How can an SME access a bank loan of over N3 billion in a sector where credit appetite is waning? This is a feat recently achieved by Eliezer Investment Limited, which got a facility of over N3 billion in a project financing agreement with Jubilee Life Mortgage Bank Limited.
Sharing the story recently in Lagos, its Managing Director/CEO, Mr. Kehinde Fajana, attributed this to innovation and creativity, saying, “our terms, processes, designs are so different from what you are used to.”
We are developers. Ours is to cooperate with the government, parastatals, individuals and groups to actualise their vision in the real estate development sector. This brought us to Ojodu Local Council Development Authority (LCDA). When the mega city issue came up in Lagos, the idea was to redevelop all existing government offices, buildings, roads and projects. And private companies were invited to key into this vision. Immediately, Eliezer Investment Limited went into research and concluded that the area we were going to come in was the market development/redevelopment of Lagos State.
Although there were many markets developed by experienced developers, and we appreciated their efforts, but what could we do differently? Upon concession agreement with Ojodu LCDA, we went for African modern market so as to take care of both the educated and the uneducated, high income earners, low income earners and the ordinary man in the street. We were designed to keep our culture intact. At African markets, you walk in, go straight to people you want to buy from and get what you want. At African markets, you can sit down there and still be seeing the sky; At an African market, you can sell multiple items in a small shop and still get your patronage.
What are we doing differently? We want to make sure that an African market has modern facilities that will make it more comfortable for the traders and customers. So upon completing the design, we subjected it to the critique of the people in the area. And to the glory of God, they all bought into the idea.
The project is not as easy as it looks because it took us six years to get to where we are now. From 2012, we went through all the processes of approval, from the local government to the state government before we were given approval to construct a modern market at both the old retail and the existing Sunday Sunday market. But convincing the existing market owners, the market men and women, was not so easy. We said we were not going to displace them but to relocate them and bring them back. That was even the statement they were not ready to hear at all. ‘You will relocate a market? And bring it back?’ We said it was possible. ‘Have you done it before?’ We said no. But on getting to office, we sat down and decided the palliative measures to adopt. We told them, if you are interested in coming back, you will be given the right of first refusal. You will be considered first. Today, we have over 250 of them that subscribed to that idea.
And to the glory of God, people started listening to us after few years. Today, we have successfully relocated the market to a new place. This is the only market in Lagos State that was demolished and relocated without bloodshed. They willingly moved to the relocation site.
In December, we called all of them to come and see where their shops were despite the fact that we were yet to complete them. But the partitioning has been done, other things have been done and roofing is going on. They went round they were shocked that even before they finished payment, their shops were ready. We told them we were not depending on their money to build the place. We brought the idea to Jubilee Mortgage Bank. They bought into it. We don’t need the traders’ money. Let’s be building it. If you are interested, buy! Today, we have sold about 50 per cent or more of the shops. Ojodu LCDA was very passionate in having a modern and big project in their community and in the whole Ikeja Local Government, ours is the biggest market.
After the existing shop owners having been taken care of, some people who are interested are keying into it; we now decided to throw it open. Let’s sell the few that are left to non-existing shop owners; those who were not in the market before. We don’t have the finances; we don’t have the cash but we have the idea. We sold it round the financial institutions. Questions were asked, answers provided, amendments and adjustments were made. We then zeroed in on Jubilee Life Mortgage Bank that bought the idea and decided to fund the project and today we appreciate them. When we approached Jubilee Life Mortgage Bank, the figure we quoted was far above what we eventually got. And it is still counting. What I can tell you is that the project, upon completion, will be far above N3 billion.
We are not the owners. Government owns it. We have a concessionary agreement with the government. And that concession spans period of years that we are going to build, sell, manage, recoup our money and return it to the government. We are developers, it is not our own project. We are doing that all over. We have some other markets we are handing out. All we do is build it, recoup our money because government does not have money in it. The total investment is coming from our financier and we bear the risk. We are the ones that sign for the money. And we signed agreement with the government that we are going to return it. Then the stake of the government: they will still be coming to take their rates, charges, etc., as normal market. We are still going to make some little payments as a company to the local government as tax, charges and rates too as applicable to all companies. So we are in good relationship with the local government.
Partnering with FG
We are complete real estate development agents. What we do here does not limit us to market. As I speak with you, we have the Ministry of External Affairs housing estate in Abuja which Eliezer Investment is developing. As I speak with you, we have another housing development, which we are about to go into in Lagos State very soon. So we are into housing development. But in all these, our terms, processes, and designs are so different from what you are used to. What you are used to is paying 20 per cent, we will deliver to you in 10 years. This feature would be there; that one will be there, but you wont have it. We deliver what we are sure of. And we are convinced with the job. So we are talking with the Federal Government as regards the housing for all projects. So one of these days, we will invite you to give you update.
The project is the main Ogba Retail Market, in Ogba, Ikeja, Lagos. The old Ogba Retail Market is what we are developing into this complex. The Sunday Sunday market and the old retail market together are what we are developing. We would soon start work at the Sunday Sunday market because that is where you will be selling the perishables. It is the complementary part of the Ogba Multipurpose Shopping Complex. While you go there to buy your clothes, buy your jewellery; you have your offices, you do all those things, but the market women and market men can bring their yams, bananas, fish, vegetables plantain, palm oil and all those things to sell. We will clean up all the garbage. During the week, it is a structured market where only perishables are being sold.
Considerations are on to give room for rent. What we are doing now is that we are compiling the list of those who are interested. All they need is to wait and let us finish. Most of the people that are buying now want to use it by themselves. Once you buy it, the title is with you. It is just like collateral. Outright sale is what we are starting with. But consequently, depending on the speed of the construction, maybe in few weeks, we will unveil our plan for the lease.
All those that are selling perishables, vegetables will also go on rent of not more than four digit figures. All these arrangements are there. And this will be done alongside the existing sellers there. I cannot buy cement at over N2,000 and say because I want mass housing, I would not recoup the cost. That is why I don’t want to mention figure.
We now decided to come out and unveil our brand ambassador in the person of Mrs. Foluke Daramola-Salako, a well known name in Nollywood. She fits in to acting the local market that we are supplying. She fits into telling the younger generation, the modern people, the kind of market we are selling. And she fits into promoting our products.
The brand ambassor: “I am delighted to be part of Eliezer Investment. When I saw the project in which I am to work with the company, I was really excited. When I was made the brand ambassador of an organisation, most of the time I like to create a difference on whatever I do. I like to be involved in whatever the company is working on. And for that, as part of the arrangement, we have already created a team, an infusion of Yoruba, Ibo and Hausa. I have spoken with the team on the infusion of the three tribes.
“Secondly, on the social media, I am working closely with the ICT personnel in the company so that every other day, we will have something to throw up on the social media so that Nigerians in the diaspora who want to come home and do things in the country, but do not know the channel to go about it, will have the opportunity to leverage on this platform provided by the brand.
“And also, I have my team that if it is one or twice a week, we have to get to the roots; go to corporate bodies, go to markets, go to places to create awareness and market our products to the people at the grassroots level. At every level, I will get involved so that in the next six months, the shops will be sold out.”