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‘I’ve always been the boss in my life’

Last update - Thursday, February 25, 2010, 11:31 By Catherine Reilly

Catherine Reilly meets Skygreen’s Tony Ofondu, who believes he’s the first foreign-born owner of a car dismantling company in the country

MANY FACTORS influence a person’s decision to emigrate – and the destination that they choose.
For businessman Tony Ofondu, the balding dimensions and haunting voice of one Sinéad O’Connor presented a somewhat curious ‘pull’ factor when journeying here in 1998.
“It was 1990 when her song was everywhere,” recounts Ofondu, who hails from Abavo Agbor in Delta State, Nigeria. “Nothing compares to you,” he sings – in a manner that suggests he needn’t give up the day job.
Which is just as well, as he is doing just what he wants to do.
“I’ve always been the boss in my life,” says Ofondu, who ran his own car dealership in Nigeria for 15 years and has more recently established Skygreen Ireland Ltd Car Dismantlers in Carlow, with the hope it can be a leader in ‘green technology’.
The business is a car dismantling and metal recycling company, which also sells car parts, acts as a shipping agent and provides a vehicle recovery service.
Ofondu is quick to note that Skygreen is licensed by Carlow County Council to process the safe recycling and treatment of end-of-life vehicles into recyclables.
He underlines that end-of-life vehicles – ‘bangers’ in layman’s parlance – may contain hazardous materials and can be collected by his company free of charge.
“Our ambition is to help, in our own way, to make sure the country cleans up, and to make a few bob at the same time,” he says.
“There is no need for people to be keeping their end-of-life vehicles,” he adds. “They should ring us and we will collect them free of charge.”
Ofondu says all that’s required from the owner is the original registration certificate and proof of identification. His company then issues a certificate of destruction and forwards the vehicle details to appropriate authorities such as the Department of Transport, to ensure that it knows the car has been disposed of.
The Nigerian employs two staff – both Irish nationals – and would like to take on more, if he could only get the capital.
“I cannot afford to pay more of them,” he says. “The grants are not there, and the banks are not there. ”
The businessman emigrated to Ireland in 1998 (and has managed to see his beloved Sinéad O’Connor four times in concert). Having previously journeyed for business to other European countries like Germany and Netherlands, he didn’t have any culture shock.
“I always dreamed of coming – because of Sinéad O’Connor,” he says.
Ofondu jokes that his wife has just walked in, and is “jealous” at the mention of Sinéad – but all kidding aside, he is happily married with four children, aged from eight to 20.
In his downtime, he enjoys a Guinness or two, and a Jack Daniels when the mood takes him. “I watch TV too, and I have my computer with me everywhere I go – you have to be researching what is happening back home in Africa.”
Ofondu, who lives in Portlaoise, believes he is the first foreign-born businessman in Ireland to establish a car dismantling company – and it’s something he’s proud of.

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