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Power of Women in the 21st Century: The Zinox Group Example

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By Dr. AbionaIwajowa

“There’s something so special about a woman who dominates in a man’s world. It takes a certain grace, strength, intelligence, fearlessness, and the nerve to never take no for an answer.’’ – Rihanna

Power of Women in the 21st Century: The Zinox Group Example

“A 21st Century woman is a privilege and special blessing to a family and society and anointed to lead corporates and countries from the second quarter of this century. Leadership shall demand global knowledge, style, absolute trust, creative energy and faith in God and all these are domiciled as a right in today’s civilized woman.”– LeoStan (2019)

For long, the world has paid lip service to the place of women in the global scheme of things. The situation, although more critically felt in developing economies, Nigeria inclusive, is one that has remained a problem globally.

Indeed, gender equality is a globally-acknowledged human right. Nevertheless, the world today still faces a disturbing and abject reluctance to leverage on the potential of this very important gender in shaping our existential narratives. Put in another way, despite the growing evidence of the sterling qualities and achievements that women have proved capable of delivering, there are still huge gaps in access to opportunities and decision-making power for women.

Globally, women have fewer opportunities for economic participation than men, less access to basic and higher education, greater health and safety risks, and less political representation. The situation is the same in the corporate space where men have been known to dominate leadership positions, even when there are more capable or at best, equally qualified or suited female counterparts.

Today, women leaders are still a pitiable minority in various sectors. Men continue to outstrip women in leadership roles across every sector in the world. This includes government, corporate, non-profit, education, medicine, military and religion. Research also reveals that globally, at Fortune 500 companies, women hold only 19 percent of board seats and 15 percent of executive management positions. In addition, the number of female CEOs at these companies is a paltry four percent. Four percent of 500 companies equals 20 female CEOs, with male CEOs running the remaining 480 companies.

A report published in March 2020 by data mining company PayScale also shows a global disparity in how men and women are paid, even when all compensable factors are controlled, meaning that women are still being paid less than men due to no attributable reason other than gender. In 2020, women make only $0.81 for every dollar a man makes.

As demonstrated above, this is not only a Nigerian problem. It is a global phenomenon.

The foregoing is in contrast to the evidence-based capacity of women to create a positive disruption when placed in leadership positions.

It is an open secret that guaranteeing the rights of women and giving them opportunities to reach their full potential is critical, not only for attaining gender equality, but also for meeting a wide range of international development goals. Research shows that empowered women and girls contribute to the health and productivity of their families, communities and countries, creating a ripple effect that benefits everyone.

As Michelle Obama, former First Lady of the United States of America one famously declared: “There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.”

Numerous examples abound in government circles, with the likes of Angela Merkel, a woman who leads the powerful nation of Germany.In Chile, Michelle Bachelet also distinguished herself as President of the South American country from 2006 to 2010 and again from 2014 to 2018, the first woman to occupy the position. This is just to mention a few.

Here in Africa, women have also shown they have what it takes to lead from the front, with Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf covering herself in glory after winning the presidential election in 2006, the first in Africa. She was also re-elected in 2011.

Even in the corporate world, where men have dominated, instances abound of women who have distinguished themselves when appointed to leadership positions.

However, there is still a grudging refusal to empower women with leadership responsibilities, not only in Africa., but the world over. Here in Nigeria, there is often times a shocking mind-set when women assume top roles in an organization. In most cases, there is a belief that she was unfairly favoured or, if she is an attractive woman, then she is deemed to have compromised or slept her way to the top.

This is why the example of Leo Stan Ekeh, Chairman of the Zinox Group is worth mentioning.

Although I have not had the privileged of a one-on-one encounter with the man, I recall that as far back as 2014, he had declared that women will lead the world, not as second class citizens, but in the management of global resources mainly in the corporate marketplace, by the second quarter of the 21st Century which starts by 2026. Ekeh, who was speaking at a Women in ICT event at Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja, had cited the increasingly pivotal role women in the corporate sector are playing in the global arena.

Here is what he had to say: “Women are naturally more structured, trustworthy, less greedy, live longer and more prayerful than men. These innate qualities have strategically endowed women with the basic ingredients for leadership. As entrepreneurs, all you need to do is combine these innate qualities with absolute commitment, capacity for innovation, credibility and sound digital knowledge and very soon, the male folk will be struggling to keep pace with the women in the industry.’’

Fast forward to 2019, I was privileged to attend the Disrupt Africa conference organised by Access Bank in May 2019 where Mr. Ekeh was one of the guest speakers at the event.

This time, he had also preached the gospel of women empowerment to the packed audience at the Landmark Centre, Oniru, Victoria Island. According to him, gone are the days when parents would rather prefer to have male kids, as was in the case in the olden days. Ekeh had stated that women are heavily knowledgeable, highly domesticated, humane, humble and less greedy, even as he noted that current statistics indicate that women have proven to be more knowledgeable and intelligent compared with men in the same age bracket and intelligence quotient (IQ). Further, he cited their concentration power and integrity in managing resources as far higher than those of their male counterparts.

Equally important, he had told the listening audience that the foregoing had nothing to do with Africa, noting that it was a global phenomenon.

I was one of the many who had given him a standing ovation at the end of his moving speech. After the conference, I had engaged a few other participants on the thoughts expressed at the event especially the thought-provoking ones espoused by Mr. Ekeh. I was initially of the impression that he was probably playing to the gallery at the conference, as many are wont to do at such public speaking engagements.

This had made me embark on some sort of mini-research or investigation into the Zinox Group. However, my investigations threw up a startling revelation and actually gave me some hope in the future of the battle for women empowerment in Nigeria and beyond.

Indeed, the Zinox Group, led by Ekeh, remains a shining light and a good example of a conglomerate that has not only justified the power of women as leaders, but also given them an equal playing ground to thrive.

At Technology Distributions Ltd. (TD Africa) which incidentally is arguably the biggest company in the Zinox Group in revenue terms, women occupy the first four management executive positions. The company is led by the CEO, Mrs. Chioma Ekeh, wife of Ekeh, a first-rate mathematician and certified Chartered Accountant who has previously worked in the United Kingdom. Next to her is another woman, the Coordinating Managing Director, Mrs. Chioma Chimere. Following closely is yet another woman, Mrs. Shade Oyebode, who is the Managing Director (Operations) and then, Mrs. Andrea Ijogun who is the Managing Director (Sales). Although I did not succeed in obtaining a clear state of the company’s impressive financial figures, it is worth mentioning here that Technology Distributions Ltd. is credited with pioneering ICT distribution in West Africa and till today, it represents the biggest, globally recognised names in the sector such as Microsoft, IBM, Dell, HP, Samsung, Cisco, Lenovo, to mention a few.

If the example of Technology Distributions is deemed a fluke or a chance occurrence, then let us turn our attentions to Zinox Technologies Ltd., the most popular company in the Zinox Group. In 2006 and 2010, the company had rescued Nigeria from a national embarrassment by overseeing the rollout of the computer hardware, components and software solutions used by INEC for the successful conduct of the general elections, rising to the occasion to deliver after foreign contractors failed. It repeated the feat in 2014when it designed the Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines, Card Readers and worked with INEC in capturing and delivering a credible database of voters – a factor which contributed immensely in reducing post-election litigations.

Zinox Technologies Ltd. is also led by a female Managing Director, Mrs. Kelechi Eze-Okonta –  with an M,Sc. in International Business Management from University of Liverpool, United Kingdom –  a position she has held, along with all the perks of that office, for the past three years.

Do we still consider that a fluke?

If so, what about Task Systems Ltd., Leo Stan Ekeh’s first company? Incorporated over 30 years ago in 1987, Task Systems Ltd. was the company through which Mr. Ekeh transformed the Nigerian media and publishing landscape, transitioning it from its prevailing analogue state of metal cast style publishing and ushering them into the world of Desktop Publishing and Computer Graphics many years ago.  In fact, my late twin brother, who was a top journalist, was one of the witnesses of this revolution which transformed the likes of Punch, Guardian, Sketch, Daily Times, Vanguard, Daily Independent and many others. Back then, he had claimed that Mr. Ekeh was an American whiz-kid! It was until recently that I discovered that he trained in India and the United Kingdom.

For the past five years, Task Systems Ltd. had a woman, Ms. Olufunke Oduntan, as Managing Director. It was only earlier this year that she was replaced by a man, Stanley Okpalaeke with an MBA from LBS as MD after her retirement.

The Group Head, Human Resources, Mrs. Chioma Nwoke, is also female.

Across the Zinox Group, women have not only held top executive management positions; they have also been encouraged to aspire to the very echelon of the corporate ladder. In this remarkable Nigerian example, there are no glass ceilings for the women-folk. At this juncture, it is worth stating that some of these women have worked in the Zinox Group for the past 20 years, growing through the ranks and displaying a high level of integrity, performance and credibility – qualities that have made them undisputable choices for the rarefied positions they occupy.

Indeed, each of these women have merited their appointments.

This is clear when you look at their respective profiles. These are corporate giants who know their onions and who can defend their appointments or distinguish themselves in similar appointments in the global marketplace. These are women who are ethical and spiritually filledand imbued with the right ingredients to drive a business to profitability. Further, their occupancy of those lofty positions is tested on an annual basis, with their unerringly brilliant leadership seeing to the continuous profitability of the Zinox Group.

More remarkable is the fact that the Zinox Group has remained in the forefront of sustaining Nigeria’s march to technological emancipation. The numerous feats recorded by the various companies in the Zinox Group have not only given Nigeria a voice in the technology sphere; but have also gone a long way and still continues to usher millions of Nigerians into the contemporary world mediated by advancements in technology.

But there has hardly been any significant recognition for this Nigerian miracle.

It appears the Nigerian government is more comfortable with recognizing politicians or noise-making institutions and persons who hardly contribute anything of note to the nation’s development. If not, how do we justify the fact that such a gender-sensitive, high-performing entity that has been in business for over 30 years in a difficult terrain such as Nigeria without any major scandal, providing direct and indirect employment opportunities for millions of Nigerians has not received any form of special honour by the Nigerian government?

I put it down to the fact that the Zinox Group is not a noise-making entity, as exemplified by the character of the organization and the fact that its leadership is dominated by women, who are naturally conservative. Perhaps, if the company was into beating the drums of its many achievements they would be identified. Very unfortunate!

Having a man such as Leo Stan Ekeh as a Nigerian is a blessing to this country. These are the kind of leaders that Nigeria needs – people that see beyond today. He has shown remarkable vision in many of his dealings and specifically, with his clarion calls for women empowerment which he has not only preached but implemented across his companies while the country struggles with civilization.

Little wonder, Mr. Ekeh has been at the forefront of driving the charge to computerize Nigeria for the past 30 years, as he has always declared that no nation is truly independent without achieving technological independence.

Despite the non-recognition by the Nigerian government for its many contributions to national development, the Zinox Group has been mightily blessed. In my research, I have followed the growth of this exciting technology group and, despite the difficulties in the operating environment, the Zinox Group has continued to give hope to many Nigerians.  No wonder Alhaji Lateef Jakande- the former Governor of Lagos state said at the launch of Task Systems’ Allen Avenue, Ikeja office in 1992, that if the country could have five Leo Stan Ekehs, Nigeria would emerge as a quality representative of Africa in the global community.

Today, a lot of our young ones are out of school without any clarity as to how long this predicament will last. Yet, the government cannot partner with a proudly Nigerian brand such as this to empower these little kids, all of whom will pay taxes in future, with simple gadgets and devices to aid their learning. On the other hand, the government is investing billions in a feeding programme riddled with controversy for out-of-school children.

What a shame!

Dr. Abiona Iwajowa is a policy expert who writes from Kano


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Bristow Helicopters Sacks 100 Pilots

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Management of Bristow Helicopters Limited has terminated the appointment of 100 pilots, according to a statement by the company.

Bristow Helicopters Sacks 100 Pilots

The company said the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated its decision to lay off workers.

While describing the sacking as painful, the airline’s management said the move was inevitable in order to ensure the continuity of its business and delivery of essential services to its clients.

“This decision has not been made lightly, but having considered the state of the business and the very serious constraints caused by the spread of the COVID-19 disease and the downturn in the oil and gas market, the company must now take this painful, but decisive step to ensure the continuity of its business and delivery of essential services to its clients,” the statement partly read.

“One of these measures includes the right-sizing of the business to ensure that the company has the optimal level of personnel to continue the safe delivery of its services to its clients, whilst allowing the appropriate capacity for future growth.

“Accordingly, and with much regret, the company has taken the very difficult decision to release over 100 pilots and engineers (both National and Expatriates) over the next couple of weeks.”

This comes barely 24 hours after Air Peace sacked scores of pilots across its fleet while slashing staff salaries by up to 40 percent.

According to Mr. Stanley Olise, the airline’s spokesman,  the retrenchment, and shedding of workers were not unlinked with the economic devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.


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SSASCGOC Asks FG to Intervene in FIRS, NIPOST Stamp Duty Crisis

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Senior Staff Association of Statutory Corporations and Government Owned Companies (SSASCGOC), has called on the Federal Government to immediately wade into the brewing crisis between the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the Nigeria Postal Service (NIPOST), over the production of stamp duty in the country.

SSASCGOC Asks FG to Intervene in FIRS, NIPOST Stamp Duty Crisis

The union, which insisted it had the responsibilities to protect the interest of all senior staff in Statutory Corporations in the country, including the FIRS, called for a stakeholders meeting between government, SSASCGOC, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, and the two agencies concerned.

A statement signed by Ayo  Olorunfemi, general secretary, and made available to newsmen in Abuja, maintained that SSASCGOC would not hesitate to declare full industrial action should the Federal Government failed to convene the stakeholders’ meeting at the expiration of a 21-day ultimatum issued to government.

He said: “As a responsible union, we have called on the Federal Government in the spirit of social dialogue, to convene a stakeholders’ meeting of FIRS, NIPOST, SSASCGOC, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, to discuss the issue of stamp as it relates to stamp duties.

“Failure to do this, the union shall have no other option than to declare full industrial action. A 21-day ultimatum/notice had been given to federal government already.

“We are calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in this matter before it degenerates into an avoidable industrial relations crisis, which is capable of embarrassing Nigeria in the committee of nations. “SSASCGOC recognises the power given to FIRS by the law to collect stamp duty, The power given to NIPOST by law to produce the stamp must also be recognized

That is the reason we are saying that stamp, which is the major instrument to demote duties is a legal product owned by NIPOST and should be procured by FIRS to carry out the collection.

“SSASCGOC has responsibilities towards the protection of the interest of all senior staff of statutory corporations in Nigeria, including FIRS as pronounced by the NIC judgements of 17th December 2019 and May 2020.”

                                                                                      


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KAS Print Rolls out Initiatives Using Canon Equipment & Training for COVID-19 Response in Nigeria

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Canon Central and North Africa (CCNA) a leader in imaging solutions, is proud to support and highlight its partners making a special effort to support vulnerable people through the COVID-19 crisis. Today, CCNA would like to put a spotlight on KAS Print in Nigeria, as they find innovative ways to assist brave healthcare workers and public safety efforts in Africa’s most populous nation during the coronavirus pandemic.

Nigeria is home to over 200 million people, many without the financial means to protect themselves from the novel dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the 27th of February 2020, Nigeria confirmed its first case and after one hundred days (June 6th), the country had officially registered 11,844 confirmed cases and 333 deaths on a curve that is still expected to rise, especially if the virus reaches the vulnerable refugee populations of the country’s northeast.

Stay-at-home orders have increased financial pressure on many, while the sharp drop in the oil price has put a strain on the Nigerian economy as a whole.

To fight the virus head-on, KAS Print have created protective face shields made of laser cut and shaped transparent acrylic. Covering the entire face, the shield protects the mouth, nose, and eyes from the droplets that carry the virus, while giving a full field of vision and adequate airflow for user comfort.

The design also offers personalised labels, printed on the Canon Colorado UV Gel Printer, to reinforce health and safety messages alongside company or sponsor branding.

KAS Print has already produced more than 100,000 protective face shields, which have received approval from the relevant regulatory authorities, and plans to produce more than one million by the end of 2020.

As the number of cases in Nigeria continues to rise, it is essential that this kind of personal protective equipment (PPE) is made available.

The protective face shield is just one of the three essential products in the COVID-19 PPE kit box. Produced by KAS Print, the kit is designed for distribution in hospitals, companies and government entities, to help reduce the spread of the virus between workers, customers, and visitors.

Every kit box contains a face shield, a face mask for additional protection of the mouth and nose, and liquid sanitiser for the hands, covering all four key areas of the body in one kit. The PPE kit box itself, is cut and creased using a flatbed cutter and personalised with instructions printed on the Canon C10000 and Colorado.

“COVID-19 is an unprecedented global crisis and personal protective equipment (PPE) is central to the solution in all affected nations. In order to slow the spread of the virus in Nigeria, it is essential that we make more PPE available through initiatives like those of KAS Print,” says Ben Gossage, B2B Sales and Marketing Director at CCNA.

“KAS Print has been a loyal customer of Canon and we are especially proud that our printing solutions can be used to support their worthy efforts. We will need many more stories like this to protect the vulnerable through these challenging times.”

The collaboration between Canon and KAS is based on multi-sector knowledge, secure data management, and value-added solutions that foster customer-focused innovation.

These skills have been influential in KAS Print’s crisis response for schools and public health campaigns.

Using the Canon Colorado and C10000, the company has produced awareness leaflets, signage, and floor instruction for retail, hospitals, government offices, and other public spaces. Educating and reminding the public to stay vigilant are fundamental elements of this health emergency and, in Nigeria, KAS Print is playing a key role in that space.

The nature of this pandemic is forcing us to re-think many aspects of our lives related to human contact and sharing of objects that could transmit the virus.

For schools in Nigeria, the sharing of textbooks between numerous children is commonplace and represents a key challenge in the efforts to maintain education while safely social distancing.

KAS Print has launched a campaign in several schools to print individual and personalised school books for every student, helping to protect the education process and entire neighbourhoods from the spread of the disease.

“We have found in Canon a trusted partner that shares our values and is committed to helping us successfully anticipate our customers’ needs. The equipment and training we have received from Canon certainly contributed to our various initiatives during the COVID-19 crisis in Nigeria,” says Ademola Kasumu, Managing Director and CEO at KAS Print.

“We hope for a quick resolution to the crisis in Nigeria and around the world, and appreciate the support of international partners like Canon in our local efforts to slow the spread of the virus here in Nigeria.”


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