Lady Josephine Nwaeze’s Journey to Becoming a True Business Maverick

  • 0

Witness the extraordinary story of Lady Josephine Nwaeze as she shatters stereotypes, breaks barriers, and paves the way for women in the male-dominated power engineering industry. Prepare to be moved and empowered by her determination and grit.

In this exclusive Interview with Lady Josephine Nwaeze FNSE, MD/CEO, News Engineering Nigeria Limited, a true business maverick who defied the sceptics and led in a male-dominated industry, making her company a resounding success over the years, She speaks about the journey so far, the challenges and successes recorded as she “broke through the glass ceiling and stayed relevant.”

Interview with Lady Josephine Nwaeze

Can you provide an overview of your experience and background in the power engineering industry?

I must mention at this point that I am not an engineer; I studied language arts as my first degree, then I have a bachelor’s degree in law and a master’s in business administration from ABU Zaria, and on the 14th of this month I will be going for my graduation with a PhD. I’m not a trained engineer, but I have been able to manage this engineering outfit successfully by preparing myself over the years.

I endeavour to attend seminars and professional training, constantly update myself with the latest trends and technologies in the industry, and do lots of consulting. News, as one of the leading electrical engineering companies in Nigeria, has been able to stay on course as a result of numerous professional trainings and seminars, amongst others, and this has seen us successfully execute a lot of outstanding projects in power generation, transmission, and distribution over the years.

How then do you stay up-to-date with the latest trends and advancements within your sector?

The power sector is rapidly evolving, and so I and my team employ several strategies to stay up-to-date with the latest advancements and trends in power engineering. I actively participate in industry conferences, seminars, and exhibitions related to power engineering.

These events provide opportunities for me to network with industry experts, attend technical sessions, and get insight into the latest technical advancements and trends. By participating in such events, I stay informed about emerging technologies, new research findings, and industry best practises.

We are also a firm member of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE). We work with the NSE as partners and participate in local and internal conferences and seminars.

I recently received an award as the first female honorary fellow of the NSE, and this is an affirmation of what we do considering that the NSE has followed our track record over the years; they see what we do, and to crown it all, staying in business over the last 40 years isn’t a tea party. So, it’s an affirmation for me as a woman successfully striving in a male-dominated industry.

The business climate today is not very friendly, especially for those who run businesses like yours. Are there peculiar challenges your company faces?

The problems and challenges are always there. They are not peculiar to my company alone. In Nigeria, running a small-scale business is quite challenging, even for a conglomerate like News Engineering.

We have the problem of sourcing funds. Nigerian banks are in business to make money; they don’t support businesses, so even when you have a contract and approach a bank for funding, they usually come up with high interest rates, and this is a very strong challenge because if you take such loans to fund a business, at the end you may not make any significant profit therefrom as you might end up working for the banks.

Another challenge is policy. We barely have policies that support indigenous businesses; even when such policies exist, they are just on paper and are hardly practicalized or demonstrated. Like the much-talked-about Executive Order 5, which provides that if indigenous companies have the capacity to do a project, they should be considered.

That’s just what exists on paper, but how far has the government implemented it? It has not been implemented. Our government always has a way of helping foreign companies by coming up with unrealistic requirements for indigenous companies.

When you tell an indigenous business to come up with financial requirements of fifty million dollars or eighty million dollars, it becomes unrealistic. It is only foreign companies like the Chinese companies that can successfully bid for such jobs because their government assists them; their government gives them money to bid for such jobs and stay competitive.

We don’t have that assistance from our government. We even have to compete with foreign companies when it has to do with projects domiciled in our own country. For example, the World Bank project You still see foreign companies participating in it when, indeed, it’s like a loan from the World Bank to our government—something we would pay back to the World Bank in the future—so one would expect that local companies should be given the first right of refusal in cases like that.

So we are complaining that the economy is doing badly and that the rate of inflation is high, but we are not doing anything to help indigenous companies. I am an employer of labour, so if I go out of business tomorrow, I have no other option than to retrench the workers, but what support am I getting from the government? It’s so sad. I am even of the opinion that foreign companies operating in Nigeria should always, as a matter of policy, partner with the locals.

This should be done practically beyond the sometimes-empty talk of local content. On paper, we hear a lot about local content, but in practise, the reverse is the case far too often. Our government should sit down and review the policies and insist on their implementation with less reliance on foreign companies.

This is not to discourage foreign companies but to encourage local companies to partner with foreigners; that way, there would even be a transfer of technology. Where we don’t have the required technology, we can study our foreign partners. Even our own local metre manufacturing companies are rarely patronised. We should give them grants and stop insisting on buying metres abroad.

Do you think this is attributed to a lack of trust? Because NERC is doing a number of things to regulate the electricity sector. In your considered opinion, would you rather think there are trust issues here? Either in the system or the product?

Sure, trust issues are there. We barely believe in ourselves; most times we just rely on foreigners, often to our fault. Even when an indigenous company doesn’t have the immediate know-how, aren’t there policies that can be put in place to ensure that that technology is transferred to indigenous companies?.

You can imagine when a foreign company would build something in Nigeria and leave a handover note written in a foreign language. That way, you cannot even interpret what is being written; you have to perpetually rely on the foreign company for maintenance; even the as-built drawing that would usually be submitted for ease of maintenance is written in a foreign language.

When a local company is unable to read a document like that, how can it maintain the project? It just makes a dependency permanent. Secondly, like I said, The policies should be implemented.

The policies may be there, but only strong implementation can change the game for local companies. The government must involve the NSE and other bodies, especially in the implementation of Executive Order 5, so that Nigerian companies are protected.

You have existed for some 40 years as a Power Engineering Company; can you tell us about some of the innovative projects your company has been involved in during this time period?

As you know, it is not easy to run a business like this for over 40 years in a hostile business climate. Over the years, it has been a lot of work. Within this period, we have been involved in a number of innovative projects in the power engineering sector, which include the automation of high-voltage transmission and distribution projects.

We have executed quite a number of substations across the six geopolitical zones. The last of such sub-stations was commissioned towards the end of 2021 by the Former Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo; it was a 2 × 60 MVA sub-station in Awka, Anambra State, the biggest sub-station in Anambra State, and it is even extending in service beyond Anambra to parts of Enugu State and the cargo airport. We develop mini-grids.

We were the ones that executed the pilot project by the ministry of power in Sokoto State three years ago, and due to the quality of the project, a repeat procurement was given to us to do the same in Niger State. The idea was to develop that project across the six geo-political zones; we have done two zones already and are hoping to do the remaining.

We produce smart metres, single-phase metres, and three-phase metres. We also manufacture electric poles, both pre-stressed and pre-cast, of various sizes. Beyond that, we also have subsidiaries. We have Andolef Technical Services, which takes care of the serving outlets of the company.

Recently, we also floated a company that deals in consultancy and training called News Globals Consultancy Company. For a company that has lasted for 40 years, we have all the experience; we have engineers that have lasted for over 35 years. We have the capacity to consult for organisations and even train their workers on the latest technology innovations and various leadership trainings and skills.

We also do bespoke training suited to clients needs. We are into real estate and serve the real estate sector. We have machines that produce over 5,000 blocks in a day and mass produce from 6 inches to 9 inches. We produce interlocking blocks and brick blocks. Over the years, we have put our hands into a lot of things.

Up North looks like the block of choice for bricks; what patronage do you have?

Bricks are quite expensive; not many people can afford them easily. We are hoping to do a lot of work in terms of marketing in this area in order to boost patronage.

You are standing tall as a woman in a male-dominated industry. How have you been able to break through the glass ceiling and stay relevant?

Last week I gave a presentation at the Hilton on the topic of leading through adversity, and it looks like that was the only lecture even when there were seasoned professionals in various sectors at the event. That lecture inspired a number of people.

It was unique because it was just me; the topic was just me, and I spoke about who I am and where I came from. Like I said, I’m an emergency CEO, and that is because of the circumstances that brought me into this position. After the death of my husband, I had to step into his shoes, carrying his vision, even though I have my own specialty. I had to run with my husband’s vision by preparing myself and doing the task before me.

In the beginning, there were lots of naysayers, but I was never deterred. A few nice people encouraged me and were available to help. But because I barely had experience, I had to learn on the job, I had to stop to conquer, I had to make my workers my friends, and I had to build myself up with lots of research and reading.

Those who worked with my husband were also hands-on; they briefed me accordingly and put me through The older staff had all the important business contacts of my husband, documents and files of all the projects, and various levels of the projects. How much the company has received and what was outstanding. I gathered everything and worked on it.

I asked questions where I had to. I attended lots of business schools to update myself; I am a consultant; I network a lot; and I ask a lot of questions to update my knowledge. I had to make engineering my passion because you cannot excel in an area you don’t like. Failure wasn’t an option for me. I dedicated time, energy, and resources to building myself up to love this field of endeavour, and the results are evident for all to see.

How do you ensure the highest standard of safety and reliability in your power projects?

Safety and reliability are paramount for us. We do this by simply adhering to industry regulations and best practises. Our company maintains a robot safety management system with regular inspections and maintenance. We prioritise safety and risk management throughout the life span of our projects. We do not compromise quality, and this has stood for us. For us, it is not just about profit but a name to protect.

Because of the high cost of electricity, many consumers are considering renewable energy. We know your company is interested in the subject. So you have something to tell us about this?

Renewable energy is a recent development. Our core business is the building of substations, transmission lines, rural electrification, and electric poles, amongst others. But because the energy sector has evolved, it wasn’t difficult for us to switch.

However, in promoting sustainable and renewable energy, we adopted and incorporated renewable energy sources into our project portfolios, promoting energy efficiency measures and green building practises.

What is your vision for the future?

This is not too different from our mission statement as a company. It is to be a leader in sustainable and innovative energy solutions. We plan to achieve this by investing in research and development, embracing emerging technologies, and expanding our line of services.

Here, we also say we lead others to flow. We pride ourselves on being the number one indigenous energy company in Nigeria. As we speak, we are in talks with ECOWAS to partner with them and do projects in a lot of African countries. We have the capacity, and we are already out there, poised to do projects outside the shores of the company.

Renganaden Padayachy’s Leadership Impact on the Mauritian Economy
Prev Post Renganaden Padayachy’s Leadership Impact on the Mauritian Economy
A Visionary Leader: Meet the Man Steering Nigeria’s Ports to Prosperity!
Next Post A Visionary Leader: Meet the Man Steering Nigeria’s Ports to Prosperity!