✕ CLOSE Online Special City News Entrepreneurship Environment Factcheck Everything Woman Home Front Islamic Forum Life Xtra Property Travel & Leisure Viewpoint Vox Pop Women In Business Art and Ideas Bookshelf Labour Law Letters
Click Here To Listen To Trust Radio Live

I pioneered cable TV in Nigeria, now I want to spread ABG petrol stations across West Africa – Alhaji Garba

And talking about energy, Alhaji Garba is currently busy giving directions on the new pumps of filling stations that the ABG Oil & Gas Limited…

And talking about energy, Alhaji Garba is currently busy giving directions on the new pumps of filling stations that the ABG Oil & Gas Limited will be installing across the country from next year, beginning from Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory – and spreading them beyond Nigeria.  The man can’t just stop.
Born into a family of entrepreneurs and introduced into business deals at age 9, Young Bawa was 24 when he officially set up his own business in 1966, operating as Arewa Commercial Institute (an advancement class for commercial subjects) in Northern Nigeria. In 1970, he took his entrepreneurship a step further by transforming his institute to Arewa Advancement Enterprises, specializing in office stationery and equipment supply, and clerical and secretarial training in Kaduna.
Between February 14, 1985  – when he lifted himself into the bigger league, incorporating  the ABG Communications Limited to design, manufacture, assemble, import and export communications equipment  –   and today, waves of pioneering roles have passed under Alhaji Bawa’s entrepreneurial bridge. Speaking with so much nostalgic drip in his voice, Dr Garba told Sunday Trust, “When I travelled abroad, I saw so many technologies there that were not yet in Africa. When I came back, I began introducing them. I have since then pioneered many things here.”
A key leg of the travels the versatile businessman spoke of involved a profession many hardly identify him with today – journalism. Recalling his work years with the moribund Soviet Union’s Novoste Press Agency, Garba reminisced, ‘’We started the Novoste Press Agency in Victoria Island, Lagos. I was going to Russia. I was part of the team that started a publication, The New World, “a cultural magazine published to improve relations between Nigeria and the Soviet Union during the Nigerian civil war.” While he was practising journalism, his business was alive and thriving. “I always had a shop, workshop whatever where my business was going on,” he quipped.
After the war in 1970, Garba was travelling to Germany frequently attending trade fairs. In 1979, he decided to replicate in Kaduna the international trade fair concept he had been gracing in Germany; he pioneered the Kaduna International Trade Fair.  “On February 18, 1979, I started the Kaduna International Trade Fair with money from my own pocket. I started it with N10,000. Then, N10,000 was big money.”
The organised private sector, he said, elected him to be the chairman of the fair. “We toured many countries across the world  –  in Africa, Brazil, the USA, etc.  –  working at attracting participants to the fair. Germany, the first country to participate at the Kaduna International Trade Fair came with 84 companies. We were then using the Murtala Square in Kaduna. Participants paid for space allocated to them. Some years after, the then military Head of State, Gen Ibrahim Babangida gave us land for the permanent fair site, because the concept was designed to be an African fair, an international event, but it was Gen Sani Abacha who provided funding for construction of the complex.”
In 1984, the ABG began assembling electronics products in Kaduna, dealing mostly in appliances by Blaupunkt, a popular German brand. To access more visibility and patronage, the company opened a big branch on the Isolo-Mile 2 expressway in Lagos. Dr Garba explained the business sense behind coming south, as he did when he pioneered the cable TV business. “I had been dealing in electronics for a long time, even had an assembly plant in Kaduna and I. But you cannot be doing such a business most successfully without going to where the consuming population is. Second, there should be the awareness factor. In considering all these, you have to go to the commercial centre of the country, which is Lagos.
‘’Especially for the cable TV, it was an innovation then, in 1991.  It was a new technology in Africa when many countries didn’t know what was cable TV,” he said. The Ibrahim Babangida administration gave ABG the licence to pioneer the MMDS in Nigeria in 1990 and the company started operation the following year after importing the equipment and installing it in Lagos. Dr Garba disclosed the strategy he employed to attract attention to the new broadcast technology and consequently win subscribers.
“In Lagos, when I started the cable TV broadcast, we would deliberately leave signals open for television owners to tap into and watch our programmes free. So, they became aware of the existence of a broadcast facility that could give them beautiful foreign programmes that weren’t available on their local TV stations. When they had become familiar with the programmes and were really enjoying them, we blocked the signals. So they had to start subscribing to our cable TV to be able to continue watching those programmes. It was a good marketing strategy that worked very well. Those were really good times,” he enthused.
As the ABG Group chairman said, the cable TV business has been very successful. “From Lagos, the ABG cable TV coverage expanded to other states in Nigeria. We were in more than 22 states. From Lagos, we moved to Kaduna, from Kaduna we moved to Kano and from Kano we moved to Abuja. It began to spread like. But competition was bound to creep in and affect the monopoly status that the company was enjoying.
“Many other operators began to come into the business. Then, there was no Nigeria Broadcast Commission (NBC). There was no regulator. I could use as many frequencies as I wanted. Then regulation started. Many other operators were licensed. “From only me, the number rose to about 15 operators. My joy remains that with what I pioneered, these companies employed and have been employing a lot of Nigerians into the business. The cost of a satellite dish used to be as high as N300,000. But this high cost we demystified. We made the cost to come down to as low as N14,000. We thank God we, and especially Nigeria, benefited a lot from the business; we brought the technology to Nigeria and created avenues for a lot of employment.”
“At a point, we went further by manufacturing the satellite dish in Kaduna. The technology of the cable TV and the satellite dish kept expanding and, eventually, you didn’t need to use the satellite dish anymore;” you only need to use a pole now, he remarked. Unlike some Nigerians who believe foreign cable TV operators in Nigeria are ripping the people off, Dr Garba simply put it as “part of life and that is business.” They, he said, are allowed to come to Nigeria to operate as we are free to go to other countries to do business.
But he quickly added that there aren’t really meaningful protection measures in Nigeria to shield indigenous business against unfair and better-positioned foreign competitors. It was such a disadvantaged situation, he recalled, that compelled him to stop the assembling of electronics when imported alternatives were flooding Nigerian markets uncontrollably.
Now, with the availability of frequencies curtailed by competition, the ABG cable TV broadcast area has been reduced to about 12 states. It can’t even broadcast anymore in Lagos where it started.
From cable TV, the ABG Group moved into the security communication business. ABG Communication, it was, between 1996 and 1998, that supplied all the radio communication equipment for vehicles of the Operation Sweep, the joint military/police outfit that former military administrator of Lagos State, Brigadier Buba Marwa, introduced in the state to curb crime.
The ABG Group has also been active in the mass transport business. Its Nationwide Unity Transport supplied 150 Abuja Urban Mass Transit Mercedes high capacity buses worth N1.8 billion under a private-public joint venture with the Federal Capital Territory authorities. The company was paid over four years in a deferred payment arrangement.
Currently, the group is concentrating on building its oil and gas subsidiary. From next year, the ABG brand will be seen on many mega filling stations in Abuja and other states. Not one to do his things in half measures, Alhaji Garba is taking his petrol station initiative beyond Nigeria. He disclosed that ABG Oil and Gas would also have filling stations in West African countries. Apart from building new stations, the company will be taking over some existing filling stations branded in its name. This will enable the new oil brand a fast and expansive spread in many states. It has already reached some understanding with the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on franchise deals.
The ABG name is already synonymous with cable TV broadcast. From next year, it will be with oil and gas. And behind the group that has carved a niche in pioneering quite a number of initiatives in Nigeria is Alhaji Bawa Garba. Has he stopped? No. Who knows what he will be pioneering tomorrow. 

VERIFIED: It is now possible to live in Nigeria and earn salary in US Dollars with premium domains, you can earn as much as $12,000 (₦18 Million).
Click here to start.