Nnewi, a town in Anambra State in Nigeria’s southeastern region, has produced more naira billionaires than any other town in the country, and maybe Africa.
The people of this Igbo town are naturally entrepreneurial.
Nnewi, also known as the “Japan of Africa,” is well-known as a hub for automobile spare part dealers, and, more recently, it is best-known as the home of Innoson, Nigeria’s first indigenous vehicle assembly factory.
The town is also noted for its plethora of manufacturers that produce domestic items. It is also home to the biggest road transport companies in the country.
Nnewi, with a population of slightly more than two million people, is a 30-minute drive from Onitsha, West Africa’s largest outdoor market on the banks of the Niger River.
Nnewi is reputed to have the largest number of multimillionaires par capital in Africa.
One of the town’s earliest billionaires was Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu. He was said to be Nigeria’s first black billionaire and founding president of the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
Ojukwu made his money by importing dried fish for resale, and diversifying into textiles, manufacturing car batteries and pipe fittings, agriculture, food processing, real estate, cement and transport. When he died, his net worth was estimated to be $4 billion in today’s dollars value.
His son, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, also became a billionaire before leading his fellow Igbos into the Nigerian civil war as the leader of the breakaway state of Biafra in 1967.
Ever since then, the industrial town called Nnewi has produced other multibillionaires.
In this article, in no particular order, we present ten of Nnewi’s most renowned naira billionaires.
A young Augustine Ilodibe, an orphan and Catholic church mass server, was given £35 by a priest. He began trading in motor spare parts with the money.
By the 1960s, he had pioneered interstate luxury bus transportation service. For many years, he was the exclusive importer of these buses.
After assisting in the organization of vehicles for the Biafran side during the civil war, he founded the extremely popular Ekene Dili Chukwu Transport, his main cash cow. Ilodibe later divested into brewing and agriculture.
Nigeria is one of the world’s leading cable manufacturers. Obiajulu Uzodike founded Cutix Nigeria, one of the top cable producing companies.
Uzodike began his career as a staff member at a US-based aircraft and military wires and accessories company.
By 1982, the Harvard Business School alumnus and civil war veteran had invested N400,000 ($1,200) in Cutix, which grew to become the first indigenous company in the southeast to be listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
Alexander Chika Okafor
Chicason Industries, and one of its products – A-Z Petroleum are household brands in Nigeria.
The company which has operating footprints in Nigeria and Sierra Leone has made substantial advances into mining, manufacturing, and real estate.
Alexander Chika Okafor is the company’s founder and chairman.
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Coscharis Group, one of the country’s leading car dealerships, is the brainchild of Cosmas Maduka.
Maduka lost his father when he was four and had to drop out of school to sell bean cakes (akara), a common food staple.
His company, Coscharis Motors, is one of Nigeria’s major car dealerships. The company deals in BMW, Jaguar, Range Rover, and Rolls-Royce. The company has also expanded into other areas such as agriculture.
The Ibeto Group is arguably Southeast Nigeria’s largest industrial organization.
Its founder, Cletus Ibeto, began as an apprentice in an already established auto spare parts sales company.
He finally went out and set up his own company, and in the 1980s, he virtually eliminated the importation of lead acid vehicle battery in Nigeria.
Today, the company is now a conglomerate with interests in hospitality, automobiles, real estate, petrochemicals, agriculture, and cement.
Innocent Chukwuma is a school dropout that founded Nigeria’s first indigenous vehicle assembly factory.
Innoson Nigeria Limited manufactures sport utility vehicles, commercial buses, and passenger automobiles.
Innoson’s customers include the governments of Anambra and Enugu states, as well as a few federal agencies. The company has plants in Nnewi and Enugu.
Ifeanyi Ubah is an eccentric businessman whose fortune stems from investments in oil and gas, as well as the exports of auto parts and, more recently, the sale of football players.
In June 2015, Ubah, completed the purchase of Gabros FC for N500 million and renamed it Ifeanyi Ubah FC.
In 2014, he unsuccessfully campaigned for governor of his native state, Anambra.
Gabriel Chukwuma is the elder brother of Innocent Chukwuma (Innoson).
He started his entrepreneurial journey as a patent medicine trader.
Chukwuma later founded a conglomerate that is involved in sports, real estate, and hospitality.
He founded and managed Gabros International Football Club’s ascension to the Nigerian Premier League and association with English club West Ham FC before selling to fellow Nnewi entrepreneur Ifeanyi Ubah.