Cletus Madubugwu Ibeto is a Nigerian businessman and billionaire who created his fortune from the ground up despite no formal schooling.
Despite his lack of formal education, he set the standard for others in Nigeria’s many industries. His Ibeto group includes real estate, petrochemicals, cement, car parts, hotels, and oil and commodity trading.
These ventures are worth billions of dollars.
Cletus Ibeto was born and raised in the Anambra state town of Nnewi. He enjoyed going to school as a child. Imagine his despair when his father informed him he couldn’t go to school.
As his secondary education aspirations came crashing down, he was heartbroken and disillusioned. Instead of school, his father took him to Onitsha to serve as an apprentice at an auto spare parts shop.
Although he did not choose the apprenticeship path, he accepted his fate and diligently learnt the ropes. He adopted a more optimistic attitude and a more determined spirit of creating something of himself.
The civil war, which lasted from 1967 to 1970, cut short his apprenticeship journey. But he returned to the business after the war.
He founded the Ibeto Brothers Trading Company after the war and eventually built a multibillion-dollar firm and an inspirational narrative to share.
First business breakthrough
Cletus Ibeto maximised the policy shift opportunity under President Shehu Shagari. When Nigeria’s foreign reserves began to deplete, goods could no longer be imported without a license.
Consequently, importers paused their shipments to gauge the situation with the new development. Not considering the situation, Cletus obtained a 3 million naira import license.
This decision gave him the advantage. He imported 65 containers of spare parts.
When other importers decided to apply for a license, the process became more difficult. The government changed the system. The issue was compounded when Shagari was dethroned, and the border was closed.
This development gave Cletus a monopoly in the spare part motor market. This is a watershed moment for his company.
“There was a line of people wanting to get their hands on replacement parts from my businesses. I was using boxes to store money for the bank. Even though the markup was close to 500%, people still bought the goods. The first two days after the containers arrived, I made four million pounds.” he said.
This facilitated his smooth pivot from a vehicle spare parts importer to a lead-acid battery and plastic accessories distributor.
After completing his Nnewi facility, he stopped importing lead-acid batteries and plastic motor components. In 1995, the company became one of Nigeria’s leading automotive component makers.
Entering the petrochemical industry
Cletus Ibeto founded Ibeto Petrochemicals Industries Limited in 1996. The firm specialises in a wide range of chemical-related goods.
The firm has been operating in Nnewi, Anambra, since its beginnings. It has a blending facility that blends and produces petroleum products for domestic and international markets.
With a capacity of approximately 60,000 metric tonnes, the firm operates Nigeria’s largest liquid storage facility for petroleum products.
Acquisition of Century Petroleum
In 2018, Cletus Ibeto’s company, Ibeto Cement company Ltd completed a reverse merger and purchased Century Petroleum Corp., a US petroleum company.
Ibeto Cement was founded in 2005 in Port Harcourt. The cement terminal is a state-of-the-art bagging factory with a flat-storage capacity of 50,000 metric tons and an annual output capacity of 1,500,000 metric tons per day.
Cletus Ibeto was named chairman of the board of directors following the company’s 70% takeover.
Ibeto Energy Development Limited
The Federal Government’s desire to harness the natural gas in the Niger Delta area for economic growth led to the formation of the Ibeto Energy Development Company in 2008.
The firm has a 22-hectare landed property at Bundu Ama Water Front that will be used to build a large-scale tank farm to store a variety of products.
Other companies part of the Ibeto group includes King’s Palace Hotels Limited, Palmex Agencies Limited, and Odoh Holdings Limited.
It is not how far but how well
Cletus Ibeto had a great desire to go to school. This was exacerbated by the betrayal of a partner with whom he had formed a bank.
He obtained his WASSCE at the age of 48 and graduated from the University of Nigeria Nsukka with a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting at the age of 54.
The same university later awarded Cletus a Doctor of Business Administration degree. Although not vastly academically certified, he has immense business experience.
He has also attended seminars and conferences in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Japan.
He also mentors entrepreneurs such as Innocent Chukwuma, Chairman of the Innoson Group, Nigeria’s first automotive manufacturer.
Cletus Ibeto has influenced many lives and institutions as a billionaire.
At the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, College of Medicine, Nnewi, Anambra State, he founded and managed a prize award foundation for the highest graduating student in paediatrics.
At the Federal University of Technology in Owerri, Imo State, he founded a prize award foundation for the top graduating student in the Electrical/Electronics Engineering department.