•Picks Thursday 5th DECEMBER 2019
•M.D Prince YOMMY SOLOMON OGUNGBE Explains
Prince Yommy Solomon Ogungbe is the son of a former Badagry politician, entrepreneur, and traditional ruler, late Chief Augustine Ogungbe. Born in 1969 in Lagos Island, Prince Yommy who grew up in the ghetto of Ajegunle, attended Trinity Complex Nur/Pry School, Kuto, Abeokuta SumratIslamiatNur/Pry School, OlodiApapa, Tolu Complex Secondary School, Apapa before forging ahead at Portland Costing Institute of Arts and Culture where he studied Sculpture and Painting.
He had a stint in several businesses before he went back to LASU where he bagged a degree in History & International Studies in 2009. Prince Yommy is a man of many phases, he is a businessman, a politician and philanthropist. He is the Managing Director of De-Prinnoc conglomerate which has businesses in the marine, entertainment, hospitality and construction industries.
He inherited one of the businesses from his late father and has over time turned the business into a gold mine.
This young and vibrant individual believes in raising many leaders from the younger generation and this was evident in the caliber of people employed in his various businesses.
Last week, City People’s duo of DAMILARE SALAMI and TIMOTHY FOWOMOLA had an exclusive interview with him at his Lagos office where he opened up on many parts of himself. Below are excerpts from the interview for your reading pleasure.
Firstly we want to say a big congratulations on this milestone achievement. I reside in Jakande Estate, just behind here but I didn’t know a bridge of this magnitude is anywhere here. I had to walk round spending so much money and time before getting to this other end. So, it’s a great relief for many Lagosians. Why did you decide to come up with this link bridge idea?
Well, first and foremost, I will say it’s an inheritance business, my father started this business in 1952, I wasn’t born then. He was a merchant who traded from Badagry down to Ajegunle through the navigation; he had a canoe through which he transported himself, other people and their goods. He was into fishery and palm wine business and sells to the whites. He converts palm wine to gin and sells it to the foreigners who deeply fell in love with. On getting to Ajegunle, he realized that there was a canal that linked Apapa and Ajegunle then and he often transports people. He started with backing them, upgraded to the use of canoe but in 1985, he approached The Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA which had rights over water then, to construct the first bridge. He got the approval then but in the process, we lost him in 1986 so we continued with the project and completed it without collecting a dime from anyone. He was our hero and Icon, a king in Badagry, he had so many wives and children so I happen to be one of them. He constructed that first bridge and I took over from him, I have constructed two others after him.
You see, when you have an approval from any government, they have their own interest too, so you have to work in that line. In 1987, the National Inland Water Ways, NIWA was created under NPA which also gave birth to NIMASA. These three bodies are in charge of marine and water bodies in the country. So when NIWA was created, they diverted all link bridges to be under NIWA’s jurisdiction. So anyone who wants to build any link bridge will have to do that with the approval from NIWA. To cut the whole story short, that was how the business started. What my father normally does when he was alive was to have the support of the local governments his bridge was going to link and that is what we have done too. My father was a counselor in Badagry in 1982 and he built a bridge that linked both local governments even before Surulere was created and AmuwoOdofin out of Badagry and Apapa LGs. My father was not educated and he achieved all these. So I thought of adding value to my father’s business, which was why I took up the business.
When we were to build the first bridge which linked Ijesha and Ago, the Granmit bus stop area was a very dangerous place to tread. It had become criminals’ hideout, so many atrocities like rape and armed robbery and even dead bodies were found there but we got the approval and went ahead with the project. But while we were on it, the Baalae of Oke Ogbede, this very community, wrote my company and pleaded that we should construct a motorable and pedestrian bridge that will link his community to other neighboring ones. That was how we had the breakthrough that we are about to celebrate now. We had not even commissioned the one built at Granmit that we had received the approval to commence this very one. Knowing fully well that NIWA deals with international waterways, they came to check before approving it. The water you are seeing here leads to CMS which also links anywhere in the world. You can board a boat here that will lead to FESTAC, from there to Mile 2 to Tin Can and then CMS. Although NIWA approves, it doesn’t fund it so you have to look for how to fund the project.
Ok, let me pick it up from where you stopped. How do you fund these projects?
We fund projects through loans from banks but ever since this government came on board, it has not been easy getting loans from banks. I also fund these projects using monies from other businesses; so I use those businesses to build up huge projects such as this one. The risk in this business often scare banks away, they are not sure if it is going to work out or not so they are always reluctant to support. We also approach some stakeholders in the industry for raw materials and they show a lot of support always. We gave out postdated cheques to some of them and they accept and give us what we need. But to God be the glory, we don’t fail on our parts as regards the dates on the cheques.
When did you start this project?
We started on September 11, 2017 and it is going to be commissioned on December 5, 2019. So we have spent two years on the project and we are happy with the outcome so far. People have started using it, cars have started driving through, it is already reducing pressure on major roads and by the time it is fully commissioned for usage, it will commence full operation and I am sure this community will benefit immensely from it because other developmental projects will follow suit.
How do you get returns on investment on these kinds of projects?
It’s simple, those using the bridge are required to pay a token in form of tolls. From whatever is made, NIWA gets certain percentage while the rest comes to us and that will continue for some times. Between 90-100 years, I’m not too sure now. But while we are at it, we are also required to maintain the bridge, the waterways and the entire environment after which NIWA will take over at the expiration of the agreed number of years.
Let’s come back to De-Prinnoc construction company. What is the strength of this company, considering the magnitude of the projects you have successfully completed so far?
We are not so many, we just a company of about 30 competent staff. We are professionals and we do our job to the best of our knowledge. We have young brains working here and everyone works together as a team. I can say that I enjoy the working condition here as much as my staff members too do. There are several departments under the construction unit, we have the accounts department, administration department and we all work together.
From what we can see here so far, all your workers are Nigerians. Why are there no expatriates working with your company?
My brothers, I won’t lie to you, we have the best hands and brains in this country. A lot of people make this mistake that foreigners are better than us, but that is not true. Let me shock you, I as an individual cannot reside abroad. I can only go there for vacation or business and return here. Because I believe in this ideology, if you don’t believe in what you have, you can’t get the best out of it. I was in Kenya sometimes ago and I realized that you will hardly see white men doing their constructions for them. You see, that is the only way the government can help us in this country. We have very intelligent people with great ideas in this country but we will never give them the platform to raise. For example, take a good look at our roads today, they are nothing to write home about. Our airport and most bridges were built by Strabag and they did them well, Julius Berger built the 3rd Mainland Bridge, there is CCECC, Aitech and a host of other foreign construction companies. But what about our own local construction companies? I can’t even figure out why we don’t make use of our local contractors. Look at what we did here, if it was constructed by a foreign company, it would receive more attention and better appreciated. That’s the fact. Just the same way the government closed borders and stopped the importation of rice, the same should be done in all sectors. Chinese borders were closed for 20 years and China today has become one of the largest economies in the world. Why should I employ a foreigner when I know that whatever he makes here goes back to his country? Even if whatever our people are earning is not huge, you know that you are still helping some people in your community who are also contributing to your economy, unlike foreigners who will take your money away. How many white men would love to naturalise and become Nigerians? So we have to build ourselves and make this nation great again.
Thank you sir. Let’s talk about your political antecedents. You mentioned earlier that you are a politician just like your dad, tell us how long you’ve been in politics, what you’ve been doing and what you aspire to become politically?
There is nothing anyone can aspire to become in life outside God. For example, I wouldn’t have believed that I will be the one to take over my father’s construction business. Left to me, I would have loved to be importing cars and some other items buy and sell and all. But right from my childhood, I hate being cheated, I’m a caesarian and I hate it when I see people being cheated. What I’m trying to say is that I was a beneficiary of free education. When free education started in Lagos those years, my father withdrew all his children from their schools, I was in Abeokuta, some of my siblings were in Osun and he put all of us in Lagos public schools. I attended Jakande school. My experiences and benefits of democracy made me join NADECO group, Afenifere and Campaign for Democracy (CD). I joined politics as a vibrant young man, so my aspiration is to become a lawmaker. Let’s make laws that will guide us and set things straight. If we get the laws right, a lot of things will full into place. Although I am not interested in any political office yet, my plan is to put some things in place to help the people around me. One of them is the NGO I am planning to set up by next year. The NGO will be an avenue to take many of our youths off the street and get them empowered. My studies in LASU made me realize that leadership is all about service. Anyone who is not ready to serve has no business vying for any leadership position.
Where do you see De-Prinnoc in the next five years?
I don’t have one business, you are only talking about De-Prinnoc construction company, I also have De-Prinnoc entertainment outfit which is being handled by my son, I have De-Prinnoc automobile and De-Prinnoc marine. I believe in multiple flows of income. So, for all my businesses, I can only aim for the best and we are putting all hands on deck to become a force to be reckoned with in all the industries where I have business.