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Balami Covers Pleasures Magazine’s March/April 2020 Issue

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Isaac Balami Covers Pleasures Magazine

The commercial aviation industry is a highly complex space, where a large number of entities are involved in the delivery of travel products and services, which is sometimes manifested in a single product from a customer perspective.

These actors are often collaborating and partnering to be able to co-deliver value and meet the expectation of customers.

According to International Air Transport Association (IATA) statistics, from the moment passengers search online for an air ticket to the time they arrive at their destination, the airline is just one of around 26 business partners involved in the aviation chain.

Would you board a plane if you know it had very poor maintenance record? Would you put your life in the hands of an airline that uses defective parts for its aircraft?

If you answered no to both questions, then you would appreciate the importance of other players involved, especially the aircraft maintenance industry.

Basically, the safety of air travel relies on the assurance of quality manufacturing of aviation equipment and its maintenance that ensure that complex and sensitive puzzles have to sit perfectly together for the success of each flight that takes place anywhere in the world.

Truth be told, aircraft maintenance, repair, overhaul and modification services have a long history of been seen as a ‘white man profession’ but there seems to be a paradigm shift in the profession with inspirational success stories from Africans who have great passion and love for all the aviation industry.

In fact, it is not out of place to state that with the new crop of top African aircraft talented aircraft engineers with excellent technical knowledge blazing a path forward, it’s been difficult for the industry not to sit up and take note of the shift.

Therefore, to deepen the importance of celebrating Great Success stories in Africa and also correct the wrong impression that whenever the continent is mentioned it is only a prism of war, corruption, disease, poverty, and hunger PLEASURES Magazine presents the theme of the March/April 2020 issue of your deluxe Pan-African Entrepreneurial and Luxury magazine: Paradigm Shift, a special edition to celebrate the success story of Isaac Balami, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of 7 Stars Global Hangar, the first-ever Aircraft Maintenance Repair and Overhauling Facility in the West African sub-region who has also excelled greatly as the President of the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers.

As earlier mentioned, once a White man’s turf, aircraft maintenance, which encompasses the performance of tasks required to ensure the continuing airworthiness of an aircraft or aircraft part, including overhaul, inspection, replacement, defect rectification, and the embodiment of modifications, compliance with airworthiness directives and repair.

Balami, who once worked as a painter and soak-away evacuator who is taking the world by storm is proving that this notion has been sent to the oblivion. But of course, it took some grit, guts and a lot of hard work along the way for Balami to get there.

In this exclusive interview with PLEASURES Magazine, the President, National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) who doubles as the Chief Executive Officer of 7 Stars Global Hangar, Engr Isaac David Balami, speaks with the Publisher, PLEASURES Magazine, Adedotun Babatunde, on his amazing journey from been a suya seller, painter and suck-away evacuator to one of the leading providers of aircraft maintenance, repair, overhaul and modification services in the world.

According to him, ‘’I come from an extremely humble Christian background in Borno state, a state in north-eastern Nigeria. My parents and grandparents were privileged to be Christians, my parents are also pastors. I grew up in a large family, my parents were not doing very well and found it hard to pay for the kind of school I wanted to go to.

“One thing I tell people is this, in life, you must know who you are! God did not bring anybody into this world for no reason, everybody has a reason why he or she is existing. My family named me Isaac because they believed I would bring laughter to the family, community and my generation.

“So, I remain focus though the future was still obscure then. At a very young age, I would do menial jobs like laundry, farming among others to augment the little money my parents had to go to school.

“But today, who would have thought that a mere labourer just 22 years ago could become the national president of the Association of Nigerian Pilots and Engineers? Who would have thought that an ordinary mai suya in the north some years ago could become the past spokesperson of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria? Who would have thought that a filthy and stenchy soak-away evacuator from the North-Eastern part of Nigeria could become the president of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum?

“Who would have thought that a man who could hardly afford a daily meal could cater for over 500 widows and sponsor nearly 500 children in school as a commitment from a foundation he owns? Who would have thought that a helpless man who faced a lot of challenges would be the founder of Nigeria Rebirth Project?” he asked rhetorically.

On what has helped him to become what he is today, Engr Balami averred that the Industry is for the bold and courageous.

He said: “What has helped me is my being bold. It takes a bold person to be able to take up the pressures in the Aviation Industry. It is not for weak people. Growing up you can imagine a young man, sleeping and waking up in the bush, encountering snakes and all sorts.

“Going through that wilderness, going through tough times, sponsoring myself, these are what have shaped me! Aviation is a global business but at the time you would hardly see Nigerians in the various fields in the Aviation industry.

“I was young and inexperienced but I had the drive, passion and commitment to excel and it was my desire for the airline owners to be able to train locals to take up the jobs the white people were doing, not that I was racist but because I believed they can do it.”

Against the threat of being sacked, he said he contest for election to be head of the airline and won by a landslide victory against the incumbent president who was his director at the time.

“I chose between losing my job and winning the election and I made them know that if I lost the election it would be on record that I chose to salvage my people working in this industry at the peril of losing my job.”

On the making of his yet to be launched airline, Engr Balami said “The airline will redefine the aviation industry, and change the entire narrative.

“The plan is if you fly economy class with us, you will be treated as a business class passenger. Currently, we’re bringing in some aircraft that have all been converted to business class. We will be having our VIP lounge therein; we are trying to give people that fly private jets an exquisite experience with us.

“With us, you’re assured of safety and comfort. With God by our side. It’s a one-stop-shop and we’re redefining the entire status quo.”

On what the future holds for 7 Star Global Hangar, Engr Balami averred that in the next three years, the company project to be at the New York Stock Exchange while in the next five years, it will not just be doing Aircraft maintenance but by God’s grace have assembled a team of aeronautical engineers, aircraft maintenance engineers to fly the first made in Nigeria aircraft.

“The Chinese now have made in China Aircrafts. While we are still a consuming nation? We can manufacture aircraft, if from nowhere, a boy from Borno, God can use me today to create jobs in the aviation sector, if as a nobody, God can take me to this height, what that means is that with the current team I have on the ground, with the expertise, the experience will be global exposure. We can salvage the Nigerian Aviation sector,” he said.

On giving back to society through NGO, he said the Isaac Balami foundation a Nigeria Initiative is empowering and uniting people.

According to him, “The night I prayed to God to give me a scholarship was the night I established the Isaac Balami foundation. The moment God gave me a job, I started funding the foundation. The Isaac Balami Foundation is aimed at empowering the less privileged and uniting people.

“We train people to acquire skills, we help the needy with fees among other humanitarian activities. Coming from Borno state, I was raised in the midst of Muslims, I was trained and empowered by Muslims and the Isaac Balami Foundation is working to ensure there is unity, national healing, peaceful coexistence, religious tolerance.

“Today, Nigeria is polarized, so much dichotomy, so much hatred and envy amongst us. When I saw that we are at that level, I had to go beyond the Isaac Balami Foundation for the My Nigeria Initiative to emerge. We wrote to the Presidency and today the First Lady is our National Grand Matron.

“We launched this foundation with several dignitaries and ambassadors from across Nigeria in attendance. We called together 200 youth organizations and held a programme to sign a peace accord after our brothers and sisters from the eastern part of the country were asked to leave the north. Since then, there has been a lot of stability and peace.”

Also featured, in your favourite PLEASURES Magazine is the President of Seychelles, H.E Danny Faure, who believes persistence is important in becoming a leader in your field. A seasoned and experienced politician, President Faure talks to PLEASURES Magazine about how his own experiences and his motivation to improve the lives of the Seychellois people, as well as those around the world. Also, an exclusive on Beech Holdings, owned by one of Manchester’s biggest developers Stephen Beech, PLEASURES Magazine caught up with him to talk about the growth of Manchester and what the future holds for Beech Holdings.

It is also a pleasant read with, Morin O’s Creative Director, Maureen Obaweya, who has been on the cutting edge of making quality leather goods in Africa for over two decades. A look at Century Plaza, a luxury living in the heart of Los Angeles and latest collections from African Luxury fashion brand by Adebayo Jones, the London based fashion Designer and style consultant who have long been associated with glamour, elegance, opulence and style. And as usual, the magazine is incomplete without your usual light stories and other human-interest narratives such as startup success stories of Kator Hule and Olubunmi Crown Gbadewole.

Modupe Gbadeyanka is a fast-rising journalist with Business Post Nigeria. Her passion for journalism is amazing. She is willing to learn more with a view to becoming one of the best pen-pushers in Nigeria. Her role models are the duo of CNN's Richard Quest and Christiane Amanpour.

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ICPC Uncovers N7bn Padded in Budget as Empowerment Projects

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ICPC Uncovers N7bn Padded in Budget as Empowerment Projects

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

The chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Mr Bolaji Owasanoye, has disclosed that the agency has discovered the fraudulent insertion of over N7 billion in the budget by some politicians as empowerment projects.

He made this disclosure at the 4th National Summit on Diminishing Corruption in the Public Sector held at the State House Conference Centre on Tuesday in Abuja.

“Just last week, the commission, in collaboration with the Budget Office and stakeholders, met with some MDAs on the recurring surpluses in their payroll to determine proactive measures to improve the budget process. We also actively review the budget to prevent abuse by senior civil servants and PEPs who sometimes personalise budgetary allocation for direct benefit. In one case, a PEP successfully increased an agency’s budget for the agency to buy a property from him. 

“In another case, the PEP inserted soft projects worth over N7 billion for a catchment population of about one million in the name of empowerment. Both cases are under investigation,” Mr Owasanoye revealed at the event.

He further said that the intensified scrutiny of personnel and capital cost of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) by ICPC has led to proactive restrictions of surpluses or duplications in the budget, decrying how some unscrupulous persons undermined the system by abusing the budgetary process for their gains.

He said ICPC reviews of special funds meant to improve education delivery such as UBEC and TETFUND has also revealed continued abuses and breach of procurement standards and compromise of statutory mandates while a System Study and review on SUBEB in six states for 2019-2020 revealed that the intention of UBE law to support states to improve basic education is frustrated by lack of commitment by state governments in not providing matching grants amongst other defaults.

The ICPC boss also disclosed that the commission, in support of the government’s effort to improve revenue generation, has recovered N1.264 billion in tax in 2022, maintaining that the organisation would continue to investigate the diversion of tax and other statutory revenues.

The keynote speaker and former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, decried how some reform policies formulated with good intentions are often circumscribed by endemic in the education sector. 

He listed such reforms to include the Procurement Act 2007, which requires that contracts of certain threshold should seek approval either at the Ministerial Tenders Board (MTB) or the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP), the requirement by members of the National Assembly that every Vice-Chancellor must appear to defend their budgetary proposals before funds would be appropriated and the recent requirement by the federal government that no university should recruit any staff, even to fully existing vacancies, without at least three layers of approvals by the Federal bureaucracy at the NUC, Head of Civil Service of the Federation and the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation. 

“All these three policies/measures, in spite of the good intentions, which may have underlined them, not only undermined the relative autonomy of the universities but have also introduced extraneous relations and influences laden with corrupt practices. Submissions made by Vice Chancellors to, especially, MTBs often returned with reversed contract awards for extraneous and inexplicable reasons,” he said.

“In the past, the NUC presented and defended the budget for federal universities, and appropriated funds were shared/allocated to universities transparently, using a widely known formula. Nowadays, VCs who go to the National Assembly to present/defend their universities’ budgets are ‘compelled’ or ‘induced’ to make deals in order to either prevent cuts in their budgetary proposals or so as to get substantial padding in their appropriations for projects to be executed solely by the Senator who negotiated the deal.

“With regards to obtaining approval, prior to recruitment or replacement of staff, there is evidence to suggest that VCs have to guarantee slots for the approving authorities to secure approvals. In filling those slots, no regard is paid to advertised vacancies, and required qualifications for the positions and, almost invariably, more unrequited non-academic staff are employed, further distorting the ratio of non-academic staff to academic staff in the NUC guidelines,” he added.

While speaking on the negative consequences of corruption in the education sector, Professor Jega observed that its solutions could not be found in isolation, saying strategies for its resolution would necessarily have to be in the context of a comprehensive grand strategy for addressing corruption in the wider public sector. 

He also called for an active citizenry to demand quality education for their children, saying doing so would make the sector accountable.

The high point of the summit was the presentation of the Public Service Integrity Award to Superintendent Daniel Itse Amah, a police officer who rejected a bribe of $200,000 from an armed robbery syndicate, and the presentation of a plaque and a painting made by an ICPC officer,  Mamman Kuru John, using the most recent and modern mode of painting known as impacto.

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Spleet Raises $2.6m to Spread Rent Offerings, Products to Nigerians

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Spleet

By Adedapo Adesanya

Nigerian prop-tech startup, Spleet, has closed a $2.6 million seed round to scale its residential rent-focused products.

The funds were provided by MaC Venture Capital, Noemis Ventures, Plug and Play Ventures, Assembly Fund, Ajim Capital, Francis Fund, as well as Metaprop VC and HoaQ Fund.

This fresh injection followed the $625,000 pre-seed funding round raised by the company in March.

Since its inception, Spleet has processed millions in rent, housed over 1,000 tenants and onboarded over 35 individual and corporate landlords.

With the funding, the startup plans to expand its product offerings to include Collect, a service that automatically receives rent payments on behalf of landlords; Verify, a tool that enables landlords and real estate agents to vet and carry out adequate background checks on tenants before offering lease agreements; and Rent Now Pay Later, a no collateral, affordable-interest rate rental loan product.

The Rent Now, Pay Later, which has been in the testing phase since December, gives renters access to no-collateral loans up to N3 million with an interest of about 3.5 per cent monthly to finance rent payments.

It is built on the back of payroll access, with a handful of users who make a one-month down payment while the company finances the remaining 11 months.

Speaking on the funding, Mr Tola Adesanmi said, “This funding would go into deepening our product offerings for landlords, real estate agents and tenants across Nigeria and testing out new markets.”

“The housing crisis is an enormous problem that impacts us at a global scale, and Africa is no exception,” said Mr Marlon Nichols, co-founder and managing general partner at MaC Venture Capital.

“In countries like Nigeria, the requirement for tenants to provide 12-to-24 months of rent payment in advance creates a barrier for large parts of the population in accessing the rental market and essentially renders them homeless. MaC is proud to partner with Spleet as it continues to bring forward a comprehensive solution that effectively serves both sides of the housing market and makes true deposits to combating homelessness,” he added.

Founded by Mr Adesanmi in 2018 from the need to find rentals with flexible payment options in Lagos as opposed to the usual one or two-year upfront payment options, Spleet allows homeowners to rent their apartments to vetted individuals while also helping people easily find places to stay.

The startup enables landlords to verify and scrutinise tenants and also automates rent collections. Its nonperforming loans ratio recorded so far stands at 1.2 per cent.

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Nigeria Inaugurates Mini Grids Programme to Expand Clean Energy Access

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Mini Grids Programme

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Rural Electrification Agency (REA) has inaugurated the Africa Mini Grids Programme (AMP) to support access to clean energy in Nigeria.

Mr Ayang Ogbe, the Director of Promotions at REA, said this in a statement in Abuja, noting that the four-year project was being funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Nigeria.

He said that the programme aims to increase the financial viability and promote scaled-up commercial investment in renewable energy mini-grids, focusing on cost-reduction levers and innovative business models.

According to him, the renewable energy mini-grids are with a focus on cost-reduction levers and innovative business models.

“The programme is active in 21 African countries, and the Nigeria national project implemented by the REA is the first to commence implementation following the official inauguration at an inception workshop.

“The workshop was hosted in collaboration with representatives from the UNDP, GEF, Federal Ministries of Power, Environment and Agriculture as well as other key stakeholders in the rural development space,” he said.

Mr Ogbe said that the Africa mini-grids programme in Nigeria was designed as an enabler project of the REA’s Energising Agriculture Programme (EAP).

He said that EAP aims to advance one of REA’s strategic priorities of focusing on the unserved and underserved to increase economic opportunities.

”Through agriculture and productive sectors in rural communities across the country, this objective is in line with the mandate of the REA to catalyse economic growth and improve the quality of life for rural Nigerians.

Speaking on the project, Mr Mohamed Yahya, the UNDP Resident Representative in Nigeria, said that the UNDP was delighted with the inauguration of the Africa mini-grids programme in Nigeria with the REA as the project’s implementing partner.

He said, “access to reliable, sustainable, affordable energy is a catalyst to socio-economic development, and in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

“By scaling up solutions such as renewable energy mini-grids, we will be able to close the energy access gap and unlock opportunities for people in Nigeria and across the region,” he said.

On his part, Mr Jonah Stanley,  GEF Operational Focal Point at the Federal Ministry of Environment, emphasised the significance of the programme, which he sees as central to issues.

“Such as security, climate change, food production and strengthening economies while protecting ecosystems.”

The statement quoted the Managing Director of the REA, Mr  Salihijo Ahmad, “commending the collaborative spirit of the agency’s partners and stakeholders that enabled the activation of the programme.”

Mr Ahmad said that the Africa mini-grids programme would serve as another catalyst for improved access to sustainable energy and equitable and inclusive impact on livelihoods by unlocking agricultural value addition opportunities from electrification.

He said, “this sectoral approach is in line with the agency’s focus on programmes to advance the electrification targets and broader social and economic development objectives of the Federal Government of Nigeria.”

The statement also quoted Mr Sanusi Ohiare, the Executive Director, Rural Electrification Fund (REF) at the REA as saying, “there is the need to enhance the viability of mini-grids and the impact of electrification”.

“To this end, the programme will deploy pilot mini-grids to achieve the electrification of rural communities and agricultural value chain.”

Mr Ohiare said that the project would also establish the most appropriate solutions and business models while amplifying the knowledge gained to catalyse private investment.”

The AMP in Nigeria will contribute to SDG 7, which is  (Affordable and Clean Energy), Goal 13 (Climate Action) and  Goal 5 (Gender Equality), with an estimate of 70,063 direct project beneficiaries, out of which 34,559 are women.

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