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Profile: Gbenga Oyebode, the Nigerian multi-millionaire lawyer

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Gbenga is perhaps Nigeria’s richest lawyer. Described as a proper businessman and astute deal maker, Gbenga is the type of lawyer every Nigerian lawyer aspires to become.

Born on the 30th of March 1959, He is one of the founding partners and Chairman, Management Board of Aluko & Oyebode a full service commercial law firm in Nigeria.

An alumnus of Christ’s School, Ado Ekiti, he obtained his first degree from University of Ife now known as Obafemi Awolowo University in 1979 and was admitted into the Nigerian bar as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 1980. He went further to bag a Master’s degree in Law from the University of Pennsylvania in 1982. He is also a member of the New York State Bar.

Gbanga started his career at an American law firm White & Case before moving to Gulf Oil now know as Chevron in Houston Texas. In 1992, he formed a partnership with Bamidele Aluko, Odein Ajumogobia and C.N Okeke to practice law in Nigeria. In 1993, he and Aluko broke out from the partnership and started Aluko & Oyebode which runs till date. His practice areas include oil and gas and power projects, foreign investment and privatization, telecommunications, project finance and aviation.

Gbenga is a highly rated lawyer with vast knowledge and experience in business and law. According to the International Financial Law Review IFLR 1000 (the guide to the World’s leading Financial Law Firm) he is one of Nigeria’s most prominent lawyers. Chambers Global another legal guide, also regards him as a consummate deal maker who has received pundits from clients and peer alike for his corporate expertise. This is clearly evident in the several accolades and awards he has received both individually and through his law firm.

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Currently, in addition to his position as Chairman of Aluko & Oyebode, he sits on the board of several companies in various capacities including Nestle Nigeria Plc, Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc as Chairman, Asset Management Group Ltd as chairman, Combined Industrial Agro Consultants Ltd as Chairman, Timbuktu Media Ltd as chairman, Socfinaf S.A as director, Crusader Nigeria Plc as director, MTN Nigeria Communications Ltd as director. He is also on the Africa Advisory Committee of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

Some of the high-profile transactions he has been involved in include advising on the Brass LNG Project, the sale by Exxon Mobil Dil Corporation of its 60 per cent equity stake in Mobil Dil Nigeria Plc to Nipco Plc and the US$360 million Lekki Concession Infrastructure Project for the construction of toll roads and bridges in Lagos State which is the first major PPP initiative in Nigeria. He also advised on the US$1.25 billion financing of the Exxon Mobil Natural Gas Liquid II Project, the US$1.06 billion financing of trains four and five of the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Plant Expansion Project and the development, financing and implementation of the first Independent Power Plant project in Nigeria.

Gbenga is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and a member of the Nigerian Bar Association, the American Bar Association and the International Bar Association. He is a past chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Business Law.

Gbenga who was bestowed the national honour of Member of the Federal Republic in 2001 and the Belgian Royal Honour of Knight of the Order of Leopold is happily married to Aisha Mohammed-Oyebode, the daughter of late General Murtala Mohammed and they are blessed with children.

Nairametrics is Nigeria's top business news and financial analysis website. We focus on providing resources that help small businesses and retail investors make better investing decisions. Nairametrics is updated daily by a team of professionals. Post updated as "Nairametrics" are published by our Editorial Board.

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  1. NObleE

    May 22, 2019 at 2:07 am

    “OYe bobo” of Christ school fame is a quiet achiever and an astute diplomat

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Akintola Williams: Celebrating a Doyen @ 101

Akintola’s firm, Akintola Williams & Co., is the first indigenous chartered accounting firm in Nigeria.

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Akintola Williams: Celebrating a Doyen @ 101

Every August 9 is not only a special day for Nigeria but Africa at large. On that same date in 1919, the continent’s first chartered accountant, Pa Akintola Williams, was born.

Below are 10 facts you may not know about the first President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants:

Akintola was born a day after the first Governor-General of Nigeria, Lord Frederick Lugard, stepped aside and handed over power to Sir Hugh Clifford who went on to administer the young country for six years.

READ MORE: Akintola Williams, doyen of accountancy in Africa clocks 100 years

Williams comes from a family of “many firsts. His younger brother, Rotimi Williams, was also the first Nigerian to be decorated with the title, ‘Senior Advocate of Nigeria’. The younger brother also set up the first indigenous Nigerian law firm in 1948 with Chief Remilekun Fani-Kayode and Chief Bode Thomas. The law firm was called Thomas, Williams, and Kayode.

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Akintola, as a youth, was among the founders of the Yoruba socio-political group, Egbe Omo Oduduwa, along with the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and other notable politicians in the Western Region such as Chief Ayo Rosiji, who later became the Minister of Health.

Akintola’s firm, Akintola Williams & Co., is the first indigenous chartered accounting firm in Nigeria. Established in 1952, it had notable clients such as the defunct West African Pilot Newspaper owned by the late President Nnamdi Azikiwe.

A lover of classical music, the centenarian is one of the brains behind the Music Society of Nigeria — operators of the MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos.

The nation’s oldest accountant was also involved in establishing the Nigerian Stock Exchange and he is the only surviving signatory to the original Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Nigerian Stock Exchange at the founding of the NSE on September 15, 1960.

READ MORE: NSE honours the Centenarian Mr. Akintola Williams

Akintola has headed many government panels, both at the state and federal levels. He was chairman of the Federal Income Tax Appeal Commissioners (1958-68); chairman of the Lagos State Government Revenue Collection Panel (1973); and chairman of the Public Service Review Panel to correct the anomalies in the Udoji Salary Review Commission (1975).

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He is the last surviving member of the Coker Commission of Enquiry set up by the late Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa, to probe the finances of the Western Region.

The 100-year-old accountant has served on the boards of many notable companies. They include Shell Trustees (Nigeria) Limited, John Holt Investment Limited, British-American Tobacco Company, BEWAC Limited, Bentworth Finance Limited, G. Cappa Plc , Universe Re-Insurance Company Limited, Mandilas Limited, and United Nigerian Textiles Plc.

He was, for over 60 years, married to Mabel Efuntiloye Williams until her death in 2009. They both had two children, Tokunbo and Seni.

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Innocent Chukwuma: From selling spare parts to manufacturing an indigenous automobile brand

Already dominating the spare parts and automobile space, Innocent could have rested on his oars but not so.

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At the height of the “backward integration” campaign and calls for manufacturers to source their materials locally, Innocent Chukwuma of Innoson Vehicles stands out as the only manufacturer in the automobile space who has localised the production of vehicles.

From a small start of assembling the automobiles in Nigeria, Innocent Chukwuma has expanded to start producing and sourcing over 80% of his production materials locally, thereby creating employment at the local level.

This week on founders profile, we will be looking at the zero to hero story of this dauntless entrepreneur, the man behind Africa’s first indigenous motor brand, Innocent Chukwuma.

READ MORE: Innoson partners Nigeria Army on military hardware.

A rough start

A year after independence, Innocent Chukwuma was born on 1st October, 1961 in Uru-Umdim, Nnewi (now in Anambra State). As you may well know, Nnewi is also known as the Japan of Africa, for being a hub for automobile spare part dealers.

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His was a very humble family, with Chukwuma Mojekwu (Innocent’s father) working as a junior civil servant and the mother/wife, Martina Chukwuma being a stay-at-home mum. Innocent was the last of six children, comprised of four boys and two girls.

As a child, Innocent lost his dad and was left to be raised by his mum. Though this was a traumatising and shocking experience for him at the time, he would later remark that the love from his elder brothers filled the gap, helping him to pull through the tough time.

He had his education in his hometown, up till the secondary level. All the while, he nursed dreams of becoming an Engineer. However, by the time he completed his secondary school education in 1978, he applied to the university, but failed to attain the cutoff mark and so was denied entry.

READ MORE: Innoson boss reacts to arrest warrant, says order is an abuse of process taken so far

Making the most of fate

While awaiting another chance to apply, he started assisting one of his elder brothers who had a medicine store. This brief stint as a teenage sales boy showed Innocent that he had a natural talent for trading.

Combining his interest in engineering with his love for trading, Innocent moved on to commence a one-year apprenticeship with Chief Romanus Eze Onwuka who was the biggest motorcycle spare parts dealer at the time. Onwuka later founded the first private stadium in Nigeria, Rojenny Stadium in Oba near Onitsha.

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Within the year, Innocent mastered the act of buying and selling of motorcycle parts, a trade which many others take as much as five years to master. He later returned to his brother, Gabriel to put his knowledge into use.

Gabriel had already registered a business name – Gabros International – to trade in motorcycle parts. So, when Innocent returned, he gave him N3,000 to get the new venture off the ground. With this sum, Innocent purchased the first goods and rented a shop and within another year, proved to his family that he was worth his salt.

When they took stock of the business after 12 months, the brothers found out that the motorcycle part business under Innocent, was generating about 10 times more income than the medicine store. This realization formed the basis for closing the medicine store to concentrate on the spare-parts business.

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Gabriel Chukwuma later invested in sports, real estate and hospitality, becoming chairman of Gabros International Football Club, a club which he later sold to Ifeanyi Ubah.

The birth of Innoson

In 1981, Gabriel gave Innocent some money to start up his own business. Adding this to his savings, Innocent started trading in Honda motorcycle spare parts under the name Innoson Nigeria Limited. This was not to last very long because Innocent’s dexterity soon provided him with sufficient capital to start importing motorcycles, not just the spare parts.

The birth or expansion of any business is tied to identifying a problem and proffering a solution. Innocent observed that the costs of motorcycles were a bit outrageous because they were imported in their already assembled form. Importing motorcycles like this made it impossible for a container to carry more than 40 units. As a result, the retail price was relatively higher.

Innocent then reasoned that if he could import the parts and assemble them in Nigeria, he could sell at a lesser price.

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At this rate, the same 40ft container that could only take about 36 units of whole motorcycles, could take enough parts to assemble 200 units. After getting them assembled, Innocent had an advantage – he could sell his for N60,000, while competitors who were importing it whole could not afford to sell it less than N150,000 without running at a loss.

He was also able to vary his brands to get the best products at better prices, and very soon his competitors started buying from him. With this, purchase of second-hand motorcycles dropped because people were now able to get new motorcycles at very cheap prices.

With time, competitors like Leventis and Yamako figured out the strategy and also started importing parts to assemble locally.

READ ALSO: Government of Sierra Leone purchases Innoson Vehicles for military use

Innoson takes to sail

Already dominating the spare parts and automobile space, Innocent could have rested on his oars but not so. He later says in an interview that it was always his concern to beat cost and be ahead of the game.

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“…I looked at a motorcycle and realised that there is a lot of plastic on the body. So I set up a plastic factory. I decided to produce all the plastic components in my factories so that more units of the spare parts can go into a container.”

The plastic manufacturing firm is now one of the largest manufacturers of plastic products in Nigeria, and also one of the largest manufacturers of crash helmets in West Africa, with his erstwhile competitors now buying plastics from him.

With this done, it was only a matter of time before he dared to produce the first fully Nigerian vehicle under the aegis of the Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company. According to Innocent, he decided to go into vehicle manufacturing when he saw that the motorcycle business was becoming crowded out with Nigerians and Indians.

The Innoson Group has several subsidiaries now. Innoson Nigeria Limited (located in Nnewi) was incorporated in July 1987 and is now specialised in the manufacturing of motorcycles, tricycles, spare parts and accessories. It is Anambra State.

Innoson Technical & Industrial Co. Ltd is located in Emene, Enugu state and started operations in 2002, producing household and industrial plastics, storage container, fixture & fittings, health and safety accessories, electrical components and accessories.

Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing (IVM)  is located in Nnewi and was commissioned in October 2010, and focuses on producing city bused, safe and cost-effective mini & midi buses, pick-up trucks and garbage collecting vehicles. The company also provides good services for repairs and parts supply.

The locally-made vehicles such as IVM Umu, IVM Umu and IVM Uzo now attract patronage from the political elites, government agencies and parastatals like the Armed forces as well as other paramilitary bodies.

Innoson General Tyres and Tubes Co. Ltd is located in Enugu state and simply produces motorcycles tyres and tubes, currently averaging about 8,000 pieces of motorcycle tyres and 13,000 tubes daily.

READ ALSO: Why Anambra, Kogi, and Enugu are yet to be recognised as oil-producing states

Innoson Kiara Academy

Technical expertise needed for the operation of a vehicle manufacturing company is not readily available. For the first few years of operation, IVM had to import a lot of foreigners to get the job done. However, Innocent soon came up with a technical expertise transfer strategy where the foreigners would return to their countries after teaching the indigenous staff.

“There are lot of unemployed graduates in Nigeria and we cannot continue to bring foreigners” he explained.

To further arrest the challenge of manpower, he established the Innoson Kiara Academy, a Technical and Vocational institution established in partnership with an international consulting firm.

The academy (branches in Enugu and Nnewi) runs a 9-months Education for Employment (E4E) programme providing courses that are tailored around the production processes and procedures of various factories within the Innoson Group. The students are taught in a kind of modern apprenticeship delivery format, and are expected to either become self-employed at the end of the training, or get absorbed into the public or private sector.

Innocent recalled that prior to this time, the Innoson groups had challenges of recruiting graduates who did not have any training on the practical production processes, but not the subsidiaries in the group simply recruit staffs from the academy who blend in easily once they resume.

Suits and legal tussles

Innocent Chukwuma and Innoson Group have been involved in several suits over the decades of its operations but most notable are its several legal tussles with Guaranty Trust Bank Plc. In one such suit, the Federal High Court, Ibadan Division, On 29 July 2011, through a garnishee order absolute ordered the Defendants (GTBank) to pay the sum of N2,048,737,443.6k to Innoson Nigeria Ltd.

GT Bank appealed the verdict twice claiming that the judgment was obtained by fraud, but the appeal was dismissed affirming the judgment of the trial Court. In a final note on 12 May 2017, the Supreme Court dismissed the GTBank’s motion stating, inter alia, that GT Bank engaged in double speaking and in a frivolous frolic in bringing the application.

In the fresh suit, Innoson Nigeria Ltd and Chief Innocent Chukwuma maintained that the words published by GTBank – that it obtained the Court of Appeal Judgment by fraud and fraudulent suppression of the fact that Innoson Nig. Ltd. was paid the sum N1,406,515,845.98 in final liquidation of the judgment debt – implied that Innocent Chukwuma and Innoson Nigeria Ltd are dubious, dishonest, dishonorable, and untrustworthy, of questionable character, fraudster, criminally deceptive, cheats and obtaining money through false pretenses.

The co-claimants insisted that GT Bank has injured their reputation, moral character, credibility, office, vocation and trade and demanded N400billion in damages; N100billion exemplary damages; N100billion for injury to feelings – mental pains and anxiety; N150billion for injury to reputation and N50billion general damages.

Acclaims

Innocent was made honorary Life Vice president of the Nigeria Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture on 23rd of November, 2013, and is also a grand fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Strategic Management.

He sits on the board of IVM Innoson Group of Companies and is a member of the Manufacturer Association of Nigeria.

He also has on his shelf the Meritorious Awards by Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) 2008, Award of Excellence, Manufacturers Association of Nigerian (MAN) 2008 and also serves as a Chancellor at Imo State University, Owerri.

He received Honorary Doctorate Degree in Business Administration by the University of Nigeria in 2014, another from the Enugu state university of science and technology, and also a Doctor of Management from the Nigerian Defence Academy Kaduna.

He also received the Auto Personality of the Year by Guild Motoring Correspondence in 2013, Professor Barth Nnaji Prize for Technology at Igbo Awards in 2017, Best Customer by Bank of Industry, 2011, Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) 2008 and Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) 2011, among others.

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Abdulsamad Rabiu: Exploring the journey of Nigeria´s silent billionaire @ 60

BUA foundation has been the vehicle through which Rabiu carries out most of his philanthropic gestures.

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Abdulsamad Isyaku Rabiu, The Zero to Hero Story of Abdulsamad Rabiu's Astronomic Rise In Business

Born two months before Nigeria’s independence, on the 4th of August, 1960 in Kano, to one of Northern Nigeria’s top business tycoons, Khalifah Isyaku Rabiu, not many would have guessed that the baby Abdulsamad would someday dwarf his father’s achievements by leaps.

Abdulsamad Isyaku Rabiu had his early education in north-western Nigeria before travelling to Columbus, Ohio to obtain his Business degree from Capital University.

He returned at the age of 24 years to oversee the family business, at a turbulent time when his father was being detained by the military administration over allegations of evading rice import duties. The young Rabiu would not be deterred but went on to weather through the challenges of the dwindling business and earn his own spot in the then uncertain business climate.

READ MORE: Aliko Dangote donates mobile COVID-19 testing lab to Kano State

Within 4 years, he established BUA International Limited in 1988 for the purpose of trading in commodity trading like rice, edible oil, flour, and iron and steel.

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Two years later, Rabiu had a major break when BUA was contracted to supply the government-owned Delta Steel Company with raw materials in exchange for finished iron products. With this windfall, the company expanded its steel operations, producing billets, importing iron ore, and constructing multiple rolling mills in Nigeria.

Some years later, Abdulsamad had repeatedly proven that he had a Midas touch in business, acquiring the largest edible oil processing company in Nigeria – Nigerian Oil Mills Limited. Some years later, two flour-milling plants – in Lagos and in Kano – had joined the number.

This set the stage for his later moves to break the eight-year monopoly in the Nigerian sugar industry, when he commissioned BUA sugar refinery, said to be the second-largest sugar refinery in sub-Saharan Africa. This was a terrain that was, hitherto, only played in by the likes of Aliko Dangote.

In another well-calculated business move, Rabiu acquired a controlling stake in a publicly-listed Cement Company in Northern Nigeria and began to construct a $900 million cement plant in Edo State, completing it in early 2015.

READ ALSO: How the United States plans to control the African Development Bank

The company was only recently merged with his privately owned Obu Cement company to create a new entity, BUA Cement Plc. Rabiu controls about 98.5% of the new entity and also has stakes in BUA Oil and Mill, BUA Estate, BUA Sugar, BUA Port and Terminal.

Rabiu is no stranger to the Forbes list of Africa’s richest, and even though he has had some years out of the list, the most recent Forbes 2020 list of Richest Nigerians in Africa pegs his net worth at $3.1 billion, courtesy of some dexterous business moves over the last couple of years.

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The BUA foundation has been the vehicle through which Rabiu carries out most of his philanthropic gestures. Some of the projects carried out by the foundation include the construction of a 7,000-square-meter pediatric ward which was donated at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, as well as ambulances and medical supplies.

READ MORE: Plentywaka raises $300,000, seeks partners as it launches operations in Abuja

Earlier in the year, the foundation made a donation of N300 million to Sokoto, Edo and Ogun states to assist in the response to the pandemic, and also a N1 billion donation to the COVID-19 relief fund accounts fight the Coronavirus in Nigeria. There was also another donation of N200 million to Adamawa state government, and ambulances to several other states.

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Rabiu also made a personal donation of N1 billion to support Nigeria’s response to the virus, and medical and emergency kits and supplies to 9 States in the country.

Rabiu’s sterling contributions and achievements are not lost on many, and he has received several recognition and awards including the 2016 Industrialist of the year award at the All Africa Business Leaders Award (AABLA) organised by CNBC Africa, Silverbird Extraordinary Business Achievement Award, and the prestigious Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) award.

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His father, Khalifah Isyaku Rabiu passed on in 2018, just 5 months shy of 93 years. Having outperformed his father in business, it does not seem too ambitious to say that the mogul might just get to 120 years.

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In that case, we would say he is halfway there. Cheers to Rabiu as he celebrates his 60th birthday in a very unostentatious style, since the rules of the pandemic do not permit large gatherings.

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