Reveals How He Runs DOZEK Construction Ltd
Donatus Nzekwesi is the CEO/Chairman of Dozek Construction Ltd, a real estate company he floated in 2012 when he came back from the United Kingdom (UK). The company is into housing development and Construction of various structures. Mr. Donatus, who is the founder of the big company has built hundreds of houses since he came into the sector. He has single-handedly built a bridge leading to one of his housing estates in Alasia, Ajah, Lagos. This handsome young man owns many housing estates at the back of Chevron Head Office, which is popularly called Chevron Alternative Route.
To his credit, he bought a transformer for the community. Everywhere he goes, he makes sure he develops the area. We can also tell you that, he brought development to Chevron alternative route area in the year 2013. The drainage in the axis was constructed by him. Why is he doing all these projects? When did he start his business, and what are the challenges he is facing in the sector? These are some of the questions City People’s Senior Property Reporter, ISAAC ABIMBADE asked him when they met. Excerpts
Tell us, who is the man behind Dozek Construction Limited.
My name is Mr. Donatus Nzekwesi. I am the CEO of Dozek Construction Limited.
How did real estate business start for you?
I would say God directed me to this business. We started in the early 2012 and our first project was done at the Ikota Villa Estate, behind Mega Chicken.
How was it then when you moved down to Chevron Alternative Route, behind Chevron head office?
Anyway, one of my workers told me that, he wanted me to see a plot of land in 2013. He then took me through Chevron drive. We entered Chevron Alternative Route. Then, there was no building there. So I asked: Where is this man taking me to, until we saw the plot of land. I was attracted to the land, which was induced by a vision I had about real estate. Normally, it (real estate) should be about developing areas that are not yet developed. Fair enough, most of us because of our mega financial pocket, are scared to venture into such places because you would be thinking of light, roads and supply of water to the site . And also the fear of people, who would like to buy the property, knowing fully well that, there is no security on ground. So, you would ask, can you finish it and wait till the area is developed? But something awoke in me, I had a dream and I said, let me try this area. So, when we completed our project at Ikota Villa, we then moved down to Chevron Alternative Route area in 2013.
When you moved down there, how was it then?
It was a desolated area. It was like a no man’s land. The only building that was under construction then is the one standing now, behind Dozek Garden called Abiola Court, developed by Dillion. That was part of the things that gave me confidence that fine, somebody had started building 19 units of housing at the place and the person must have seen something that encouraged him. When we started construction , the owner of Dillion came and we spoke. He was afraid of completing the estate, but when he saw that I was building too, he brought back his team to the site.
Can you tell us more about the tarred road to your housing estates at Chevron Alternative route and you also mentioned drainages and electricity? Can you elaborate?
We thought that by completing the structures, they would attract buyer, but when we finished, we found out that we made a mistake. Actually, it should have been infrastructure first because the person coming to buy a property has to have a road that would lead the person to the property. You don’t expect someone to walk across a plank to a property that is for sale. They would just tell you they are coming back and they would never… all because there is no road. So, we decided to construct a road. With the help of some suppliers, we were able to get some interlocking stones, promising them we were going to pay later.
That was how we were able to construct the road at Dozek Close Alternative Route, Chevron Lekki. Also, we did the drainage that leads to the canal. After completing that, we had the road, the drainage was in place, but there was no light. So, the interested buyers were asking me was there light there? I kept telling them yes, but there was no light. One day, I heard that One Omo Onile (Land Grabbbers) wanted to sell a transformer. I approached them and they were requesting ridiculous amount, but I pleaded with them and I let them knew what the transformer would bring to the area. At the end of the day, I had to pay for it and also paid NEPA to commission it. It cost me quite much, but you can see today that everybody living at the axis is enjoying light, courtesy of Dozek Garden at alternative route of Chevron.
Are you saying you brought development to the area?
Yes. With all I have told you, development can not come without light. Light is the first thing that opens up an area and all the way till 2014, there was no light in the axis. The only place you can get electricity is closer to the expressway.
Can we say you single-handedly developed the axis?
Not only did we bring light and road to the area, we have more than 25 units of housing , constructed by Dozek Garden. So, we are working. Currently, we are constructing 8 duplexes at the same alternative route area. So, we are part of the development. It is not that we gave light, road and we walked away.
Tell us your experience about Omo Onile in Lagos and what government needs to do to curb the menace?
The Omo Onile issue has been there before we came. We sought their cooperation and they sometimes protect us and make sure everything is in order. But the government should come around and educate them, give them some incentives that would enable them to understand that their pranks should not be a way of life because the harassment from them is too much. What we need from the government actually because I have lived abroad for 18 years. I lived in Netherlands (12)years and then the last six years were in the UK. I was opportune to interact with some real estate players. What we really need from government is access to funds. Most things I have done in Lagos State are unnoticed by the state government. I am not doing it for the name, but I am doing it to advance my business, and also to give back to society.
Talking about challenges in the sector, how can the government help to stabilize the sector?
The financial institutions or government should try to provide us free access to funding. Once we have access to funding at a very low rate, the sky would be our limit.
How does Forex affect you?
It affects us a lot. Most of the equipments and materials we use for putting finishing touches to houses are imported, some products we use are imported. So, the falling value of Naira is already affecting the economy of Nigeria. We are now paying triple price than before for cement, double price for iron rods and some of the products are even made in Nigeria. And the finishing touch materials, from doors to tiles, all of them are imported. Doors we used to buy at N28 thousand, today is now N70 thousand. And we cannot directly transfer the cost to the end users because nobody would want to pay such prohibitive amount. The little profits we were getting before have shrunk to almost nothing. And this is the only business I do best. I pray that the economic situation of Nigeria should change.
How can developers encourage the use of locally-made materials?
In every good or bad situation, there are advantages. Because of the high prices of imported materials, we (developers) now look for options because the prices of imported items are so high. For the first time, I started looking for products that are made in Nigeria. But at Dozek garden, we do not compromise on quality. We make sure that every item we use is standard. We have in our building, the paint, and the structures have been there now for a long time.
So, we have started looking at locally-made materials for our structures, but the standards are very poor. I discussed with one manufacturer, he is into roofing sheet production. Fine, the quality of their stones is very fine, but the size and the materials being used for the zinc is poor. You can’t say it is cheaper and you go and buy it. We are interested in buying from them, but they have to up their games.
What advice are you giving them?
They have to improve on the quality of their products. Profit we make now in the real estate is not as high as it used to be, but we still build standard homes for people. They should forget for now the percentage of profit to make. Let them just produce something good. Why can’t we produce something that can compete with products from Spain, Brazil? Those countries are importing limestone from us. We have it here in Africa. We have the machinery and most of the Chinese companies now are in Nigeria with their equipment. Why can’t they do something that can challenge the imported products. We can also export all such products abroad. If our products start getting better than those of the Chinese, they would import from us. That is my advice to them. They should improve on the standard of their products. It would help us much. And it would help developers too, It is going to cut the money used for shipment, clearing and other levies charged on import.
Can you tell us about, your state of origin and educational background?
I am from Anambra State. I am from Ajala, Awka North local government area. My primary education was at Oba and my secondary school at CKC Onitsha. After that, I moved to Nsukka University. I did a 4 year programme, Microbiology before I travelled to Netherlands. There, I lived for about 12 years before my family and I moved to the UK. When I moved down to the UK, I started thinking of relocating back to Nigeria and what type of business I would go into. I already had friends in Estate development, that was the reason I developed interest in it. So, mostly when I was on holiday in Nigeria, I visited them at their sites. I started observing and I found myself where I am today.
What advice can you give to the government?
Government can set up water plant at the Chevron alternative route that we all can tap into. I am doing 8 houses; I have to construct 8 different boreholes, that is lots of money. Whereas in the UK, you just build a house and tap into an already existing pipe in front of your house.
When you moved down to Chevron Alternative route in 2013, what was the price of land and how much did you sell a unit of your houses then?
Don’t go there! You can’t even understand because you will be asking me why I am still doing it. For example, when I started, the price of land at Ikota villa, behind Mega Chicken was N9-10 million in the year 2012, but today it is very costly and the place is not even a high price location. It goes for N45 million. So, you can imagine. And the houses I built then I sold them for N45 million, some N50 million. Today, you are buying land for N40 million for example, and the price of a unit there is still N55 millions. So, you ask yourself how do we make our profit?