Chief (Mrs.) Lizzy is a renowned real estate player. She is also a Barrister, a solicitor, and she also holds the title ‘Iyani wura of Egbaland’, but this wonderful woman has carved a niche for herself in property business. She started real estate business during her youth corper days. And since then, she has not looked back. She is the Chairman of Magnificient Properties Limited. Two weeks back, this gorgeous-looking woman got a Special Recognition Award at the 2017 City People Real Estate Award for her role in the Real Estate sector. She is also a Lawyer and Chief Lizzy has done well in the legal profession. She was called to the Nigerian Bar in March 1988 and has since been in active law practice, spanning virtually all spheres of legal practice including mergers and acquisition, commercial, trade negotiations laws and secretaries. Her practice also covers litigation, commercial practice, banking and finance, real estate etc.
This amiable woman is known everywhere, especially in the real estate business. She started so young and now she has become a reference point. Who is Chief Lizzy and how did she become a Chief in Egbaland? These are some of the questions you will find answers to in this rare interview she granted City People’s Senior Property Reporter, ISAAC ABIMBADE, a few weeks back.
Who is Chief (Mrs) Lizzy Ifeoma Charles Nwagbara?
I am a legal practitioner and I have been in the legal practice since 1988. I went to UNILAG. My area of practice is basically real estate and family law. Those are the areas I have handled many cases, but my practice is not restricted to only that. I also do general practice. I do arbitration and other matters.
How long have you been in this business?
I have been a Lawyer since 1988. I schooled in UNILAG. I read Law in UNILAG. the current Acting President was my lecturer in UNILAG. He taught me Evidence.
How did you switch to real estate?
I did not switch to real estate, I have been in the real estate from the inception of my practice. I just felt comfortable within that circle (real estate), but you might say maybe it generates huge money, it might be so, but I wanted a platform where I can be myself, where I will not be pushed around. So, I found real estate platform very convenient.
What exactly do you do in real estate?
I cover virtually every area, but I handle transactions between buyer and seller, I do leases, I do land title agreement, but I have not gone into construction fully. I however, have a very deep knowledge of construction, but because I still want to restrict myself within my professional area, you and I know that, no sale of property would not involve a Lawyer, anywhere in the world. Where will always be a Lawyer in it. Also, the drafting of leases agreement and all related issues concerning real estate, Lawyers are also involved.
Tell us about your company?
I am the Chairman of Magnificent Properties Limited, that is my real estate company and I have my law firm, which is Lizzy Ibinye & Co.
How did you see yourself in the real estate business because we don’t have many women in that line?
Yes, it’s really challenging, I can tell you that. For a woman to do well in real estate, you have to make up your mind on whatever you do. I made up my mind that I will be a success story. Women are not usually given the chance/time to succeed. As for me, I was very aware of that, that a woman needs to work twice as hard as a man if she must succeed in anything she does.
What can you say to those women who aspire to do real estate business?
It is important to establish that pool of people you can be with on the issue of how to succeed. You have to be professional, you have to be meticulous and you also have to be very prayerful. There is nothing you can do without God. I have had my own challenges too. There has been a time when we bought properties from fraudsters and it was a very tough time for me. I will also tell you that, most people when they want a to buy property, especially in the Lekki axis I am usually the reference point, they will call me if I knew about the property and I usually tell such people if the property is genuine or not. One needs to be very careful when coming to real estate. You have to sample people’s opinions if you are coming to real estate business.
Tell us your breakthrough moment?
I had always been successful. I started real estate as a youth corper. I served in Lagos State. By the time I was finishing my youth service scheme, I had done many real estate transactions. I had done perfection, I had done sales. I served in 1987/88. The question of whether I had my breakthrough recently is out of it. I was connected to the right people and even at that time people never knew I was a youth corper because of the zeal and efforts I put in to whatever I did. People were even withdrawing briefs from their Lawyers and giving them to me.
What is your view on Nigerian real estate business?
Real estate in Nigeria is developing. You know it wasn’t like this before. Many of us when we travel out, we see how all of these things are been parkaged. The only unfortunate thing is that, we don’t have a dedicated financial institution. Before, we used to have Federal Mortgage Bank and it was effective in the 70’s or 80’s. But in this modern time, I can’t really explain why the bank is nowhere to be found, that is why many people are having challenges. That is why real estate in Nigeria is like a cash-and-carry business. It shouldn’t be so. In oversea, someone can buy a property of 200 thousand dollars by depositing only 10,000 dollars, so it helps society. The real estate business in Nigeria has not really considered the masses at all. There is no government structure to take care of those who want to invest in real estate. It has been a cash-and-carry something and it is very, very stressful.
Tell us about your chieftaincy title?
I know you were going to ask me that! My chieftaincy is strange because when Alake of Egbaland decided to honour me in 2013 as Iya ni wura of Egbaland, during his 70th birthday, it was something that would remain indelible in my life. I can’t really explain it, but I will continually be grateful to him, to the palace chiefs who found me worthy of being so honoured. I have a few chieftaincy titles that I am yet to honour. When they call me, I tell them the one I have is okay for me, because this one is coming from a place where I can’t fluently speak the language and is also coming from Egbaland.
For me, Egbaland is the most powerful area in Yorubaland. It’s where you will get many. powerbrokers. So, when people were asking me how much did I pay for chieftaincy title, I just laughed at them. I don’t think an Egba man would sell a chieftaincy title, not to talk of somebody of the status of Alake of Egbaland. I don’t think that is applicable at all. It was a wonderful occasion.
You don’t speak Yoruba! Please tell us the connection between you and Alake of Egbaland?
Many years back, we were together in the Western House and he told me that he observed me and saw me to be somebody who is energetic, hardworking and always wanted to do things right. It wasn’t an easy thing though, there were many of interviews, investigations before I was chosen, many consultations. It wasn’t an easy thing. Incidentally, I was the only Igbo person. I was the only non-Yoruba nominee, the other 9 persons were Yoruba. Shonekan was also honoured, himself and his wife that day.