BY Dollita Okine, 12:00pm March 26, 2024,

Meet the Nigerian who went viral for graduating with honors after becoming a plumber to pay for university

Photo: Linkedin/Gabriel Eze

Notwithstanding difficulties, Gabriel Eze recently received his bachelor’s degree with honors from the Federal University of Technology, Owerri. The 23-year-old, who founded and serves as CEO of his plumbing business, had to do plumbing jobs to finish his university studies.

He told Punch, “I was in secondary school, in SS1, when I began to develop an interest in the plumbing vocation. I enrolled into a plumbing apprenticeship, which lasted for approximately four years or a little bit more than that. I finished secondary school in 2017 and got admission into a higher institution the same 2017. So, I completed my apprenticeship after my first year in a higher institution which was in 2019. After my apprenticeship training, I founded a plumbing enterprise, which I later registered in 2020.”

Eze, who hails from Okposi, said that he started learning plumbing in SS1 largely because of financial challenges. He explained that he began working alongside a plumber who had come to his school during break time. When he started at 14, he was merely selecting tools for the man. The plumber agreed to mentor him after he expressed interest in the position.

When Eze went on vacation, he contacted the plumber, and that was how he registered for an apprenticeship, with clients usually being surprised to see a kid his age mastering a skill. After four years of study, the young entrepreneur set out to launch his own business, having gained extensive knowledge in the field. Eze’s mother, a civil servant, was initially opposed to the idea due to his age.

“Plumbing is a very stressful job; it is a very strenuous job. Most often when I came back from work, my hands were covered with bruises so much that my mother had to use hot water to massage my hands. When she complained at one point that the job was too much for my age, my elder brother made her understand that I had a passion for the job and persuaded her to allow me. At the end of the day, she agreed,” he recounted.

Raised by a single mother following the death of his father, Eze helped take care of the home with money he earned from plumbing. Eze, the third of four brothers, said he obtained N17,000 (about $10) from his first plumbing job.

“Even for my education. I didn’t disturb anyone. I took care of my bills,” he said. 

Even though Eze had a successful plumbing business at a young age, he was still interested in going to college. He opted to study petroleum engineering since he enjoyed maths.

As a result, he studied organic chemistry diligently in secondary school. He also believes that his interest in plumping helped him understand the basics of petroleum engineering, which includes the movement of fluids, natural gas, and pipelines.

Eze, however, had financial issues because he had to pay for the majority of his education on his own and was only partially supported by scholarships from tests he took.

He said, “Sometimes, I encountered financial difficulties. I think that was the only challenge I had. I was able to overcome it by trying to get contracts, making my enterprise more visible, and making sure my enterprise’s reputation was high enough for people to patronize me, with that, I got more jobs, and with more jobs, I got more money to cater for my needs and pay my bills.”

Throughout his academic career, Eze obtained scholarships including the Petroleum Technology Development Fund undergraduate scholarship, the Agbami Medical and Engineering Professionals’ Scholarship, the Nigerian Agip Oil Company award, and the NNPC/Total scholarship.

He said that the scholarships were really beneficial to him and that they even helped him grow his business a little.

The young entrepreneur also attributes his success to his parents’ advice and support, as well as the guidance of several mentors and lecturers. Eze excelled with a 4.65 GPA. When word of his story spread and he started getting calls from people, including the elite, he shared that he felt thrilled and fulfilled.

However, he said, “I am planning to further my education, probably outside Nigeria, enrolling for a Ph.D. or master’s but before doing that, I need to take part in the  National Youth Service Corps program next year. So currently, I am searching for an established organization to collaborate with.”

He went on to say that despite his educational background, he will always be a plumber at heart.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: March 26, 2024


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