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Meet Tobi Eyinade, she wants to revolutionize reading culture in Nigeria

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Tobi Eyinade perhaps is no stranger to lovers of literature in Nigeria especially literature of Nigerian origin and beyond. She is the founder of Roving Heights. Roving Heights is an online book distribution company providing books to its customers all over the country.

Born in 1992, Tobi is an alumnus of the Obafemi Awolowo University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Language. She is also an indigene of Oyo state.

Before setting up Roving Heights, she has worked extensively as a writer for Insidify Nigeria while also taking a writing position at Ventures Africa. She also had a brief stint with Philips Consulting before leaving to found Roving Heights.

Since the inception of Roving Heights, it has fostered a better reading culture among youths especially in Nigeria. However, the book store has a book for everyone regardless of age and taste.

The company has managed to leverage both traditional and new media means to make books more accessible to book enthusiasts and reluctant readers in Nigeria.

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For Tobi, it all started in 2015 after resigning from a short stint as a content writer for a blog of a jobsite company. According to her she has always been deeply fascinated by books especially African literature and the observance of the dismal interest with which books are treated in general amongst her peers while growing up.

Having identified a problem, she took it upon herself to channel her passion into finding long lasting solutions. Some of the problems she identified include, the supply chain for book being stunted, books being hardly accessible and the perception that Nigerians do not read. She also observed that apart from the pacesetters series and a few popular African Writers Series titles still in circulation, there was barely much excitement about contemporary African Literature. This need to address some of these challenges and bring good books closer to those interested in reading, gave rise to Roving Heights in August 2015.

Now, Roving Heights sell books that cut across genres to the growing number of book lovers in Nigeria. They also do distribution of books across Nigeria. This helps self-published authors get their book across to their audience by leverage existing traditional modes, e-commerce and new media outlets.

Since its inception in 2015, the compay has been growing in leaps and bounds. Not only has the team grown, Roving heights has also earned the loyalty of customers who have now turned crusaders of the Roving Heights Brand. The company is making profit and with the support of a rich team of advisors exploring other possible opportunities, things are really looking promising. Looking at the fact that Amazon started as a book distribution company, the potentials of Roving Heights is unfathomable.

However, like every other business, Roving Heights has its own peculiar challenges. The notable ones include reaching and engaging a widertarget audience due to the virtual state of the company. However, things are looking up and look promising.

Tobi who enjoys Leisure reading, travelling, attending live concerts and stage, performances and cooking has been largely recognized for her work has she has won the Grill and Read 2017 Readers’ Person of the Year and also making the 2017 SME100 Nigeria’s 25 Under 25 awards long list.

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If she ever wants to divest from books, she sees herself opening a gift shop!

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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Oba Otudeko: A self-made billionaire entrepreneur

Courtesy of his several businesses, Otudeko is currently ranked among the richest men in Nigeria.

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Nigeria’s manufacturing sector has some of the most influential and richest men in the country. Among them, the name of Dr. Oba Otudeko rings a special bell.

Though he started out in the banking sector, he is now a notable personality in the manufacturing sector, creating thousands of jobs along the value chain and improving local production for the country.

This week on Nairametrics’ founders profile, we bring you Obafunke Otudeko’s life achievements and how he has attained such heights.

Early life

Ayoola Obafunke Otudeko was born into a royal family on August 18, 1943, in Odogbolu, present-day Ogun state. This perhaps explains why close friends sometimes jokingly refer to him as “the only Oba without a palace.”

He had his early education at St. John’s School, Oke Agbo, Ijebu-Igbo in Ogun State, and Olivet Baptist High School, Oyo, before he travelled out to study Accountancy in Leeds College of Commerce, Yorkshire, UK.

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After returning to Nigeria, Otudeko took a bank employment as a clerk in the defunct Co-operative Bank, Ibadan. Over the next two decades, he moved through the ranks to become the General Manager and acting Chief Executive Officer of the Bank. He voluntarily retired from the bank in 1983 and was appointed a Director to the Board of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

His foray into the business world

Having a mother who was a businesswoman, Otudeko always knew he would someday go into business. His retirement from the bank gave him the time to pursue this interest.

It was at this time that Honeywell Enterprises started off as a trading enterprise, importing and marketing commodities between the northern and southern states of Nigeria in the 1970s. The company later grew into Honeywell Group, one of Nigeria’s leading indigenous conglomerates.

To sharpen his business skills, he took several courses from several international institutions, which include the International Institute for Management Development, Switzerland, Harvard Business School, Boston, USA, Hult International Business School, and Arthur D. Little School of Management, USA.

His many businesses

From a flour mill, the Honeywell Group has evolved into a conglomerate with different subsidiaries in different sectors of the economy.

HOGL Energy Limited is in the oil and gas sector, and was incorporated in 1995. As an indigenous oil and gas marketing company. The company procures, imports, and distributes fuels and gases, as well as lubricants which it produces for industrial and domestic uses.

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Honeywell Flour Mills Plc is a food processing company focused on flour-based products including baking flour, ball foods, noodles and pasta. The company started operations in 1998.

Pivot Energy Company Limited (PECL) is in the business of providing engineering, procurement and construction services to the power industry.

RealUraga RealEstate Limited is in the real estate sector, providing funding, whilst managing and developing properties and facilities across the country.

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Anchorage Leisures Limited makes its investments in the tourism and hospitality sector, and runs the 5 star Radisson Blu Anchorage Hotel in Victoria Island.

Pavilion Technology Limited provides security services to individuals and clients in public and private space, from electronic security systems, to manned guards, escort services, and security consultancy.

Huston Power Limited is into power generation and distribution in Nigeria, and has been licensed by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).

Courtesy of his many businesses and his stakes in these companies, Otudeko currently ranks among the richest men in Nigeria

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The Ecobank imbroglio

Ecobank Nigeria Limited filed a bankruptcy suit to recover an alleged debt of N4.1 billion from the Chairman of Honeywell Group, Dr Oba Otudeko.

The bank claimed that Otudeko had personally guaranteed the loan obtained by three of his firms – Honeywell Flour Mills Plc; Siloam Global Services Limited; and Anchorage Leisures Limited. Following the alleged failure of the firms to liquidate the loans, it fell on him to pay the debts.

The bank, therefore, asked for “a receiving order against estate, funds, investment, shares or other interests of the debtor, principally in Siloam Global Services Limited and in Honeywell Group Limited; Honeywell Flour Mills Plc; Anchorage Leisures Limited; Honeywell Oil and Gas Limited; Uraja Real Estate Limited; Broadview Engineering Limited; Uraja Power Solutions Limited; Honeywell Energy Resources Limited; Hudson Power Limited; Pivot Engineering Limited and Pavillion Technology Limited, which interest is held either directly or through the said Siloam Global Services Limited and/or in any other company within and outside Nigeria.”

It also asked for leave to appropriate or utilise the “investments, shares or other interests of the debtor (Otudeko) in all the companies listed above and in any other company/corporate entity in Nigeria or outside Nigeria in partial or full satisfaction of the debt due.”

Among its prayers, Ecobank wants the court to order Otudeko to immediately avail it his “statement of affairs, statement of net worth and other credible financial details requisite and in furtherance to the Bankruptcy Act.”

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Otudeko through his counsel, filed a preliminary objection, urging the court to either dismiss/strike out the suit or stay proceedings “in deference to arbitration.”

He described the suit as an abuse of court processes, contending that it was filed in gross violation of Section 7(1)(a) of the Bankruptcy (Proceedings) Rules Cap B2, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2010.

The case is still in court.

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In 2003, Oba Otudeko established a non- governmental organisation called Oba Otudeko Foundation (OOF) as an official vehicle to carry out his philanthropic acts. Over the years, the foundation has organised empowerment programmes, as well as capacity building, and building of institutions.

The foundation built an Auditorium for Pan Atlantic University, an Administrative Block to All Saints’ College, Edun Village, Ibadan, Footprints Occupational Training Centre, and the Endowment of the Centre of Entrepreneurial Studies of the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun State among others.

READ MORE: Union Bank suffers N188 billion in CRR debits as at June 2020

Otudeko chairs the Board of Trustees of Honeywell Flour Mill Plc and FBN Holdings Plc and is a member of the board of Lagos Sheraton Hotel.

He is a Fellow, Institute of Chartered and Corporate Accountants, UK, Chartered Institute of Bankers, UK, and Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators, UK. Oba is also a member of the Office of Distinguished Friends of London Business School and Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria.

READ MORE: Nigeria’s manufacturing sector contracts in July, as COVID-19 woes worsens

He is a seasoned corporate governance guru, having served on boards like the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Guinness Nigeria Plc, British American Tobacco Ltd, and Ecobank Transnational Incorporated, headquartered in Lome, Togo, NEPAD Business Group of Nigeria, Delmar Overseas Ltd and Khali & Dibbo Ltd. He is the Group Chairman, FBN Holdings Plc.

At different times, he was also Chairman, First Bank of Nigeria, FBN Bank (UK) Limited, Airtel Nigeria, Fan Milk of Nigeria Plc, Digital Africa Conference Exhibition in Abuja, Business Support Group, National Maritime Authority, and Nigerian- South African Chamber of Commerce.

READ ALSO: Nigerian banks have written off N1.9 trillion impaired loans in past 4 years

He was the 16th President and Chairman of Council of the Nigerian Stock Exchange serving between September 2006 and August 2009. He is also a council member, Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria (MAN), Nigerian Banks Employers’ Association, West African Banks’ Association and the Presidential Advisory Council on Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan.

Otudeko holds the Nigerian National Honours of Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR), Member of the Order of the Federal Republic, MFR, and currently serves as a member of the Office of Distinguished Friends of the London Business School (UK).

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On Monday, August 18, 2020, the business mogul will be 77 years old. He clearly shows no sign of slowing down his activities and impacts any time soon.

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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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