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I learnt my entrepreneurial acumen from my mother –Taiwo Afolabi

Dr. Taiwo Afolabi, SIFAX boss
Dr Taiwo Afolabi, the enigmatic founder and  Group Executive Vice-President of SIFAX Group, is a mercurial entrepreneurial genius.
From the little beginning as a freight forwarding company in 1988, he has nurtured SIFAX into a gigantic conglomerate which has diverse interests in shipping, haulage, oil and gas, financial services, ground handling operations and hospitality.
Dr Afolabi, whose philanthropy is legendary, is 60 years old today, Friday, April 29th, 2022.
In this sit-down interview, Dr Afolabi takes us through his 60 years of eventful and impactful journey, his early life, his business tutorials, his daring venture into the world of business, his philanthropy and his family.
Tell us about yourself:
I am Dr Taiwo Afolabi, the founder and Group Executive Vice Chairman of SIFAX Group.
Obviously, I am an entrepreneur, business leader, mentor and many more.
 I am an indigene of Ogun State and by the grace of God, I am 60 years old.
 I was born in Ondo on April 29, 1962.
As my first name indicates, I am a twin, I have a twin brother. I had my primary school at Ondo and my secondary school education at Baptist Grammar School, Ibadan.
 I hold a Law degree from the University of Lagos as well as Masters in International Law and Diplomacy from the same university.
I have been running my business for over 33 years now. I actually launched my company in 1988 as a freight forwarding firm in Lagos, Nigeria, after working with an uncle, under which I learnt the rudiments of the clearing and forwarding business.
From the little beginning in 1988, SIFAX Group has grown to become one of the leading indigenous corporations in Nigeria with thousands of jobs created, both direct and indirect.
 We have also spread our tentacles to other African countries as well as Europe and America.
Our core business focus is integrated logistics, but over the years, we have diversified to other areas including financial services, oil and gas and hospitality.
Aside from running my business, another thing I am passionate about is societal impact.
As an organization and in my individual capacity, we support causes and individuals who are not privileged in society.
 Our key intervention areas are education, health and youth and women empowerment.
We have a foundation which is devoted to implementing our beliefs in this regard.
I have also been privileged to be a recipient of national honour in Nigeria, a Member of the Order of Niger (MON) while I am also the Honorary Consul General of Djibouti in Nigeria.
I am a family man. I am married to a beautiful and supportive woman, Mrs Folashade Afolabi, and blessed with children, who are all doing well in their different endeavours.
How do you feel turning 60?
Let me start by expressing my appreciation to God Almighty who has remained my source and inspiration over the years.
He has not only kept me alive but has also granted me grace, meets all my needs, and grants me good health, peace of mind and a great family. I am indeed a grateful man as I turn 60.
I am sure some of my peers have died and so many are not as privileged as I am.
 These and many more give me unending joy because of the grace.
 I am probably not the smartest, but God’s grace has found me and beautified my life.
So, as I turn 60, I am grateful to God. I am happy that life has been kind to me. I am grateful for the modest impact God has accomplished through me.
I am grateful for a wonderful family and I am grateful for a greater future.
You started your career with your uncle and later left to float your own business. What was the motivation for this?  
Well from a tender age, I have always been entrepreneurial in my thinking.
 My mother was a trader and through her, I learnt the rudiments of trading and that passion has stayed with me ever since.
So starting my business was a natural progression for me after spending some years learning the ropes from my uncle who owned a clearing and forwarding business in Lagos.
 I rose up to become the Operations Manager in the company. By this time, I was well grounded and ready to take on the next challenge.
Apart from expressing my passion, I also set up the business to take advantage of emerging opportunities and to provide a platform for others to fulfil their dreams through job and wealth creation.
Today, our companies employ about 5,000 staff and you know the implication of such a number of employees, especially the ripple effect on their immediate and extended families as well as the society.
If you also throw in the number of businesses, both large and small, that do business with our various companies, you will see how far we have come in impacting society.
Those are some of the things that motivated me to start my business then.
What are the key lessons life has taught you in the last 60 years?
There are many of them.
One is that you must be strategic in your thinking and planning in order to become outstanding.
An ordinary approach will always deliver ordinary results. If you look at the growth pattern of SIFAX Group, it is a result of well-thought-out plan.
 The integrated approach has helped us.
From running a clearing and forwarding firm to starting inland container depots across Lagos to bidding and winning the concession of a port terminal to setting up a haulage business that conveys goods from these ports to the container depots, to bidding and winning concession of a ground handling company, to launching the Marriott Hotel and a financial services company.
You will see that these businesses are complementary in nature and this has given us some form of advantage over competitors.
I also need to emphasise the place of humility. Let me tell you, before God, we are all equal, whether you are rich or people.
Everybody deserves respect.
 Humility will attract people to you and they can go to any length to support you if they know you are not arrogant.
I have always believed in living a simple and humble life which is scriptural because God admonishes us to live humbly and promised to elevate us.
I have also studied the lives of many successful godly people and you’d see humility in them.
I have many VIPs – ministers, successful businessmen and top government officials as associates, but I always come back to my constituency which is my old time friends and schoolmates and I cherish them greatly.
I won’t abandon them because I now have new friends.  I’ve gone to several places and people doubt if I were the Dr Taiwo Afolabi they have heard so much about.
I always tell them that simplicity owns the world.
Life has also taught me the importance of friendship and relationship building.
It is a skill that is important to get ahead in life. Value friendship. I have some of my friends that have been with me for over 40 years, some since our secondary school days and we are still together today.
Obviously, the need to give back.
 Most of the time, God blesses us more than what we need so we could support and care for others.
 This is a lesson I learnt from a tender age and I haven’t deviated from it till today.
Your company opened Lagos Marriott Hotel about a year ago. What motivated you to launch this business?
I have been privileged to travel around the world in the course of doing business and pleasure and this has exposed me to international standards in the hospitality industry across the globe.
So the major reason for the investment in the hotel is to provide the same level of comfort, class and superior customer experience for Nigerians.
Nigerians are reputed for hard work and relaxation, and enjoyment should naturally follow after working so hard.
The hotel provides the perfect ambience to relax, refresh, connect and celebrate the achievements that follow their hard work.
 In the last one year of operation, the hotel has disrupted Lagos hospitality landscape.
It has become the favourite venue for major individual and corporate events.
Aside from this, as a corporation, we always look for opportunities to impact our country.
I have this vision of creating jobs for as many Nigerians as possible.
 Hundreds of eligible Nigerians are currently employed in the hotel while the indirect employment and other ancillary benefits can’t be quantified.
So, job creation is another key factor in setting up the business.
There is a need to build the next generation of entrepreneurs. What role do established business titans like you should play?
The reason many people don’t succeed in business and careers is due to a lack of mentorship.
They go into business without the guidance and support of mentors who have done successfully what they are trying to do.
 Mentorship is key for young entrepreneurs in Nigeria. By the way, let me say that the future of Africa is entrepreneurship.
Young people must be encouraged and supported to pursue their dreams.
This is going to help in reducing poverty and the high rate of employment on the continent. It is the duty of successful businessmen and women across the continent to mentor and support these budding entrepreneurs.
These young entrepreneurs need to be mentored and guided so that Africa can witness true prosperity.
I have been involved in this both directly and indirectly. My company supports various platforms and initiatives that identify and nurture budding entrepreneurs.
I also have people I personally take under my wings that I support their dreams and mentor as well.
You are noted for your philanthropy. What is the philosophy behind this generous giving?
There is so much poverty in Africa and privileged individuals must be deliberate in helping the poor.
It is part of the core philosophy of my life and business.
We are not in business to make a profit alone. We believe in making an impact. We help individuals and communities as much as we can.
I can say I inherit the trait from my mother who was fond of meeting the needs of needy people around her while I was growing up.
I saw the joy and satisfaction on my mother’s face after supporting these people and I believe I unconsciously imbibe the principle of sharing from her.
 Giving is one key success factor. I wish people realise that giving leads to abundance.
 It has been a way of life for me and has seen its impact over the years.
When people come to me for help and I do it, I am always appreciative of the opportunity God has given me to be a blessing to others.
 Giving comes with a sense of satisfaction and inner joy.
I see giving more as a divine mandate to pull people out of poverty through job creation and philanthropy.
Our company is also involved in this philanthropy and its key focus includes education, health and youth and women empowerment.
 We provide support for public educational and health institutions.
 We make donations to schools and hospitals.
We donated a 1,000 capacity lecture theatre to Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso.
We donated a brand new bus to the medical students association of Obafemi Awolowo University.
 We have a foundation with offices in Lagos, Zaria and Umuahia that provide support to the widows and the less privileged.
 Many indigent students in their hundreds enjoy full scholarships from the foundation.
Women are trained in various skills and then given grants to start their businesses. The list is too long to recall.
How do you balance your busy business schedule and family? 
I am so privileged to have an understanding wife and family who believe in my vision and support me fully in the journey.
When you run a business that is as diverse as SIFAX Group, you are bound to be busy and on the road most time.
I travel often both locally and internationally and this has a way it affects family time.
But as much as I can, I create time for them. I make sure the little time we have together is judiciously used.
We also go on vacation together to maintain our bond.
My wife is very supportive and she is my number one fan. By the way, she is a prayer warrior and you don’t need to be told that I feature prominently in her prayers.
She backs me up spiritually and takes good care of the home front so I could have the presence of mind to pursue my targets.
She has also done well when you look at the way our children have turned out so well.
She understands my schedule and gladly tolerates my absence.
 But she knows that I don’t take her for granted. I respect and honour her.
I create time for her even in the midst of my busy schedule.
Advice for young entrepreneurs
For the young entrepreneurs, I would say first hold on to God, and be honest and patient.
 What is not enough now will eventually become a surplus for you but there are processes you need to take.
There are some factors that help in the journey of entrepreneurship. One is vision. You must have an idea of what you want to do and the impact you want to make.
Two, hard work is very important. All successful people are hard workers. Laziness hinders greatness.
 Three, solve a problem and success will naturally come. Money goes in the direction of value.
Four is persistence. You must develop the courage and resilience to keep going in the face of daunting challenges because the journey is full of different ups and downs.
 Don’t give up easily. If you fall, rise, take a lesson and continue your hustling.
What is your biggest challenge as a businessman?
Risk. Business is a very risky venture. Even after doing all the due diligence, things can still go bad. It remains a big challenge but no gain no pain.
When you lose, you start all over again.
I have done a business in Europe where I lost about €4million within seven months and that hasn’t stopped me from starting again or investing in another one.
Business is a risk and for those who want to make it big, you must be able to calculate your risk well and make an informed decision.
 But the ability and the power to overcome after a loss lies in you.
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MARAN convokes national discourse on resurgence of maritime crimes in Gulf of Guinea

The Eyewitness Reporter
Worried by the recent resurgence of piracy incidents and security threats in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) in the first half of 2023, the Maritime Reporters’ Association of Nigeria (MARAN) is dedicating the maiden edition of the MARAN Annual Lecture (MAMAL) 2023 to Maritime Security.
Mr Godfrey Bivbere, President MARAN, said this in a statement in Lagos.
According to Bivbere, the inaugural edition of MAMAL 2023 is themed: “Maritime Security: Emerging Threats and Actionable Steps” .
“The theme is targeted at proffering long-term, sustainable solutions that will effectively address maritime crimes in the GoG region and protect seafaring and fishing communities in the affected countries,” he said.
Recall that the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) report of July 2023 confirmed that the GoG witnessed a surge in maritime incidents in 2023, with five incidents in the first quarter and nine in the second quarter.
Out of these, 12 were classified as armed robberies and two as piracy, predominantly targeting anchored vessels in the region.
According to the IMB report, in these incidences, 14 crew were kidnapped, of which 8 crew members were taken from vessels anchored within the GoG territorial waters.
Additionally, in two separate hijackings, 31 crew members were held hostage, communication and navigation equipment were destroyed, and partial cargoes were stolen. One of these incidents also involved the abduction of 6 crew members.
He pointed out that MARAN, as the foremost umbrella body of journalists covering the Nigerian maritime sector, had identified and commended the collaborative initiatives and efforts of the Nigerian Navy.
The MARAN president noted that the initiative which was in partnership with other security agencies, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), other regional navies and maritime administrations led to a significant reduction in piracy incidents on Nigerian waters and the GoG throughout 2022.
He said that to a large extent, the establishment of the Gulf of Guinea Maritime Collaboration Forum for the Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (GOG-MCF/SHADE) had enabled stakeholders within and outside the region to connect and discuss frequently how best to tackle piracy in the area and this yielded verifiable results.
Bivbere pointed out that the effective deployment of Naval assets, warships, Falcon Eye, the Deep Blue Project assets, establishment of the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime-related Offences Act 2019, among others are worthwhile accomplishments attributable to the Nigerian Navy in recent years.
He, however, said there was a need for consolidated efforts that would be explored at the summit.
“With the recent decision of China to join in the international anti-piracy effort in the Gulf of Guinea, MAMAL 2023 will also dissect the continuous presence of foreign navy frigates in the region for an evaluation of the positive impact and perceived threats.
“Following the recent extension of the Nigerian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) from 200 Nautical Miles to 350 Nautical Miles, MAMAL 2023 will be highlighting the capability of the Nigerian Navy and other agencies in providing adequate security for the zone,” he said.
The MARAN president said that the MAMAL 2023 had been scheduled to hold on the 24th of October 2023.
The Nigerian Navy, regional navies and other stakeholders in the maritime sector including Shipowners, NIMASA, Shipping Lines, Terminal Operators, Nigerian Shippers Council, and major seafarers organisations are all expected to attend this epoch-making event.
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Adeniyi, CGC, makes refresher course mandatory for officers ,matches them out on 5- kilometer fitness exercise in Abuja

Wale Adeniyi, Ag, CGC
The Eyewitness Reporter
The Acting Comptroller General of Customs, Adewale Adeniyi, has continued to motivate the men and officers of the service with his innovative programmes that are meant to enhance their efficiency and professionalism.
The latest initiative of the CGC, whose ascendancy to the top cadre of the Customs has continued to energize the service, was the introduction of programmes aimed at enhancing the mental and physical alertness of officers.
Consequently, Adeniyi has made refresher course for officers from the Superintendent cadre mandatory every five years.
He made this known during the passing out parade of Course 1/2023 at the Nigeria Customs Service Training College in Ikeja, Lagos on Friday, September 22nd, 2023.
Speaking to the 81 Cadets who have successfully completed their training and passed out of the Training College after six months of rigorous preparation, Adeniyi charged them to uphold the highest level of integrity and professionalism while discharging their lawful duties.
He congratulated the cadets on their successful completion of training and welcomed them into the service.
He expressed hope for a better service, equipped them with knowledge and skills, and urged them to make a meaningful difference in the nation.
He emphasized the importance of discipline, good conduct, and the highest level of integrity in their actions, reminding them that they represent excellence and the Nigeria Customs Service.
While the CGC, on Friday, September 22nd, 2023, in Lagos announced the mandatory refresher course for officers to enhance their mental alertness, he however led the officers on a fitness exercise the following day, Saturday, September 23rd, 2023, in Abuja to enhance their physical alertness.
At the 5- 5-kilometre marathon walk tagged “Work-Life Balance” the CGC posited that the exercise was aimed at keeping officers physically and mentally fit to enable them to face their constitutional duties effectively.
The fitness exercise commenced in the early hours of Saturday, 23 September 2023, from Customs Headquarters Wuse Zone 3 to the newly built Customs House in Maitama Area, all in Abuja — the Federal Capital Territory.
The exercise was seen as one of the Ag. CGC’s strategic approach to enhance the agility of the officers and men of the Nigeria Customs Service.
It involved officers and men of the Service, including members of the Management Team, and Representatives of Military and Paramilitary Institutions.
Adeniyi said that the physical exercise attests to the Customs’ commitment to consolidate on critical areas of national development, knotting ties with stakeholders and embracing technological innovations.
“As officers and men, we come under lots of pressure to fulfill various obligations, and most of the time, these pressures come from our workplaces — emanating from the nature of our tasks, which are usually physically and mentally demanding; thus, the exercise will help reduce such pressure for us and enhance our productivity at work,” he said.
According to him, the Nigeria Customs Service had, over the past 15 years, established 32 clinics and medical centres all over the country to take care of the officers’ health, adding that “as we embark on this journey, it is vital to understand the essence of this initiative and why we need to flag it off.”
He motivated them to continue to engage themselves in extra exercises such as jogging, mountain hiking, dancing and all other curricular activities while also urging them to embrace the work-life balance as it will continue to improve their health and also contribute to enhancing the efficiency of the Service.
The Customs Chief also mentioned that the exercise will facilitate the unity and love between Customs officers across the federation, saying that “participating in this brisk walking exercise fosters friendship and unity and sense of shared purpose amongst us.”
The brisk walking exercise was attended by Deputy Comptroller-Generals of Customs in charge of different Units, Assistant Comptroller-Generals, and all Comptrollers down to Assistant of Customs III. Other participants who graced the ‘Walk-Life Balance’ exercise were from the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry, Nigerian Correctional Center, Immigration Service, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, and Nigeria Army.
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NIMASA set to open Lokoja office to harness waterways resources

The Eyewitness Reporter

The Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, has disclosed that the Agency is set to reopen the Lokoja office, as part of efforts towards harnessing the Blue Economy, enhancing collaboration, while also promoting Research and Development.

The DG, who made this known when he played host to the Executive Secretary of the Kaduna State Emergency Management Agency (KADSEMA), Mal. Usman Hayatu Mazadu at the head office of the Agency in Lagos, noted that investment in research would play a major role in ensuring the harnessing of Nigeria’s maritime potentials.

“The key cardinal principle of opening the NIMASA Lokoja office is to improve on Research and Development.

“Our goal is to establish the nexus in maximizing the use of available resources in the nation’s inland waterways and the deep blue waters within 28 states, spanning over 4000 kilometers of inland waters and over 200 nautical miles of ocean resources; with the coming of the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy.

He said, “Now, the Blue Economy has come to stay and very soon you will see the impact of what we have; in terms of the gains and benefits to grow our Gross Domestic Product while improving the well-being of our own Economy”.

Earlier in his remarks, Mallam Usman of KADSEMA lauded the Agency for the feat achieved so far, which cuts across the entire Nigeria.

While seeking cooperation with the Agency in possible areas, he expressed the readiness of KADSEMA to support the Agency in areas that may be deemed possible.

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