SUNDAY AKINTOLA: HOW MUSHIN HOME BOY GREW MULTI-MILLION NAIRA BUSINESSES IN MUSHIN, LAGOS

SUNDAY AKINTOLA is specially proud of beating all the odds as a home boy growing up in the densely populated Mushin area of Lagos State to become a successful owner of business chains that span micro finance and telecommunications. In this interview with GOKE OLUWOLE, and TAI ADEWALE SHOFELA, Chairman of Sovereign Micro Finance Bank, AKINTOLA shares his journey to conquering the litany of challenges that littered his path to business success.

How would you describe yourself?

Yes, by His grace, I am Sunday Akintola, a gentleman who happens to be one of the lucky entrepreneurs whose company is positively impacting on Nigeria in the area of poverty alleviation. I am the Chairman of the Board of three companies; Covenant Perazim Investment Limited, a multi-facetted company established to operate in the Oil, Gas and Agriculture sectors, Sufi Enterprises Limited, which is a company involved in the sale and distribution of GSM companies recharge cards, and Sovereign Micro-Finance Bank. I am a graduate of Accounting from the University of Lagos. I am also an ex-banker having worked with one of Nigeria’s fastest growing banks Zenith Bank Plc.

Briefly, can you tell us the background to how you grew this multi million naira business empire?

Most big businesses always start in small ways. This multi-million business concern, like you rightly said, is a business that was registered first as Covenant Perazim Investment Limited in November, 2003 while I was still in service with Zenith Bank. It was then the thought occurred to me on what I could do to change my life and touch the lives of other people around me. I thereafter initiated the venture, but we started operation with four staff which included my wife and my brother in-law in a shop here in Mushin from where we sold telecoms recharge cards.

I resigned from my banking job six months after we commenced operations, to be precise, July 1, 2004, two days after securing the NCC dealership licence. In fact, I got my licence on a Sunday and I put in my resignation the following Tuesday, and by August, 2004, I was already able to raise the mandatory N5 million to join the recharge card dealership community of the then V-Mobile Network with Sufi Enterprises Ltd.

All these while, my colleagues, some in the banking halls and some from other companies like Chevron, Exxon-Mobil and other multi-nationals, were greatly disturbed about my decision to go into business; they asked if something was wrong with me and how could I leave certainty for uncertainty; leaving the bank to go and sell recharge card. For them, it sounded absurd. But I told them I wanted to go and develop my business.

Things started to crystallize for us because all we were doing then was to get some money to buy and sell recharge cards until we had our breakthrough when in 2006 the V-Mobile Network started seeing us as a serious business entity, and in 2007, we won the best dealers award of the V-Mobile Network. That same 2007, we were among the 25 dealers selected in Lagos and promoted to the status of big dealers. However, as part of the requirements of that new status back then, we were also expected to have our own building as office complex. On the back of this, we decided to build our own building. Thankfully, by the end of 2007 we were able to build our own office complex.

Personally, how had your background influenced the development of your business?

I am a proper Mushin boy, born and bred in this community where people have the notion that nothing good can come out of the community. While we were in the secondary school, those of us from Mushin were seen as boys from homes of hooligans and thugs but to God be the glory, we came out very disciplined, because I am fortunate to have very responsible parents who gave us good up bringing.

Can you believe that as far back as 1963, my Dad refused all discouragement from others not to send my elder sister to school; he sent her to the only private boarding school then in Abeokuta, the Baptist Private School, Idi-Aba, Abeokuta. People were laughing at our parents for sending my sister to the boarding school. Ironically, I had to attend a public school, Odo Abore Primary School in Mushin. I guess my brilliance then impressed the school management such that they made me the school’s senior prefect.

After finishing at Odo Abore, my parents preferred that I schooled out of Lagos State, they rejected my preference for the Nigerian Model College at Idi-Oro, a suburb of Mushin. They sent me to Baptist High School, Saki, in Oyo State. From Saki I proceed to the Lagos State College of Education, and later, to the University of Lagos where I studied Accounting. I also taught in a primary school for two years before I joined Zenith Bank in 1993 where I spent 11 years before quitting in 2004.

Though my parents were not rich, I remember that they always struggled to pay our school fees then. They thought us about God and, my mother, especially, taught us the principle of prudence and wealth creation. All these contributed to my success today, but the secret to my business success is God. There is nothing we do in this office that we don’t ask for God’s favour, He is our Alpha and Omega. In this office there is nothing we do that we don’t tell God; we pray in the morning and we pray to close each of our day’s operations.

As a major player in the telecoms recharge card distribution and marketing sub sector, how would you describe the industry?

Yes, the industry is full of illiterate and semi illiterate people, but with the new policies from all the companies, I expect that the situation will finally change. I believe that there will be a lot of changes because it is only in the telecoms sector that some illiterate people will buy something at the rate of N400 and sell it for N250, that is about 80 per cent less than the cost price. But now, the business is getting more exciting, interesting, and rewarding than what it used to be.

What prompted your interest in establishing a microfinance bank, which is seen as very risky commercial engagements, or do we reason that you preferred this because of your banking background?

It wasn’t my background in banking that inspired me to establish Sovereign Micro Finance Bank, rather, it was due to my interaction with the people at the grass-roots of my immediate community here in Mushin while I was operating the telecoms business. The economic plight of these people rekindled my interest in empowering the people in my immediate community. You know when we were doing the telecoms business a lot of people always came to us for financial aids in form of soft loans, but there was no way we could be able to solve all these needs, so we now saw the opportunity to serve and empower our people when the CBN came out with the guideline and licensing procedures for establishing micro finance bank, that was the vision.

Again, there was this experience I once had while I was trying to establish a friend in the recharge card business in Abeokuta. I then realized that what most people need is micro-credit, soft loan, when you don’t help people within your neighborhood they will be the same set of people that will make life difficult for you. Do you know some of those my friends who thought something was wrong with me when I left Zenith Bank today are now begging us to be part of what we are doing. But we shall adopt them provided CBN reviews its policy on the board membership; we are also looking for a way to involve them through our forthcoming private placement.

Don’t you think it is easy for Nigerians to abuse the concept of micro finance banking just like the earlier banking and finances houses of the past?

The establishment of microfinance banks and transformation of community banks is a thought in the right direction by the government, it shows the government knows what the needs of the people are; forget about the bastardization of the earlier finance houses, I can tell you the impact of the micro finance bank vision is already showing on our economy. As I am talking to you now, we are highly regulated, every MFB has a CBN supervisor attached to it and every bank is mandated to do a monthly return to CBN. They will trace and check all the loans you disbursed that month, so there is no way you can give all the loans to your family like in the era of finance houses and commercial banks of the past.

You can log on to the CBN’s website and check the full list of the MFBs as they are arranged alphabetically, this is also part of the effort to showcase them (micro finance banks) and for you to know the ones you can deal with, I can assure you there is no MFB that will like to go under because there are lots of opportunities in the micro financing business

Of all the MFBs in Lagos what do you think stands your Sovereign Micro Finance Bank out from the rest?

We believe so much in God, and this is the anchor of our own business philosophy… to be the fulcrum of creating financial independence for the people. You see, all these area boys, some of them have great talents but what they mainly want is financial empowerment. One of them approached us about three months ago that he wanted to have his own bus and I told him to go and start saving, that if he can save N50,000 out of the N450,000 he needed to buy a Faragon Volkswagen Bus, we will fund it.

He jumped at the offer and each day, he deposited N1500 with us out of the N3000 of his daily income from the transport business. We also work with other professional groups on how to empower their members. All these are parts of the ways to eliminate criminality from their minds because if someone has a wife and kids and a job, his approach to life will be different. He will not be thinking that he wants to die because he already knows he has a stake in this world.

What gave you the impression that Mushin people deserve another micro finance bank despite all the commercial bank branches that populate the roads?

I don’t think there is any other community that I will want to serve than the Mushin community; these are the people that deserve to be uplifted and empowered financially. It is the rural people who need micro-credit or micro-funding; our vision in Sovereign MFB is to empower all these so called area boys, and since I grew up in this area, I understand the economic philosophy and psychology of the people.

We’ve already started some collaboration with the professional groups’ trade and artisan associations on how to serve them better, and even the National Union of Road Transport Workers [NURTW]. We hope to set them up with financial backing of our bank.

Our operations here as telecoms recharge distributor had opened our eyes to many needs of the people. We are now able to understand the need of the people of this area, ask anybody here around Mushin, if they know Sufi Enterprises Limited, they’ll tell you that they know us very well, it is the goodwill we’ve created over time that is rubbing on the bank.

I have also realized that commercial banks are too big to recognize micro financing opportunities, they will not fund or support your business when you are small, it is always the big projects of billions and millions of big establishments that they will always be interested in funding while the man whose business need just N5, 000 to survive is left to wallow in abject poverty.

Which was the riskiest investment venture you had made?

The biggest investment risk I ever took was the outright sale of my entire investment portfolio when I couldn’t secure a loan to finance this MFB project. A friend at FirstBank just told me point blank that since my office complex didn’t have a certificate of occupancy, no bank will give me a loan and the best, he advised I did, was to liquidate my stock portfolio. That was how I sold all my stocks just as if I was been pushed by a spirit but to God be the glory, I was lucky enough to escape the stock market crash now being witnessed by investors. Up till today, my stockbroker still enquire from me how I was able to escape the downturn in the market.

There is no business that doesn’t have its own ups and downs, tell us the challenges being faced by operators of microfinance banks in Nigeria?

Our major challenge is commercial banks, they are becoming jealous of our achievements, which is why you see a lot of the country’s mega banks transforming into micro banks. They see us as threats, because they know we can go for clearing by statutory order and with this the commercial banks always stalemated us. At present, we have a serious battle with a commercial bank over a facility of N110million we got from a company which the company, the bank and us decided was supposed to be given to us but when the money was ready, they sat on it, denied us access to it because of our capital base. We need more money to service the micro needs of our people. What we devised now is that we have contacted about three to four banks for our clearing, one is in charge of the financing of Okada scheme, one for the NURTW scheme, while we also get another to manage our other schemes because it would be too risky to keep all our good eggs in one basket.

We are currently working with a commercial bank to provide us with an ATM which will soon be installed to serve the people of Mushin. We are going to table most of these problems before the Central Bank Governor at the next conference of MFBs in Nigeria. Maybe the Governor can help us caution the commercial banks.

Another major challenge we are facing, like every other business in Nigeria, is the problem of power supply. Large amount of our money goes to fuelling of generating sets, and mind you, we bought our own transformer at about N1.8million while our 100 KVA generator costs a whopping N2.9million and this we fuel with N8, 000 daily. If we plough these back into our business do you know the number of people that will benefit from our micro finance bank? The issue of multiple taxation, too, is another serious challenge to business in Lagos.

As an entrepreneur what will you say is your greatest achievement?

What I personally see as our achievement may not be too fantastic to you but for a company that started in a small shop five years ago on this street, selling recharge cards, now owns an edifice housing the headquarters of all our businesses which include banking, aquaculture, oil and gas, and telecoms; all these we can boast is valued to be above N100million.

We have about 60 well remunerated staff, with at least over eight brand new Toyota cars for our staff, and in the next three months, we are going to take delivery of another set of five new Toyota cars for our middle cadre officers. Some of our staffers who were employed some years ago with school certificates are now graduates while some are about completing their choice of courses in various higher institutions. While studying, we make sure they don’t lack anything. None of our staff has been involved in stealing and none had left us. We are still one united family five years after we started. Last December, we harvested our fish pond and the return from the investment yielded about N1.5miilion because it is safer to diversify to other businesses to expand our capital base and income sources.

What is your management style?

I am a hard working person, and all my staff members know this. I am always the first person to resume here and the last person to leave. Can you believe I live in Alagbado, yet I’m always very punctual at the office? You’ll see me resume here by 7.30a.m. everyday, I mentor my staff, they’ve all imbibed discipline from me. You know, I operate an open door policy here, all my staff are well remunerated. If a CEO is not disciplined, the staff will not be disciplined. Again, let me tell you that yesterday (Friday, 9 January) I was with one of my colleagues way back at Zenith Bank and he was reminding me how disciplined we were then while employed at Zenith Bank. He said it was I who once said that I dreamt that one day I would have my own bank, but we all did not believe it then because of the situation surrounding the licensing of commercial banks. But today, both of us are owners of full fledged micro finance banks; he owns Olive Microfinace Bank on Awolowo Way, Ikeja, Lagos, while my own is Sovereign Microfinance Bank, Mushin, Lagos. What we thought was impossible is now a reality in our lives. God has done it, it is easy now to grow a micro-finance bank into a commercial bank and that is our future because in the nearest future we hope to go public.

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Shock Treatment At Oceanic Bank ATM

It was not a palatable experience for customers of Oceanic Bank, Toyin Street, Ikeja branch, in December when the bank’s automated teller machine (ATM) decided to give customers the ‘shock treatment’ as yuletide gift.

Of course, many customers had to stylishly and sensibly retrieve their cards to avoid possible electrocution.

However, we are glad to inform all concerned that the technical fault that led to that shocking experience has since been rectified.

But really, what could cause such? It then advisable to wait for the green light from the security-person before attempting using one.

N10 billion rocks Celtel/Zain Board: Otudeko leads directors against Bayo Ligali, others

As published in the September 01, Issue 32. ULD by ol’Victor Ojelabi

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L-R, Oba Otudeko, Celtel logo, Bayo Ligali, Zain logo

L-R, Oba Otudeko, Celtel logo, Bayo Ligali, Zain logo

The decision by the managing director of Zain, Mr. Bayo Ligali, to disregard the objection raised by some members of the board of directors of the company over a five year rent of a property at the Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos for a pricely sum of $27million (N3.1billion) has caused a bitter row among directors representing the interest of Celtel BV, the controversial majority shareholders of Zain and the minority shareholders.

The dissenting shareholders are aggrieved that rather than build its own head office with the sum, the Managing Director, was allegedly pressured by Zain’s parent company in far away Kwait to rent the Plot 2, Zone L, Banana Island property for the said sum even when Etisalat, a newly set up competitor of Zain, actually bought outrightly, a property of nearly the same size at $20.8 million.

The dissenting shareholders led by Mr. Oba Otudeko have filed papers at the Federal High Court, Lagos asking a reversal of the $27million rent for the building and a declaration to stop the re-branding of the company’s product from Celtel to Zain.

Otudeko had in different letters (which were also attached to the originating summon) to the Chairman of the Board of the company, Mr. Gamaliel Onosode, accused the majority shareholders of the company of wasting a total $58million (N6.7million) on rebranding the company within two years, adding up to a record five times the company has changed its name in its seven years existence. A sum of $30million (N3.4billion) was said to have been expended on rebranding the company from Vmobile to Celtel and just under two years thereafter, the same company is now expending a sum of $28million (N3.2billion) on its current rebranding effort which dissenting directors describe as wasteful for a company that is yet to declare dividend in the seven years of its existence.

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Seven years since Econet joined other global system of telecommunication operators to usher in a new generation of mobile telephony in Nigeria, the Econet progenitor brand had since changed ownership four times within those seven years and with each change of ownership comes peculiar disagreements that have become celebrated issues of settlement at different courts of law in Nigeria and abroad.

For most telecommunication industry watchers, reviewing the seeming protracted bickering that continues to snap at the heels of the brand since its inception could be confounding. However, an industry analyst says it is best to qualify the genesis of the unremitting crises in the company as that of the right of ownership between Econet, the first operator of the GSM license and the two others, Vodacom and Celtel BV (now Zain) that had acquired majority stake in the company in quick succession.

While the outcome of who holds the right ownership of the company is yet in view, a new and perhaps, more troubling dimension have emerged, and again, aggrieved directors are heading for the court. At issue in the present conflict on the board of the company are allegations implying breaches of the underlying principles of corporate governance.

In court papers, shareholders of the company, including Mr. Oba Otudeko, Broad Communication Limited, and Foluke Otudeko are alleging that Celtel BV, the majority shareholders in Celtel Nigeria, through its appointed directors, had consistently foisted its desires on the company without regard to the appropriateness of the action or the investment held by other shareholders.

For a company that is yet to pay a dividend to its shareholders seven years since its inception, the complaining shareholders have alleged that a sum totaling $85million, about N10billion have been expended on projects that are questionable and unjustified.

The immediate precipitation of the current crises of confidence on the board of Celtel Nigeria was the decision of Celtel Nigeria’s Managing Director, Mr. Bayo Ligali to disregard the objection of some shareholders/directors of the company to pay a sum said to be about $27million (N3.1billion) to acquire a five- year leasehold of a property at Plot 2, Zone L, Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria.

Court documents averred that when Ligali proposed a resolution, at a board meeting, for the company to relocate from its present head office location at Plot1678, Olakunle Bakare Close, Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria, to banana Island property, the proposal was vigorously put to debate with several directors querying the rationale for incurring such an expense. Besides, there were suggestions that it would make more sense and be more prudent for the company to expend such resources in erecting its own head office building rather than expending $27million on renting new premises.

Most of the board members also noted that the lease hold rentals proposed were prohibitively expensive and that the was not conducive. The director insisted that the shareholders who had not received any dividend from the company since inception would not approve of such wasteful expenditure.

Ligali and other representatives of Celtel BV on the board were said to have responded to these arguments against the proposed transaction was that the “Group,” had approved the transaction. By “Group” Ligali and those on his side were referring to the parent company of Celtel BV in Kuwait. The other directors were said to have made it clear that their fiduciary (the responsibility to look after someone else’s money in a correct way) duties were owed to Nigerian law and not to the so called “Group” and that the decisions with regard to the company should be taken in good faith by its board and not by any “Group” outside the company.

As a means of resolving the impasse, Mr. Gamaliel Onosode, Chairman of the board set up a committee of the board to look into the proposed lease transaction. The committee, known as the ad-hoc committee on the new head office building, was made up of four members of the board namely: Mr. Alex Otti (Chairman), Mr. Ligali Ayorinde, Ms Tsega Gebreyes and Mr. Paul Usoro.

The committee was said to have met on several occasions with the management of the company. The committee, in its report to the board, noted the discrepancy in the rents quoted in different documents presented to the board. It (the committee) indicated that while some quoted $1,050 per square meter, others quoted $1, 175 per square metre and yet some other documents had figures like $1,200 and $1,300. A management letter to the ad-hoc committee, in its report, said it considered that taxes were alien to rentals in Nigeria, thus, acting on the objection of the committee, the management came back to it (ad-hoc committee) with rent proposition devoid of the objectionable taxes of $1,050 per square metre. The ad-hoc committee also observed in its report that the proposed rent was out of tune with existing rent in Nigeria market.

What might have persuaded the committee in this regard was the revelation during the course of its investigation that Etisalat, a competitor company who had just set up in Nigeria, bought outrightly a property of over 5, 000 square metres in the same Banana Island at a price of $20.8million just about the same time Celtel’s management were negotiating to rent for five years at about $27million.

Besides, the ad-hoc committee also raised, among other issues, the potential health hazard for the occupants of the building. It is noted that the building is close to high tension wires while also observing that the building has only one lift with a maximum capacity of eight people. This, the committee, considered grossly inadequate.

In its conclusion, the committee submitted that it was unable to give final approval for the lease of the Banana Island property.

Even before the committee submitted its report to the full seating of the board, Ligali was said to have reported that he had the approval of the “Group” to go ahead and pay for the property irrespective of the outcome of the report of the committee. The dissenting directors protested. In a letter dated 7th July, 2008 addressed to Mr. Onosode, chairman of the board, the directors, the dissenting directors alleged that the chairman “clandestinely and in collaboration with other directors proceeded to authorize the acquisition and have since made the payment of a sum of about $27million to cover the purported lease.”

In further protestation of what they describe as failure of corporate governance, the dissenting directors in the letter to the chairman, submitted that they considered the action “to have been both imprudent in gross violation of your fiduciary duties to the company and a diminution and erosion of our personal rights and interest as shareholders of the company.” They then asserted that “the board of directors is the organ entrusted with management of the affairs of the company and no director or group of directors is entitled to deprive that organ of its authority in the manner which you have done.

“The irresistible conclusion to be drawn from your action when viewed against the background of the extensive and negative findings of the committee set up to look into this matter”, the dissenting directors observed in the letter, “is that the decision to proceed with this transaction without waiting for the committee to submit its report and for the board to deliberate upon it was borne out of interest in other than those of the company.”

In the letter to Onosode which is supporting document to the sworn affidavit in the support of the originating summons, the dissenting directors also raised issues on the multiple brand names under which the company operated.

“As you must be aware”, the dissenting director observed in the letter, “the company has operated under four different brand names in its seven years of existence. First it was Econet Wireless Nigeria Limited, and then it was Vodacom Nigeria Limited, Vee Networks Limited and now Celtel Nigeria Limited. When the last re-branding to Celtel Nigeria Limited was mooted, we voted against the proposal on the basis that the acquisition of a majority shareholding in the company by Celtel Nigeria BV was still the subject of legal challenges and that it would be prudent to await the outcome of these challenges before expending resources on another rebranding exercise. Our protestation was ignored.

“Another re-branding has now been proposed at the last board meeting, this time to Zain, the new name of the parent company of Celtel Nigeria BV. Again, we had voted against this proposal and as on the previous occasion we have been outvoted.”

While noting that the benefits, if any, of the re-branding exercise would only ensure to the de facto majority shareholders whereas the burden of the rebranding in terms of costwould have to be shared by all the shareholder, the dissenting directors posited that the company had already changed its identity four times since it commenced business in 2001 and these changes of identity have been detrimental to the company business and confusing to its customers.

For dissenting directors, the cost of the re-branding exercise conducted since the purported acquisition of a majority in the company by Celtel Nigeria BV was disproportionate.

“The cost of re-branding carried out in 2006 was about $30million (N3.4billion) whilst the cost of the proposed re-brand to Zain is estimated at about $28million. All these costs are being incurred by a company that has failed to declare dividend in its seven years of existence,” the dissenting directors noted in the letter to the chairman.

The directors insisted that the current rebranding of Celtel to Zain is for the sole benefit of a shareholder group that is also in control of the technical and administrative management of the company.

They then averred that they considered the instance of the majority shareholders on proceeding with the re-branding to be unfairly prejudicial conduct which has a substantial and negative effect on the majority interest.

“If the majority shareholders feel a strong need to have the company rebranded to communicate its majority control to the public,” the dissenting directors reasoned, “there is no justification for the minority being compelled to share the burden and cost of this personal desire.”

In a veiled response to the allegation of the dissenting director, Ligali, during a chat with journalists made strenuous effort to justify the change of brand name to Zain; “Zain has expanded its network known as One Network 12 countries to 22 countries in both Africa and the Middle East. The 22 countries, according to Ligali, were across Africa and the Middle East thereby enabling the company’s customers in Nigeria to benefit from the globalization of the network.”

While highlighting the benefits of the globalization exercise, Ligali said the cost of operations would begin to go down due to the economies of scale of being a member of a large group.

What the Nigerian law says on protection of minority shareholders against illegal and oppressive conduct

Some of the section of the Company and Allied Matters Act on which the dissenting directors are pleading a redress so as to be protected against illegal and oppressive conducts are sections 300 and 303(1) which state:

Section 300: Without prejudice to the rights of members under sections 303 to 30S and sections 310 to 312 of this Act or other provisions of this Act, the court on the application of any member, may by injunction or declaration restrain the company from the following;

(a) entering into any transaction which is illegal or ultravires;

(b) purporting to do by ordinary resolution any act which by its constitution or the Act requires to be done by special resolution;

(c) any act or omission affecting the applicant’s individual rights as a member;

(d) committing fraud on either the company or the minority shareholders where the directors fail to take appropriate action to redress the wrong done;

(e) where a company meeting cannot be called in time to be of practical use in redressing a wrong done to the company or to minority shareholders; and

(f) where the directors are likely to benefit, or have profited or negligent or from their breach of duty.

Section 303(1): Subject to the provisions of subsection (2) of this section, an applicant may apply to the court for leave to bring an action in the name or on behalf of a company, or to intervene in an action in which the company is a party, for the purpose of prosecuting, defending or discontinuing the action on behalf of the company.

MIXED FEELINGS OVER JIMOH IBRAHIM’s NATIONAL HONOUR

The intention of the Federal Government to honour controversial lawyer cum businessman, has come under heavy criticism by Nigerians.

It is being echoed that Ibrahim’s lifestyle and his debt ridden business status alongside other controversial and unresolved issues, do not present him as the best worthy to be honoured.

The belief is rife that Ibrahim is nominated for this award because he was a ready catalyst to discredit the Obasanjo administration as well as be positioned as ‘government friendly business ally.’

A few, however, consider him most suitable for this honour, as one from humble background who shook off the mud to be considered relevant for courting by banks, who have strongly backed virtually all his initiatives financially.

Another vital factor is the age advantage. In his early 40’s, he has embarked on gargantuan projects in the nine figure range.

His investments span hospitality, insurance, oil and gas, human capital development, real estate, etc.

…ACQUIRES 500POUNDS HOTEL IN LONDON

Words filtering in as at press time reveal that Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim is on a spending spree once again. He is said to be on the verge of acquiring Cumberland Hotel, Central London, in the United Kingdom. Details are still sketchy, but his business history shows his flair for hospitality business.

Prior to this Cumberland Hotel purchase, he has in his kitty Nicon Hotel, Ajuba, Hilton Hotel, Lagos, among others.

It is yet to be clarified which financial institutions provided the back up for the acquisition of the said hotel.

Former Wema Assets MD Arrested

The calm that pervades the banking hall of Wema Bank was rustled last week when Mr. Bayo Ogundipe, former President of Wema Asset Management Limited, a subsidiary of Wema Bank was, according to Proshare NI, arrested.

A source close to Proshare NI confirmed that Ogundipe moved to and detained at the Special Fraud Unit (SFU) at Milverton Road, Ikoyi in Lagos, Nigeria.

The source further confirmed to Proshare NI that Ogundipe was held over an alleged fraud of about N1.0 billion perpetrated during his tenure as the Chief Executive at Wema Asset.

Wema Asset had traded as the Trustee and Corporate Finance Division of Wema Bank, and subsequently as Investment Banking, Corporate Finance and Asset Management division under Adebisi Omoyeni, the erstwhile Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Bank.

However, Proshare NI could not gather more details on this, and as at the time of filling in this report, it could not also confirm the true situation from SFU as regards the arrest of Ogundipe.

CRUSADER INSURANCE…

Kia Picanto: Girls, Girls and Girls

Imagine driving along one of the most spectacular ocean roads in Lagos; the 3rd Mainland Bridge: a bridge that links the Lagos Mainland to the high rise strewn section of the Centre of Excellence. When there is no traffic snarl on the bridge the scenery can be charming but the experience won’t be complete if you are not driving a Kia Picanto mini-car.

The 4 cylinder SOHC mini, housing 12 valves in its brain, takes the speed with an equated horse power of 61bhp at 5, 600 revolutions in one minute having a force of 836.3Nm to create a motion at 2900rpm. Having its 0-60mph pegged at 16.4 second, the engine really needs to be worked hard at, for overtaking or entering motorways from sliproads is a leap of faith. Although, this type of engine makes the 1.1-litre Picanto economical and nimble having 55.5mpg as its combined figure, the engine needs to be worked hard to maintain motorway cruise.

Aside creating a petite impression, it’s pleasing to know that the car comes with pleasantries that come with big cars; talking of the power steering, remote central locking and an alarm. Only at speed are some deficiencies in the Picanto’s chassis displayed; too much body roll and vague steering means it’s not up with the class leaders.

By being selfish in giving out all the goodies, I mean, withholding one which I am not quiet sure if it is an advantage or disadvantage. Or better still, maybe, I should call it an incomplete evolution of the mini, even though Kia PR department thinks otherwise, is the rationality of having just the front windows automatic, while leaving the back one manual.

It’s a pleasurable ride though when it comes to handling of the petite machine. It’s quite a worthy carrier to get around town with, especially, in the Lagos ever busy traffic laden roads. The ride is good, and it’s small enough to slip through gaps in traffic. Besides, the mini is one of the easiest to park vehicles, even when the park is filled!

Don’t be deceived by the exterior smallish size. Kia’s last born has an interior ambience for the tallest occupant. The volume of the boot supports a 220 litre of luggage though the shape compromised the amount that could be squeezed in, but gives you 800 litres of room with the seats folded.

The spec model you want determines what your Picanto offers, from alloy wheels, steel wheels, Instant Mobility system (TIS), CD & MP3 players, 4 speaker system, AUX, USB & iPod port (inc connecting cable) and so much more.

However, the little beauty doesn’t come without its own disadvantages, but if you are hooked with the price tag, then, other shortcomings could be forgiven. Unusual of a mini, the Picanto doesn’t have a spare; instead, it comes with TIS which is essentially a bottle of resin and a compressor to patch the tyre up to get you home. The minus is that the tyre can’t be repaired, but must be replaced. Do you still think it’s cheap!

In terms of reliability, the hatchback still enjoys the parent’s reputation in building the most reliable cars. Baby Picanto feels more solid than some other cars in its class, the build quality seems good. But with a clause on safety, the Picanto did badly in the crash test, only doing just enough to merit its three star rating. However, it is a big relief that the child occupant is well protected, where the parents are not too lucky, and also scoring poor in the pedestrians protection. The Picanto comes with ABS and two front air bags as standard, so it meets the standard you expect of a car this price

But, all in all, everything about the car speaks girls, girls, and girls! If nothing else, Kia Motors wins their hearts. With a name like Picanto, derived from the French word ‘piquant’ meaning ‘spicy’ and ‘Canto’ meaning ‘song,’ I might not be too off the mark if I say it is a great little car for them girls!