Friday, 10 January 2014
“Omo Oniles” are not Thugs or Area-Boys, they are Owners of the Land – Tomori Williams (MD/ CEO Olaleye Investment Ltd
Can you tell us briefly about yourself?
My names are Tomori Tanimoowo Williams, I was born and brought up in Lagos, I had my primary and secondary education here in Lagos before I proceed to Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, where I studied Fine and Applied Art with specialty in sculpture and I graduated in 1992.
The course you studied in the University has nothing to do with what you are doing presently which is the real estate, how did you come into the business as it did not tally with your course in School?
My journey into the real estate world started in 1999 when my lawyer then Barrister Tony Apovhi who is now a judge call me when he was leaving his chambers in Ebute Metta and he was leaving for Akinola Cole Crescent off Adeniyi Jones Ikeja and he decided to open an estate management arm to the chamber and he thought I will best fit into handling it because he had handled one or two land cases for me, he decided to hire me to head and manage the estate management arm of his company and that was how I became the General Manager of Olotu Properties, so I worked here from 1999 to 2001.
Your company has grown to a very enviable state since you began, how were you able to do it in such a short while to be competing with long established companies in the real estate industry and what inspires you?
Talking of competing, I wouldn’t want to put it that way, let me just say I love doing my thing and I have no cause to want to compete with anybody, but by and large the God Almighty has been so graceful and wonderful to me, He has done a lot about my work, and with dedication, perseverance and hard work we have also been able to forge ahead. So many time there are things we termed as being difficult, which we later get to solve easily with God on our side, the fact that I also make sure I’m always up-to-date with activities in the real estate world also assist a lot to defining my current position in the industry, but I’ll attribute my current status to God Almighty after which follows consistency, persistency and hard work.
How is the current economic situation in the country affecting the real estate?
The real estate is currently going through a metamorphosis, gone are the days when people will want to subscribe for government houses, now people are modernizing both in term of structure and the service delivery. In terms of structure, you see functionality merge with the use of space and competitiveness in the real estate world. The real estate world in Nigeria has gone to a level where you can put them side by side with that of the western world, because now there is provision of mortgage facilities and flexible terms of payment is being encouraged and this will make it easy for those that may find it difficult to own a house to own their own house, so there is a paradigm shift from what it used to be than is now.
Recently, findings revealed that it is more expensive to own a house in Nigeria than in most western world specifically USA. What is your take on this?
Its relative in the sense of what the findings is all about. Sometimes ago I got a call from the representative of the Executive Director of First Group in Dubai, First Group is a property firm in Dubai, they are into construction and hotel management, they build service hotel flats, studio flats, combo flats, two and three bedroom flats apartments which they help in managing as well as selling some after construction. They came up with a proposal for me to buy into their new construction works recently, so I ask them what their plan is because I know the price they offered me some years back when they had offered me a studio flat in their matrix which is now a completed construction in Dubai, so I asked the how much the new one will cost me and they said about two hundred and fifty thousand dollar, believe me that is quite expensive while in Lagos you can get a property with structure on it for N40 to 50 million compare to western world where you get a studio flat for two hundred and fifty thousand dollar. Property business in Nigeria is fast growing but to say it is expensive is not the right description, it is not as expensive as you would see in the western world.
Talking about your construction firm, are you using it to construct only your own properties or you also use it for others?
Let me make this clarification, yes, I am into construction but my area of specialization is consultancy, I consult for individuals, corporate bodies and also royal families who are land owning families in Lagos, if I have construction opportunities I take it, but people comes with various problems maybe on how to repossess, what properties to invest on, or how to develop an area, I also help in taking care of that, the major aspect of my work is consulting and construction.
How is your business being affected by government policies?
As a Lagosian, the only area I see that the construction business is going through trouble is the cost of construction, we need the government to come to our aid in reducing the amount that is being spend to take care of an average construction, let them look into the cost of cement as well as the cost of some material that is used on construction works, I know if government intervene there will be positive effect on Nigerian economy as people will have more to spend on things that will improve the economy if there is provision for housing which plays very vital roles on the economy of the people. So we need government to form policies that will assist in defining key role in the construction industry, action plan that will reduce cost of obtaining building approval, cost and process of getting Governor’s consent as per Certificate of Occupancy. This are the areas that the government will need to actively come in so that they should be seen as playing the supportive role to both corporate and individual that are coming in to the housing need of the people.
It is generally known that the menace of land speculators popularly refer to as “Omo Onile” is another factor facing construction companies, how are they affecting your work?
The term “Omo Onile” is being bastardized, as a Yoruba man when they say somebody is an “Omo Onile”, that person is not an area boy, as a proud Yoruba man an “Omo Onile” is supposed to be land owner, an “Omo Onile” is different from land speculator, a land speculator will buy and wait for some time to sell for profit, a land speculator will invest into real estate and find ways to make money. I have watched people bastardized the term “Omo Onile”, it is like calling an Idejo Chief who are the land owning family in Lagos a land speculator and this are the people that falls mostly into “Omo Onile” category not even somebody that bought several acres of land in 1940 that is now being administer by his great grandchildren can be called “Omo Onile”. An “Omo Onile” is not a land speculator he’s supposed to be the real land owner, if you own the land and you own it legitimately there is no need for you to engage touts or unwholesome act to enjoy the good of your land.
Property construction requires huge amount of money and it is public knowledge that getting loan in banks is something else, how have you been sourcing for funds in your construction works?
I told you earlier that most of the works I do in this industry are on consultation and also help people to get the best for their property. I am not into core construction, if I got a property for development I have real estate firms that I discuss with, I also have companies that are into development of real estate that I can call to give advice to after which I synergize between those companies and the owners of such properties and at the end of the day agreement is reached my payment is made, construction works commences and there will be smiles on both faces. I have not sought for any loan since I got into this business because for now I don’t have big project but in future if the cause to construct a bigger project, if I see the need I can make the push but for now I don’t have such a plan for that, even the work that I’m handling presently at Olaleye New Town development, till date the company I represent as the Managing Director, Olaleye Properties and Investment Limited has personally not sought for loan from the bank except what Lagos Building Investment Company (LBIC) got on behalf of the project from Skye Bank but personally there is no need for that in place I will get companies that will act as syndicate for such loans.
Finally, what be your advice to those who are looking at you as mentor in this industry?
I’ll advise them to work and pray