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Successful Entrepreneurs in Nigeria – Their First Jobs (Part 12)

There are a number of Nigerians who belong to the category of rag to riches entrepreneurs, having started with nothing, but walked their ways through turbulent waters, breaking barriers to attain success. Emmanuel Isichei Ugochukwu Ojei and Alhaji Umaru Abdul Mutallab are billionaire entrepreneurs who exemplify this. They fittingly personify courage, vision, hard work, as well as sturdiness.

Alhaji Umaru Abdul Mutallab – Office Clerk

Alhaji Umaru Abdul Mutallab is a Nigerian business mogul. He was born on 15 December 1939. He is a Nigerian businessman and financier, who served under the military governments of General Murtala Mohammed and Olusegun Obasanjo.

Mutallab has been described by New York Times as “among Nigeria’s richest and most prominent men”, which the Guardian echoed when it averred that he was “one of the country’s most respected businessmen”. The Telegraph also described him as “one of Nigeria’s most prominent bankers”. His father was an officer with the Funtua works department.

Mutallab attended Barewa College, Zaria and went on to Achimota College, Accra, Ghana. He also attended South West London College in England. A recipient of an honorary doctorate degree from Obafemi Awolowo University, Alhaji Umaru Abdul Mutallab is one man who steadfastly worked his way up the ranks. He started his rise to prominence working as a clerk with Pannell, Fitzpatrick and Company, in Kaduna.

He then travelled for further studies, returning to Nigeria in 1968, when he was appointed Chief Accountant of the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria. In 1971, he became the financial controller of the New Nigerian Development Company in Kaduna, before becoming the company’s General Manager in 1975.

Alhaji Umaru Abdul Mutallab is indeed one man who has occupied the leadership position of many prominent organisations. He once served as the Chairman of First Bank of Nigeria between 1999 and 2009. He also served on the boards of many companies like the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), Arewa Textile Limited, National Communications Commission (NCC), Agip Oil, Cement Company of Nigeria, among others.

Mutallab was the president of Barewa College’s Old Boys Association, and is a fellow of both the FCCA and FCA. He has also served as the Executive Deputy Chairman of the United Bank for Africa.

All his hard work has not gone unnoticed either. He is a recipient of the national honour of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON).

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Muttallab played a major role in introducing Islamic banking into Nigeria, and he is the chairman of Nigeria’s first Islamic bank, Jaiz Bank International Plc, which was established in 2003. He is equally a major shareholder in Barade Holdings, and Barumark Investment and Development Company.

Abdul Mutallab has also been conferred with the Fellowship of both the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) of the UK, and the Institute of International Bankers Association (FIBA) of the United States of America.

Dr. Emmanuel Isichei Ugochukwu Ojei – Sales Executive

Nuel Ojei as he is fondly called has been able to build a conglomerate that has made him a major employer of labour in the Nigerian economy. He sits atop a group of company with diverse interests cutting across major lucrative sectors of the economy. He is the Executive Chairman/Group Managing Director of Nuel Ojei Holdings.

Ojei is one investor with a very tall ambition. Discerning, methodical and astute, he braced all odds to become a top-notch player in diverse sectors of the economy. His scope of activities remains diverse and includes construction, banking, importation, sales and services of choice motor vehicles, oil and gas. He has also remained a major beneficiary of juicy public and private sector contracts over the years.

Born in Lagos in 1951, Ojei had his early education in Lagos before proceeding to Issele-Uku Technical College, Issele-Uku, Delta State for his higher education where he obtained an Ordinary National Diploma (OND) in Business Administration and Management, between 1970 and 1972.

Barely a year after completing his OND programme, Ojei, in 1973, joined the services of Rutam Motors Limited (a part of the Ibru Organization), as a Sales Executive. He was a Sales Manager when he left in 1976 to establish his own automobile workshop business. This was an idea he was said to have dreamt about, while he was with Rutam Motors.

Less than one year after he left Rutam Motors to establish his own business, Ojei could not find his feet so had to beat a quick retreat to paid employment.

In March 1977, he ventured out again this time into the insurance industry, working with Unity Kapital Assurance Plc, where he later became a director.

As business blossomed, Nuel Ojei felt the compelling need to restructure and harmonise his various business interests into one dynamic group, thus leading to the incorporation of Nuel Ojei Holdings Limited (NOH) in 1989.

Now after three decades, NOH has rapidly evolved as a behemoth in the Nigerian business landscape. The Group has over 10 business units and associate companies and maintains a highly diversified investment platform with tentacles in automobile, banking, insurance, oil and gas, solid minerals, energy and telecommunications among others.

In association with a vast network of reputable technical partners overseas, NOH has been involved in the execution of a number of technology-driven, high-end projects in the areas of power and energy, aviation, safety and security, shipping and shipbuilding, oil and gas, among others.

The Group has carved a niche for itself as a foremost private indigenous conglomerate, combining a crack team of about 200 highly experienced expatriate in its workforce.

Notably among the subsidiaries of NOH is Nuel Auto Distributors Limited (NAD), the automobile business unit of the group which was incorporated in 1981 as a sole representative of Mazda Motor Corporation, Japan.

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In addition, in November 2008, NAD also entered into an agreement with Weststar Associates Limited – sole representative of Mercedes — Benz in Nigeria to operate the authorised workshop and dealer of Mercedes-Benz products in the country.

With over a decade’s operational experience in the automobile business, NAD has emerged as a major player in Nigeria through immense contribution to the development of the nation’s transport sector.

Another company making waves under the group is the Emo Oil and Petrochemical Company Limited (Emo Oil). The company serves as the local content vehicles in oil exploration, exploitation, and production of crude oil; crude lifting, petroleum products importation/exportation, consultancy for gas and pipeline integrity projects.

A man of many parts, Ojei is also on the board of many companies and organisations. He is an advisory board member of the Economic Growth and Development Centre (EGDC). The EGDC is a non-governmental organisation, committed to achieving the goals of speeding economic development and eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. In recognition of his business acumen, he was awarded a Doctorate Degree in Business Administration by Delta State University, Abraka.