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40 Days of Akwa Ibom (Day 10): NYTC, the Akwa Ibom-based Firm Providing Affordable Housing, Education and Skill Acquisition Trainings

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Affordable Housing NYTC

NYTC is one of the fastest growing property development companies in Uyo.
Their Vision? “To create quality affordable homes for the middle class in Nigeria”

Follow Their journey from being told that their buildings would fall to selling multiple units in their own estate.

Dise Akwa Ibom: Thank you for being a part of this series. So, can you tell us about yourself and what you do?

Nsikak Ekpott: I just want to commend everyone at Dise AkwaIbom for showcasing what we do in this state on your platform. We’re so happy to be featured on the #40DaysOfAkwaIbom series.

My name is Nsikak Ekpott but my friends call me Nissi. Together with my brothers, Aniekpon and Uwemedimoh, I run a property development and skill acquisition company called New Year Transaction Company Limited (NYTC). Aniekpon is the Managing Director while Uwem is the Proprietor. I’ve been a Business Development Consultant for more than 20 years. My brother Ani, is a civil engineer and international project manager while Uwem is a historian and entrepreneur.

Our company’s vision is to develop quality affordable housing for individuals or families in the middle class. Most people think that affordable housing is low quality housing but we’re trying to debunk that by building high quality home for middle class earners.

We build homes within serviced estates. The services we provide include security, electricity, refuse disposal, gardening, water,etc. These services ensure that home owners enjoy a safe and fulfilling lifestyle.

We build all our homes with Hydraform Bricks. Hydraform is a brick building technology that produces bricks that are twice as strong as normal bricks and are stronger than concrete. These bricks are not easily broken which provides added security from thieves. They’re also bullet proof and fire proof. Our bricks are reusable and washable which allows for easy renovations and maintenance.

An added feature is the temperature regulation. When it is cold outside, the bricks become warm which heats up the house. The same applies when it is not outside.

Dise Akwa Ibom: Can you give us a brief history of NYTC?

Nissi: Well, Uwem and I along with 2 other partners started NYTC as a building company in 2002. We had no money when we started and so we couldn’t register the business or buy any supplies. To raise money, we diverted into trading (importing and exporting). We would source for equipment in countries like South Africa initially, then China. After buying, we would sell locally in Akwa Ibom. We did this for several years while our brother Ani was still in school. After Ani graduated as a civil engineer and worked for a while, he joined us at NYTC in 2012 as our project manager and team leader.  The other 2 still remain as stakeholders in the company. We had raised enough cash at this point to start building properly.

When our Dad died in 2016, he left us his company in his will.  Dad’s company was a skill development and training centre. He also had a secondary school where most people in our village attended. He trained more than 10,000 Akwa Ibom citizens including 2,000 village chiefs.

 We merged all these business together to form a new NYTC whose services now included:

  • Building and Property Development
  • Skill Development Centre
  • Secondary School.

The school and skill development centre work together for community development.

We offer training services in woodwork,robotics, building, etc. After training, they produce the doors, cabinets, pavers, bricks, etc, that we use in our buildings.

Dise Akwa Ibom: That was fantastic. So far,what has your firm been able to achieve as far as affordable accommodation is concerned?

Nissi: Hm, the journey to quality affordable housing.

Frankly, it’s been more of a calling than a journey. In Nigeria, homes that are very beautiful are located in elite areas like Lekki (Lagos) and Ewet housing(Uyo). The cost of homes in those areas starts from 40million naira and above and most Nigerians can’t afford them.

When we started, our target market was people who could afford homes of 10-15 million naira or less. We would have built for even less but we had to factor in the ever increasing cost of building materials.

Our main challenge was getting people to believe in the concept of providing affordable homes for less than 10 million. I remember us having to attend hundreds of meetings with banks to get funding but we didn’t get any support. We had to raise capital internally. Once we had that, we bought equipment, vehicles and a brick yard. We started producing our own blocks and wood which we then used to build prototype homes to show people.

Our first prototype cost 3 million to build. Someone told us that it would fall but 7-8 years after, it’s still standing. We tested every single material that was used to build that house. There’s no way it’ll fall.

After prototypes, our next achievement was training young people in rural areas like Uruan. We trained about 75 of them.They had never built a house in their lives. We got people from South Africa as well as locals to train them. We even sent our local project managers to get advanced training in South Africa.

Most of the people we trained are in University of Uyo now,studying to become engineers. They still come to work for us sometimes. Others are experts in building and brick production who work all over akwa Ibom.

Subsequently, we’ve trained different cycles of people.

Now, we’ve demonstrated affordable housing in places like Eket, Ikot Ekpene, Uyo, etc. We’ve also launched our own estate in Palm City and people from Akwa Ibom and even Europe have begun to purchase units.

Right now, we’re working on finance models that’ll have different payment options for those interested in buying homes.

Dise Akwa Ibom: That’s really awesome. Have you had any challenges in the course of growing your business?

Nissi: So many. I don’t even know where to start from. When we wanted to start transferring money out of the country, the banks told us that it was impossible. Then there were times when we would train people and they’d run away afterwards. We’ve dealt with poor work ethic and poor quality of work from artisans. A window artisan gave us trouble because he said that in all his years of work, he had never been supervised. What about clients who would pay a deposit and disappear, leaving us with the remaining bills? Or our outsourcing models failing?

Architects and Engineers didn’t believe that our bricks would work. The bricks are like Lego sets. You don’t need mortar just dry tacking.  It was hard to convince them. Let’s just say that we’ve faced many giants. It has been a permanent surmounting of battles. At some point, we had to stop building for more than 3 years.  The testimony is that we have overcome those challenges.

We’ve proven that the model works and several units have been sold. We’ve invested in having an ethics training aspect so the quality of work has improved. Since we’ve proven that the model worked, financing has been less of an issue. We’ve used technology to show architects and engineers how strong our bricks are and how  they are even used in earthquake prone areas to build.

We’ve had many challenges but we’ve also had many victories and we look forward to more.

Dise Akwa Ibom: Corona Virus has wreaked havoc on the Nigerian economy. Do you think that affordable housing will still be possible, even post-pandemic?

Nissi: The first thing to note is that shelter is a basic need. Even if there’s a war,people will always reserve money for housing, food,and other basic needs for humanity.

There’s also an uptick of interest from those in diaspora. People feel safe in their countries of origin so they invest in housing here in case they need to return.

The third thing is that majority of our population falls within our affordable category. Less than 1% of Nigerians can buy a house in cash. We like to refer  the MTN model. There was a time when sim cards used in cell phones cost about 150,000 naira. Less than 2% of the population could afford them. Then MTN and others came in and gradually the price of sim cards dropped. Today they’re sold for a 100 naira and MTN has millions of customers and is more profitable than the original sim card brand. Same thing applies to banks like Zenith that were once considered as elite banks. You could only open a bank account if you had up to 50,000 naira in your account. When CBN stopped this, they had to go into retail banking and now they’re the biggest banks.  It’s the same in every industry.

Corona Virus has forced people to look for affordable products that are structured in a way they can benefit from. It has reshaped the economy. The federal government is also focusing on housing development as a catalyst for boosting  the economy. So, yes, I think it’s an opportunity. We’ve actually noticed an uptick in business during this pandemic. It has also made us to think of more creative payment options. For instance, a rent-to-own basis, paying in instalments over 2-3 years and eventually in 20-30 years like it’s done overseas. We just need to rethink how we do things.

Dise Akwa Ibom: Let’s talk about your Dad. Who was he and why was he so interested in community development?

Nissi: I thought you asked a long question before but this one is even longer. I’ll try to be brief.

My great grandfather was the first person to welcome the missionaries into our hometown. He even helped to site the secondary school in our community. In fact my family donated land that was used. My grandfather in turn inherited that mentality and sent my father to school.

My father grew up with the mentality of community development. The missionaries helped our community see the light so my father believed that if they could come all the way to help us, we should do the same. Long story short, he got educated then got a job at Nigerian Breweries in Lagos. He later became one of the first 5 Nigerian born managers to take over from the white managers at the brewery. Now, South East states wanted to start a brewery so they employed him to come down to Uyo, which was a village that was part of Cross River at the time,to start the Cross River brewery(now Champion Breweries).

So, my father spent 12 years working to grow the brewery. By the time he retired, he had raised it to a point where it could compete directly with Nigerian Breweries. Out of Uyo, he created something global. The company had also given rise to others such as AutoPak ,which was a printing company that made the cartons and other printables used by the brewery, amd Plastocrown, a plastics company.

After retirement, his vision became the development of skills in the community that would give rise to industrialisation. He even wrote a book,Industrialisation-Starting Small, Growing Big, which we have made digital.

During the time of Gov. Attah, he was asked to help 5000 Akwa Ibom citizens to write business plans which would help them access funding from the governor. He worked with organisations like UNDP to train people.

He later set up the Institute of Work and safety which was a skill acquisition and training centre that’s now a part of NYTC. My father believed that empowering a community begins with transforming work,thinking and enterprise culture. Growing up under him was what gave my brothers and I our business acumen. In my dad’s will, he stated clearly that he wanted enterprise and community  development as well as industrialisation to continue. He handed over all he had developed to the company, to continue that responsibility. So we were tied to it. We had to focus on enterprise development because it was a duty passed from previous generations.

Dise Akwa Ibom: This has been an interesting interview. Thank you for being here once again.

Due to several enquiries about the housing plans from our readers, we decided to revisit Mr. Nissi to inquire for our interested followers. One Mr Henry was very persistent.

Here’s a summary of what he told us.

NYTC ACCOMMODATION PLANS

Units available
1- 3-bedroom Unit bungalow
Price: N 10m
Lounge
Dining
Kitchen
Store
2 bedrooms ensuite

2- 2 bedroom Semi-detached bungalow
Price N 6.5m
Lounge
Dining
Kitchen
Store
2 bedrooms ensuite

3- 2 bedroom Semi-detached Duplex (currently under construction)
Price N 6.5m
Lounge
Dining
Kitchen
Store
2 bedrooms ensuite

4- New project coming soon – 3 million
We are aiming to sell shells to buyers with prices starting at N 3m per unit. This shell will be developed on a 250 sqm plot of land. Units range from 1 bedroom, 2-bedroom, 3 bedroom and duplexes.
The strategy behind these buildings is to allow families be able to get into a decent shelter then pay and from there as they grow they can expand the property.
For instance, we can design a building as a 3 bedroom, but build just the Parlour, dining, and one or two rooms. The shell will have ceiling, basic lighting, one toilet/ bathroom, doors and windows etc. It will be decent enough to dwell in comfortably.
12 to 24-month Payment plans can be discussed.

General
All units are built in estate which will have access to water, electricity, and services such as refuse removal. Residents will pay for connection and use of these services. Estates are also fenced and have paved internal roads. The plan is to build a very decent lifestyle for people.
People who want this can simply register and fill in a form. We will ask them to make a commitment deposit at the bank, which the bank will hold and as we build they pay us so the money is secure.

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40 Days of Akwa Ibom(Day 20) – Preshland Decor and Drinks: Breaking Limits During a Pandemic

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We caught up with the founder of Preshland Decor and Drinks and had a brief chat about his company’s new Product. Read our conversation below.

Disé Akwa Ibom: Hello Precious. Thank you for taking out time to talk to me today. Let’s dive right in.
Disé Akwa Ibom: Can you give us a brief history of your company?

Precious: So, Preshland is primarily a decoration and event planning company. The transition to tigernut drinks production happened out of necessity. As you know, when the pandemic hit Nigeria, social events were banned so business really slowed down for us. I had to do something to keep the brand going so I did some research and I found a market for healthy drinks in Akwa Ibom. That’s how Preshland drinks was born.

Disé Akwa Ibom: That’s wonderful. You were able to start up something at a time when things seemed so bleak.

Precious: I just had to keep us going you know? And people actually wanted a healthy drink that was produced under safe and sanitary conditions. It was easy to fill the need. In fact, I don’t see the drinks and decorations as 2 different business. The vision is for our drinks to one day, be served at an event we organised or decorated for like a wedding or something even bigger.

Disé Akwa Ibom: So are you drinks really healthy?

Precious: Definitely. Our tigernut drinks contain tigernut (of course), coconuts and dates, which are blended together to form a thick and tasty drink that’s PACKED with nutrients. Tigernuts have essential minerals, fibre and proteins. Their low fat content makes them a healthy alternative for people who are trying to lose weight or maintain a certain weight.
We don’t add preservatives too so there’s a 100% organic guarantee.

Disé Akwa Ibom: I’ve had the pleasure of tasting your drink so I know you’re not exaggerating. Why don’t you use preservatives though?

Precious: Preservatives are chemical additives that prolong the shelf life of products. Most of them are not organic as they are synthesized in labs. There’s a saying that every chemical is a potential poison and that’s true in this case. Preservatives can build up in your body and cause health problems eventually. Our drinks only contain ingredients that can be digested and removed from the body once the nutrients are absorbed.

Another thing is that studies have shown that the longer a product stays, the less potent the nutrients become. We want our customers to enjoy maximum benefits from our drink and that’s why we want them to be consumed fresh.

Disé Akwa Ibom: Has the reception been good so far?

Precious: Awesome. Wonderful. Everyone loves our drinks. In fact, once most customers taste one,they keep ordering more.
Even with a little competition, we’re still pulling a crowd because we don’t compromise on our standard of production and quality. Every single drink reflects that commitment.

Disé Akwa Ibom: Can you share some challenges you’ve encountered?

Precious: The major problem we have would be the lack of constant electricity. Our drinks don’t have any added preservatives because of our 100% natural gurantee, so to preserve them, they have to be kept refrigerated. Electricity is so unstable here and I’ve had some major product losses. A few weeks ago, a whole batch of drinks went bad. All the bottles had to be dicarded. It was a big loss for us.

Disé Akwa Ibom: That’s so terrible. I’m really sorry.

Precious: Well, thank you. The good thing is that we can use ice now as a substitute for a refrigerator. Another issue we have is blending the nuts. We don’t use commercial grinders because we’re trying to maintain proper sanitary measures with processing and packaging. It’s really important to me.
So, we use our own blenders but the nuts are hard and the blenders go bad easily. I’ve had to replace 2 blenders already but as the business grows, we’ll purchase more durable blenders.

Disé Akwa Ibom: Do you have plans to other health drinks?
Precious: I do but it’ll happen after we’ve solidified our market stance. We’re focusing on the Tigernut Drink right now but later on we’ll consider othee products like soymilk.

Disé Akwa Ibom: Thank you Precious. This has been a lovely interview.

You can follow Preshland Drinks on Instagram @preshlandtigernutdrink. Delivery services are also available within Uyo.

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Business

40 Days Of Akwa Ibom (Day 12): Mama Topiem; The Trainer Of Trainers

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A journey from adversity to recognition is probably one we have heard of a million times. It is also the kind of story we can never seem to get enough of. The underdog story inspires. it makes us believe we can be more than we are. The journey of Mrs Emem Festus Awodein (yes, she’s an Akwa Ibomite) is one that has seen it all. It is unfortunate that not everything can be shared here, but I hope you enjoy the parts that we actually can share.

Dise Akwa Ibom: Please tell us your name Ma.

Mrs Awodein: Okay. My name is Emem Festus Awodein.

Dise Akwa Ibom: Please tell us about yourself.

Mrs Awodein: I am the CEO of TOPIEM FASHION AND DESIGN here in Ikot Abasi. I am a fashion designer. I started my life at a very young age. I left home due to some financial situation. I came here (Ikot Abasi) when i was 19. My mother was a seamstress, so I got the knowledge of sewing from here. When I came here, I started with sewing children’s wears and from there, i graduated to whee I am today. I am a mother of three, even though i lost my husband, I’m a widow, but with the help of this work, I’ve been able to train my children. My first daughter is in the University, the second one is in secondary school and the last one in primary. So, I have been able to train over a hundred plus people in this town and by the grace of God, I got contracts from various companies like TOTAL. I’m one of the trainers there. I am a one time treasurer of AKWA IBOM STATE TAILORS’ ASSOCIATION.

Dise Akwa Ibom: So Aunty, how are you able to balance family life with your business?

Mrs. Awodein: Okay, in that aspect, I have workers with me, but i also have to be at the shop between 7:30 and 8:00 (am) and then I will work till 6:00 (pm) and then close so that I can meet up with some home activities. With my workers at the shop, I have those that I’m paying and those that are working as trainees. My children, some are in boarding school. When they come back, they always join me. All my children can sow. With that, I think I’m able to attend to my family and at the same time satisfy my customers.

Dise Akwa Ibom: So Aunty, about your business, what are the challenges you faced when you started and what would you advise young people today that are going into business for themselves.?

Mrs Awodein: The major challenge I have faced in this skilled job is having to  depend on customers for my daily income. Unlike the salary earners who are certain of their pay, our work most times is left to chance. At some point, it seemed to me that I was living a hand to mouth life. My advice to young people going into skill related businesses is to invest in products as well as services. That way they don’t have to depend too much on collecting more work than they can actually do and having to lie to customers.

some Topiem Graduates
More Topiem Graduates

Dise Akwa Ibom: Aunty, do you have any future plans for your business? What’s your vision?

Mrs. Awodein: I enjoy teaching a  whole lot. For the longest time I have wanted to open a fashion school so that talented youths who cannot afford going to the higher institution are provided the opportunity to learn this skill. That will free me up to be able to better teach the people I get to train instead of rushing sometimes due to the urgency of some jobs.

Dise Akwa Ibom: So what are your favorite things about Akwa Ibom?

Mrs. Awodein:  The dishes; I doubt there’s any tribe in Nigeria that prepares better dishes than Akwa Ibom.

Dise Akwa Ibom: Do you have a favorite hangout in Akwa Ibom?

Mrs. Awodein: During the weekends, I especially enjoy chilling out in RichMan hotel in Ibeno, Eket. It is quite close to the beach and I love it for the beautiful view of the ocean.

Dise Akwa Ibom: Is there anything you will like to tell our readers?

Mrs. Awodein: I especially like addressing the youths so, to the youths out there, we are in an age where one can have a degree and remain unemployed hence, my advice is this, every youth should acquire a skill. It may seem irrelevant now but it will bear fruits in the future.

Dise Akwa Ibom: Thank you for your time Ma.

Mrs Awodein: The pleasure is all mine.

There’s so much more about Mrs Awodein than meets the eye. She may be Yoruba by name, but she’s Akwa Ibom by everything else. She has been actively involved in training more than a hundred and fifty tailors and seamstresses in Ikot Abasi L.G.A who have also gone on to train many more people. Her business is now 20 years old and for one who started so young and without prior formal training in design, getting to where she’s gotten has proven how talented and how much of a stalwart she is.

Akwa Ibom people are strong. The people have been through a lot as a people and have survived. The future looks very promising for the Land Of Promise.

Until next time.

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Agriculture

40 DAYS OF AKWA IBOM (DAY 4): GARRI WILL BE SOLD FOR N10 A CUP IN FIVE TO SEVEN YEARS

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“My target in the next five years is that I’m going to be one of the biggest farmers in South South, in Nigeria here.”

Mr Aniebiet Antia

Meet Mr Aniebiet Antia of ANTIA’S FARMS, a man with big dreams, not just for himself but also for the state and people of Akwa Ibom.

Mr Antia hails from Ikot Essien Oku Iboku in Itu Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State and is married with children. He is also the owner of one of the newest big farm projects in the state. In fact, his farm was only forty days old yesterday. (Crazy right?)

Before the pandemic shut down the world, Mr Antiah sold fabrics and caps. Once everything and everyone was locked indoors, business plummeted.

Some of Mr Antia’s Fabrics

In his own words, “One of the things that motivated me into farming was COVID19. Number two thing that motivated me into farming is my family. It’s for me to be able to provide for my family. The number three thing that motivated me into agriculture is the DAKADDA philosophy of Governor Udom Emmanuel. His completion agenda in the area of agriculture. I told myself that I want to be part of this completion agenda to also boost the food sufficiency in the state.”

When you take a walk in his two and a half plots of farmed land, you will see stands of cucumber and water melon occupying most of the current space. This however is only the beginning.

Before all of this was put in motion, he had to undergo some training to be able to farm and care for crops of different kinds. This has especially helped him considering he is already looking forward to his first harvest tomorrow.

“I’m going to plant a very big farm, and by God’s special grace, within the next five to seven years, a cup of garri in my state shall be sold at N10 because of my passion for agriculture and what I’ve seen and how I’m going to invest in agriculture. And if I have the support that I’m looking for, I’m going to take it to a much higher level.”

He plans to plant 10 hectares of land in the next five months. This will include spaces for hybrid pawpaw, cucumber, watermelon, banana, tomatoes and even space for a fish farm. In fact, according to Mr Antia, he plans to eventually plant every food crop consumed in the state to prevent Akwa Ibomites from having to get their food from other states. (And who knows, he could end up farming a host of animals as well.)

Pawpaw seedlings in nursery

“My future is now. My future is today. I’m expanding every second of my life.” These were his words when he was asked about expansions.

His wife, Mrs Antia, has been an amazing source of encouragement to him. He probably wouldn’t have gone into the field without her support. Other sources of encouragement have been Elder Ufot Ebong and other men too numerous to mention, who have shown that agriculture, in the scale he plans to indulge in, is possible and very profitable.

Mr Antia with family

Mr Antia is also a blogger and art dealer and combines these perfectly with his agricultural exploits.

“Akwa Ibom is the destination of choice. That is how I can describe Akwa Ibom, and that is what Akwa Ibom is.” These were the last words that Mr Antia said to us and they are true words indeed.

Akwa Ibom stands with Mr Antia. Akwa Ibom stands with Antia’s farms and we at diseakwaibom.com believe that indeed, because of people like Mr Antia, garri will be sold for N10 a cup someday soon.

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