By Paul Okene
HER death on July 26th, 2013 took her loved ones, members of her immediate and larger family by surprise and left everybody downcast. Tears flowed! Those who witnessed her burial ceremony when she was lowered to the grave at her compound in Kokori knew that a great woman departed this world. And four years after her demise, we are still recovering from the shock of her unexpected departure.
Chief (Mrs.) Mary Omafuakpore Agbonifo was born into the family of Chief Ogogo Ogbevire of Urhuokpe Quarters and Madam Iroroevu Ogbevire (Nee Akpojotor) of Ekrudu Quarters; both of Kokori Town in Ethiope East LGA Delta State.
She started her primary school education at Baptist Primary School, Samagidi-Kokori and then to Cavegina Catholic Primary School, Okere and completed her primary education at Girls School Igbudu-Warri. After her Standard School Education, Mary was basically literate and thus, adequately prepared to take on the prospects/challenges of the next level. She followed her heart and got married in 1952 to Chief Johnson Jebimiye Okene of Eku, in Agbon Kingdom.
In 1962, Chief Mrs. Agbonifo started the buying and hawking of frozen fish around Eku town and did eventually developed to the level of a Sub-Distributor at the Warri main depot of the Ibru Sea Foods- covering Eku, Kokori, Oha, Abraka, Umutu, Obiaruku and environs. Through her proven track record, Ibru Sea foods gave her a wooden Coldroom at Eku, to promptly meet the needs of the Retailers and Consumers. Right from then, her volume and turnover grew in leaps and bounds.
As mentioned earlier, Chief (Mrs.) Agbonifo’s business empire was now getting too big for her already choked-up territory, Eku and environs. She took a bold step and relocated her headquarters to Warri City, to keep abreast with the ever-dynamic times. She first cited her Big Cold Store at the popular Igbudu Market. As the business increased in size, she registered JOMA Frozen Foods Products Limited.
Indeed moving over to Warri was divine for Chief (Mrs.) Mary Omafuakpore Agbonifo and her family. This was because various lofty business opportunities beckoned on her to make a choice. A Gifted Woman with the Midas touch and one Destined for greatness, she sought the face of God and He led her aright in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) segment; Transport; Real Estate; Oil & Gas (Downstream); Imports of Frozen Sea Foods; etc. These respective sectors metamorphosed into Mega Business through mutual beneficial transactions with reputable Multinational Conglomerates.
Chief (Mrs.) Agbonifo registered separate and distinct companies with the Corporate Affairs Commission to transact business exclusively with each of these esteemed Conglomerates; for accountability, dedication and focus: In FMCG segment, her Magulf Global Company transacts with Nigerian Breweries Plc. Also in the FMCG segment, another of her company, Omovo Nigeria Limited, deals exclusively with Guinness Plc. Malco Limited is the transport arm, co-founded with her husband, Chief Godspower Agbonifo and was specifically registered to complement the FMCG business for prompt haulage of their products, to Distributors and Retail Out-lets across the country. Magulf Fishing Company is involved in the importation of Frozen Sea Foods from overseas, aside from huge purchases within Nigeria from Ibru Sea Foods; Mosheshe Fisheries; Fiogret Limited etc. In Oil & Gas, she established Magson Filling Stations, to meet the daily needs of commuters (petrol and diesel) as well as (kerosene for home use). Her Malco Trucks are always able to deliver products across the country.
In Real Estate, she doggedly went into this segment purposely to save emormous costs of renting properties for her Mega Businesses. Therefore she bought and also built Vast Estates, Guest Houses, Shopping Complexes and Massive Warehouses, master cold rooms in Warri and Port Harcourt. Choice houses in Warri, Port Harcourt, Lagos, United Kingdom and United States of America.
Chief (Mrs.) Agbonifo in her life time was a colossus and she was deservedly sought after and given numerous awards across board for distinguishing herself meritoriously.
Her surviving children, Paul Okene; Efe Okene; Andrew Okene; Godwin Okene; Ochuko Okene; Juliet Agbonifo; Vivian Agbonifo; many grand children; brothers; sisters; Nieces; Nephews will always miss her but we take solace in the enviable legacies she left behind.
May her soul continue to rest in perfect. peace.
*Mr. Paul Okene wrote on behalf of children and family from Warri, Delta State.