Chief Dr. Cletus Mmadubugwu Ibeto was born in Nnewi, Anambra State, Nigeria, on November 6th, 1952. Growing up as a child, he was enrolled in a secondary school to acquire a good education.
On January 22, 1966, at age 13, the highly spirited Ibeto got his school box and provisions all packed and set for school. Unknown to him, the academic phase of his life was about to crash, as his father decided that since he had multiple sons, he’d be better off sending some of them to school and sending one-off to be a trader, so as not to put all his eggs in one basket.
Cletus was the unfortunate one who got booted from school and was sent off to learn a trade. While his two elder brothers, Cyril and Louis continued their education.
This exclusion got Cletus angry and triggered a mild protest in him; by not eating for days, crying, begging, and climbing trees as though he planned to end his life.
His father sent him off to a John Akamelu in Onitsha. He got to his master’s place in his school uniform. This prompted people to make funny jokes about him and eventually tag him with the name, “schoolboy”. The people in the market enjoyed their mockery because they believed people who go to school were weaklings seeking refuge, and could not compete in the world of trade.
Ibeto’s master decided to ensure he never thought of school again and didn’t fail to use the rod when appropriate. Till this day, a mark of his master’s whip remains on his arms, and he views it as a trophy because the discipline he received brought out the best in him.
His time as an apprentice with his master was filled with a thorough study of the trade and inculcation of sheer brilliance in him, which made him a formidable competitor in the market.
At the age of 17, his apprenticeship was shortened by the civil war. Since he was forced to join the army, his life was only saved because he was sent on an errand by his superiors to go and get food. This little trip was the beginning of his path to greatness.
After the war, Cletus Ibeto decided to pursue his dreams of becoming a successful trader once again. To raise capital for his business, one of his elder brothers, Louis, gave him a leather handbag and a round neck suit, which Ibeto sold along with a packet of APC tablets he picked up at an evacuated hospital.
Foray Into Business.
Just like many Nnewi Billionaires and Millionaires, Cletus Ibeto started out from Nkwo Nnewi Market as a spare parts trader after spending some time as an apprentice in the motor parts business. Thereafter through the dint of hard work and perseverance, he ventured into importation of spare parts.
His Turning Point.
The government of Shehu Shagari triggered the big break for Cletus Ibeto. At the time, a policy in the country enabled the importation of goods without an import license. This period helped Ibeto amass a great deal of fortune, which he subsequently put back into his business to grow it sporadically till the import licenses were then reintroduced.
With the new development and his short quick success, he was able to secure an import license worth 3 Million Naira, at a time when the value of a dollar was equal to 68 kobos.
With this scarce license, he proceeded to import 65 containers of motor spare parts. His promptness to secure a license greatly favored him yet again because, shortly after he had secured his, the country made it almost impossible for anyone to secure an import license, and to make matters worse for budding entrepreneurs, the government changed hands and the borders closed, temporarily shutting down all forms of importation.
His already available containers gave him an upper hand, as he traded when others could not, and so enjoyed a great monopoly the system had unconsciously provided him.
This unexpected situation gave Cletus Ibeto an exceptional edge. In his interview with the Sun Newspaper, he said this: “That was the turning point for me.” he said. “Come and see the line-up of people who wanted the spare parts. I was packing money with cartons. There was no armed robbery then, no kid-napping. It was a seller’s market. And the mark-up was almost 500%, but people were buying! In fact, within two days of the arrival of the containers, I made four million pounds!!”
Venture into Manufacturing.
In March 1988, Ibeto stopped direct importation of lead-acid automotive batteries and plastic motor accessories, after completing his factory in Nnewi- Union Autoparts Manufacturing Co. Ltd.
This Company was incorporated on 2nd June 1987 and is today one of the major players in automotive lead-acid battery manufacturing in Nigeria. It is engaged in complete manufacturing of first-class quality, completely dry-charged Union brand motor and motorcycle batteries of all capacities in addition to auto spare parts and accessories such as auto lamps, front and rear light covers, fan blades, front grilles, wheel covers, reflectors, brake pads, and linings, clutch facings and clutch fibers, brake shoe kits, PVC conduit fittings, and other plastic products.
It also produces locally, from its lead and aluminum smelting plant, all the lead and aluminum required for its operations. It has the capacity to produce, annually, the following items: 300,000units of lead/acid batteries, 120,000 units of sealed maintenance-free batteries, 5,500tonnes of lead, 500 tonnes of accessories, and 1,500 tonnes of friction parts.
Union Autoparts Manufacturing Co. Ltd has been exporting pure lead and antimonial lead to customers in Europe, Asia, and Africa since 1991.
On October 2, 1996, Ibeto set up another manufacturing company called Ibeto Petrochemical Industries Limited; which manufactures oil lubricants and other various petroleum products both for local and international trade.
The company has the largest liquid storage facility for petroleum products in Nigeria, with a large capacity to store over 60,000 metric tons, and is located at the Apapa Warf and the Ibru Jetty Complex in Lagos, Nigeria.
Ibeto Petrochemical Industries Limited is licensed by the Department of Petroleum Resources to undertake the blending of oil lubricants and the production of various types of petroleum products for local and international markets. The Blending Plant is located at Nnewi, Anambra State.
Since January 1999, the Company has been delivering its blended lube products to the West, East, and Central African markets. The Company also procures and trades in a range of petroleum products like Base oil (Bright Stock, etc) and Automotive Gas Oil. In August 2012, this company began to export Nigerian Crude Oil.
How He Ventured Into Cement Business.
The Ibeto Group commenced business in the cement sector in 1997 with the importation of ship-loads of bagged Portland cement through the Apapa ports.
The Ibeto Cement Company Ltd was conceived in 2001 following the Federal Government ban of the importation of cement in bags and the institution of a new policy of bulk importation and local bagging.
Located in Bundu Ama, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, it started producing bagged cement at its Bagging Terminal in June 2005. The Terminal is an ultra-modern bagging plant with a Flat-storage capacity of 50,000 metric tons and a production capacity of 1,500,000 tons per annum which translates to a production capacity of not less than 6,000 metric tons per day. It has two (2) production lines, each with a capacity of 2700 of 50kg bags per hour or a designed total production capacity of 5400 of 50kg bags per hour. This means that nine (9) trucks of 600 bags each will be loaded every hour. It also has a third production line for big bags of 1500 kilograms, popularly known as the Big Bag Plant, and yet a fourth production line for Bulk Cement powder which is loaded on special cement trucks fitted with tanks and discharge pumps.
A modern Jetty that can take in ships of over 190 meters in length with a sophisticated Ship-Unloader was constructed at the waterfront as an integral part of the facilities.
In further response to the Federal Government’s call for a total shift from mere ‘bagging’ to the actual production of cement locally, The Ibeto Group has started work on a 5-million tonnes per annum Cement Manufacturing Plant in Effium, Ebonyi State.
EASTERN BULKCEM COMPANY LTD.
This is a subsidiary of Ibeto Cement Company Limited and is also engaged in the business of importation of bulk cement and bagging of same in its factory premises in Rumuolumeni waterfront, Rivers State. This company also owns 60% of Nigeria Cement Company Plc (NIGERCEM), Nkalagu, Ebonyi State. This situation has empowered Ibeto Cement to commence the expeditious resuscitation of the old Nigercem plant and the construction of a brand new dry-process plant.
Acquisition of A US Company.
In 2018, IBETO Cement Company Limited announced the acquisition of Century Petroleum Corporation, a United States (U.S.) publicly traded petroleum exploration and production company.
The company said it acquired 70 percent of Century Petroleum, resulting in the reverse merger of the cement manufacturer’s assets with the U.S. firms. For emphasis, A reverse takeover or reverse merger takeover is the acquisition of a public company by a private company so that the private company can bypass the lengthy and complex process of going public. The transaction typically requires the reorganization of the capitalization of the acquiring company.
In a statement released by the Company, It described the deal as a “historic reverse merger” that had paved the way for Ibeto Cement’s listing on the U.S. Stock Exchange. It further said, “Ibeto Cement will achieve the historic milestone of being the first Nigerian firm to be listed in the United States Stock Exchange.”
Dr. Ibeto, according to the statement, explained the strategy behind the merger. He said: “It has been a long journey since I have been in business and none of our companies or businesses has gone public so far. “In line with our collective dreams to place Nigeria in its rightful place in the comity of nations, we had to come up with a strategy to build a formidable structure for companies that will outlive me”.
“Everybody knows that Ibeto Group has billions of dollar investments in Nigeria, but the time has come to replicate the successes we have enjoyed in Africa and globally. Century Petroleum Corp is the vehicle for using our wealth of experience for the benefit of people within and beyond Africa.
“We will use it as a catalyst of empowerment for all Nigerians the world over as the company’s shares will be traded internationally.”
Happy Birthday Chief Dr. Cletus Ibeto. CON
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