Mr. Jide Odusolu, a renowned property developer, is the immediate past Managing Director of Ogun State Property and Investment Corporation OPIC.
In this interview with Vanguard Homes & Property, he explains how his intervention as the chief executive officer of the corporation under Senator Ibikunle Amosun-led administration made the organization to become a profit-making entity. Excerpts.
Sir, could you tell the circumstances that led to your being appointed as the Managing Director of OPIC at you were appointed, and what were you doing before this appointment?
I am a real estate developer. I have been a real estate developer since the year 2000. I was approached and invited in 2013 to join the administration of Sen. Ibikunle Amosun who had a mandate and desire to rebuild and transform the state from being a civil service-oriented community to one that would be business inclined.
Gov. Amosun then wanted a developer on his team and he invited me to join him. I was actually sworn in as a Special Adviser on Works and Investment in May 2014, and thereafter, concurrently assigned me the role of Managing Director, Ogun State Property and Investment Corporation.
When I joined OPIC, it was a 29-year-old corporation. It owned the largest industrial estate in sub-Saharan Africa which is Agbara Estate. Everything was run like the usual civil service establishment. We had offices that were not befitting, not computerized, the staff was demoralized, equipment had run down, nothing was working.
We also had huge security challenges in our estate in Agbara where a lot of our lands had been high jacked by land grabbers and we also had a lot of clients who had defaulted on their payment obligations.
It was a big disaster, and what the Governor then said to me was that he was giving me a marching order to turn the place around.
That meant I had to take people who only understood civil service language and teach them to understand the language of business, and while at the same time moving at top speed to restructure the entire organization.
It was quite a tough experience especially because I was coming to the public sector with zero prior public sector knowledge and experience working in that sector.
I was a real estate developer. So, we had to do a lot of reorientation and retraining. We had to upgrade the entire office itself.
After all these, we carried out a forensic audit and found out that over 500 hectares of our land had been basically grabbed by people who had not paid for them.
Working with the state government, we had to conduct a massive security sweep in Agbara to restore sanity. It was so bad then that industrialists had abandoned their factories and flour mills.
Trucks were broken down everywhere and there was nothing going on.
We had to go in there, restructure and do everything to make it work. Between 2013 and 2015, we were able to deliver over 15 km of the road network in Agbara, recovered all the lands that had been stolen, and attracted new industries. Some of the companies that came in then included diaper manufacturers, flour mills among others.
Having succeeded in doing that in Agbara, we moved to Abeokuta, the state capital. It was still a civil service town. There was nothing that appealed to industries to stay there.
What we used to was that most companies would come to Abeokuta for meetings and then leave for Lagos. We were able to deliver Orange Valley, which was the first gated community in the whole of Ogun State. We delivered six semi-detached duplexes between 2013 and 2014.
When we finished there, we moved to create a blended mixed-use community where we had both residential and commercial plots. We delivered all the road networks, power, water, and again attracted industries. There are about four multi-million dollar industries there now that came in due to our intervention.
Having completed that, and based on our track record, we were able to get a partnership with Family Homes Fund, which was a Federal Government-backed initiative to build affordable houses in Nigeria. OPIC won a contract to build 120 housing units in New Makun City. That is still ongoing as we speak.
From there we moved to Isheri which was supposed to be Ogun State’s version of Lekki, but it was undervalued because there was no infrastructure, the whole place was massively undervalued despite its close proximity to Lagos. We went in and delivered 188 housing apartments along with all the supporting infrastructure.
By the time we were rounding up, we were called by the state government to build what it called VIP Housing in Abeokuta that dignitaries could use when they come for meetings in Abeokuta.
That is what gave birth to the Mitros Residences Hotel. Originally, it was not meant to be a hotel but by the time we completed the project, it was so expensive, so well done that we decided it would not be prudent to just use it for government dignitaries. So, we got approval from the state government and turned it into a hotel that is still operating until today.
What was the value of OPIC when you get it and what was it by the time you left?
By the time I was sworn in, the maximum OPIC had ever contributed to Government coffers was about 20 million Naira cumulative. For all the over 20 years it was in existence, I don’t think it was even up to 100 million. But within a six-year period, with the active support of the Governor and his encouragement, OPIC did more than 1.9 billion in remittance to the state government. We went from a corporation that had assets that were undermined and undervalued to one that did a turnover of 18.7 billion within six years.
OPIC did not get subventions from the government, OPIC had to generate resources to fund all its projects. Because the government was averse to commercial loans, we could also not borrow, so, what we always did was to invest and recapitalize all the returns we got from our various projects. Despite this, we were still able to deliver returns of N1.9 billion to the state government.
During this period, the government-mandated us in conjunction with other agencies to turn around the Gateway Mortgage Bank.
We were able to turn it around and made it a going concern, all within this six-year period.
In terms of ASSET, what was the value of OPIC?
Until we came, OPIC was just acquiring lands and selling without provision of infrastructure making the lands to be undervalued. But while we were leaving office in May 2019, if you valued the total assets of OPIC, it was between 50 and 60 billion Naira corporation.
We had lands we had recovered and fenced and made available to developers. We also had the Mitros Residences which is a massive investment and a very profitable one for the state government.
Please share your experiences before coming into OPIC?
I was a private developer, well before becoming a private developer I practiced law briefly with Babalakin & Co, then I did my youth service with Eco Bank Nigerian Limited.
I then went into the oil and gas sector where I worked with TEXACO which became part of Chevron, In Texaco, I was the Contract Coordinator and Senior Counsel in charge of operations in Warri.
When I left, I was one of the youngest retirees. Then I became a real estate developer.
We were the ones that opened up the area called Monastery Road, when we went there, the place as a forest and the owners of the land trusted me when I went there with a proposal to do a development
They bought into what I had to share and we were able to deliver a community called Heritage Place, it was the first community that was habitable in that entire neighborhood.
We delivered Heritage place between the years 2000 and 2004. And after we finished we then did what is our biggest Estate: Ocean Bay Estate.
With your experience in OPIC and given your track record, how can the 17 million housing deficit be bridged and why has government intervention not worked over the years?
The issue of mass housing has been very predominant in the last couple of years. A major challenge for Nigerians is the issue of the first installment demanded by real estate companies and developers, ranging from 10 to 20 percent. What are you bringing differently to the table?
Let us start with this premise. And this will be strange coming from somebody who has also run a public enterprise. Government has no business in business.
The way the government is structured, they can never succeed in doing a commercial venture. Because the exigencies for them are about political will, interests, and all of those factors. So, any commercial project that is being driven and executed by the government will be doomed from day one. And that has been the story of mass housing in Nigeria since 1963.
To get it right, there must be a mix and a blend of the public and private sectors. If we do not have a blend of public commitment and private capital, mass housing projects will fail.
But let me say this: social housing is a government function. No private developer can do social housing because it requires subsidies, concessions that only government can put in place.