Background and Personal Life
Cletus Madubugwu Ibeto is a Nigerian manufacturer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He was born on November 6, 1952 in the industrial city of Nnewi, Anambra State, Nigeria. Ibeto is the founder and head of The Ibeto Group, which focuses on automotive spare parts and cement manufacturing.
After completing his primary education, Cletus Ibeto had to suspend his academic dream to learn trade. He never abandoned his passion for formal education and he finally wrote his WASSCE when he was 48 years old. Subsequently, he was accepted into the University of Nigeria, Nsukka where he graduated with a degree in Accountancy at the age of 54. Thereafter, he was honorarily awarded with a Doctor of Business Administration degree from the same University.
Career and Business Life
Cletus Ibeto’s journey of entrepreneurship began when his father shattered his dream of going to secondary school. His father had resolved that he was not going to allow all his 3 sons to walk the path of academic education.
According to him, it was only wise for one of his sons to engage in the business of trade which was widely respected among the highly industrious people of Nnewi Kingdom. The fact that Cletus’ two older brothers were already enrolled in school meant that the onus automatically fell on him. Initially, Cletus did not accept his father’s decision. He tried all means – including embarking on hunger strike – to change his father’s mind, but all efforts were futile.
Eventually, he succumbed to his new inevitable fate and journeyed to his Master’s place in Onitsha where he learnt the trade of auto spare parts. Cletus thus became an apprentice to John Akamelu, who was a dealer of auto spare parts in Onitsha. With determination and an overwhelming desire for success, Ibeto was able to master the business and he worked as an apprentice under his master until the civil war broke out in 1967.
When the war was over, Ibeto sourced for ways to raise capital to start his business. All he had was a leather bag from his brother, a Biafran round neck suit, and a packet of APC tablets which he took from an evacuated hospital. He sold all of these to get a few pounds which he used as the initial startup capital for his business.
The first silver lining behind Ibeto’s stormy start came during the tenure of president Shehu Shagari. Initially, there was a policy that all goods could be imported without import license. However, as the country’s external reserves started to dry up, the then administration had to mandate the policy of import license. At that point, a lot of importers were forced to stall and monitor the state of things so as to make the most profitable decisions.
Cletus, however, did not hesitate to secure the ₦3 million import licence at a period when one dollar was equivalent to 68 kobo! By the time other importers realized the need to obtain the licence, the government had already imposed strict measures that made it very difficult for anyone to get the licence.
In the same time, Shagari’s administration was evacuated by the military which worsened the situation as this caused the borders to be closed. Literally, Cletus Ibeto was controlling the monopoly for motor spare parts as at the time. That moment was a huge boost for his business career as he was able to sell at as high as 500% more and since people had no other alternative, they were buying!
Later, Cletus Ibeto diversified into the importation of plastic accessories and automotive lead-acid batteries. He continued to make waves in the business of importing until 1987. In 1988, he stopped the direct importation of plastic motor accessories and lead-acid automotive battery after completing his factory in Nnewi. By 1995, Ibeto’s company had risen to become one of the top auto spare parts manufacturers in the whole of the country.
In October 1996, Ibeto’s business saw a great expansion as he diversified into other industries. Today, his businesses cut across agriculture, cement manufacturing, hospitality, real estate and petrochemicals. Some of his businesses include Union Autoparts manufacturing Co. Ltd, Ibeto Petrochemical Industries Ltd, Ibeto Cement Company Ltd, Eastern Bulkcem Company Ltd, King’s Palace Hotels Ltd, Ibeto Energy Development Ltd, Palmex Agencies Ltd, Odoh Holdings Ltd, Ibeto Industries Ltd, and Ibeto Hotels Ltd.
Net Worth, Wealth and Assets
According to most reports, Cletus Ibeto has a net worth of $3.7 billion. In 2014, Cletus Ibeto was listed as part of Africa’s 55 Wealthiest People by Venture Capital. Also, he appeared as Forbes’ Most Prominent Naira Billionaire from Nnewi in 2017.
Conclusively, Ibeto’s success story is indeed an inspiring one. His humanitarian endeavors have impacted the lives of thousands of people from grass to grace. There are indubitably a lot of lessons to learn from how Ibeto started his business from ground zero and steadily built it over the years into the multi-billion corporate empire we all admire today.