By Frank Kintum
I was privileged to meet Mr. Frank Nneji, over 20 years ago, courtesy of Thisday newspaper where I served as Motoring reporter and later Assistant editor before moving on to other endeavour in 2006.
My editor then, Mr. Eniola Bello, the man who taught me practical print journalism, (now the Managing Director of Thisday newspaper), had summoned me one hot afternoon. On get to his office, he gave me a direct responsibility-going forward, you are to take charge of the newly created Motoring Pages. This was how my sojourn from the crime/telecoms beat to transport beat started.
In the course of my assignment, I met a lot of people. But one among the prominent personalities that is difficult to relegate to the sub-conscious is the Managing Director of ABC Transport Plc, Mr. Frank Nneji. So I write about Frank and ABC Transport from an experience of over 20 years.
Frank stood out because of so many qualities both in his private life and his business relationships. He made a mark where so many ventured and came out bankrupt.
Coming from a humble beginning, Frank was head bent to succeed where others failed, he was ready to show others how to make better the road transport business in Nigeria.
Frank’s ABC Transport Limited, which later became a Public Liability Company (Plc), was the first to set up a corporate structure. The company remains a delight of reporters because where the CEO is not available, there is usually a Communications Manager always at hand to respond to questions.
ABC Transport was the first road transport company to welcome its passengers to all the terminals with warm cups of tea or coffee (I wonder why it was stopped) after a night trip.
Though the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) only commenced the enforcement of compulsory speed limit for commercial vehicles about a year ago, this has been the tradition in ABC Transport from inception.
The company, as a matter of safety policy, ensures that all its vehicles are installed with speed limiters, no wonder, year after year, it kept driving home with bags of safety awards from different places. Seat beat? This is another safety measure not compromised by ABC Transport.
Another wonderful introduction by ABC Transport, which all others have now copied is insurance cover for all passengers on board. This was one policy that was warmly embraced by discerning road transport passengers.
One cannot forget the scheduled departure policy of ABC Transport. I recall vividly that when this policy was introduced by the company, other transport companies laughed at Frank, that it is not sustainable, wondering how he intend to recoup his investment by plying buses on schedule even when they are barely filled to capacity. But it paid off eventually because passengers were quick to appreciate this and flooded the company’s terminals.
Frank was also quick in seeing the mix between passengers and hospitality. Hence, he was among the first to build not just a hotel, but a budget hotel for passengers behind the Utako, Abuja ABC terminal. He even went a step further to offer short stay for the rooms, enabling passengers to use the rooms to freshen up for an hour or two after a night journey before going for their businesses.
ABC Transport scored another milestone when a couple of years ago, Frank decided to float the company in the Nigerian Stock Exchange. Today, ABC Transport Plc remains the only road transport company in Nigeria quoted in the stock exchange. There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that 25 years after, Frank has been able to take ABC Transport to greater heights from six buses to over 500 buses moving passengers in Nigeria.
Beyond ABC Transport, Frank lives a very modest life. I know that even with the soaring popularity of ABC Transport, it took him some years to abandon his old Mercedes Benz saloon for a more modern car. Even when he went for the modern car, it was not one of the premium brands, except unknown to me, the premium brand was hidden in his garage and driven once a week to church.
For the over 20 years I have known Frank, I have never seen him with cash (could this be the reason why some say he does not spend?). Nonetheless, I have also noticed that he supports so many good initiatives even beyond his native Imo state.
The FRSC, Lagos State University, Federal University of Technology, Imo, Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport among others are some of the few organisations I know Frank has touched positively. He is said to be the biggest employer of labour in Imo state aside the government.
So, I was not surprised when I learnt recently that Frank has decided to heed the call to serve his people as governor. This is one man I can vouch for, this is one man Imo state needs at a time like this.
He has shown time and time again that he can deliver by not only providing quality leadership and services, but in doing so, saving the lives of millions on our roads. Now is the time for him to serve his people!