• E. O. Nnabugwu & Sons Ltd. started out in Nigeria’s transport sector over 20 years ago with a medium-sized Mercedes-Benz curved-hood type L 911. Today the company’s fleet comprises more than 200 Actros.

    From L 911 to Actros – Mud skippers in Nigeria.

    E. O. Nnabugwu & Sons Ltd. started over 20 years ago with a curved-hood type L 911.

    Photos: Tom Saater

Old warhorse.

Onuorah Nnabugwu’s eyes take on a special gleam as he talks about his “old warhorse”. The 51-year-old entrepreneur from Enugu in Nigeria reminisces about the very first truck in his fleet: a medium-weight Mercedes-Benz L 911 curved-hood model. Today the company’s fleet comprises more than 200 Actros. Onuorah Nnabugwu is the Managing Director of the logistics services provider E. O. Nnabugwu & Sons Limited. He is also in charge of Tetralog Nigeria Limited, the local Mercedes-Benz dealership. “We mostly drive for the big multinational conglomerates,” says Nnabugwu. “Our main customers belong to the brewery and the construction materials sectors.”

Mercedes-Benz curved-hood type L 911 in Nigeria.
Onuorah Nnabugwu, Managing Director of E. O. Nnabugwu & Sons Limited in Enugu, Nigeria.

200 Actros.

Enugu is about three hours’ drive south of the Nigerian capital Abuja, half-way to the port city of Port Harcourt. It is a city with a population of just under one million. The surrounding landscape is a mix of lush jungle and fields tended by the local farmers. One of the region’s biggest employers is also one of Onuorah Nnabugwu’s most important customers: Nigerian Breweries Plc, part of the Dutch Heineken Group, owns one of the biggest and most modern breweries on the African continent in Enugu. Handling the logistics of transporting the beer from Enugu and from other breweries owned by Nigerian Breweries Plc is Onuorah Nnabugwu’s business. His company’s fleet of more than 200 vehicles supplies beverage wholesalers throughout Nigeria.

Disastrous road conditions.

“Many of our roads here in Nigeria are in a terrible condition,” says Onuorah Nnabugwu. “That, and the precarious security situation, are the biggest challenges for us entrepreneurs in the transport business.” Nigeria is the country with the biggest population in Africa, and also the continent’s second-biggest economy after South Africa. This can clearly be seen on the route from Enugu to Lagos, a distance of just under 530 kilometres. Just before the number 232 motorway crosses the mighty Niger at the heavy-industry metropolis Onitsha with a population of over 1.7 million, the largely well-maintained four-lane motorway suddenly deteriorates into a veritable mud hole over a stretch of about 20 kilometres.

Disastrous road conditions in Nigeria.
Driver Jonathan Ndaru with his Actros in Nigeria.

Robust technology.

A real challenge for drivers and vehicles especially during the rainy season between April and November. “Given the extreme conditions in West Africa, anyone not relying on quality is making a serious mistake,” says the entrepreneur Nnabugwu. “This is why we have been banking on the Actros since as far back as 2009.” The bulk of his fleet is made up by the seasoned Actros 3340 and 2031 prime movers. The trucks have been specially modified for the African market by Mercedes-Benz. Not only do they come with reinforced leaf springs; they also have specially adapted air and fuel filters to help them cope with the difficult conditions in equatorial Africa.