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Profiles

This woman rose to become the Company Secretary of a multinational cement manufacturing firm

Meet Adewunmi Alode, the company secretary of Lafarge Africa Plc.

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From being an advocate and solicitor in a reputable law firm, to becoming the company secretary of one of the biggest players in Nigeria’s cement industry, this woman has been diligent in her profession, with about 14 years professional experience. Nairametrics had the opportunity to interview her to know how she came this far. Meet Adewunmi Alode, the company secretary of Lafarge Africa Plc. Excerpt:

Tell us about yourself. 

My name is Adewunmi Alode, I’m currently the Company Secretary/Senior Legal Counsel at Lafarge Africa Plc. I was born 37 years ago into the Eshilokun and Ashogbon ruling houses in Lagos Island to the Ogunbiyis as the youngest in a family of 10 children. I am passionate about raising the next generation of men and fathers. I am a lover of people, always willing to share from my knowledge and experiences. I love to read, listen to good music and travel among others.

Tell us about your educational and professional background. 

I graduated in 2003 with a Law degree (LLB) and got called to the Nigerian Bar in 2004 (BL). I also hold an Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators, UK professional certification. Currently, I am undergoing an MBA programme at the Business School, Netherlands (BSN).

Prior to my joining Lafarge in May 2008, I had a three-year active legal practice as an advocate and solicitor in a reputable law firm in Lagos.

At the time I joined Lafarge (then Lafarge Cement WAPCO Nigeria Plc), it was an era of massive operational, commercial and industrial transformation and expansion — Lakatabu Expansion Project — which afforded me the opportunity to play a pivotal role in Project Management, negotiations of complex international commercial contracts, on-shore and off-shore syndicated loans, and power projects.

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One of the attributes that stood out for me was the innovative legal business partnership approach with which my responsibilities within the organisation were executed. Being the business-minded person that I am, coupled with the willingness to learn and explore new terrains, most of the legal documentations on the project transactions were drafted in-house, thereby saving some small fortune for the business.

Thereafter, I rose to become the Legal Manager of the then Lafarge Cement WAPCO Nigeria Plc and Company Secretary of Lafarge Ready Mix Nigeria Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the company in 2011. I recorded a major milestone of zero litigation record, fines, claims and compliance breach against the company, despite its operations in various parts of the country during those 4 years.

Subsequently, I was further elevated to the role of Senior Legal Counsel, Commercial Contracts & Compliance for the three LafargeHolcim business operations in Nigeria.

You have been Lafarge Africa’s secretary since last year. What has been your experience? 

First, I give all thanks and credit to God, my Father, for his grace and faithfulness for ordering my steps in life and making the appointment a reality even when I least expected it and for surrounding me with exceptionally selfless people.

Having had the honour of working closely with three incredibly amazing company secretaries, interestingly all females — Viola Graham-Douglas (now Corporate Communications Director, Guinness Diageo), Edith Onwuchekwa (Legal Director and General Counsel, Lafarge Africa Plc), and Uzoma Uja (Company Secretary and Legal Adviser, Diamond Bank). I must say that their mentorship, the opportunities given to me and the confidence reposed in me to practice the role from the background has in no little way assisted me to settle in well.

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However, I must say that the experience of working from the background is totally different from being in the spotlight. It has been challenging, but worthwhile.

The Secretary, being the conscience of the company, plays a strategic role in implementing corporate governance principles, one of which is the ability to strike a balance between the interest of management, board, the minority shareholders, and sometimes myself. This is one of the most challenging aspects of the role. Thankfully, I enjoy lots of support from my network of senior colleagues, fellow company secretaries, and my team.

What can you say has been your biggest break since the beginning of your career? 

Being appointed company secretary of a blue-chip multinational company in Nigeria easily ranks as my biggest career break. Notwithstanding this, I am someone who appreciates even the smallest successes and so I consider the pivotal roles I played in several of the highly successful company projects — legal and transactional support in debt restructuring; rights Issue, launch of Commercial Papers, scheme of mergers, scheme of arrangements, implementation of the company-wide Document Retention Policy and launch of LafargeHolcim Group Compliance Code of Business Conduct — as big breaks in their own rights.

Professionally Speaking, do you have any regrets? 

Honestly, No! As a female lawyer, working in Lafarge has exposed me to a lot of corporate transactions, cross-border teams, operations of other departments and amazing people throughout my career. Contrary to the opinion about working with female bosses, it has empowered, challenged, transformed and kept me on my toes all these years. More so, Lafarge Africa Plc’s gender-inclusive agenda is highly commendable for emulation. My career path from a legal officer to appointment as company secretary within 10 years in Lafarge and 14 years of my professional career also gives me a sense of fulfillment.

How do you sustain work-life balance? 

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The office of the Company Secretary is truly a challenging one. As earlier stated, I am surrounded with exceptionally outstanding and selfless people, particularly my very understanding, supportive husband and my mum.  I leverage on all the several support structures which I have deliberately built around me in order to easily get help from family, friends and colleagues. I deliberately spend the weekend with my family, quality time alone as often as possible, and try to get home early enough before my kids’ bed time for some storytelling (which they always look forward to).

Any advice for people aspiring to get this far? 

I believe strongly that the God-factor is the most important aspect of our lives, notwithstanding our achievements.

I have learnt that attitude is key to everything we do in life. The attitude with which a person learns, take corrections, feedback, treat colleagues, administrative staff and others generally can either make or mar that person.

My advice to young folks aspiring to get this far is to inculcate the right attitude, stay humble to learn and unlearn, admit the wrong or ignorance and learn, ensure to add value in whatever capacity they may find themselves, and finally, God’s wisdom. If I got this far with this recipe, I believe they can get even farther.

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    Billionaire Watch

    Meet King Maha of Thailand, the richest royal figure in the world

    The Thai king, Maha Vajiralongkorn is several times wealthier than his British counterpart.  

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    When it comes to monarchies and royal families, the British Royal Family is easily the most revered of them all. One might begin to think they are the wealthiest. Well… they are not! 

    They are not even in the top five list of wealthiest royal families. 

    In today’s article, we will look at a monarch who is several times wealthier than his British counterpart.  

    READ: The UK Royal Family is worth $28bn, here’s how they make their money

    Meet King Maha Vajiralongkorn 

    The 63-year-old king of Thailand who took over his father’s throne is currently the wealthiest royal figure in the world. His late father King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed in 2016 and was the longest-serving monarch in the world. 

    After the coronation of the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn, a strange communique was published on the royal website. The entire portfolio of the Crown Property Bureau was to be transferred into the hands of the new king.  

    Before this announcement, The royal portfolio worth over 40 billion dollars was held by the king on behalf of the nation but now it was to be transferred to the new king. Subsequently, King Maha officially became the richest monarch in the world with a personal net worth and assets valued at $43bn according to the South China Morning Post.  

    READ: There are only 15 black billionaires in the world, here are the top 10

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    King Maha’s major assets  

    The bulk of King Maha’s net worth comes from three major assets:

    • A 23% stake in Siam Commercial Banks, one of the largest commercial banks in Thailand. The bank is valued at $1.7bn according to the Financial Times.  
    • A 33.6$ stake in Siam Cement Group which is the country’s largest industrial conglomerate.  
    • 16,000 acres of prime Thai land and over 40,000 rental leases with developers. 

    READ: Queen Elizabeth II Isn’t As Rich As You Think

    A call for change  in Thailand

    According to Financial Times, recent protests and critics have called for a serious review of the monarchy’s grip on the country and its finances. The protesters led mostly by students are of the opinion that public funds should not be made available for a king.  

    Thailand runs a system of government known as Constitutional Monarchy where the king is the Head of State.  

    King Maha’s lifestyle of luxury  

    King Maha spends most of his time in Germany and has a stunning fleet of 38 aeroplanes and helicopters. His second wife Queen Sineenat is a trained military pilot.  

    King Maha owns the largest faceted diamond, a 546.67-carat brown diamond.  

    READ: A Look back at Jay Z’s Road to Billionaire Status

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    What you should know  about the Thai economy

    Thailand is the eighth largest economy in Asia and the 22nd largest export economy in the world.  

    The GDP of Thailand is calculated as $505 billion, which results in a GDP per capita of $7,274.  

    King Maha is the richest royal figure in the world and he is closely followed by the Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah and the king of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.  

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    Profiles

    Ibiene Okeleke: A diva in HR and Management

    Ibiene Okeleke is an Executive Coach passionate about people development, career development and youth empowerment.

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    on

    With about three decades of a rich and boisterous career across the financial and the energy sector, Ibiene Okeleke has earned bragging rights not just for her skills but her results and accomplishments across human resources and retail banking.

    Through the years of working in different firms, Okeleke has shown skills in business development, negotiation, succession planning, talent management, organisational development and job evaluation.

    READ: Nigeria’s Energy boardrooms: Why are the women outside? 

    Education

    Ibiene got admitted into the University of Lagos in 1989 and obtained her first degree in Industrial Relations & Personnel Management from the University of Lagos in 1993. Okeleke got a quick career start immediately, obtaining the rest of her degrees while working.

    She completed an MBA at the IESE Business School, University of Navarra, Spain in 2002, and also got an Advanced Human Resources Executive Degree from the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan.

    Okeleke has also completed a Strategic Human Resource Training course at Harvard Business School, and she is a certified Prince 2 Practitioner.

    She has a LinkedIn certification in Leadership Foundation: Leadership Styles and Models; Creating a Communications Strategy; and How to Create and Run a Brilliant Remote Workshop. She also has a Coursera certification in the Electric Industry Operations and Markets.

    READ: 7 female executives under 40 in FinTech

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    Career Progression

    Okeleke started out her career in 1994, at Inlaks Computers as HR Officer and spent 5 years in the position.  She joined FSB International Bank Nigeria as a Human Resources Officer and spent nine months in the role before heading the Liability Generation Unit of the bank until Feb 2001.

    She went on to lead the Human Resources department at Bond Bank Nigeria for the rest of 2001 and later, at Assurance Bank Nigeria Ltd between 2002 and 2006.

    Her foray into the energy and power sector started with a role as the Group Head of Human Resources at the Sahara Group in 2006. After the privatisation of the power sector in 2013, she moved to Ikeja Electric as the Chief Human Resources and Administrative Officer and positioned the company to become one of the most notable and leading distribution companies in Nigeria.

    In May 2019, she resumed at Energy Training Center (ETC) as the Managing Director. As the leader of this strategic learning academy, she has positioned the institution to provide a wide range of learning interventions for the entire Energy sector. The Academy is focused on capacity building through bespoke learning experiences with the perfect blend of technologies and techniques to achieve organizational and personal success.

    Ibiene Okeleke is also an Executive Coach passionate about people development, career development and youth empowerment, and serves as an adviser on some Not-For-Profit Boards.

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