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SPONSORED BY BUY656.COM: A Federal High Court,  in Abuja, on Monday, ordered the immediate past Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Mr Emeka Mba, to report at the office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abuja, for an amended criminal charge sheet to be served on him and his co-defendants.

The trial judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, gave the order following complaints by EFCC’s counsel, Salisu Majidadi ,over difficulties he experienced in effecting service of the amended charge sheet on the defendants.

Emeka Mba, Patrick Are, Basil Udotai and Babatunji Amu, who are 1st to 4th defendants respectively, are being prosecuted on a 15- count amended charge, bordering on money laundering and diversion of public funds.

Monday’s sitting was meant for the arraignment of the defendants, but was stalled due to the inability of the prosecuting counsel to serve the amended charge sheet dated and filed on October 14 and 21, 2016, on the defendants.

The prosecuting counsel, Salisu Majidadi ,had on Monday, informed the court of the difficulty he had  been having in serving the defendants with the amended charge and consequently, requested for five days within which the defendants will be served with the amended charge.

However, the defendant lawyers led by Mr Sunday Ameh, in their contribution, said the issue of service or non-service of the amended charge, should not be an issue for the court’s consideration because, each of the defendants, for instance, the 1st and 4th defendant, had been served, while the 2nd and 3rd defendants, had obtained copies of the amended charge from the third defendant’s counsel.

Delivering a bench ruling on the application for an adjournment by the prosecuting counsel, Justice Kolawole held: “The defendants shall report in the complaint’s office on Wednesday, November 30, at 10.00 am and shall be served each with the amended charge.

“Let it be clearly stated that if the complainant was unable to get the amended charge served on  November30,within the regular working hours of 10.00 am and 4.00pm, the defendants shall be released on administrative bail, which the EFCC had previously granted them and shall advise them as to a date within five days from today when the amended charge which the prosecution has informed the court of been available but that the copies are not with him in court.

“This case is hereby adjourned till  December13,  at 10 .00am, for the arraignment of the defendants on a 15 -count of the amended charge dated  October14 and filed on October 21

“The defendants shall return to court for their arraignment and the hearing of their bail applications,” hesaid.

The amended charge read in part: “That you Emeka Mba (while being the Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission), Patrick Are (while being the Director of Finance and Account of the National Broadcasting Commission), Basil Udotai (trading in the name and style of Technology Advisors) and Babatunji Amure (trading in the name and style of Divine Partners) on or about the 15th day of August, 2015 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court conspired amongst yourselves to commit an illegal act to wit: laundering the sum of N2, 899, 723, 500.00 (two billion eight hundred and ninety-nine million, seven hundred and three thousand, five hundred naira) and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act,” among others.

It will be recalled that the anti-graft body had recently arrested the ex-NBC DG over an alleged N15 billion fraud.

SPONSORED BY X365RADIO.COM: 

Background

I hail from Ogun State. I was born into a Christian home and I had a strict upbringing. Even though my parents separated, my childhood was fun and I have so many good memories.  While my mum has yet to remarry, my dad remarried and I lived with him for some time.

Education

I attended St. Benedict Nursery & Primary School, Lagos, and Federal Government Girls’ College, Akure. Afterwards, I studied Mass Communication at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye.

Acting

I became interested in acting when I was at the university. As an undergraduate, I used to feature in plays that were staged in school. Professionally, I started acting about 16 years ago. I joined Nollywood and took part in some English movies. I joined Oga Bello’s Awada Kerikeri Theatre Group, in the year 2000, and that was where I honed my acting skills.

Movies

In 2001, I featured in my first Yoruba movie, Baba Ologba, alongside Adebayo Salami, aka Oga Bello, and Femi Adebayo. Since then, I have featured in several others and I have played lead roles in many movies as well.

Challenges

Life is full of challenges and I encountered so many obstacles when I started acting. Firstly, my father was not happy that I became an actress. When he discovered, he was very angry because he thought I would get a proper job. Besides, nobody in my father’s family had ever become an actress. Most of them were doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc.  My father and my stepmother did not support me and they tried to frustrate my ambition. At some point, he asked me to move out of his house if I was bent on becoming an actress. I went to live with my mum and even though she was not happy at what I had decided to do with my life, she did not fail to support me. Another challenge I faced was the poor remuneration. There were times when I was not even paid at all but I did not allow that to discourage me because of the passion I have for the job.

Nicknames

I have several nicknames. At the beginning of my career, I used to be known as Ronke AKO (Awada Kerikeri Organisation). I am also known as Becky, which was the character I played in Funke Akindele-Bello’s two-part movie, Jenifa. I think the nickname that has stuck with me is Flakky Ididowo. I got that pseudonym after I played Folake in a movie produced by someone I respect so much, Fathia Balogun.

Movie production

I am not only an actress, I am also a producer. I have produced several movies in the past and I just finished work on two movies. I like to make good films and that is why I don’t come out with movies every now and then. I am a professional and I know what a good movie should look like. I have set a standard for myself and I don’t want to disappoint my fans.

Physique

People say I have a provocative figure but I did not create myself. When I was younger, people used to taunt me and I would cry. Over time, I have come to love my body irrespective of whether I have unusually large breasts or buttocks. When I walk on the streets of Lagos, men look at me in a seductive manner but I don’t care as long as I am not indecently dressed. In fact, some people scream obscenities at me. Some call me Cowbell and I either laugh it off or just ignore them.

Fame

I do not care about fame. It has not changed who I am and it has not altered the way I relate with people be it my family, friends or fans. I am a very simple person and generally down-to-earth and forthright. To a large extent, I am an introvert and I like to spend a lot of time indoors. I rarely go out except it is very necessary.

Marriage

Being in the limelight has it disadvantages. One of the demerits of being in the limelight is that one finds it difficult to find true love. You can’t tell if that man or woman loves you for who you are or because you are a celebrity. I will get married when God says it is my time. My time has yet to come and that is why I am still single.  Anyone who rushes into marriage will definitely rush out, so I am taking my time. Unlike it was speculated sometime ago, I have never been married.

Pasuma and I

Not all relationships lead to marriage and such was my relationship with Pasuma. Even though we are no longer dating, we are still good friends. The fact that we are both celebrities may have been responsible for our inability to get married. A lot of times, celebrity marriages don’t work out because both parties are in the limelight. This breeds a lot of distrust and problems in the marriage.

Style

I like simple, nice and classy wear. I also like traditional wear because I look good in them and they are super comfortable.

SPONSORED BY X365TV.COM: Many years after he parted ways with his boss,Ex- President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has confirmed for the first time that the former president actually wanted a limitless term but he opposed him.

Similarly, Atiku has opened up on the seeming lingering quarrel with current Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-rufai and the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commison, Nuhu Ribadu, whom he claims to have brought into the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo. Atiku claimed that the two men, who allegedly connived to work against him, had refused to show any form of appreciation to him, despite his disposition to them.

He also gave reason Ribadu must go on public television station to avow that he was not a corrupt person in order to earn his forgiveness.

Atiku’s claims are contained in the current edition of the EFCC Magazine,  Zero Tolerance  released in Abuja yesteray. The former Vice President denied allegation that he was corrupt, claiming that if he was, he would have been convicted before now. He also said he had become popular among Nigerians, having held sway in politics for over 25 years.

He said: “My offence was simply that I disagreed with him on the amendment of the Constitution to remove tenure or term limits or what was popularly called third term agenda. In fact, Obasanjo sent the then Attorney General of the Federation, and Jerry Gana to my office to bring me the draft of the amendments to the constitution. “After going through, I found out that tenure limits had been removed. In other words, he could be president for life. I now asked them, ‘if I send you to the President can you deliver this message’? And they said ‘yes’. I said ‘go and tell him I will not support it and I will fight it.”

SPONSORED BY CHIQUEMAGAZINE.COM: Lagos—Counsel representing lawyer and ex-Lagos socialite, Fred Ajudua, Allens Agbaka yesterday vowed to produce his client before Justice J. E. Oyefeso for re-arraignment on charges bordering on defrauding former Chief of Army Staff (COAS) of 330,000US dollar. 

Ajudua was docked before the Lagos State High Court last year alongside a court registrar, Ms. Rosulu Oluronke for allegedly receiving $330,000 supposedly meant to be part payment for professional fees allegedly charged by Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) to handle his case. However, Rosulu opted for a separate trial and she had since been convicted by the court. 

Ajudua was conspicuously absent yesterday when he was expected to be re-arraigned for the offence. His lawyer only informed the court that he was unaware of the development, only that he stumbled on the case before the court. The matter had been earlier fixed for Monday, where Ajudua alongside others(now at large) are to be re-arraigned on a 28-counts charge pressed against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). 

Justice Oyefeso was stunned about the absence of Ajudua, which made his lawyer promise to unfailingly produce him. Explaining the reason behind making an undertaking, Agbaka noted that, “I only stumbled on this matter this morning. “I tried to contact the defendant and got in touch with his younger sister, who informed me that the defendant (Ajudua) is being hospitalised at the National Hospital, Abuja. “This is the first time I am hearing about this matter. I personally undertake to produce the defendant at the next adjourned date.

SPONSORED BY X365RADIO.COM: Mrs Samira Abu Ali, wife  of Lt. Colonel Abu Ali, killed by Boko Haram terrorists, along side some soldiers penultimate Friday, has vowed to raise her three children to be like the fallen hero, saying their dad was a nice and caring husband and father.

Mrs Ali, who spoke when a non-governmental organization, NGO, called “Nigerian Fallen Heroes Project 2017”, paid her a condolence visit at her parents home in Kaduna, yesterday, spoke almost inaudibly but the pains she was still enduring was loud and clear. She said: “My children are very aware that their father is no more, I mean the older ones. “All I have to do now is to commit myself to raising them to the quality that their late father desired of them, so that they can be like him; to become persons this country can be proud of. “It is unfortunate that he left them at such tender ages. But they will always recall that he was a kind and loving father. Just like he was to me. “I don’t have anything more to say than everything is in the hands of the Almighty Allah.”

Ali left three children namely: Fatimah Abu-Ali 7,    Mohammed Abu-Ali 4, and Yasmin Abu-Ali 1.

Her father, Alhaji Haruna Adamu, also told the visitors that Ali was a good son-in-law. He said, amidst sobs: “Lt. Col. Abu-Ali was not only an in-law to me, but also a son who had done a lot for me and my family. We will greatly miss him. “He was great soldier and paid the supreme sacrifice for his country. May he find paradise,”

At the family house of Ali, located at No.10 Jabi East, Kaduna North Local Government Area, the matriarch of the family, Hajiya Abu-Ali, could not be consoled, as she wept profusely over the demise of her son. A younger sister to the slain officer, Amina Abu-Ali, in tears, urged the Federal Government to send soldiers to fight Boko haram on rotational basis so as to allow them spend more time with their families. “My brother had been in Maiduguri for the past two years, and I think the maximum they gave him was two weeks off. We missed him but there’s nothing we can say rather than that it is his time. We accept it and take it as our fate. The government should please assist the family he left behind which is a very painful thing because when you look at the children today, you lack what to tell them tomorrow,” she said.

A minute silence was observed for the fallen hero. Dr. Kenneth Ibe-Kalu, the leader of ‘Nigerian Fallen Heroes Project 2017’, assured the matriarch that her son did not die in vain. He said: “We read his last words to the whole world just before he died, ‘I’m proud that I’ve paid the supreme price for my nation’, but he added something that is so captivating: ‘I hope that my country will remember me.’

With a consistent effort to provide quality and effective banking services to customer across Nigeria, Union Bank Plc, has unveiled two newly upgraded branches in Enugu, Enugu State.

The new branches, located at Zik Avenue, Uwani and Garden Avenue, Enugu, are fully equipped to deliver quick and efficient services to its customers in a vibrant and conducive environment. 

Speaking at the event, Transformation Director, Union Bank Plc, Joe Mbulu, commented on how the constant engagement with customers all over Nigeria has driven the bank to keep developing services to support their lifestyle.

He said, “Our objective as a bank is to be customer-focused, and we are intensively expanding the capabilities of our system to ensure we meet and exceed customers’ expectations. We are improving our physical infrastructure, but we have also gone beyond that. Our promise to build a simpler, smarter bank means to cater for our customers through convenient, secure and fast banking platforms like the mobile and online banking systems which ensure customer spend less time banking and more time living.”

For the Head, Retail Banking, Carlos Wanderley, “The strategy to improve our physical and banking infrastructure is built on creating excellent customer experience. Customers can easily make banking transactions within short periods, gain speedy access to added services wherever they are, and also have private and comfortable conversations with their relationship manager when necessary.”

Complimenting the bank on its excellence in customer experience, former Commissioner of Works, Anambra State and a customer of the bank, Architect Callistus Ilozumba stated that his experience with the bank has always been exceptional, either as an individual, business or for his family. 

“As a customer of Union Bank, we have worked together to build a very successful business, and the bank has continued to support us in increasing our capacity. So it has been a wonderful experience for me as a customer and member of the Union Bank family,” he said

With over 100 new and refurbished branches across Nigeria leading to a 20 per cent reduction in transaction process time, Union Bank continues to reaffirm its commitment towards providing world class facilities that best suit its customers’ banking needs.

Saturday, 05 November 2016 16:05

Bolanle Ambode’s silent revolution

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Considering its ever growing population, commercial status and cosmopolitan nature, Lagos State could surely make do with varied collaborations with individuals, organisations and other stakeholders for accelerated growth. It is from this perspective that the efforts of Office of the Wife of Lagos State Governor in providing a huge boost for Lagos development should be commended.  Lagos’ First Lady, Her Excellency Mrs. Bolanle Ambode, is currently engendering a silent revolution that is offering priceless soccour to Lagosians across all divides.

Through her Foundation, Hope for Women in Nigeria Initiative, HOFOWEM, Mrs. Ambode is giving a new definition to the art of social work and community development in the country. HOFOWEM’s key area of influence is Lagos State, particularly the rural communities. One of the themes for the actualization of HOFOWEM’s goals is “Hope for Children through which it seeks to help rehabilitate Vulnerable Children and encourage the education of disadvantaged children in the society.  Similarly, the wellbeing and health care of deprived children is also one core aspect HOFOWEM deems vital in its plans. The “HOFOWEM Scholarship Scheme is another central part of the Hope for Children initiative.

Since the inauguration of HOFOWEM, Mrs. Ambode has been using the platform to put smiles on faces of the less privileged in the society. In the first quarter of the year, HOFOWEM concentrated on empowering widows, other foundations, and mothers with multiple births and also funded major surgical procedures for many people.This is not surprising as a crucial goal of HOFOWEM is to touch and transform lives as well as create sustainable means for the underprivileged in the society.

One good thing about HOFOWEM is that, though the name suggests a woman interest organisation, the truth, however, is that its focus is all encompassing. For instance, pupils, indigent students, widows, multiple birth mothers, orphans and many others have received varied degrees of helps from HOFOWEM at one time or the other. The Foundation did its maiden empowerment programme on March 7th, this year, when widows, sick women and mothers with multiple births, were supported in various ways.

 One unique thing about HOFOWEM’s scope of operation is that it creatively covers assorted areas of interests. Thus, from time to time, the Foundation comes up with a variety of innovative ideas aimed at bettering the lots of hapless folks in the society. The idea is to ensure that, as much as possible, through strategic and inventive thinking, it comes up with robust initiatives to address emerging and critical needs of the less privileged. Considering current harsh economic realities in the country and its attendant consequences, HOFOWEM’s novel approach to social intervention is quite admirable. A major benefit of this strategy is that as new challenges surface, the people are not left in the cooler for too long before help comes.

In furtherance of this novel social intervention philosophy, HOFOWEM recently distributed gift items to 230 expectant mothers in Alausa, Ikeja. Packaged under the banner of HOFOWEM “Hope for Expectant Mothers” support programme, the initiative was aimed at reducing maternal and infant mortality.  Through the programme provision was made for 230 expectant mothers with baby mattresses, Nursing Mum’s packs which contained all the necessary baby essentials from thermometers to breastfeeding covers among others.
At the event, it was revealed that basic hygiene and good sanitary habits for pregnant women could play a key role in reducing maternal and infant mortality. Speaking at the occasion, Mrs. Ambode disclosed that: ‘All too often, infants are usually at risk of infection, diarrhea, poor growth and many common diseases associated with unhygienic habits. The act of washing hands is so simple, yet we do not see it as a game-changing solution”.


Beneficiaries of the support programme were drawn from the 20 local government and 37 development areas of the state. At the event, a total of about 230 pregnant women were given complete delivery packs which include: Baby and mother beds, sanitary pads, towels, beverages, thermometer, shawl, diapers, breastfeeding net, traveling bed, sanitizers, amongst others.
Though HOFOWEM has covered a huge ground within such a short period, it is, nevertheless, gratifying to observe that the Foundation is not resting on its oars. This is based on its promoters’ perception that excellence has no finishing line and that innovation is a continuous journey. The Foundation recently launched a major landmark initiative tagged: “Project Bright Steps, equipping future leaders.” At the launch of the project, Mrs. Ambode said: “We are here basically to motivate these children, boost their self esteem, and help them appreciate their self-worth, encourage them to be proud of themselves and most importantly equip them for the future. “As a mother, I am deeply passionate about children. Some lucky ones have the necessary support, while others have very little or nothing”.

A major highlight of the event is the distribution of shoes and socks to 175,000 public primary school pupils in Lagos State. The central and underlining philosophy behind the laudable gesture is primarily to ensure that no pupil is denied the joy and fulfillment of schooling on the basis of lack of shoes and other such basic necessities. Considering that a former President of the country once made the subject of “I had no shoe” a crucial electoral campaign issue, this particular intervention of HOFOWEM should be vastly appreciated.

The 2016 Heineken Lagos Fashion and Design Week was four days of showcasing Africa’s best to the world, and thousands of visitors were present to witness some of the best the industry has to offer. Omoyemi Akerele is the Executive Director and Founder of the LFDW as well as the founder and artistic director of Style House Files. Style House has created other programs like Fashion Focus, Fashion Business Series and X Retail to further strengthen Nigeria’s gradually emerging fashion sector. In this interview with TOBI AWODIPE, she talks about the just concluded fashion week, challenges confronting the industry as well as its potentials and ways the nation could benefit immensely from the fashion industry. 

The Lagos Fashion and Design Week has come to an end. What did you hope attendees gained? How do you think it improved African Fashion in general and Nigerian fashion in particular?
We hope we’ve been able to reiterate one of our fundamental beliefs at Style House Files that fashion can be a key driver of economic growth, opening doors for micro industries such as retail, wholesale, manufacturing, merchandizing, design and more to thrive. This will help move the conversation beyond fashion to a deeper focus on how to add value to the industry. For LFDW as a platform, our initiatives provide knowledge acquisition, skills development, access to market, access to funding and showcasing talents to a networked global audience. The LFDW platform has created and continues to create diverse opportunities for positioning fashion to contribute significantly to Africa and Nigeria’s new creative economy.

It is no secret that the industry is brimming with lots of potential in terms of income generation and creating employment for our teeming youth. How can the country tap into and effectively maximise this?
I believe Nigeria can tap into and effectively maximize the said potential by supporting the need for an affordable and sustainable industry that allows designers and fashion entrepreneurs to produce locally at affordable prices for profit, while simultaneously encouraging citizens to be involved by buying items produced in Nigeria, while keeping production conditions favourable.

According to the Africa Development Bank (AfDB), Nigeria is not listed among the top 10 Apparel Exporting African nations. Why is this so and what can be done to change this statistic?
The discovery of oil in the late 50’s presented the country with the opportunity to build a vast amount of wealth that could have elevated millions out of poverty, but sadly, this happened to the detriment of other industries such as Agriculture, Textiles, Manufacturing and so on. Our nation quickly became a mono-economy, and now it is seeking ways to turn things around.

This statistic can only be changed if there’s a conscious decision on the part of the Nigerian Government to actively support the industry in several areas.

What are some of the challenges confronting the industry, preventing it from achieving its full potential?
The industry is facing too many challenges – Infrastructure, funding, distribution, logistics, textiles, protective policies, capacity building and skills development, just to name a few.

Agriculture, influx of imported textiles, unstable electricity, lack of adequately trained manpower and a retail environment that can support the industry’s growth are some of the other problems the sector faces.

The Nigerian textile industry is almost comatose now, affecting fabric sourcing. In your opinion, what do you think the government should do?
I believe that reviving the Nigerian textile industry has been foremost on the government’s agenda for a while. Funding has been made available for the sector but the problem obviously goes beyond funding.

I mentioned some of the problems confronting the industry above; the government cannot attempt to solve the textile problem in isolation of the other challenges faced by the value chain in entirety.

Why does the industry not yet have a well-defined mass production market with ready-to-wear, affordable and quality pieces from known or upcoming designers?
This already exists but for scalability that can make the desired and necessary impact, the brand owners need funding. Brands like Eve and Tribe, Ada by AlterEgo, Karen Ubani are already in the ready-to-wear market with affordable pieces that are of good quality.

At one of the business series during the LFDW, it was revealed that leather exported to Italy is sold at about 30 Dollars whereas the finished shoe is sold back to us again at hundreds of dollars. What steps can be taken to correct this anomaly and channel our resources appropriately?

I believe the easiest way out of this is to reduce the exportation of raw materials and focus on the exportation of finished goods that have more value and can generate the much needed foreign exchange that the Nigerian economy needs. Until we are able to do this, the situation is not going to change.

Oshione Igwonobe ,The Juice Lady

Oshione Igwonobe resigned from her day job to start making pure juices using her mother’s blender. She moved from making juices in her mother’s kitchen to start her own brand; The JuiceLady , where fresh juices with no concentrates, preservatives, sugars or sweeteners, are produced, a business she started at a local Buka and at some point she and her team hawked the products just to make sales, today Igwonobe supplies big malls and outlets across Lagos. She shares her inspiring story in this interview.

Childhood
My upbringing played a large role in my line of work. Growing up, my mother always sought to experiment with our meals introducing different healthy options. As kids, we’d grumble and complain but she created delicious recipes we all loved eventually. Baking and juicing were regular practices in our home and I took after that. After quitting my day job in 2009, I experimented with cooking healthy meals and preparing juices, supplying offices in my neighbourhood. After a few months I realized I would have to focus on one aspect as I didn’t have the resources to grow both aspects of the business. I stopped catering and focused solely on making juices using my mother’s blender in her kitchen. At the time it was pretty small scale but I’ve been able to grow it significantly.

Meet Me
My name is Oshione Igwonobe and I am the JuiceLady. I am from Edo state; the first child from a family of six (6). Most of my formative years were in Warri then my family moved to Lagos in 1997 where I continued my Senior Secondary School and University. I’m quite passionate about healthy living, I absolutely love food, traveling and adventures. I produce 100% fresh fruit juices under the brand The JuiceLady. Our juices are fresh, not from concentrates, no preservatives;, no sugars or sweeteners. Simply no additives: just juice.


Inspiration behind my brand “The juice lady”
The JuiceLady started off as an affectionate moniker when I started producing and supplying juices about 6 years ago. I would carry my juices in my cooling bag and head off to offices and parks and the receptionist would announce my presence like “Hey guys, the juice lady is around o, in case you want to buy juices” (Laughs). Most of my clients didn’t even know my name; everybody just called me The JuiceLady. So, the name just stuck and I decided to build a brand around it. Anytime I see it now, it reminds me of the days of humble beginnings, of hauling a cooler bag down corridors and offices, of a determination to carve a niche and succeed against the very heavy tides of frustration at the time.

 

My YOUWIN grant experience
It was an enlightening experience really. Beyond the grant, I gained a deeper appreciation of the business. We passed through intensive business training sessions organized by the Enterprise Development Center (EDC) and participated in the Youth Enterprise with Innovation Program and these training have helped me move the business forward. The people I met at the time also increased my network; I keep in touch with them today and I’ve done business with a number of them. YOUWIN boasted a number of innovative people and it was a creative space where you could tap off the energies of other brilliant minds. So yes, I had a great experience.

Reception
It’s been interesting. Starting off wasn’t easy. When I decided I was going to focus solely on juices, opportunity came in the form of The Lagos Carnival and I thought, here’s a huge crowd to test our product. My parents were out of town and had given me money for upkeep. I convinced my dear siblings to support my cause and we even borrowed extra money to produce our first ever large scale batch of juices. I mean, a large crowd of thirsty people under the Lagos hot sun, of course we would rake in lots of money. We were going to make a killing. We were all so excited. The challenge then was that our production process was largely manual so before we could finish up and head out it was already 2pm or thereabouts and we got to the carnival at about 3pm. Not surprisingly, the ceremonial activities had come to an end. Here we were, six of us with about 200 bottles of juice and no crowd (Laughs). I think we ended up selling about 15 bottles. It’s safe to say that for that period when our parents were away, my siblings and I drank juices until we were fed up of it (Laughs).

After this episode, I decided to scale back and convinced a neighbor to set me up at his office in TINCAN Apapa. I would set up a cooler at the Buka where the tanker drivers, bus drivers, and others came to eat. And from there I would haul my cooler bag into the offices. My clients ranged from tanker drivers to directors and executives at the company (MRS Oil) and they were very encouraging. There were times we had to literally hawk them on the road to sell out.

From Tincan, I moved to several offices in Victoria Island and now we supply key stores like Farm City in Lekki Phasse 1, Café Neo outlets and several other stores. Only last week, we attended our first major food exhibition (Flavours of Lagos) and we had a lot of people truly enthralled by the quality, taste and price for our juices.


The Nigerian mass market is only getting accustomed to fresh juices and as such sometimes, it can be a struggle to explain to consumers why the product is priced above other options with concentrates, preservatives and sugar. This is a learning curve that we are navigating quite well and because the overarching vision of the business is to create wholesome living, we are careful to price our brands competitively to ensure more people have access to this option.

 

On giving up
Only about a million times (Laughs). Truth be told, there is a limit to how far passion can take you. Many start-ups believe that passion is the balm that heals all wounds. The reality is different. If we are to discount the attendant challenges of any business across the world, the Nigerian system is designed to frustrate SMEs. This is because we are a society orchestrated to administrate and not to produce.

I remember when I was seeking machinery for juicing. I went to the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO). I paid for training and was told we had to wait to be a certain number. This was in 2013. I’m still waiting for that training. I was referred to a consultant technician who fabricates machinery and he gave me a bill of about N10million to set up my factory. I visited another agency to make enquiries about the process for certification, I was told by an official to ‘look for something else to do” as processing/manufacturing was too difficult for a woman.

There are periods where it just seems like anything that can possibly go wrong, does go wrong. Periods I made huge losses financially, or I’d see my peers and it felt like I was wasting time and everybody else seemed to be ahead. When faced with these trying situations, I dug into a reserve of strength I never knew I had and found the resolve to move on. Failure is just not an option. My Plan B is to find ways for Plan A to work.

Greatest reward
Honestly, the praise of a new consumer. It is one thing to know that you have a good product, it is another to be validated time and again when someone tries the juices and they call me to rave about it. It is a new feeling every single time and that beats any achievement I’ve had thus far.


The high cost of setting up a factory
(Sighs). The challenges are many-fold and I touched on some of them earlier. Financing is a mammoth challenge. I got a break with the YOUWIN grant but there’s the timidity of our financial institutions when it comes to partnering with start-ups. Financing needs to be scaled to the level of the business but our banks simply don’t understand that. Also the lack of technical capability in Nigeria made it a nightmare to set up my factory. Sourcing for machinery is such a herculean task, especially when you’re an SME. Importing machinery is very expensive, then there’s the added cost of bringing in a technician to train your staff on how to use the equipment, maintenance and the rest. I ordered an equipment two (2) years ago that I’m yet to receive.

Nigerians view on women in your line of work
In my experience, there is an active conversation on women in business and this is increasing the perception positively. My line of work largely sees women as the forerunners and there has been an increased respect for the profession. I do understand that women in other fields may not be finding it as easy and that is the reason why I am actively engaging women for raw material supplies, production and delivery. The conversation is significantly bigger than me and I am consciously ensuring I play my part in the empowerment of the Nigerian woman.

I am a Woman of Rubies
One word: Tenacity. I have been through a lot in my line of work and I’m still standing. I believe firmly in the future and I believe that it can be shaped by the actions of the present. Regardless of the obstacles, I am determined to raise the bar for women in agro-processing and this is what makes me a woman of Rubies.

 

In this interview with JOHN ALECHENU and Gbenro Adeoye, the Deputy National Chairman (South) of the All Progressives Congress, Mr. Segun Oni, speaks about the crisis in the party and preparations for the Ondo State governorship elections among other national issues

The crisis in your party in Ondo State seems to have divided your members’ loyalty and some Nigerians, including the Peoples Democratic Party, have ruled out any chance that the All Progressives Congress can win the forthcoming governorship election in the state. Do you agree?

We are very prepared and just like we won handsomely in the just concluded Edo State governorship election, I am confident we will win in Ondo State.

Are you saying that the crisis in your party, the job losses and hunger in the land, will have no effect on the outcome of the election?

Yes, things are very difficult, but luckily for us, the next general elections will not hold next week or next month. The policies we are putting in place would have started showing very good results before then. The budget implementation would have gone far, a lot of contracts would have been awarded and things would have started to show improvements. We would have also announced the board memberships; it means some people would also have areas of influence, either through being a board member or another. It can only get better. We have seen the worst of this situation; we can confidently say it can only get better. The PDP members, instead of using the opportunity now to get out of coma, they are thinking they can deride us. But once the economy starts getting better, and it will get better very soon, they will have very little or nothing else to say. Their party is not yet a party; my advice to them is to face their own business, mend the house that is almost collapsing on their heads and repair their umbrella that is leaking profusely.

Your party has been accused of complaining too much about the last 16 years instead of concentrating on the task at hand. You forget that some leaders in the APC today were part of the years in question. Is that not irresponsible?

You see, I don’t support a complaining attitude; that is not what we are doing. What we are doing is to remind the people of the past, especially the days of (former President Goodluck) Jonathan. Nigerians experienced what nobody thought was imaginable. Only recently, an account that allegedly belonged to the former First Lady (Patience Jonathan) was said to have $15m. That is probably more than the personal worth of all first ladies ever in Nigeria put together, and that belongs to a woman that was there for less than six years. This is the spirit of looting that brought Nigeria down. There is nobody in his right senses that would not encourage that this should be talked about. We are talking about it, not just because we want Nigerians to appreciate how they brought us to where we are now, but also for Nigerians to be so sensitised that nobody will be able to bring that mentality back without such eliciting public reaction. So, it is for all of us. These people really went too far and took things to the extreme; they went beyond the limits; they went berserk, looting as if there was a stealing competition. This is the only economy in the world I know that could go through that and survive; not even the United States’ economy, which is the biggest in the world, would have survived the looting. That we are alive now, Nigerians should recognise that it is by the grace of God and also by the fortune that we had a change of government at the federal level. It’s not a complaining attitude; we must continue to sensitise Nigerians and if we are quiet about it, it could happen again; but God forbid that it should happen again.

The President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration has also attracted a lot of criticisms for being slow and unable to take timely decisions that could have prevented the current recession. Is that the party’s style of approaching national issues?

Let me say this clearly, every administration will have its own style, just like every individual has their style. There are people who will be quick to take actions but will regret them later. When I was in school, in my class, there were pupils who would be quick to put up their hands to say something, but five times out of ten, what they said wouldn’t make sense. They were prone to making a lot of mistakes. There were people who managed to put up their hands once and it would be a hit. So it is the style of this administration not to be repeating itself, especially when we are trying to get over the rot that almost sank the ship of state. I am not saying that we should always be very slow, no. There are cases and situations that require that we do things almost instantly, but you should know that it is also our style. What is important is that whatever style we adopt, it should produce the result that will give us a better Nigeria; that is what should be our focus.

You’ve had a lot of crisis at the various state chapters of your party like Edo, Kano, Kaduna and a host of others…

We didn’t have any issues in Edo.

But the APC National Headquarters set up a committee to look into some issues in Edo State, which was headed by Olagunsoye Oyinlola (former Governor of Osun State). What was it for? 

We didn’t want a situation where members would break out of the party after the primary that we had in Edo State. There were members who might not be too comfortable with the outcome of the primary and might be tempted to leave; we didn’t want that to happen, so we set up a high-powered committee to ensure that such did not happen. The committee’s mandate was to reconcile all the aspirants and our party’s supporters so that we would go into the election as one united family. You will agree with me that the committee delivered and we want to thank all those who aspired for the party’s ticket in Edo State for keeping faith with the party and not abandoning it. We don’t have problems in as many places as you have mentioned. We recognise the fact that when it is politics, the individual that comes into politics comes in with their own objectives and most of the time, we have to try and harness individual objectives to become corporate objectives so that every one of us can travel in the same direction. Sometimes, things do not go the way you expect; there are divergencies of opinions and styles. It is the responsibility of the party to align the divergencies and that is what we are doing in most instances. Don’t forget that the APC is a relatively young party as its members came from different backgrounds. Some from the Congress for Progressive Change, some from the All Nigeria Peoples Party, some from the Action Congress of Nigeria and some from factions of the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Grand Alliance; so, you should give us the credit that we’ve even been able to make our differences count less than our zeal to achieve our corporate objectives.

What about Kogi State, where a member of your party, James Faleke, took the Governor of the State, Yahaya Bello, to court. Does that not show that there is trouble in the party?

We are working on that. When a court process is on, you cannot do much but to wait. It is after the court process has been exhausted that you have a very good chance of mending fences and bringing people together. We are working on that.

So many campaign promises were made by your party before the elections. One, which has generated a lot of interest among Nigerians, is that of the exchange rate. The naira has plummeted to almost N500 to $1. Yet, your party promised to make the naira equivalent to the dollar.

I do not remember any member of this party saying that at any time before, during and after the campaigns. Making the naira equivalent to the dollar is a statement that can only be made by somebody who is very far from understanding basic economics. We didn’t say that. We know that the naira, being where it is today, relative to the dollar, did not happen overnight. It did not start overnight; I remember the value of the naira was higher than the dollar 40 years ago. At the time, one naira was equivalent to about one and a half dollars, and then it was losing and losing value against the dollar. If anybody says he will make the naira equivalent to the dollar, it will mean that first, government wants to fix it and that will be against the spirit of allowing a free market. And that is not the attitude of this government. That is why we have allowed the market forces to determine where we are. Secondly, it is not part of our manifesto.

Talking of market forces, a lot of people don’t have a full grasp of your administration’s plans to sell or not to sell national assets. What is the true state of affairs?

Personally, I don’t believe government has any business in business. If we have national assets that can change hands and be profitably run to a position that it would be able to create jobs and contribute to the economy, I will go for it. If we have national assets that we will allow to run and waste until they have zero value because we don’t want them to change hands, I will not go for it.  I can tell you that there was a time we had the Nigerian Airways; it was a very strong airline and maybe then, if we had decided to sell it to either Lufthansa or British Airways to run and under terms that would create opportunities for us, maybe today, we would have a bigger fleet and more people in employment. There was a time we had Nigerian National Shipping Line and we had a fleet of ships, but we allowed it to go down until the value was in the negative. By the way, the Nigerian Airways also had negative value because it will not stay at zero. If there are assets that we can sell to improve the lot of Nigerians and invest better in the future, I will go for it. Let me tell you, Nigeria must first take care of its responsibilities now and be a respectable economy so that in the future, it can participate properly in the global economy. If the reality is for us to sell, then we should sell at the right value, as far as I am concerned. I am sure that President Muhammadu Buhari is not the kind of President who wants to just acquire and acquire (material things); he has grown beyond the spirit of acquisition. Anybody who is still battling with physiological needs should never be allowed to get near the Presidency of Nigeria. Again, that is what I have observed. These are people who are still battling with the spirit of acquisition, people who see money as the goal and objective of their existence. Anybody who is still operating at that level is the one Nigerians should fear. At least, we are lucky to have somebody we can say is beyond that. When he says he will sell, he will not sell to get kickbacks; he will not sell to himself or his cronies because that is what has killed Nigeria. They sold National Electric Power Authority, the distribution arm of NEPA, who bought them? They sold to themselves. So, if it is not performing, it is not because it was sold. It is not performing because it was sold fraudulently and the deals were not open enough. Right now, you merge a couple of states and put them under one distribution company and the span of control is so wide that it is almost unmanageable for those who bought them to cover, so all those guys are making money for themselves. I cannot see anywhere today that is operating differently from when NEPA or Power Holding Company of Nigeria was operating. You have not created value. If you want to create value; you go ahead and create value in a much more strategic way such that people who will acquire such assets will prove that they know what they want to do with what they are buying. Yes, if Nigeria needs to sell some of its assets, we will support it. I know that with an administration like this, it will be done transparently.

But even if government wants to sell now, it’s like Nigerians no longer trust government with such initiatives because they will ask that what has happened to the ones sold in the past.

Our people have stayed and suffered too long under deceit that they almost will believe that there is nothing that can happen other than deceit. Yes, if there is the promise of the second Niger Bridge and it has gone on and on, I am sure it is going to be a reality under this government. Even the promises that tarried for so long like the East-West Road and rail line will become a reality. This government is a determined one and it will be different; that is why I keep saying, we were not elected for a two-year term; it’s a four-year term. In four years, Nigerians will have seen a reason to view this government as determined to deliver on its promises.

What happened during the APC’s National Working Committee meeting over the Appeal Panel Report on the party’s primary in Ondo State?   

Well, what is happening is that we have some differences which we have to sort out among ourselves and we will do that.

But you have already submitted the name of Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) as your party’s candidate. Does it mean the party has not taken a position on it?                        

We are working on this.

A National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, appeared to have been bothered about this situation that he wrote a letter asking for the resignation of the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun. What is the update?

I have told you. It is obvious we have some differences amongst ourselves; we will sort ourselves out. This party is large enough and we have the internal capacity to sort out ourselves.

There are Nigerians who feel the economy would have been better handled by professionals trained and experienced to handle such at this time. Do you agree?

There are experts and they are managing the economy. There is an economic management team under the chairmanship of the Vice President (Prof. Yemi Osinbajo). Yes, he is a lawyer, but if there is anything this Vice President cannot do about economy, then I don’t know who can. He has the pedigree and has committed people around him. You see, we should not forget where people are coming from. He is a lawyer and a professor of repute, who has done a lot of consultancy jobs for the World Bank, African Union and so on. He has a team that he heads; it is not a one-man team. The economic adviser is a person that all of us had known in school as one of the best brains we could find on the terrain and a person who also had a brilliant career in Foreign Service. I am very confident that things would work; it is true that we were overwhelmed by the high expectations of Nigerians but we are working through all of that. It is wrong for anybody to say we don’t have an economic management team. What is happening in our economy today did not start last year. Who would have managed the economy as it is now better than we are doing? Is it our team that destroyed the economy and brought it down? Look, Nigerians didn’t complain when they (players in the last administration) were buying dollars as if it was going out of fashion; the legal tender during the electioneering ahead of 2015 general elections was dollars. As a party which Nigerians voted into office, we are keeping faith with our campaign promises of making life better for Nigerians. The pains we are going through will not last long, we are trying to right the wrongs of the past and do things right. In the long run, Nigeria and Nigerians will be a lot better than we met them.

Not long ago, you spoke against the violence and killings in Rivers State. What is the situation now? 

There is still violence, which has led to some people being killed. The only thing I can say is that the violence has reduced, but the state is not completely free of violence. I’m thinking the Governor of Rivers State (Nyesom Wike) is no longer encouraging violence. And if he is not doing that, it means that the source of fuel for some of the violent activities is no longer there. There is still violence in Rivers and Bayelsa states, but it is reducing. We want a situation where all peace-loving, law-abiding Nigerians and non-Nigerians living in these states will feel safe to live their lives, and not only in these two states, but all over the country.

Your party talks about fighting corruption but it has largely been quiet about the allegations of bribery made against the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; his counterpart in the Ministry of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu; and the APC candidate in the 2015 governorship election in Akwa Ibom State, Umana Umana. Isn’t it ironic?

I have said something as a person and it is that attempting to pervert the course of justice is a crime. If a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria saw somebody doing that and he did not get the person arrested immediately but later came out to say that so and so attempted to pervert the course of justice, I believe it was an afterthought. And if I were a judge, I would not even say that because I know it would not be taken seriously. Even you, if you saw somebody committing a crime last year and did not say anything until now, would it make sense? I don’t believe that the judges should be taken very seriously. But if there is the need for an investigation, let the matter be investigated. I believe that we all owe this country a responsibility to uphold the integrity of the system.

But some lawyers have said that there is no time limit to the prosecution of criminality and that it does not matter if it was an afterthought or not, and that as long as a crime is alleged to have been committed, then it should be investigated. What do you say to that?

I am not saying that anybody should not be investigated; how can I stand in the way of investigation? What I am saying  is that, as far as I am concerned, the judges did not do the right thing.

The APC Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Timi Frank, said that the party may implode before 2019, which seems to be in line with the rumours that Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar may soon leave the party to form an alliance. Does this not bother you?

I’m not bothered by all that. I have never attended any meeting where I have seen any ill tendencies and I don’t see something like that as so prominent. If that tendency is so prominent, we would have known. We have a party to run and we will run it very well. Yes, there are aspects of it that people may not be too comfortable with now; we will do everything within our power to improve the situation. But as for Timi Frank, anyone that reads between the lines will know that his statement is not worth what anybody should fret about.

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