutely nothing on the way.”
ABBA BELLO MOHAMMED: Committed To Providing Functional, Affordable Housing To Nigerian Families, Businesses
The enthusiasm to take on any task and make a success of it, his astuteness, adherence to professional ethics and diligence are the major attributes that have been helping him to turn his business idea into profitable venture. Abba Bello Mohammed, Chief Executive Officer, Bam Projects & Properties Limited, is a dynamic manager of resources with knack for excellence. A graduate of Law from Essex University, United Kingdom, Mohammed is committed to redefining quality in the Nigerian Real Estate Sector.
Thus, Bam Projects & Properties’ ability to constantly deliver projects ahead of schedule is attributed to the high professional capacity it commands. Its culture of teamwork enables it bring together the best professionals-thinkers and advisers, which underscores the company’s ability to deliver the best solutions to complex clients’ problems at the shortest possible time. It is not a surprise that the firm was recognized among Nigeria’s Top Real Estate Disruptors in 2021.
According to Mohammed, “Nigeria has a housing deficit of over 17million and Bam Projects & Properties has made it one of its prerogatives to bridge this gap. That is why the company introduced its affordable housing projects with flexible payment plans in Abuja. We have further partnered with the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) to help prospective home owners have access to the National Housing Fund. Over the years, more than 500 subscribers have trusted us to deliver their dream homes.”
Priding itself in delivering excellent service and customer centric work ethic, the real estate investment firm was established with a vision of becoming a leading realty providing carefully crafted, affordable, luxury homes in Nigeria. This vision is driven by a flexible consulting approach that guarantees delivery of the most of housing resources irrespective of the nature of work involved – short-term or long term, onsite or offsite.
In pursuance of its mission, Bam Projects is providing standard and affordable housing to the general public. The company offers services primarily in real estate, civil engineering consultancy with limited specialist services in building construction, and its project portfolio includes mass housing development.
In line with Bam’s corporate strategy, Mohammed has developed an internal culture that gives the company an edge in Nigeria’s real estate industry. “We hold each other accountable for creating a company we can all be proud to work with. Whether you are a potential customer, a small business partner or a future employee, we look forward to finding out how we can work together to bring service to life”, he noted.
Headquartered in Abuja, the company operates coordinating offices in Lagos and Kebbi, as well as site offices across the country from which it undertakes complete services in real estate development consultancy, feasibility studies and property development operations.
Bam Projects serves a range of clients from small municipalities and companies to large corporations, government departments and industrial organizations. Some of its project milestones include Belham Heights, Asokoro, Abuja.There are also Belham Estate – Brookshore Residence, Asokoro, Abuja, sports complex, horse riding and country club, proposed Belham shopping complex and six fully-serviced units of three bedrooms and maid’s room apartments located at Gudu District, Abuja and the proposed Project 77, Asokoro.
Looking ahead, Mohammed said, his company is “focused on accelerating the execution of our growth strategy while continuing to build on the strength of our brand – in helping our clients share knowledge and create innovation and in bringing positive change to the communities in which we work and live.”
BOLUTIFE ODUSANYA: Resilient, Thoroughbred Professional, Expanding Frontiers in Nigeria’s Oil and Gas Development
Bolutife Odusanya is an innovative business executive who has distinguished himself within and outside his professional circle. With well over a decade’s experience which spans across investment banking, private equity, project finance energy, as well as oil and gas, he has continued to push the frontiers in the oil and gas sector through TREXM Oil & Gas Services Limited, where he serves as the Managing Director/CEO.
A graduate of Howard University, USA where he bagged a BBA in Finance, Odusanya started his career in investment banking in the employment of firms such as Credit Suisse and SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, where he worked in the Leveraged Finance group having worked on over $9b of transactions. He moved to private equity with San Francisco-based private investment fund, Industry Capital. While at Industry Capital, he was given the responsibility of opening the fund’s first foreign office in Lagos, Nigeria after which he set off on his entrepreneurial pursuits.
Considering the country’s current economic outlook, the financial expert of international repute stated that 2021 has been a mix of opportunities and challenges. According to him, the years 2020 and 2021 provided him with real-time scenarios to stress-test business operations and understand how to react to external and internal challenges, especially around E&P spend.
Furthermore, he gave insights into opportunities that the company has leveraged upon towards increasing service offerings to her numerous clients. These include access to new market, strategic partnerships, and diversification into chemical production with the launching of a new subsidiary, TREXM Chemicals Limited.
While affirming the focus of TREXM’s business in the Upstream and Midstream space, he conceded that “2021, in particular, brought significant traction in broadening its client base to include industrial/FMCG manufacturers and the power generation clients. Also, we have been able to achieve strategic partnership with Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) such as Baker Hughes, Yokogawa, Vega and Honeywell. By this, we have brought to the fore our value proposition to marry best-in-class technology with local expertise and engineering excellence.”
With the acquisition of two liquid mud plants from Baker Hughes at Onne Free Trade Zone, TREXM Chemicals was birthed. This has positioned the company to service the local market for drilling and completion fluids.
He explained that “an opportunity spotted a few years ago in the chemicals space initially for Oil and Gas clients, has converted broadly for other industries. To service these customers, we set up a subsidiary, TREXM Chemicals Nigeria Limited to service their needs. To that end, we began by providing services to the upstream clients around production chemicals for their operations.”
Having a growth strategy centred on quality product, global best practices and excellent service delivery aimed at becoming the most trusted partner to its clients, the innovative and savvy CEO who has been a director at Nigeria Solar Capital Partners since 2013 noted that the company aims to offer its clients a differentiated solution by leveraging its strong OEM partnership and alliances, thereby ensuring that the TREXM brand and product ranges appeal to customers and ‘stand out from the crowd’.
As an indigenous firm, TREXM has rightly positioned itself to take advantage of the recently enacted Petroleum Industry Act as other local players are also gearing up to maximize the opportunities provided by the reform. Like other experts in the industry, Odusanya agreed that the rising global demand for cleaner energy sources has offered Nigeria an opportunity to exploit gas resources for the good of the country.
Against this backdrop, he explained that TREXM will seize the opportunity by investing and pitching its services to gas plants, as well as power generation companies. Some of the reasons behind the planned move by the company boarder on the following:
- The PIA provides more attractive terms for gas-based investments – sufficient incentives for upstream gas development, as the gas pricing regime has been upwardly reviewed.
- Pre-PIA gas pricing structure was $2.5 per mmbtu for the power sector and $1.5 per mmbtu for gas-based industries. However, the new PIA now specifies a base price of $3.2 for the power sector with provision for yearly reviews.
- Similarly, gas-based industries will purchase gas within a price band that is capped at $3.2 with a floor price of about $0.9.
- The new price regime offers a better incentive, for the development of Non-Associated Gas, which may in turn encourage more gas commercialization projects.
- PIA further enhances the existing incentives for gas companies, including exemption from the new Hydrocarbon Tax for both Associated Gas and Non-Associated Gas projects among other fiscal incentives.
The establishment of the Midstream & Downstream Gas Infrastructure Fund, which shall have the power to make equity investments into relevant gas infrastructure projects and consequently encourage private sector investment through participation and risk sharing.
“Emerging Leaders must prioritize knowledge, Build Quality Character” – Mallam Abdulamajeed
Hard work, diligence and dedication to work are his watch words and his phenomenal rise as an administrator is proof that his values ate paying off. Mallam Abdullahi Abdulmajeed, Group Managing Director/CEO, Harmony Holdings Limited is an icon who knows his onions and has proved his mettle as a seasoned administrator in Nigeria.
Talking about what led to the establishment of Harmony Holdings, Abdulmajeed pointed out that Harmony Holdings was established during the administration of Governor Abdulfatai Ahmed because most of the state-owned enterprises under public sector management were floundering while many have become insolvent due to poor management and have become moribund. In a bid to salvage this, the former governor deemed it fit to establish Harmony Holdings in order to give it that private sector touch and management dynamics to transform the state-owned enterprise.
“We had a good concept and innovative creation with Harmony Holdings as it acquired over 20 state owned enterprises and properties to give the much-needed strategic direction and profit-oriented administration. But rather than making the situation better, they made the situation worse. When we came on board in 2019, the organizations that had experienced a little turn around after Harmony Holdings took them over in 2013 were experiencing a relapse.
However, today, the narrative has changed, all thanks to Governor Abdulraman Abdulrasaq, we have been able to do what seems to be impossible, as at today all backlog of salaries have been cleared, we have also passed 50% in terms of the turnaround management plan and many of the companies have not only been revived, they have been revitalized, diversified, their productivity has been enhanced, profit making is now better maximized and the story is changing from the negative that its used to be to significant positive” He enthused
On the impact of Covid-19 on the organization, Abdulmajeed stressed that immediately he came on board in December 2019, he embarked on diagnostic surveys across all the companies and by January, serious work began.
“We created a resilient and structured company because we knew we are going to be facing a lot of shocks because the company was already down, we tightened our belts, blocked leakages, eliminated wastages and carried out appraisals on utilization of our human resource in order to see if there is a need for us to probably right-size or to enhance the capacity of the workers to be 21st century compliant. The most important is the high level of technology we introduced to the system, so by the time COVID hit, our organization continued to operate seamlessly because across board, we already had digital platforms.”
A service-oriented patriot, Abdulmajeed has received numerous awards and recognitions due to his outstanding performance over the years, amongst are: African Youth Advocate of the year 2013 and 2014 edition of the Continental Youth Award and inducted into its Hall of Fame at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, International Award for Young People in Africa as President of the National Youth Council of Nigeria, Alumni of the Prestigious Columbian International Visitor Leadership Program on Innovative Economic Development through Agricultural Revolution, Recognition by the Robert Kennedy Institute as an Emerging African Leader of Hope, African Times Awards for Nigeria’s Youth of Distinction.
Others are “The Future Awards Prize for Community Action and Advocacy”, Co-winner, Young Business Leader of the Year Award by the Arewa Development Trust Initiative, Named the Arewa Young Achiever by Gamji Heritage Media Awards as the Director General of Arewa Trade and Investment Promotion Council (ATIPC), he was also recognized with the Nigerian Youth Peace Builders Award, The most inspiring Youth Leader of the year.
This is in recognition of his tremendous contribution to nation building, selfless service to humanity, and excellent performance as a youth leader and in 2020, he received the African Youths Excellence in Entrepreneurship Development Award in Ghana.
He therefore, charged upcoming administrators and emerging young leaders who would like to make a mark and impact the society to always prioritize knowledge, continuous acquisition of capacity and skills and deliberately build a character that is qualitative saying that it is the way to go.
On the future of the TREXM Group, Odusanya who is also a board member at Vfuels Oil and Gas Engineering, Texas, USA informed that among the numerous goals the company aims to achieve in the nearest future is to be the leading provider of choice in engineering services to the Oil & Gas, power and manufacturing; to have a dynamic knowledge-driven workforce internally, that could deploy most of its projects with little involvements from external vendors; to expand its market reach to other African countries; increase TREXM’s market share and more importantly to engage in major Corporate Social Responsibility projects.
HANU AGBODJE: Nigerian Tech Guru, Impacting Lives Through Blockchain Technology
Hanu Fejiro Agbodje is a tech-savvy entrepreneur whose ingenuity birthed Patricia Technologies Limited in 2017 as a Fintech company focused on Blockchain technology to deliver alternative financial solutions that empower the processing of cryptocurrencies as means of payment for goods and services around the world. He is currently bootstrapping Patricia to a trillion-dollar valuation, ushering the world into a digital age as well as building amazing products and that would impact lives.
Patricia Technologies in four years
For Patricia, we’ve set out to make crypto easy for humanity, and understanding the actual needs of our customers and meeting them where essential has always been the first step towards that. We also look at the market, make predictions and take the best bets to find a way to reduce the gap and be the bridge between traditional finance and Blockchain technology.
The services that shaped us are the use cases we were able to innovate around cryptocurrencies. Trying to bring real-life use cases, where people can use their crypto to buy airtime, buy data, pay for utility bills, as well as the introduction of Africa’s first-ever crypto debit card. These were the innovations that changed the game, as well as the narrative of what Patricia represents.
Basically, it’s been an incredible journey. We’ve had challenges here and there, however, we’ve always seen challenges as stepping stones and an opportunity to innovate. It is amazing meeting our customers’ needs and exceeding their expectations, constantly educating and informing people about crypto and its use cases. As well as helping users understand that crypto is for everyone, these are the things we are doing, and it is enhancing crypto adoption.
Relocation of Headquarter to Estonia
The move to Estonia availed us a cryptocurrency license which gives us the opportunity to be a licensed company with credibility around the world. Moving to Estonia automatically gave us access to 27 European Union countries, which wasn’t in our grasp before now. This means that we can equally have partnerships, on-board new vendors, and just open up the cryptocurrency ecosystem like never before. That is where we want to be on a global scale.
Adoption of cryptocurrency and impact on Patricia
At Patricia, we see all of the possibilities, and it’s something we are preparing for actively. The growth of crypto in Africa was evident in the 2020 online survey by data platform Statista, which found out that 32% of those Nigerians who took part in the survey used cryptocurrencies – the highest proportion of any country in the world. Another report by Techpoint Africa in January 2021 showed that in 2020, Nigerians traded more than $400m worth of crypto on local crypto exchange platforms. This creates room for the emergence of decentralized platforms, as well as growth for such platforms too.
Cryptocurrency ban in Nigeria
The ban created initial fear and confusion amongst the populace due to the suddenness of the decision. However, the market has adjusted well, and from widespread reports, many people who were not paying attention are paying more attention to the market now than ever.
The first thing we thought of when it happened was the safety of customers’ funds. We anticipated a lot of panics. Our first step was to deploy educational materials to inform our customers what the policy meant and how it affected them. There was uncertainty, but I would say the market has adjusted to the current realities. Stakeholders’ conversations are ongoing within and outside the corridors of the authorities, and we are confident of a seamless resolution at the end of it all.
At Patricia, we stay committed to doing the most for the crypto community. We are very excited for what the next few years hold with the explosion of many new exciting projects using Blockchain in Nigeria and beyond.
Patricia Technologies in 2022 and beyond
In 2022, I see Patricia becoming a global brand with a global presence, operating in several countries in the world, and making crypto easy for everyone with innovation and consistency. We plan to do the most for the crypto community and we are very excited for what the next few years will hold with the explosion of so many new exciting projects using Blockchain.