*Targets business expansion into other W’ African countries, consolidate operations in Europe, US
*Ikpea prepares to step aside as CEO in line with group’s leadership succession plan
*SGF, Wabote, Utomi, Kolade, Canadian envoy hail company for standing strong after 32 years, task it on robust corporate governance
Foremost Nigerian conglomerate, Lee Engineering and Construction Company Limited, has announced its audacious three-point growth plans to be realised within the next 30 years of its existence including the ambitious plan of going public by listing its shares on the stock market within the period.
Aside public listing, the Lee Group also intends to build a profitable and sustainable growth and gain market shares across its various businesses by expanding into other West African countries and consolidating its operations in Europe and the United States of America within the 30-year period.
Also within the next 10 to 30 years, the company plans to develop a robust and sustainable succession plan, which would see the Group Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lee Engineering Group and Allied Companies Limited, Dr Leemon Ikpea, step aside as the group CEO and function only as the chairman of the group where he would be functioning in the advisory and guidance capacity.
The organisation announced the three-point 30-year agenda in Lagos, during its management town hall meeting in commemoration of the 32nd anniversary of the Lee Group, where it reflected on its achievements and bumpy journey and planned for the future.
The event was attended by top industry stakeholders, diplomats and leaders of public opinion including the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Mr. Simbi Wabote, who commended the company for standing strong and successful in the last 32 years, urging the group to entrench sound corporate governance to enable it achieve its ambitious plan of listing in the stock market.
In his opening remarks, Ikpea, who went down memory lane on the humble beginnings of Lee Engineering and Construction Company Ltd 32 years ago, said the company has now grown and blossomed into the Lee Engineering Group and Allied Companies Limited.
He said the group now has interests in other businesses, including Aviation Services, Manufacturing, Oil and Gas exploration and production, among others.
He stated, “Most of you are familiar with the story of how I started this company with just a handful of staff and very limited resources. Starting from there till today, the Company has covered a long and evolutionary journey. It is like the story of the mustard seed as told by our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel of Mark chapter 4 verses 30 -32.
“In all these years which have passed, we have seen it all, successes, failures, highs and lows, celebrations and crises, everything. One thing which we never did was to ‘give up’. My unwavering faith in God, and belief in core human values of trust, integrity and team work, as well as our commitment towards the company are the factors that have brought us far.
“I wish to place on records, my immense gratitude to those staff who have worked day and night to make possible the modest achievements our company has made. To these hardworking staff, thank you for your hard work and dedication these past years”.
Dwelling on the group’s future plans in the next 10 to 30 years, as contained in the three broad growth plans, Ikpea said he was currently engaging with the other members of the new Board of Directors of the Lee Group to ensure their actualisation.
According to him, first on the list was to build a profitable and sustainable growth and gain market shares across the various businesses under the group, while the second was to develop a robust and sustainable succession plan for the Lee Group.
Lastly and most importantly, Ikpea said he and his team planned to take the Lee Group to the public by listing its shares on the stock market, adding that the new board was still working on the details of the plans.
He said through the supports of the team, the company’s businesses have managed to stay afloat in the face of a hostile and unpredictable business environment.
He maintained that the Board was currently developing and focusing on strategic plans that would help the Lee Group’s businesses to grow.
He explained that, that would involve the use of innovations and new technology in running the businesses, and putting in place high governance standards in the group.
Ikpea, noted that talented and diverse expertise would have to be engaged and deployed to strategic decision-making points in the subsidiaries of the Group.
He maintained that training and re-training for existing staff would also be given priority to make them fit for purpose and adapt to the new business environment, advising the staff to be ready to embrace the new ways of doing things in the company that is coming.
According to the chairman, the Board was also developing and helping to pursue plans that would enable the Group to have a niche and gain more grounds in its major businesses, particularly in Engineering, Production, Construction & Maintenance (EPCOM), Manufacturing, Aviation Services, and, in Oil and Gas Production.
“I also see the possibility of extending the businesses of the Group in these areas to other countries in the West African sub region between the next 10 to 30 years. We will also build and consolidate our operations in Europe and the United States of America,” Ikpea stated.
He stated that the Lee Engineering Group has been “my baby and essentially a family business”, since the establishment of the flagship of the Group, ‘Lee Engineering & Construction Company Ltd’, 32 years ago.
“Since then, I have been at the driver’s seat. I believe that the time has now come for me to start preparing to leave the driver’s seat and take a back seat as the Chairman of the Lee Engineering Group board, and allow others to drive the day to day running of the Group without any disruption in its businesses.
“I believe a sound succession plan has become imperative for the sustainability of the Lee Engineering Group”, Ikpea said.
In addition, the chairman said the Board was also developing a leadership mentoring programme for the executive directors that would lead to his disengagement from the driver’s seat in the next five to 10 years, describing it as urgent and imperative.
Having worked so hard to build the Lee Engineering Group to its current position, Ikpea advised his team on the need to keep his legacy in the Group alive even after they leave the stage.
He said that must be achieved by grooming a new set of accountable managers to take over the day-to-day running of the businesses, adding that all loyal and committed staff who embraced the ethos of hard work, integrity, trust and team work which he had developed for the company over the years would benefit from the leadership grooming.
Still on the company’s intended public listing, Ikpea pointed out that he wished for the company’s shares to be listed in the stock market without materially diluting the ownership structure.
“This is the only way to perpetuate the ideals and values of the company as a people oriented and responsible organisation,” he explained.
He said the company was blessed with staff who represent a unique wealth of strategic skills set, expertise and experience that could help to shape the future of the Lee Group.
“I am more than convinced that I have a strategic asset in all of you to help me deliver on the three broad objectives or plans I have enumerated above within the next five to 30 years. I am open to suggestions and advise on how these objectives or plans can be achieved under prudent resource control and management,” Ikpea concluded.
In his goodwill message at the occasion, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator George Akume, who was represented by his aide, Prof. Babatunde Bolaji, congratulated and commended Lee Engineering Group for attaining success and standing strong after 32 years of existence as a business.
“The SGF, His Excellency, Senator George Akume is a friend of Dr Lee and believes so much in his leadership ability and he asked me to tell all of you that the man at the helm of affairs of Lee Engineering is an astute businessman, and you cannot achieve 32 years of sustainable business if you are not honest, if you are not consistent, if you are not resilient, if you are not prayerful, and if you are not generous.
“These are qualities he finds in Dr Lee and he’s not surprised that the business has come such a long way. His Excellency, Senator George Akume is a believer of good things, is a progressive. He believes in progress. He believes in building people up, he believes in tomorrow’s people, and he shares that quality with Dr Lee,” the SGF’s aide said.
Delivering the keynote, Wabote extolled the business acumen of Lee Engineering’s chairman, saying he started the company at a 40-foot container in Warri, Delta State and had grown from that humble beginning to its current position,
He said from the Nigerian content point of view, Lee Engineering was one of the companies that had grown in leaps and bounds and was among the companies the agency had always looked up to and talked about as having demonstrated capacity and capability in the Nigerian oil and gas industry.
According to him, the dedication, commitment and continuous evolution displayed by Ikpea and his Lee Group was their remarkable difference.
He said the three-point strategy reeled out by Ikpea, on how to move the company forward exemplified somebody who has a vision, pointing out that lack of succession plan had led to the collapse of many businesses in Nigeria.
“But if you at this stage begin to say, hey, I’ve done this much, these are the three things I want to look forward to over the next 32 years, then you have started thinking”, Wabote stated.
The Local Content regulator, however, advised the company to entrench corporate governance as it journeys through the next 30 years, charging the chairman to allow the business to run ethically and clearly with mindsets that were devoid of interference, and allowing the corporate organization to take its decision.
Wabote further advised, “I saw your other agenda of wanting to list in the stock exchange. That is where importance of corporate governance comes in.
Because as you approach that agenda, it will scrutinise everything you do. Your minutes of meeting, how you take decisions, how you come about decisions, what you do,
who are the people doing the business for you and the rest of it. Very important.
“And you must be very clear. Even with your board of directors, conflict of interest must be managed. Because if the chairman is involved in some business, some contracting and the rest of it, you will never make the listing.
So people need to be trained and understand the importance of corporate governance.
“If you want to achieve this ultimate objective or wanting to list ourselves, you have a dream, but that dream will not come to pass if you do not take deliberate steps to make it happen.”
Also presenting his goodwill message, the First Secretary to the Deputy High Commissioner of Canada to Nigeria and long time friend of Ikpea, Mr. Robert Aboumitri, congratulated the Lee Group for attaining a remarkable milestone after 32 years of existence.
“As we commemorate the 32nd anniversary of Lee Engineering Group, it’s truly an honor to stand before you again as an outsider
and pay tribute to the incredible journey that this company has embarked upon. And the actual, extraordinary individuals who have made it all possible.
“When we reflect on the journey of Lee Engineering, we are reminded of the power of vision, perseverance, and dedication.
Over the past three decades, the visionary leader behind this enterprise, Dr. Ikpea, has transformed a mere idea into a thriving organization that stands tall in the face of challenge, and embraces opportunities with open arms”, the Canadian envoy stated.
Aboumitri, maintained that throughout the years, Ikpea had demonstrated an unwavering commitment to excellence, innovation, and the pursuit of greatness, adding that his leadership had inspired generations of professionals, instilling in them a sense of purpose and drive to achieve the actual reality.
“As we look to the future, let us remember that the journey does not end here. The 32nd anniversary of Lee Engineering is not merely a milestone to be celebrated, but
a stepping stone towards even greater achievements.
“It is under your leadership, with the guidance of Dr. Lee. Continue to embrace innovation, adapt to change, and strive for excellence in everything that you do,” he added.
On their part, Professor of Political Economics and Management/ Founder of Centre for Values in Leadership (CVL), Prof. Pat Utomi; and veteran diplomat and scholar, Dr Christopher Kolade, congratulated Lee Engineering for standing strong after 32 years of existence.
They encouraged the company to remain focused and resilient as it embarks on its next 30 years journey, advising it to entrench robust corporate governance in the organisation and invest in talent development to enable it soar higher.