Tunde Olusunle and Ralph Omololu-Agbana
Billionaire entrepreneur, business mogul and philanthropist, Sir Emeka Offor, was conferred with an honorary doctorate degree at Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UNIZIK), Awka, Anambra State, at the institution’s 13th convocation ceremony. In specific terms, Offor’s doctorate degree, honoris causa, was for his consistent endeavours and enterprise in entrepreneurship, against the backdrop of his multivalent exertions as an enabler of men and dreams.
Offor was joined at the investiture by other honorees, including the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka and former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Alhaji Babagana Kingibe, among a select few.
In the words of the Vice Chancellor, Prof Joseph Eberendu Ahaneku, the three awardees were selected for such honour because of their immense contributions in various spheres of human endeavours.
“They have developed people, contributed in the stability of our democracy and have also developed our economy in one way or the other and we want them to be part of our university family and great ambassadors too,” he said.
With due deference to the two other great Nigerians so honoured, Sir Emeka Offor needs no introduction. He earned a formidable reputation as a genuinely generous persona, immensely committed to humanity and humanistic causes over time.
His friends, admirers and associates straddle space and time for a man who freely oscillates between a number of major Nigerian languages, including his indigenous Igbo and Hausa, a product of his pan-Nigerian upbringing. They fondly call him ‘Sir E’, the ‘E’ taken from the first letter of his first name, Emeka.
Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, pioneer Chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and a very good friend of Offor is one distinguished Nigerian who is quite close to the awardee. He has known Offor for over two decades now and he felicitates with him thus:
“I am very delighted by the award of this honorary doctorate degree to Sir Emeka Offor. It is an honour to a man who richly deserves honour, for his enterprise and doggedness, his compassion and magnanimity, and genuine generosity of spirit. His contributions to community development, to a wide variety of charities are truly enormous. These, characteristically, are executed with minimum publicity and noise,” he said.
Commenting further, Ugochukwu notes: “On top of all his many commendable qualities, is his unwavering commitment to friendship and relationships. Sir E, stands by his friends through thick and thin. And he does have a lot of friends. I’m happy to count myself among his friends. Hearty Congratulations to Dr. Emeka Offor.”
Another longstanding friend of Offor, Chief Steve Ahaneku, has this to say about him: ‘Sir Emeka Offor has been my close friend for about 27 years now and I still find him very fascinating. He is compassionate, loyal and humane. These, for me, are his greatest strengths and they are responsible for the huge sense of empathy that he has. He is there for you in good times and in bad times and his commitment is total, unwavering.” Speaking further, Ahaneku said: “In addition to these, his work ethic is incredible and his determination to succeed in all he does is phenomenal. He is many things to many people and most of them will agree that his generosity knows no bounds.”
Offor is one of the few genuinely detribalised people I know. He is multilingual and speaks quite a few Nigerian languages and dialects. He is indeed a global citizen. He is at home with people, no matter their background. He has no chip on his shoulders and is conscious of his roots. He goes out of his way to fight for the down trodden, the weak, the marginalised and those forgotten by society. I can disclose that he has been reluctant to accept such honorary awards over the years. So it is significant that he is accepting the one from a renowned university in his home state of Anambra State. On behalf of my family, I felicitate with him and his family as he receives this honour.
Sir Emeka Offor is the Executive Vice Chairman of Chrome Group of Companies, a Nigerian company, which he founded in 1993. He is a dynamic, astute and adventurous entreprenuer with over three decades of entrepreneurial experience.
Born in Kafanchan, present day Kaduna State on February 10, 1959, he is the first of the 10 children of his parents, the late Chief Benneth Offor (Nnakaibeya) and Mrs. Comfort Offor of Umueneke Umudalagbayim kindred, Nkalafia Village, Oraifite Town in Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State.
He had his early education at Eziukwu Primary School, Aba and St Michael’s Primary School Ogbete, Enugu. Thereafter he proceeded to Merchant of Light Secondary School, Oba and later Abbott Boys High School Ihiala, where he completed his secondary education. Being a policeman’s son, the young Emeka sojourned with his father in the course of his career movements from one part of the country to the other.
Growing up was therefore synonymous with serial relocations: From Kafanchan to Aba, Enugu to Onitsha, Abakaliki to Ihiala and thenceforth to Oraifite, grossing mileage across the length and breadth of the country.
He taught briefly at Abbott Boys High School for three months until his late father demanded complete accountability of the three months salaries he earned as a teacher, which the older Offor suspected his son appropriated without parental consent and authorisation! What followed thereafter is now history but his father’s former colleague, one Mr. Geoffrey Abadi, who intervened, took young Emeka to Warri and got him employed as transport clerk in Rivways Lines Nigeria Limited, a Nigerian company engaged in importation of Packed/Bulk bitumen. From being an employee, Mr. Abadi further assisted the young man as a pupil enterprenuer through purchase of small quantities of bitumen, which he supplied to smaller companies. After two years of apprenticeship in the small business enterprise, Offor began the supply of bitumen to big players, including Julius Berger Nigeria Limited, Ozigbo Engineering Company, Guffanti Nigeria limited, Fougerolle Nigeria Limited etc. Between 1981 and 1982, the young Emeka supplied all the bitumen used by Alden Volker Nigeria Limited in the construction of Onne Port, Rivers State. His business prospered without acrimony, principally because of his hard work, business knowledge, loyalty and high level of integrity and dedication to his chosen career.
Consequently in 1985, he established Chrome Oil Services Limited. This little mustard seed has, within 34 years, expanded into a vast business empire with interests in oil and gas, insurance and finance, the power sector, telecommunications and logistics both in Nigeria and overseas under Chrome Group of Companies incorporated in 1993.
‘Sir E’ has unparalleled business energy, intelligence, knowledge, humility and humanity that have assisted him in navigating the murky waters of entrepreneurial adventure in both Nigeria and abroad. Guided by the principles of hard work, commitment and passion for success, he was able to engineer the turn-around maintenance of Port Harcourt Refinery despite inherent minefields. The success of this project became the impetus for the tremendous growth and giant strides made by Chrome Group.
Today, the subsidiaries of Chrome Group include: Kaztec Engineering Limited; Nimek Investments Limited; Global Scansystems Nigeria Limited, Enugu Electricity Distribution Company; Elcrest Exploration and Production Company Limited; Chrome Insurance Brokers Limited and Inland Containers Nigeria Limited, to mention but a few.
There are indeed over 20 active companies operating both in Nigeria and overseas under the over-arching umbrella of Chrome Group. Until recently, Sir Emeka Offor was the Chairman Board of ERHC Energy Inc., a United States of America based Independent Oil and Gas Company focused on oil and gas exploration and production in the Gulf of Guinea.
Authentic patriots are known not only for the giant strides they have made in their chosen careers or professions but also for how much they have given back to the less privileged and the society through which they meander to greatness. Continuously fired by the desire to give back and constantly reminded that he was not born with silver spoon in his mouth, Offor established the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation, SEOF, a non profit, charitable organisation.
SEOF is committed to poverty reduction and the creation of life-improving economic opportunities for those residing in Nigeria’s most marginalised communities through education and healthcare services. It equally operated a cooperative for widows, a youth empowerment/employment scheme and engages in infrastructural development.
Since its establishment in 2003, SEOF, through the magnanimity and benevolence of the founder, has been involved in worthy and amazing philanthropic gestures. In collaboration with Books for Africa, BFA, the foundation has donated over $27.3 million worth of books, computers and other educational materials to schools and institutions in Nigeria and about 19 other African countries. Specifically, Nnamdi Azikiwe University as a beneficiary has received over 10,000 volumes of books covering e-library, law, medicine, engineering, computer science and other disciplines.
SEOF, in continuation of its nationwide book distribution policy has proposed another nationwide exercise between June and July 2019. Currently, about 198,000 volumes of books contained in nearly a dozen 40–foot containers are being offloaded preparatory for the exercise.
In addition to improving reading culture through donations of books, SEOF, through its scholarship programmes established since 2007, has awarded scholarships to over 150 primary school pupils, 200 secondary school students, Three hundred students in the graduate and undergraduate programmes. In monetary terms, well over N150 million has been spent in the provision of scholarship and scholarly support to a broad spectrum of students desirous of acquiring education.
The foundation endowed a professorial chair worth N20millio in the Faculty of Physical Sciences, University of Nigeria Nsukka , UNN. It also offers automatic employment in the companies of its founder and a brand new car to graduates of tertiary Institutions who graduated with First Class honours.
SEOF established health centres, provided free medical consultations, treatment and drugs to the less privileged. Further to this, a yearly 150,000 Euros Glaucoma Research Grant was made available to the Department of Ophthalmology, University of Mainz, Germany. There is also a Nigerian Fellowship for Cataract Surgery and Glaucoma Management at the same university.
In 2014, the foundation awarded an empowerment contract to a polio survivor, who has requisite skill and competence to manufacture/produce tricycles/clutches in aid of his disabled colleagues, worth N44million. Similarly, SEOF sponsored the Nigerian contingent to the International Wheel Chair and Amputee Sports, IWAS, tournament in the United Kingdom, where Nigeria won gold medal.
Offor through his foundation has constantly reminded the world that the very poor and needy can become active and productive members of society, if properly empowered and mentored. The Foundation is presently in active collaboration and cooperation with
The Carter Centre in the area of eradication of River Blindness in five South eastern states of Enugu, Imo, Anambra, Ebonyi and Abia. Also included are Delta and Edo States. SEOF pledged $10Million at the inception of this partnership and has regularly made modest commitments in fulfillment of the obligation.
SEOF supported the global ideals of Andrew Young Foundation and the Rotary International in the areas of polio eradication, peace and conflict management, maternal and child health, basic education and literacy.
Emeka Offor is a member of the Rotary International, and was recently elevated to the status of the Foundation Circle of the Arch C Klumph Society, AKS, of the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International. His singular donation of $1million to the Rotary Foundation, to be appropriated across the four cardinal objectives of Rotary International, earned him deserved elevation to this status.
Offor is currently the Rotary International Polio Ambassador to Nigeria. He has cumulatively contributed over $3.1 million towards the eradication of the polio scourge in Nigeria. This contribution also singles him out as the highest donor to the cause, on the African continent.
Despite his looming stature as a global personality, his contributions to integrated community development remain unparalleled. Oraifite has benefitted in road construction and rehabilitation; town hall construction; erection of the All Saints Anglican Church, Irefi, Oraifite; medical outreach programmes and general empowerment programmes.
In recognition of the rare qualities of this gentleman, he was honoured by the Romanian Consulate in Nigeria for his invaluable contribution towards the development and enhancement of bilateral relations between Nigeria and Romania.
Offor is the patron of the Nigeria-Trinidad & Tobago Chamber of Commerce and was the Chairman of the Governing Council of Imo State Polytechnic Umuagwo.
• Olusunle is a member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, while Omololu-Agbana is a member of Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ.