Pokobros at 80: Onitsha Goes Agog for Industrial Giant
By Nnaemeka Nnopuechi
It was like a breath of fresh air when the ancient town of Onitsha paused from its usual hurley burley to celebrate Chief (Dr) Ichie Ezechinyelugo, Ezeojih Paul Amanchukwu Okonkworon on Saturday the 15th of October, 2022.
Don’t know him?
Well, he’s better known for Pokobros Group (W. A.) Ltd, the business empire he established from scratch. From a very humble beginning as a petty trader after the Civil War, he rose to become a big player in many spheres. From oil and gas, to transportation; agriculture and hospitality to plastic and chemical industries.
In total, the group is a conglomerate of over twenty viable companies. The elongating list includes Whiz Products (WA) Ltd, Whiz Oil Ltd, Whiz Gas Ltd, Ozalla Plastics Enterprises Ltd, Pokobros Foods and Chemical Industries Ltd, Pokobros Trading Company Ltd, Pokobros Farms (WA) Ltd, Poko Oil Mills (WA) Ltd, Ogechukwu Resources (WA) Ltd, Ogenna Rice Mills Ltd, Ozalla Food Processing Co. (WA) Ltd, Pesaco Chemical and Industries Ltd, Tivoli Inn (WA) Ltd, Tourist Gardens Ltd, Chinyelugo Motors Nigeria Ltd, Chinyelugo Garments Factory Ltd, All Grains (WA) Ltd and Atta-Aguata Construction Co. Ltd.
In fact, he has grown so big that it’s hard to imagine that it had all started when he founded Pokobros Trading Company, a business name he registered just before the outbreak of the Civil War. Disrupted by the hostilities prevailing then, he survived by the special grace of God to resume his labours as peace returned in 1970.
He was to incorporate Pokobros Trading Company (Nigeria) Limited in 1976. Back then he started out involved in the importation of general goods like tomatoes, beverages and spare parts. He was to start Chinyelugo Motors Nigeria Ltd with a major eye in the haulage sector.
It was not until 1979 as fortune kept smiling on him with intent that he went into the production industry. That was when he floated Pesaco Chemical and Industries Limited engaged in the production of foam for mattresses and pillows.
By 1982 he had grown large enough to branch into the food industry, leading to the incorporation of Pokobros Foods and Chemical Industries Limited in 1985. It was majorly involved with the conversion of rice to rice flour. Its main product Vita Rice was trailblazing. So much that it had a distributorship network spanning the whole of the West African subregion.
Next in line was Whiz Oil Limited borne out of his long association with the automobile industry in his earlier days. It was registered in 1987 as the independent marketer of Whiz Super Oil treatment and the sole representative of Whiz, USA throughout West Africa.
No sooner, the company was to receive the first licence to blend a variety of car-care products. The factory commenced production at Awka in 1989. This was followed the next year by the setting up of Ozalla Plastics Enterprises Limited. It was mostly charged with the production of packaging materials for Whiz Products (WA) Limited.
A noted philanthropist, many indigent students have gained from his many scholarship schemes. He has also provided many communities with police stations and other ancillary security infrastructure. Presently he has more than 2,000 personnel under his employment.
He has also invested fortunes to ensure that peace triumphs on earth. Most of this has been done through religious organisations irrespective of denomination. Till tomorrow, he makes it a point of duty to visit the poor, handicapped and destitute to share their world with them. Even inviting them on occasion – like during festival seasons – to celebrate with him at his country and urban homes.
Born on the 15th day of October, 1942 in Enugu Ozalla, Isuoffia in Aguata LGA of Anambra State, his belief in the pristine provenance of charity saw him build a multimillion civic centre for them.
For his outstanding entrepreneurial attainments, he has received many commendations. The most resounding remains the conferment on him in 2009 of the national honour of Member Federal Republic (MFR) by then President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The life Vice-president of the Nigeria Chamber of Commerce Anambra State chapter, is also a Paul Harris fellow of Rotary International. He is also a proud member and fellow of many other organisations like the National Institutes of Corporate Administration, Internal Auditors, Chartered Accountants and many others.
Traditionally, many towns have crowned him with chieftaincy titles. Apart from his hometown where he is Ojih, he is also Ochiliozua Awka, Nwannedinamba Uzo-uwani, Enyioha Adazi-ani, Oboli-Igbo Aguleri, Agbalusiangene Umueri and counting.
Also, entire local government areas have conferred the honour on him.
He is Atta in his native Aguata and Dikedioranma Njikoka.
The celebration itself started with a church service at the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity Cathedral Onitsha. Officiated by His Eminence Peter Ebere Cardinal Okpaleke of his local diocese and Bishops Ezeokafor and Okoye of the Awka and Nnewi dioceses et al, it attracted his friends and associates from all walks of life.
Prominent faces in the assemblage included his townsman Professor Charles Soludo, the executive governor of Anambra State. Also in attendance were so many traditional rulers and old and young captains of industry.
A reception followed thereafter at the Shanahan Hall in the same premises. Chaired by Chief Okwudili Otti of Caltec Limited left no one in doubt about the social networth of the celebrant.
Interestingly, Chief Okonkwor did not celebrate alone. He shared the day with his adorable wife Chief (Mrs) Florence Ngozi Okonkwor (Ugegbe-Ojih) who turned 60.
*Nnopuechi lives in Onitsha.