The Guardian’s Special Focus on integrity-driven organisations in Nigeria
At the 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development in 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari told the world that many of the cybercrime scandal purportedly perpetrated by Nigerians do not represent the values of the country. He emphasized that Nigerians were generally hardworking and not criminals as the world was wont to believe.
The bitter truth however is that many of those scandals did really cast a serious image slur on Nigeria and all her honest and trustworthy people and businesses. And for a fact, all are now suffering for the crime of these misguided infinitesimal few as Nigerian companies are increasingly finding it difficult to attract foreign investments and do business with the outside world.
However, it is needful that the world knows that it is wrong to tar the country with a single brush for the crime of a few and that millions of Nigerian businessmen and companies take integrity in business dealings with all parties as sacrosanct and non-negotiable.
In this report, The Guardian showcases four of Nigeria’s most-integrity companies to the world to serve as models for many businesses in the country.
“At Elizade, We Do Not Play With Our Integrity” – Chief Michael Ade-Ojo, OON, Founder, Elizade Nigeria Limited
When you talk about firms that are driven by integrity in Nigeria today, you must rate Elizade Nigeria Limited as a frontrunner. A company that is not only driven by integrity but by excellence, Elizade was founded in 1971 by Chief Michael Ade.Ojo, an upright workhorse who is an embodiment of integrity.
The company which is the synonym for Toyota in Nigeria has continued to wax stronger and stronger till date.
When asked what has been the secret, Chief Ade.Ojo explained that “Hard work, first of all, followed by thoroughness in our work, and the way in which we carry it out. We are also open to all our customers, treating them with respect and being truthful with them. This practice has made them to come to trust us that our “Yes is Yes” and “No is No”. We carry out open business, no hide – and – seek games”.
As a firm committed to transparency in all its business dealings, Elizade has grown to become the leading automobile sales private firm in Nigeria, which by no means could never have been achieved by mere flight or fancy.
Speaking on how the journey has been, Chief Ade.Ojo who has brought to bear best operating practices in the firm admitted that “It has been very tough, but we have earned our dignity through plain dealings with people. We continue to look for our customers and try to help them to be happy so that they can come back again when the need arises.”
That Elizade Nigeria Limited is a resounding success and the number one in the field of automobile sales in the country is no longer contestable. But not only this, the company has become the byword for high reputation, truthfulness and trustworthiness, thus a model for other companies to emulate. And for these, it is admiration and applause all the way for it from many discerning Nigerians.
It is noteworthy that Elizade was one of the four companies licensed by the Federal Government for the importation of Toyota brand of vehicles into Nigeria and providing after-sales service in 1976. However,out of the four, Elizade is the only one still existing today. Certainly, it is a customer-centered and integrity-driven company.
According to Chief Ade.Ojo, “Integrity is what has kept us. Integrity permeates the company from top to bottom and bottom to top. I will never lie because I want to sell a particular car. We are lawful and ever joke with our integrity”.
Well focused on high performance and well challenged to meet customers’ needs, Elizade Nigeria exudes confidence with the services it provides, confidence in relationships built, and characterized by open and honest leadership in Chief Michael Ade.Ojo. These attributes have set the company miles apart from other corporate organizations in the country and garner respect for itself.
On what other values the company holds dear, the urbane founder noted that “Fairness to everybody. Irrespective of the fact that I need to make decent profit, I have a responsibility to be fair to customers”.
Since it has become the reference point in the automobile sales sub-sector in the country, it did not take long for the manufacturers of JAC brand of vehicles to come knocking at Elizade’s door with the offer to be their sole distributor in Nigeria after their first sole distributor failed woefully in making any meaningful impact in the market.
With faith in its ability, reservoir of firsthand knowledge of the industry, expertise, as well as network to deliver alpha returns, Elizade Nigeria Limited willingly took the offer and the result has been tremendous.
Ade.Ojo submitted that the JAC brand is doing very well after he initial challenges. They dispensed with the services of their earlier representatives and came to us”.
Today, Elizade Autoland imports, distributes and retails the JAC brand of vehicles and provides after-sales services for repairs and maintenance of the vehicles. They follow the process from end to end and are happy that the testimonials they are getting from their clients have been encouraging.
Elizade Nigeria Limited will be celebrating its Golden Jubilee next year. That it has become a brand to be reckoned with in the country today can be attributable to discipline, timeous customer service, a dedicated workforce, technical excellence in after-sales, the infusion of integrity into its operations by its Founder, Chief Michael Ade.Ojo, and above all, divine mercy.
As for what the authorities can do to curb the incident of cybercrime which is damaging Nigeria’s image in the international community, the resourceful business mogul opined that “whistle blowing has to be encouraged seriously for this to be actualized. However, government needs to encourage this and must not criminalize both the whistle blower and the offender. The whistle blower must be absolutely trustful and dependable.”
“Our Clients Know Us For Our Integrity” – Patrick Obianwu, Principal, Pat Obianwu & Co
Founded in 1989, Pat Obianwu & Co – a start-up estate surveying and valuers firm back then, has been able to successfully navigate the terrain to become one of the leaders in the industry today.
Concerning the achievements of the firm, the Chief Execive, Chief Patrick Obianwu, a valiant and self-driven man stated that “it is the result of consistency, honesty, sticking to ethics, resolve to redefine standards and identifying and playing in areas where their competitors fear to tread.”
According to Obianwu, “Even though we do everything that concerns real estate business like appraisal, valuation, surveying, acquisition, marketing, management and disposal of property, our mainstay is property development. We started this with support from Fidelity Bank and some banks and subsequently have been able to fund ourselves”.
The firm which has built a reputation for itself in the industry because of its integrity and professionalism has handled jobs, and is still doing so, for many high net-worth organizations including NNPC, NLNG, AMCON, CBN, Nigerian Breweries as well as individuals. This, of course, has continued to keep it busy all year round.
“We have a clientele base that is very strong and solid”, says Obianwu. “And our clients know us for our integrity and professionalism, and so, can go to sleep with their two eyes closed when they give us jobs to handle”.
On what integrity means to the firm, he stressed that it means making their word their bond as well as living up to and being consistent with clients’ expectations. “We get a lot of referrals from people who have tasted our services and found us to be honest and dependable. Incidentally too, the motto of our profession is Honesty and Devotion. We represent and abide by the tenets of the profession”, he declared.
Asked about the challenges currently facing the firm, Obianwu maintained that “it has to do with the rate of insecurity in the country as well as the low purchasing power of people these days. In the past, getting loans from the banks for property development functions was the thorn in the flesh.
However, we were only able to surmount the challenges by being steadfast and concentrating on what we know how best to do. If access to loans did not prove to be a difficulty initially, we would have been able to do more in the area of property development. We have also adjusted the prices of our products.”
He praised his team of workers for being “the backbone and the foundation on which achievements recorded by the firm is made. A style has been established in the firm such that even if I am not around, the office runs perfectly.”
“All Partners And Staff Are Committed To Integrity” – Gboyega Fatimilehin, Managing Partner, Diya Fatimilehin & Co
Transparency, Accountability, Integrity, Relentless Pursuit of Knowledge and Professionalism are time-honored values, which the company is committed to in words and deeds. Its success therefore stems from these, coupled with a visionary leadership and hardworking staff. And, because of its commitment to being a world-class real estate agency, the best operating practices in the industry is always brought to bear and this has safeguarded its reputation.
Known for rendering consistently high quality and timeous service in the real estate business in Nigeria, Diya Fatimilehin & Co, Nigeria’s leading real estate company is renowned for being fanatically customer-oriented and unrelentingly integrity-conscious. These have no doubt endeared it to clients, thus generating a lot of repeat customers and referrals.
According to Mr. Gboyega Fatimilehin, the Managing Partner of the company, “The major pillar of our core value is integrity. In everything we do, integrity is important and most of our partners and staff are people of high integrity. In fact, it is a major consideration in admitting persons to the cadre of senior positions like partners, associates, and senior surveyors in the company. Integrity is at the centre of our activities and we deploy it with total commitment to all staff – even to drivers and security personnel.”
Sharing the core values of the company, Fatimilehin said “these can be summarized in a phrase they fondly call “Picc A Date” With Us, whereby ‘P’ stands for Professionalism, ‘I’ for Integrity, ‘C’ for Commitment, ‘C’ for Continuous Learning, ‘A’ for Accountability, ‘D’ for Dependability, ‘T’ for Team Spirit and ‘E’ for Excellence.”
Expatiating on them, he explained that Professionalism means providing clients with everything needful in the real estate business for them to get satisfaction, while Integrity means doing everything they do with high ethical standards and principles. As for Commitment, he emphasized that it is the deployment of integrity with total commitment by all staff which then produces customer loyalty.
The Managing Partner further disclosed that Continuous Learning has to do with training and re-training of staff. According to him, no month passes without a department in the company going through some training.
In fact, he said, there was a study tour of Dubai by 20 staffers of the company in December, 2019. Working with Dubai Properties and staffer on the tour, we saw and experienced firsthand Dubai’s impressive real estate and learned about the key drivers of the sector in the city.
The goals, Fatimilehin stated was that tour participants will see and learn with the goal of replicating some of the learnings and thereby provide customers with best experience.
“This is just to reinforce our vision and see that we are still on the right trajectory, “he says. “Regular training has helped us to always assess ourselves. We are also working on developing an e-library so employers can constantly read to update themselves.”
He added that Accountability is very important to DF & Co because the firm sees itself as accountable to clients, government, the system and the communities that host their offices.
According to him, it is in this regards that they established an NGO for the purpose of malaria eradication in the society. The NGO, he said, works largely in Alimosho and Lagos Central areas and in the last four years has distributed over 5,000 insecticide-treated nets to the vulnerable particularly, pregnant women and young children. Recently, the NGO worked in Iduganran, Isale-Eko in partnership with the local government on a Malaria Eradication Project.
On Dependability, Fatimilehin contends that this is compulsory for them as a company because it is important that customer rely on them to honor their commitments. As for Team Spirit, he said once you join Diya Fatimilehin & Co you become a member of the family. “Our new head office in Lekki depicts that more than anything else, he says. “It is very spacious and modern and because we all work very hard, we have our lounge area where we relax.”
Above all, he continued, the company is peopled with men of excellence who do jobs to the highest standards and even beyond the expectations of the customer. This, he says, is the reason they have many repeat calls and referrals that has made them very dominant in the industry today.
Talking about the vision of the company, the Managing Partner who is one of the two founders of the firm informed that this has been crafted right from the beginning almost 40 years ago. “The vision is a long run. From the beginning, we looked at companies that have existed for two to three centuries elsewhere and which are still operating and we try to model ours after them.
So we had a vision of what we want to be in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years and 100 years from the beginning”, he says. “When we started back then, the real estate industry was just emerging, but we’ve helped in bringing it to the front-burner today. We look forward to having a company that will still exist three hundred years from now, we will still be strong, operating in a strong economy.”
Adding that their mission is to ensure value is given to those who patronize the company, he revealed that they have been integrating backwards and will continue in that line as part of their future goals. He hinted that the firm had built and sold 700 houses in Ipaja, Lagos; 300 in Ondo State and currently working on another 270 units housing units in Asaba, Delta State.
“Without Integrity You Don’t Even Have A Business” – Digital Encode Founders
Digital Encode Limited is a leading consulting and integration firm founded in 2003 that specializes in the design, management, and security of business-critical networks, telecommunications environments and other Information Technology (IT) infrastructures.
Digital Encode has again been recognised for its quality-driven operations and global best practice standards in Information Security Management and Compliance Advisory ecosystem with the award as the ˜Africa’s Most Innovative Quality Cyber-Security Consulting Company.
In his interview with the two Co-Founders, Dr. Seyi Akindehinde and Dr. Wale Obadare explained why INTEGRITY remains the soul of any successful business.
Q: Digital Encode was founded by two partners, Dr. Seyi Akindehinde and Dr. Wale Obadare. How did the two come together and what informed the setting up of the company?
A: Digital Encode was actually a result of the cybersecurity and risk issues faced by the organised private sector and financial institutions in the early days of the implementation of the cashless policy roll-out instituted by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The financial sector was drowning in huge financial losses owing to the rather lax information security controls and processes put in place by these financial institutions which allowed hackers and fraudsters gain unauthorized access to customer’s banking and online payments details leveraging the web, mobile and various electronic channels
Digital Encode was set up to respond to as well as find a solution to these issues.
Q: What does Digital Encode do and what are the factors that have contributed to the growth of the company over the years?
A: Digital Encode is a pure play Pan-African cybersecurity company. We are involved in the entire information security value chain including governance, risk and compliance. We are the foremost licensed penetration testing company in Nigeria assisting organizations with technical as well as process assessments whilst also providing high level capacity building and training to organizations on cyber risks along people, processes and technology
Our growth over the years has largely been fuelled by our people and the unparalleled knowledge and experience we possess in this field.
Q: What makes the company stand out within others in the industry? What can you say is its niche?
A: Our standout quality is our people and the overall methodology we apply to cybersecurity issues of our clients. It’s not a one-size fits all. It’s what we call “bespoke”. Each client is treated differently and solutions tailored along the lines of their specific need. This has put us in very good stead to be able to deal with and solve problems for industry verticals.
Our positive attitude plays a dominant role in our ability to innovate and serve our customers.
Q: What are the challenges being faced and how are these being tackled?
A: Key challenge has been finding the right people. This field isn’t what is necessarily being taught in Nigerian Universities. Yes, there are people with degrees in computer science and computer engineering. However, Cybersecurity is different. We’ve been able to solve this by putting in place a comprehensive and robust training curriculum for our staff. They have all the relevant international industry certifications and we also have a modern, well equipped security and digital forensic lab.
Q: Integrity has different meaning to different people and companies. What does integrity mean to the founders? How has it been infused into the company?
A: Firstly, Information Security is all about Integrity: Integrity of the people; integrity of the process; and integrity of the technology.
In fact a major tenet of information security is the CIA triad. It is Confidentiality, INTEGRITY and Availability. So in our practice, Integrity is central wherever you look. Without it, we have no practice. It is baked in from the start and serves as our foundation.
Q: Apart from integrity, what other values do the founder hold dear?
A: Other core values we hold dear include striving to be the best at what we do, respecting each other and our esteemed clients, continually learn and develop, trust is also a key factor, being competitive and empowering one another. These are key values we hold dear to our hearts
Q: What do you think a company that does not have integrity stand to lose?
A: Without integrity you don’t even have a business. Warren Buffett once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it’s true. It’s as true about people as it is about companies.
Q: What do you wish for Digital Encode in the next 10 years?
A: Our aim is to be the Number one cybersecurity company this side of the Sahara. We want to be synonymous with any and everything cybersecurity in Africa. We know it won’t be easy but we are sure it’s doable.
Q: What awards has the company won in the past?
A: We have won so many awards if we start to list we won’t finish. We’ve won Cybersecurity Company of the year for 3 years running, Cybersecurity personalities of the year, Cyber Compliance and Advisory company of the year and a whole lot more. We recently won Cybersecurity Company of the decade while both founders won Cybersecurity Personalities of Decade in Nigeria.
Q: What is the thing that your company is doing for the youths and what informed this?
A: We try a lot to inform the youth on the coming 4th industrial revolution by equipping them with technology skills to cope with the future of technology. We regularly give talks and trainings on AI, Robotics and Coding. Our Co-founder &COO (Dr.Obadare) regularly gives back to the youth through the FATE Foundation Entrepreneurship program as well as being a valuable mentor on the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program (TEEP)
Q: Some Nigerians were caught for cybercrime in the US. Incidentally, one of your firm’s specializations is cyber security, what do you think can be done to curtail cybercrime?
A: Education, Skill building and Capacity development. These are the way out. People are ill equipped to cope with the demands of the jobs of the present and the future. They come out, can’t secure job placements and they indulge in cybercrime. We think the educational system needs a total revamp from top to bottom. Focus should be placed on teaching and training people on courses that will be relevant in the marketplace. Once we can get this right, we would have solved the root cause of the cybercrime menace. Any other solution will just be addressing symptoms and will whither on the vine.
Q: Nigeria’s image has been badly eroded in the international community due to this cybercrime scandal, and others before it, has this in any way affected you or the company?
A: No it hasn’t. If anything we are correcting that image by speaking directly to it. We are members of a lot of international organizations, for example, we are the only Platinum Member of Open Source Security Testing Methodology Manual (OSSTMM) in Africa and we are correcting that unfounded notion that Nigeria is a terrible place. A lot of people are usually pleasantly surprised.
We also have a US office in central NYC on Wall Street tasked with doing this. It’s been a rather positive experience
AVANOMA: A Visionary Driving Growth In the Energy Sector
Ese Avanoma, Founder/CEO, BRADE Group – a wholly owned indigenous firm that has achieved giant strides in the provision of world class services to the oil servicing and chemical industries in the African continent – is a man of many parts.
Like a seed which has grown to become an oak tree, Avanoma through his entrepreneurial acumen and tenacity, has grown the company from a mere consulting venture to a multinational conglomerate consisting of six companies namely: BRADE Consulting Limited, BRADE West Africa Limited, Ghana, BRADE Petroleum and Energy Services Limited, BRADE Oil and Gas Limited, Uganda, BRADE Chemical Solutions Limited, and Stefan and Kevin West Africa Limited.
With a background in Mechanical Engineering, Avanoma worked as a drilling engineer in major oil and gas companies, which saw him putting his skilfulness to bear in countries across Europe, Africa, South and North America, before he established BRADE Consulting Limited in 2014.
According to the Brade Group helmsman, “the company was set-up out of the need to provide set skills for the energy sector. The first two years of Brade was a success, but we were not spared during the economic crunch which forced a number of companies to shut down. It was a difficult period because we were spending and there was minimal inflow of revenue. However, we came out stronger because it prepared us for the future – that is why we have been able to sustain the growth of the company.”
With a commitment to developing local capacity, BRADE Group has no doubt built for itself the reputation of a local firm with global expertise as evident in its innovative approach in localizing foreign technologies.
In the words of the astute CEO, “we have brought in a lot of technologies adapted to the Nigeria environment. Recently, we concluded plans for the set-up of a manufacturing plant here in Nigeria with Max Tube, Dubai. This partnership will make it possible for us to manufacture GRA line tubes locally instead of importing them from Dubai or USA. Also, with the introduction of BRADE Chemical Solutions, we have been able to educate our communities on the use of plastics which will go a long way at impacting the environment.”
He added that “given the size of the Nigerian market – which is not easy to manage – we have recorded more success stories. The NCDMB is trying its best with result is felt in the industry. They have also showed that they are innovative by setting up a partnership with KPMG whereby local companies will be assessed in terms of tax payments and compliance with the local content initiative. Nevertheless, a lot of companies are yet to be assessed, so the NCDMB needs to do more in identifying the right companies with the capacity to do things right.”
With core values premised on integrity, safety, creativity, reliability and respect, which have been evident in its services over the years, it is no gainsaying that the BRADE Group is well positioned for the future and the opportunities therein. Avanoma affirmed that the BRADE Group has formed alliances with some Nigerians firms in the areas of marine and EPCI services having envisaged the enormous opportunities that abound in the Nigerian oil and gas industry.
He disclosed that “the volume of work that is coming up in the next 3-5 years is huge. Aside NLNG Train 7, Shell is coming up with some major projects and it is expected that some IOCs such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, Total and ENI would be coming up with their own projects. For us at BRADE Group, we cannot do it all, but in other to be well-positioned for opportunities, we have formed alliances with some indigenous firms as a project management company.”
With regards to the Bonga Southwest Project, we have identified the ‘Seabox’ as a key service we can deliver. It is a technology that will change the way things are done in the Oil and Gas Industry. The Federal Government has adopted it as the go-to technology to free gas for the nation’s power sector and we have met with the management of Shell to sensitize them on the need to engage their staff.
This is one of the major factors that necessitated our rebranding so that people will have the right perspective and perception about the portfolio of services we render, not just the services they have known us for in past years, he concluded”