…Says she made N1.6bn for FG
By Ebunoluwa Sessou
Lucy Omosefe Ajayi is the immediate past Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Lagos International Trade Fair Complex, LITFC, Management Board. She served as the ED for four years and was able to turn the face of the Trade fair around from what it used to be. In this interview, she took WO round her life in the Trade fair, travails, experience and how she was able to make N1.6bn for the federal government.
You just buried your dad recently, how do you feel?
I am very happy and thankful to God that I was able to give my father befitting burial. Though it is painful losing him because he is still very strong, agile and full of life but I think God loved him the most and has a good reason for taking him to his side.
The event also signals your successful completion of a-4-year tenure as ED Lagos International Trade fair. Can you let us into what the experience was like holding forte in an area where men held sway?
I was appointed in 2017 and this year, 2021, I have successfully completed the tenure. I thank God for good health and grace of God to have served as a public servant.
My assignment in office started with the task to reposition the Trade fair complex. Eight months after the appointment, I was able to repossess my office. The doubt by many was that, I will not be able to end my tenure well because I drove out a fury litigant.
That is the word that was used for the other concessionaire, but we thank God that I have added value to the trade fair. I believe I have written my name in gold and there is no story of trade fair that would be told without the mention of the name Lucy Ajayi. That is one landmark I wanted to really make.
I am also thanking God that He is taking me higher. The truth is that, my second appointment is still running, that is prerogative of mercy which means I am still in the system. So I don’t think I have done badly, that informs my gratitude to God that I finished well, some did not, some died, some were suspended, some were sacked, some were sick but I am thankful to God because none of those vices happened to me.
Will you say your set targets as trade fair Boss had been met?
Some have been met fully and some 90 percent.
Can you expatiate on those areas?
There were lots of rehabilitations that took place including the administrative block, repossessing of some areas that were already occupied by trader. We had fully taken over construction of the bridge. We had taken over the 100 chalet motel, although not in full operation and rehabilitation of roads. I did almost three quarter before I left and the final one is in progress because I have already signed out the 5km road to the Chinese Company CCECC and the construction is in phases.
Two phases have been successfully completed and they are on the third phase which is dependent on the last year’s budget.
The fourth phase according to the Chinese’s report will be done based on this year’s budget.
I am sure by the time they complete the fifth phase, the 5km road construction would have been rehabilitated. Over the years the trade fair has never felt the impact of governance, but thank God, they have the feel of governance through me.
There were lots of training and re-training for our staff members amidst the meagre overhead that we receive, I think I have done well within three and half years. Although, I spent eight months of my tenure in Abuja. I took possession after eight months so all these were done within three years and few months.
How was it like taking charge at the trade fair?
It was a great experience. I have never been trained neither have I had an appointment as a C.E.O of a market before. But, when the appointment came, people called it federal agency but I saw it as running a market, because the concessionaire had already changed it from its original structure which is trade fair to a market and we are trying to bring back the glory and sanity.
Though that was not easy because the concessionaire had held sway for several years and it can’t take just three and a half years to restore sanity but I tell you the stakeholders are really awesome.
They show understanding and they are only protecting their business and trying to obey the government’s Laws and policies.
Holding sway in an environment where the men have the commanding heights how was it like?
It takes God’s grace; I can’t say how it happened. Trade fair was not the only place I worked. I had worked in different environment where men predominately occupied. I remember in Kosofe local government we had five local government chairmanship aspirants and after the primaries and congresses, I was the only woman standing. Every other element chicken out. In the federal constituency, I was the only female local government chairman at the end of the day in CPC though it was tough.
Many petitions were written against me questioning my position yet, I scaled through. When the merger came up, out of the 18 member committee that Buhari instituted, I was the only woman. The petitions were so much, yet, I am still standing. Perhaps, I was dragging what seemingly for men. I am grateful to God and President Mohammadu Buhari who spotted me and gave me a chance.
I was thought I was coming to a corporate environment but I became a market woman because you to feel their pains and gains, manage them as well before bringing government policy and make it as friendly much as possible.
Does that mean there were no challenges?
There were trials but most times I do not look at the challenges, maybe that is why I could pull through. Rather than looking at the challenges, I see solution and how to address issues appropriately. Many times I have received distress calls on fire accident; yet, we were able to pull through. Maybe the feminine aspect of my life played out. Just take it or leave it women bring their warmth into every situation, if you have a committee without a woman I feel it is going to be very strict, even at the merger when the men are quarrelling I used to beg them, I was like a tea girl to all of them, they were like my fathers too and when you give them respect I think it is reciprocal.
After the trade fair, what next?
I’m back to active politics, they have been waiting for me anyway, I have not been attending meetings, the campaign is coming up, and we have another election in 2023 so we are in 2021. We had the primaries and congresses, I wasn’t part of the primaries then because of my father’s burial, so if I am not in a paid job or employment I am doing my business and politics, I’m a full time politician.
So I am going back to politics while my other appointment is still running. That is the prerogative of mercy, I am also part of the correctional committee visiting the correctional centres in prisons to collate names for federal government pardon, we went round the whole facilities in 2018/2019 and Ambrose Alli was part of those that were pardoned. Although, COVID-19 halted the activities but we are back on track.
…And giving back to your community?
I am already part of Kosofe, you can’t take me out of Kosofe, and I’m saying we had our local government primaries, I was fully on ground. But, right now, I have time for active politics and myself and family, I have time for my friends too, my grassroots politics and then my business.
Have you ever engaged your community through an NGO before?
The Lucy Ambassadors is on ground and we use the platform to empower youths and women as well as create opportunity for employment.
What is your view on the incessant insecurity in Nigeria especially as you are part of the ruling party?
It is about unemployment. This government is trying to reduce unemployment to its barest minimum. Unemployment didn’t start with this administration, it started before and there are no Infrastructure that were created, no job opportunities in time past. In any country you have Infrastructural developments it means some people are gainfully employed, since I entered politics not because I am in APC now, I haven’t seen much Infrastructure as I’m seeing now.
Right now, the level of road rehabilitation in this administration cannot be over-emphasised. I am sure that the construction will last for a longtime.
Unfortunately, it is only Nigeria that is experiencing this economic issue, it is all over the world and the truth is that, this administration inherited the dearth of all these. So trying to make up for the arrears and then coming to meet your target is not going to be easy, I am sure that this government felt that as soon as it gets into power, things would around, but we were shocked at what we met.
For example in the Trade Fair, starting from arrears rather than starting from on a new leaf was a big deal. The concessionaire left nothing so you have to go back to take care of the past like me I had so many inherited litigations but if I didn’t meet litigations, probably, I would have done better.
I made the sum of N1.6bn for federal government at least in three years and prior to that time the few stakeholders that were very magnanimous with their payments could only turn in 44million, that was what the government was making per annum then all because the stakeholders felt it is better for them to pay to the federal government rather than pay to the concessionaire the records are there, it was 44million.
I would have however done much better if the structure was already in place, also if we are not thinking of concessioning the place again because that is causing a lot of misunderstandings and some things lying fallow. The mini stadium is there, the halls are there and the motel. If the new administration can consider Public-private partnership, PPP arrangement, it will make more money.
How would you advice women who are passionate about impacting their environment positively?
Every woman out there should not be discouraged or distracted because that is the first thing people will do to you. They would distract and discourage you, even threaten you out of your jobs. I have been threatened, so many times. The only thing I say to myself is to be focused and determined. No threat will work deter you from your ambition. Let us just be steadfast and put God first.