Mr. Domenico Gitto
At 52, he had not only carved a niche for himself in the construction industry, he had indeed emerged a famed construction giant and a trusted one at that.
In the 10 years of his foray into the Nigerian economy, Mr Domenico Gitto, the Managing Director of Gitto Costruszioni Generali Ltd, had become so known in mega construction projects so much that his name now collocates with construction.
And in a way, he had become an emerging construction giant, with the huge prospect of even looming larger in the near future. But on Tuesday, the giant was crashed by yet another giant, an invisible but consummate terminator called “death”.
It happened at about 5.00 pm, in Abuja, at the office of the Ministry of the Niger Delta where he had gone to hold a meeting.
He was said to have collapsed and died as he walked into the venue of the meeting at the Federal Secretariat. Just like that. To say his sudden death was shocking to the staff and acquaintances would be for lack of a better word. Although medical reports have not confirmed cause of death, he is suspected to have died of cardiac arrest. He is said to have always been very busy.
Before he came to Nigeria to establish Gitto Construction Company in 2002, he was in Italy, managing the family business during which the company handled so many landmark projects overseas, especially in Jordan, Israel etc., where they constructed the famous Jerusalem tunnel. In his younger days, the late Gitto was a formula 2 driver in Italy.
THISDAY gathered that it was the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Kanu Agabi (SAN), who introduced him to the then President Olusegun Obasanjo after he (Agabi) studied Gitto’s pedigree.
When THISDAY visited his office yesterday at the Mubushi district in Abuja, the atmosphere of gloom pervaded the entire premises. Some members of staff who discussed in hushed voices the sudden collapse of their boss, noted that Gitto was a wonderful man, who in such a short while had so understood the Nigerian environment and had become a major player.
With the first major contract they won in Bonny, Rivers State in 2002, the late Gitto was seen as the force that drove the company to its present height, with over 12 major projects in its portfolio, scattered across the country including Abuja, Kogi, Bayelsa, Cross River, Rivers Nassarawa and Akwa-Ibom.
In Akwa Ibom State, Governor Godswill Akpabio recently inaugurated Phase 11 of the Ibom airport project in Uyo, which is being handled by Gitto after successfully completing the airport runway, two months ahead of schedule. Reacting to some allegations of poor quality of jobs by the company, the late MD said he would prefer that his work and his clients speak for him, and that such comments should be based on verifiable facts.
He promised that if his clients kept to the letters and spirit of the binding contract awarded and the community provides the enabling environment, Gitto would deliver projects within the agreed time frame.
But despite all these, what may have launched Gitto more into the public arena was when President Goodluck Jonathan, last April, announced the donation of an Anglican church building renovated by Gitto’s company in Otuoke, Bayelsa State, the president’s country home.
Reacting to the controversy generated by the church building gift, Gitto had said in a newspaper advertorial that the donation was part of its social responsibility to the community in a state where they have been operating since 2005, adding that Italian firms in Nigeria have engaged in this practice of rendering free construction services, medical and advisory services as well as providing scholarships in various communities of the country.
Many of the staff who paid him tribute yesterday, affirmed that Gitto had not only provided succour to many, but has also touched many lives.
“That man Gitto tried, can you imagine the number of people he has given job?” a staff said in lamentation, while his colleagues added that “the man touched many lives; from today (yesterday) you will see different kinds of visitors who will be streaming in here, all because he was a good man”
The construction firm, according to sources at the office, had engaged about 10,000 staff, including the support staff crew.
All the foreign staff who spoke to THISDAY were unanimous in describing him as a charismatic and dynamic person. He was generally regarded as an infectious and generous man. An Italian lady who worked closely with him said she would miss his vitality and his impeccable interrelationship.
Another member of staff, the legal manager of the company who also worked very closely with him for over two years told THISDAY that Gitto was never short of ideas and had solution to almost everything. “He was a great guy and an absolutely fabulous person”, the staff said.
His elder brother who is the Chairman of the Gitto company in Nigeria, Salvadore Gitto, spoke of his brother’s passion for Nigeria and his desire to contribute to the infrastructural development of the country, adding that what he and those he left behind in the company owe his brother is to ensure that his dream is realised.
The mood at the Mabushi head office of the company clearly shows that the heart of the company has been taken away as staff – both foreign and local — wore gloom faces as they discussed the sudden death of their boss.