Vanguard (Lagos)

31 August 2012

Nigeria: My Rise From Grass to Grace - Cosmas ILO

interview

Cosmas Ilo is a young entrepreneur and the Chief Executive Officer, Coisco Petroleum Limited, Owerri, Imo State . He recounts the story of his rise from grass to grace...

Background

I came from a very poor background. My father died while I was three years old . There was nobody to send me to school. I struggled to complete my secondary school education. But today, I'm a proud graduate of Tourism Management of the Imo State University.

I believe in my dreams and also, in the fact that education helps to liberate us from our fears. I never believed I would not make it in life despite the odds.

What life has taught me?

Life has taught me how to believe in my dreams. Though it is full of ups and downs, if is focused, one will definitely achieve his dreams in life. It has also taught me to be tolerant, easy-going and God-fearing. I try as much as possible to be myself and never had any reason to live above my income. Nothing comes easy in life, and the knowledge of this axiom made me to be careful in whatever I am in life.

Rising from grass to grace!

I had a cousin who was into the oil business. He was the one who introduced me into it. But before I joined the oil business, I was formerly dealing on palm oil. Then, I used to buy and sell palm oil in large quantity.

When the opportunity called for me to delve into the oil business, I grabbed it because I had already developed interest in the business.

Then, I had no outlet I could call my own. Later, I used the little money I saved while I was dealing on palm oil to rent a filling station in Owerri. After renting the station, I was left with little or nothing to continue my business. At this point, some of my friends and business associates came to my rescue.

I thank God today, my business has expanded beyond my imagination. The only thing I would say that has seen me through is my honesty. In whatever you are doing in life, try to be honest with the people you come across in the day to day running of your business empire.

It is important for one to learn to keep his or her hands clean and never indulge in cheating anybody. Oil business thrives in trust. It is one business where the dealers are expected to live up to their promises as the marketers supply petroleum products to them on trust.

They are expected in return to pay the marketers after disposing their products. But some dealers who are found wanting in this regard have gone out of business because of greed. At a point, I had no money to continue my oil business. It was my honesty that kept me in business.

Marketers were still supplying me with petroleum products despite my financial incapability. Particularly, there was this marketer whom I call my godfather who rescued me. Out of his generosity, he signed a cheque of N16 million to support my business in addition to supplying me with the petroleum products. To the glory of God, I have over 60 staff, and about three branches at the moment. I'm doing very well in my business, and God is my strength.

Set back

I have not recorded any serious setback so far. Even when I was dealing in palm oil, I was on top of my business. Before I joined the oil business, my mother used to warn never to take what does not belong to me, or cheat anybody in the name of doing business. I internalized that piece of advice, and today, I'm well off. I have progressed over the years as a result of my honesty.

One major challenge I had as a businessman was when I was arrested and detained for almost one month by the police.A gang of armed robbers stormed my filling station, in Owerri, and robbed me of my valuables including my two cell phones at gun point. Unfortunately, the robbers did not switch off one of the cell phones as it was ringing each time I dialled the line.

I went to the police to report the matter, after which I started tracing the robbers. But unknown to me, the police had already recovered the cell phones from the robbers. So one day, I dialled the line and somebody at the other end received the call. He told me that the owner of the cell phone was admitted in a hospital.

He directed me on how to get to the place. But when I finally got to the place in the company of my brother and one of my friends, the unexpected happened. The policemen pounced on us and accused us of being the fleeing armed robbers.

They wouldn't take any explanation from me and they detained us for almost one month. It was after they concluded their investigation and ascertained that we were not armed robbers that they released us. That is one of my greatest setbacks I had in life

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