By Adekunle Adekoya
AS far as human resources is concerned, Nigeria is blessed, what with a plethora of acclaimed achievers in almost any field one can think of — academia, medicine, law, banking, telecommunications and business, generally.
It thus becomes a nerve-wracking exercise when there is a call to choose that single individual that qualifies to be named Vanguard’s BusinessMan of the Year. Occasionally it is not difficult; sometimes the nominee just presents himself/herself, while at other times, a galaxy of superlative performers in the business arena presents itself and it then becomes tasking to choose which star among others in the galaxy to be so named.
This year, among countless stars in the galaxy, it also wasn’t easy choosing one, but given the spectre of rising unemployment as a result of divestments, factory closures, forex crisis and other economic woes, it was extremely heart-warming to note that a few businessmen, rather than recoil into their safe havens while the storm raged, chose to brave the headwinds by investing more in the country.
One such personality is Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo. Just in March 2016, in a move seen to be in alignment with government’s bid to diversify the nation’s economy, this quiet, near-taciturn businessman packaged a N150 billion (US$750 million) agro-enterprise, named Wells Sam Carlos Farm, a 9,000-hectare concern, in Edo, his home state. The farm will provide 25,000 direct jobs and 60,000 indirect jobs. This is besides a 20-hectare greenhouse, (by the Benin by-pass) also in Edo, calibrated to produce 600 tonnes of vegetables monthly. Between the agro-enterprises and the companies he owns, Captain Hosa, as he is fondly called, is responsible directly for the employment of no less than 30,000 Nigerians. If his interests in other companies are factored-in, Captain Hosa’s businesses have brought no less than 100,000 jobs in the last 30 years.
A man of humble beginnings, Idahosa Wells Okunbo was born in Benin to the family of late Reverend Robert Amos Okunbo, a clergyman and teacher. Young Hosa attended Government Primary School in Benin City, after which he proceeded to Federal Government College, Warri. As a youngster he had always wanted to be a pilot, and followed up this desire when he went to study at the Nigerian Civil Aviation Training Centre, in Zaria, becoming a professional commercial pilot at the age of 21 after graduation. He later attended ACME School of Aeronautics, Fort Worth, Texas, in 1983, where he obtained Airline Transport Pilot License.
At the age of 25, he became a flight captain, flying with Intercontinental Airlines for about two years. In 1985, he joined Okada Airlines, from where he retired from active flying in 1988 at the age of 30, after logging over 7,000 hours in flying time.
It was at this point that his business trajectory took off with the establishment of Hoslyn Ventures Nigeria Limited, a procurement firm operating in the oil sector. Hoslyn Ventures is an indigenous oilfield service firm that was responsible for the Early Production Facility (EPF) project at NNPC/NPDC, between 1998 and 2001. Recently, in his determination to help the nation solve the problem of crude supply to the Port Harcourt refinery, Captain Hosa’s firm built an underground 46 km supply pipeline which eliminates crude theft between platforms and the refinery in Port Harcout.
According to information available on the portal of one of his companies, Captain Hosa is also chairman of the following companies
- PPP Fluid Mechanics Limited, a crude oil logistics company
- OMS Tankers Ltd, owners of the first indigenous marine tankers in Nigeria;
- Westminster Security Solutions Limited, a franchise of Westminster Group Plc UK.
- Wells Habitat Limited, a company partnering the Abuja Environmental Protection Agency
- Hoslyn Habitat Limited, a foremost design, construction and landscaping company
- Wells Property Development Company Limited, involved in the development of affordable properties/offices
- Gyro Air Limited, operators of charter flight operations
In addition to these, he is a director with substantial interests in the underlisted companies
- Joint Marine Environ Guard Ltd (JMEG),
- Secure Anchorage Area Limited (SAA)
- Digisteel Integrated Services Ltd
- Integrated Energy Distribution and Marketing Limited (IEDM), core investor in Ibadan and Yola Electricity Distribution Companies, and
- Phil Nugent Nigeria Limited.
Of his latest, endeavour, Wells Sam Carlos Farms, which at take-off is projected to provide 25,000 direct and 60,000 indirect jobs, Captain Hosa says:
“This is what I call my vision, what I call my legacy, something that has been in my dreams for some time. I have been nurturing it, working on it for over five years now. We have just started. This is very important to me because at my very young age, as a pilot, I conquered my profession at the age of 30 and I left. I went into business and by the grace of God, I have done well. With over 60 vessels in the seas, I think I have conquered the sea. And coming to land, I said that before the land takes me, I want to conquer the land. I have started already with a 20-hectare green house at the bypass.”
This is just a peep into the business life of Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo, pilot, businessman, philanthropist. For these giant strides in business, especially job creation, he is Vanguard’s 2016 BusinessMan of the Year. More about him will be unveiled at the investiture ceremony.