Mitaire ‘Mimi’ Okumagba is the Director of a United Kingdom-based Okumagba Invests Ltd., a company that assists Nigerian businesses to raise capital directly from the London Financial Market for developmental projects across the country. In this interview with CHIJIOKE IREMEKA, Okumagba, who was among the royalties recently nominated for the Stool of Orosuen of the Okere-Urhobo Kingdom in Warri, Delta State, said global nature of financial market in London increases the odds for Nigerian businesses to raise capital for projects.
The name, Mitaire ‘Mimi’ Okumagba, rings a bell in Nigeria, especially in the Niger Delta region. But for the benefit of others who may not know, could you share your background and upbringing with us?
I was born in Lagos in 1967, during the Nigeria Civil War as the third child and first son of my late father, Chief Michael Peter Okumagba and by virtue into the Okumagba family of Okere Urhobo Warri. At the time, my father was working at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Subsequently, he was promoted to a Comptroller and the family had to move with him to Port Harcourt, as he was assigned to introduce the Naira currency in that region of the country. As well, being a young boy developing through my primary and secondary education in Port Harcourt, I was observing my father at home having meetings and sometimes business meetings relating to work in banking and in retrospect; it was like marketing slash diplomacy.
Around the mid 1980s, my father decided that the family moves back to our homeland, Warri, after years of his retirement. It was during this years that I got to see and interact with my greater family, and got to understand a lot about my heritage, which is predominantly a rich farming and real estate legacy emanating from hard work and organisation from my late grandfather, Chief Okumagba Eboh. This legacy continued with my father’s generation at the helm, notably by my late uncles, Chief Daniel Okumagba, who had a successful political life and Chief Benjamin Okumagba, who later became Orosuen (King).
After the death of my father, thereafter in 1986, I decided to create my path. So, I moved to London and had to work part time jobs to support my education at London College of Communications. After graduation, I worked in an insurance company where realised my capabilities at sales and marketing.
Later in 1996, I moved to Texas, USA, where I had several years working in health and fitness industry. It was in Texas that I decided to start a family and I was blessed with two children.
Being married to a British, I had to return to London and be with my young family. It was on my return to London that I had to use what I learned in college to found Afiado, a website development company, which subsequently developed the website of the Nigeria High Commission to the UK. I also co-founded MyHeartLog with Ken Curwen whom I met networking as a member of the Institute of Directors (IoD) in the financial district known as the City of London.
MyHeartLog was an online community site for heart rehabilitation support. Ken was rehabilitating from triple bypass heart operation. After successful fundraising activities, I was able to get MyHeartLog to receive funding as a support group for the British Heart Foundation. That inspired me to add value to my homeland. So, I later moved to Nigeria in 2014 and built the Autoserve restaurant and bar Warri complex.
It was at Autoserve Open Mic Sessions that I realised the abundance of raw talents in the country, and a year later, I organised the Warrius Music Search to give young people a platform to showcase themselves. After a successful years of WarriUs and seeing the transformation of some of the contestants, I realised I’ve laid a foundation for others at home to build upon. So, I returned to London in 2018 and I founded Tinge Group, an environmental company with the vision of protecting the environment, while employing young people into the sector.
In addition, I have extended my investment company, Okumagba Invests Ltd based in London to assist Nigerian business people, who want to raise much needed capital directly from the City of London financial market.
The Okumagba family of Niger Delta has been renowned for land farming and urban real estate development for decades. Would you say this has impacted the country’s real estate sector, especially the housing deficits in Nigeria and food security?
I was fortunate to be born into my greater family, as it led me to realise the importance of farming and cultivating the land thereby increasing peoples’ options of the development of real estate.
You are the Director of Okumagba Invest Ltd., a company, which provides funding support for infrastructural projects in Africa through innovative means. What necessitated its emergence and how can it impact the Nigerian business environment?
My investment company, Okumagba Invest Ltd, is based in London and the aim is to assist Nigerian business people who want to raise much needed capital directly from the City of London financial market. I realised from observation and experience doing business and attending meetings at Institute of Directors (IoD) forum, that the global nature of the financial market in London increases the odds for Nigerian business people to raise capital here. It’s only six hours flight away; it’s the largest in volume and close proximity. Nigeria has historical ties with the UK. With social media and technology, you don’t need a visa; raising capital requirements are the same whether in Nigeria or globally.
How does this fundraising work? Who can benefit from it? What’s the requirement? Is it for the government alone or across the board?
You have to prepare a business plan and a prospectus of your project. Any businessperson can approach the financial market here in London. It can be a private or of a public project. There are some for social interests investors who offer interest free or grants too.
You made a patriotic approach by rebranding the website of the Nigeria High Commission to the UK in 2009, which still functions till date. How do you feel pulling this stride?
I felt very good about contributing to making life easier for people going to the High Commission for passport and identity documentation. It helps also for communication between the High Commission and the greater public in the UK.
You were among candidates selected for the Stool of Orosuen of the Okere-Urhobo Kingdom in Warri earlier. What was your interest in the Stool and how did the contest end?
Yes, I was proud to be nominated at the time. However, it became very contentious, so withdrew to focus on other areas that can make impact for our people. I would not re-contest, because it is something you are called in to be, not contest for in my opinion.
You had a noble project in Niger Delta entertainment space, but after WarriUs 2016 show, a year after it was launched, not much had been heard of the show. What has become of this talent-discovery platform?
After a successful years of WarriUs and seeing the transformation of some of the contestants, I realised I’ve laid a foundation for others at home to build upon. In fact, our first winner of 2015 is Victor AD that became very famous and successful.
The aim of this musical showbiz was discovering talents of unprivileged youths residing in South-South. Would you say this project met the essence?
Yes, we achieved what we aimed at, which is to divert young people away from crime and desperation of their situation in the Niger Delta neglect. Victor AD is a good example that if young people were being given a platform or an opportunity to showcase what they are gifted in, it would totally improve their lives and inspire others too.
WarriUs was inspired by the ‘never-give-up’ attitude and the ‘we nor-go-carry-last’ mentality emanating from Warri. Would you say you achieved this?
Yes, I can look at my life in retrospect that I’m driven, resilient and always thriving for excellence in where ever situation I find myself.
Could you speak on your environmental and property maintenance ventures?
Since I returned to London in 2018, I founded Tinge Group, an environmental company with the vision of protecting the environment, while employing young people into the sector. In addition, I have extended my investment company, Okumagba Invests Ltd to assist Nigerian business people, who want to raise much needed capital directly from the City of London financial market.