In this interview with Emmanuel Akaolisa of The News Chronicle, Mr Oyintari Ogola, Director of Real Estate at the Bullion Group, shares insights on housing in Nigeria, farming, entrepreneurship, among other issues discussed
TNC: Good day Sir, we appreciate this shared moment with you, let’s begin by getting to know the Bullion group. Can you please tell us about the company; the team, what you do, vision and how the journey has been so far.
Ogola: Thank you for having me. We are a group that has interest in various sectors of the Nigerian economy, foremost of which is real estate and then oil and gas, transport, agriculture, as well as other partnerships. Our team is made up of people from the banking industry, consultancy, government and other professional services. Our vision is to provide service through innovation while delivering value to all stakeholders.
TNC: From the above it is clear that the Bullion Group is quite diversified, dealing with agriculture, real estate and other business interests, this is impressive. Is this diversity a result of passions of the founder(s) or it started with one business before branching out into others?
Ogola: We started off as Bullion Properties and later delved into oil and gas, bullion transport, agriculture, as well as entering into other partnerships. So wherever we see there’s a need and we know we can be of value, we go in to make impact. Like when we went into agriculture, we realised that we can make a difference in the area of rice, for instance, and fertilizer, so we got over a thousand hectares of land in Plateau sate where we are farming rice and soya beans. We have the rice mill coming up soon. So wherever we see we can make a difference, you see us going into that area.
TNC: What projects or services would you consider at the forefront of the company. What are the achievements of the company, like the glorious moments? What have also been the challenges?
Ogola: Okay, so, I think our foremost business area would be real estate, we are also doing very well in other sectors and results have been coming in. We have a number of projects in Abuja. It’s a big thing around here. We have a number of projects that we’ve done. We don’t just construct estates, we also handle contracts, and we do renovations for high-net worth individuals, so that’s our real estate business. For agriculture, we went into agriculture quite fresh, our venture into agriculture is less than two years and the bulk of what we’ve done is plant soya bean which we were also able to harvest and export. So we still consider ourselves new in that area. One of the challenges that we had when we started farming was this issue of insecurity and we had to make quite a significant investment into securing our farmers, our laborers, to ensure that we didn’t lose out entirely on our investment.
TNC: Bullion Group has put a premium on innovation in service delivery. Can you share innovative ways through which the challenges facing agriculture in Nigeria can be tackled, especially the challenge of insecurity where farmers cannot go to farm like in past times?
Ogola: On the innovative solutions, one of the things I feel would mitigate against that is government investment into smaller scale farming. If you invest in smaller scale farmers who are spread out all over the country then you caution that risk. I would also say that technology is something that would also help. With technology you reduce the turnaround time and increase the quality of your output, meet specifications and all of that.
So if the government provides schemes that are accessible to even the uneducated, those who don’t know how to read and write but can add to the value chains, it will go a long way. For example, if you look at the housing sector they have so many schemes, one of these schemes is the national housing fund where everybody from the age of 18 as long as you’re working, can access that fund and buy a house. How many people are aware of this? If we have something like that in the agriculture sector, I think it will go a long way in not just meeting our needs but also helping this country to export agricultural produce.
TNC: Housing remains an issue even in developed countries today, let alone a country like Nigeria. How can the housing challenge, like affordability and durability be tackled? What is the Bullion Group doing in this regard?
Ogola: Ok, that’s an interesting question. The truth is that there are different demands in the market, there’s a high level market, there’s luxury housing, there’s affordable housing and all of that. If you’re talking about the luxury end, then these set of clients don’t need loans. Somebody who wants to buy a house of six hundred million naira for example, he doesn’t need to get a loan to buy a house, but the person who is going to buy a house of 10 or 20 million naira thereabout, needs a loan and he is the person who will consider affordability. You’d look at his capacity and all of that.
So if you have funding that allows you to build mass housing, the cost of construction per unit comes down due to mass construction. So if the cost of construction per unit comes down and you also have funding available to finance the creation of these units, then it makes it possible for people to buy houses, and then of course we also have technology that is helping developers build houses. There are various technologies that help us to build houses cheaper and faster.
TNC: What is your take on entrepreneurship, do you think it is for everybody or a select few? What will be your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Ogola: Personally, I dont think everybody is an entrepreneur. There is a bit of an entrepreneur in everybody but not everybody will go into being a fulltime entrepreneur. Some people would do better as employees, while others as business owners or investors, but not everybody should be an entrepreneur. I would advice that anybody who wants to go into that space should take intelligent risks. They should find mentors, people who they can understudy and have patience to learn and not to rush.
You have a lot of people now losing money because they were not patient, they were greedy, they want to become billionaires without putting in the necessary work. Also passion is necessary in anything that you want to do and you want to do well. I mean, even if you are born with a God-given talent, passion will drive that talent. You nurture it and you perfect it, then you become one in a generation. Certainly it requires a lot of hard work to go into entrepreneurship.
TNC: Nigeria will be going to the polls soon. What is your message to the government and the people of Nigeria?
Ogola: The government is also part of the people, the government will also be voting on that day, so I would say to everybody just go out and vote for your conscience, Nigeria will get it right.
TNC: Where do you see Bullion in the future?
We have some very big partnerships that were going into, particularly in the real estate space, commodities and in agriculture. We are a part of the partnerships that would be responsible for developing a model city in a short time. Of course, we are looking at some innovations as well, we are looking at solar powered housing where you would not necessarily have to rely on any form of electricity. We are really looking forward to that. Like I said, we are doing something in agriculture; we are looking at becoming a household name in rice and fertilizer. Set up chains of fuelling stations and malls within the country. We are hoping for bullion to be a household name.
TNC: Thank you for your time, best regards…….