Born to poor parenst in a family of about 17 siblings, Jimoh Ibrahim is today the most inspiring Businessman in Nigeria, and possibly in the world.
Inspiring in that he loves urging people to do what he did-which is a near overnight success.
Officail story is that he made his first millions while studying law at O.A.U when he ran seminars for all local governments on taxation.
He came into the limelight in 2002/2003 when he contested for the Governorship post in Ondo State on the platform of the ANPP.
After that he quite politics, and started Global Fleet-a petroleum marketing company. His strategy was to acquire rather than build-so he acqires filling stations, instead of building from scratch.As of this month, he has over 250 of such stations and recently he got licenced as an Independent Marketer.
He also in the last 1 year bought Great Nigeria Insurance-sold it for profit, then bought Nigeria's number 1 Insurance firm-NICON.
He also bought EAS Airlines and renamed it NICON Airlines. And bought the Meidan Hotel in Lekki-renaming it NICON Hotel.
He equally has a furniture making company in VGC that brings in income in the hundreds of millions.
His rapid expansion is traced to his ability to borrow from banks and PAY ON TIME-indeed faster than they expect, so banks are eager to lend him.
His worth: cant say-but he controls assest and businesses worth over 100 Billion Naira.
He delivers free lectures through City People on how Nigerians can start from nothing to make millions in any business.It usually holds once a month at Excellence Hotel, Ogba.
Jimoh Ibrahim to me is the present and future of Nigerian Business.
He recently clocked 40 years and is married with children.
Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim attended Obafemi Awolowo university where he obtained the Bachelor of Law degree, and, subsequently, the Masters degree in Public Administration (with Distinction). Thereafter, he attended the prestigious Harvard University , Massachusetts , USA and obtained a combined Masters degree in Law and International Tax. He was called to the Nigerian Bar as Solicitor and Advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Barr. Jimoh Ibrahim was the Best Student (International Law) at the LL.B Final class, 1991. He was also Best Student in the following courses at Masters degree level: Analysis & Decision Making,
Advanced Public Administration, Local Government Administration & Management, Ethics & Accountability in Administration,
Best Masters Project Dissertation, Management of Intergovernmental relations and Urban & Rural Development Administration.
Barr. Jimoh Ibrahim has a rich experience in Tax Administration, Tax Reform and Financial Management. At one time, he was appointed as the Chief Consultant to the Federal Government of Nigeria on Petroleum Tax Payment, Collection and Monitoring; member, Federation Accounts Allocation Committee, and Chairman, Special Committee of the Federation Accounts.
At another time, he was a Consultant to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tax Reforms in Croatia and Lithuania; Consultant to the Federal Government of Nigeria on Value Added Tax (VAT); a key member of the team that designed Tax Reform for the state of Bangladesh; Head of the Nigerian delegation to the United Nations Conference on “Governance & Public Administration” held in Hong-Kong in 1994.
Jimoh Ibrahim was the Commonwealth of Nations Delegate to the United Arab Emirate, to attend the International convention on Governance and Public Administration, at the invitation of the Commonwealth.
An astute, forward-looking and development-focused politician, Barr Ibrahim was a member: National Board of Trustee of the All Nigeria People's Party (ANPP); National Legal Adviser; Member, Finance Committee; Member Publicity Committee, and Vice-Chairman, Presidential Inner caucus, as well as the Party's Governorship candidate in Ondo state of Nigeria during the 2003 general elections.
Barr Jimoh Ibrahim was the Executive Secretary, African Center for Policy Studies, a policy analysis and capacity building institution. He was the Coordinator of, and key Resource person at, the First National Conference of Permanent Secretaries and the first Annual Conference of Directors in Public service.
Jimoh Ibrahim, less than two (2) years ago, set up the Global Fleet Oil & Gas, a downstream company, which remains a point of study to management and financial development in many places. He started the company with three (3) filling stations, which, in eighteen (18) months, increased to 156 stations that are spread across, predominantly, in the rural areas of Kaduna , Abuja Ondo, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Kogi, Kwara and Edo states of Nigeria . The essence being to help in rural development and make essential products like Kerosene available to the poor, so they can appreciate the deregulation policy of the federal Government of Nigeria. From a workforce of 26 at inception, it is now 4,017 Nigerians.
Before Ibrahim established Global Fleet Oil & Gas Ltd in 2003 and assumed responsibility as the CEO, he practiced Law as a Solicitor and Advocate. A prolific writer, he has authored three (3) books: Indigenous Governances in Nigeria and a 2-volume biography on Hon Justice Mohammed Bello, a former Chief Justice of Nigeria.
Barr Jimoh Ibrahim is also currently the GCEO, NICON Group of Companies ; Member, Board of Directors, Great Nigeria Insurance (GNI) PLC, as well as Sub-Chairman, Claim Payment & Finance of GNI PLC.
Barr Ibrahim is a renowned philanthropist of note, awarding 500 scholarships to Ondo state indigenes in Higher institutions in 2000 & 2001;he likewise awarded 500 scholarships to Ondo and Ekiti state indigenes in Higher institutions in 2002.This is in addition to 54 scholarships awarded to the people of Ilaje-Odo, Okitipupa Local Government in 1994.
Barr Jimoh Ibrahim is a model, an orator and an encouragement to the younger generation.
Young Jimoh Ibrahim recently turned 39, having been born on February 24, 1967. He is happily married and blessed with four (4) lovely children.
Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim
Written by Shola Adeola
Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim is a well known name in business circles as a successful young man who has carved a niche for himself in areas he has ventured into. Recently, he acquired Virgin Nigeria which was established in 2004 under former President Olusegun Obasanjo to replace the defunct national carrier, Nigeria Airways. Virgin Nigeria, which was floated on behalf of the Federal Government by Virgin Atlantic as a core technical partner, was owned 51 per cent by Nigerian core investors while the remaining 49 per cent went to the Virgin Group. Despite the mixed reactions that have greeted the take over of the airline, Ibrahim, in this interview, allays such fears even as he spoke with Shola Adekola on his plans to reposition the flag carrier and make it financially viable. Excerpts.
Why did you acquire Virgin Nigeria?
I must thank you very much for your question. Let me say one thing in fairness, the deal for Virgin Nigeria had been on since 2009, but you know it’s not every deal that you put on the pages of newspapers when you are yet to conclude. In that very year 2009, if I had wanted to make NICON to be flying with all the aircraft, we would have done so. We felt that let us quickly look at this deal, and then we can have a merger later and we can then move on. But if I had made up my mind and said we don’t want Virgin Nigeria, let me use the money for NICON Airways, may be that would have been a different thing, may be also we would not have issues with NICON. The Virgin deal started in 2009, and it went from back and forth till it closed in 2010, some time in April, last Friday.
Two things are very key in the Virgin Nigeria deal. First, we as a nation must continue to show the capacity that we can do it. Agreed that Richard Branson came with this brand to Nigeria and things are going back and Branson walked out with the MD, the CEO, and the CFO and technical officers in a day. Is it that we don’t have the personnel, entrepreneur that can do it? This is why I said we should conclude once and for all this matter. Coming to my major plan; my immediate plan is to stabilise the airline with seven aircrafts, and we will achieve this very shortly. What we want to do is actually stabilise it at seven and from there move to 17, and after that we start the international route. Our immediate plan is to get the local market right, get the regional market right and then from there, we move on to the international routes. Our long term plan is to make the good and take it back to Nigerians who are the owners, just like all our companies that we have acquired in the past and then take it to the stock exchange and make Nigerians to be proud owners of a good airline.
Are you going to change the name of Virgin Nigeria?
Well, of course, there will be a name change, that can never be ruled out. There will be a name change and the name change will reflect the integrity of our nation. I am not too far away from the name change, and I am sure its in a matter of days.
Where are we now as regards NICON Airways and the fear that Virgin Nigeria may go the way of NICON?
I don’t think anybody should have any fear, that fear is your own fear, your self-created fear. If anybody has run any company well in this country, I think by the grace of God, I am number one and this is not the first company we have bought. We have never had a company that died in our hands.
First, we took NICON; it survived, its now in Sao Tome and Principe. We picked Nigerian rail, and you didn’t know that Nigerian rail was taken away by the National Assembly Act. Today, it is surviving, we picked Le Meridien hotel, where we had snakes and cobras staying in. They were using snake powder to bring them out; today, we have the American Embassy office inside Le Meridien hotels. That shows you how far we have gone in turning it around. We picked 110 petrol stations that we bought from people. We never built them; all the fuel stations are selling fuel today. We picked up VGC from the former HSC owners, it has been turned around today, and the hotel is there today running very well. The industry there where they produce chairs, today they are made by our factory. We picked this building from NDIC. All the area boys of Marina were living here before, but you can see how it looks now. We have been turning around corporations. One of the areas where we have respect among the youth is the ability to turn around companies. Let me tell you, some interesting companies, I don’t want to mention their names, had even been talking to us to see how we could rescue them in management plan. So, what is in Virgin Nigeria to turn around for us? I don’t see anybody expressing fears. Rather from the report I got yesterday, all flights were fully booked. Infact on Sunday, they were double booked. So, I want to thank Nigerians for the tremendous support that they are giving to us. They believe in our capacity above all. If it was when Virgin Nigeria was being run by Richard Branson, could you have an interview like this with him?
On the issue of Virgin brand and the controversy that trailed the use which reportedly cost the airline N1 billion annually for using the brand. This led to name change to Nigerian Eagle, what airline did you actually buy?
We bought Virgin Nigeria, there was nothing called Nigeria Eagle that we bought. Am I so stupid? I am a lawyer, common, give that to me. I am Harvard and University of Ife trained. Am I going to buy Nigeria Eagle, I bought Virgin Nigeria (brandishing a certified true copy of the certificate) and I got original shares certificate of Virgin Nigeria. So, I don’t know what Virgin is talking about. We are not paying any thing to anybody to have the Virgin brand. Is Virgin Nigeria a brand (general laughter of disapproval)? I don’t have issues with Virgin Nigeria. You know me critically, if I buy any foreign company, forget about brand or no brand, whatever the brand, I will change it to reflect Nigerian name. So that is me. Even if Virgin gives me its brand for free, I will not take it, I will still use my local name.
What plans do you have in place for repositioning this airline and its survival and workers future?
Thanks for your concern and we appreciate it. Don’t worry, we will survive. I don’t think there will be problem at all. I am aware that the airline is much on highly expensive. I know what it is; I have enough of experience to turn around the airline quickly. Normally, turn around takes two years and I implore all of you to join in the turn around, so that you can see things and educate yourself. In the case of Virgin Nigeria; from the diagnosis I have seen, may be in less than one year, we would have been through with the turn around.
Considering the sensitivity of aviation industry, why could you not achieve your aim with NICON Airways rather than Virgin Nigeria ?
I am used to putting my head in trouble waters. Don’t worry about it. Let me correct one thing, NICON Airways is not the same thing as Virgin Nigeria because Virgin Nigeria has all the structures, has a lot of connectivity and a lot of things to build and they are far from each other. But nevertheless, we used to do unusual things to get an unusual results. When this house was put for sale, it was there for almost three years, nobody applied, but today, if I put it for sale, everybody will be here because it has been turned around. I appreciate your sympathy, you can be sure Virgin Nigeria will survive. Again, it is not about profit again, if you know that at this level, I go for something that is exciting. I have run close to about 16 companies. We have eight hotels, 210 petrol stations etc. What do you think I will be doing? The total debt I owe is just N2.4 billion, that is what is left over. What do you think I should be doing at my age if I don’t put my head in Virgin Nigeria? So, it is an exciting moment.
On workers’ future in the airline
If you are a fraudulent staff, you better start running. If you are not, enjoy yourself and expect your promotion. Let me tell you, its not all turn around that require people to be sacked. Le Meridien was turned around; we never sacked one single staff of Le Meridien. We are increasing the fleet, why are the workers afraid. If you sack them and increase your fleet, who are the people that will come and do the job? An aircraft must have a marginal number of people that will work with it. So, where will you get the people from? What you will do is to restructure them to training. Let me tell you, our turn-around is only limited. Virgin Nigeria is not technically sick, it is financially sick; so the turn around will be directed to finance.
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