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Elmwood native building houses in Nigeria

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Ellsworth, 54011

Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

ELMWOOD--All those whose job mainly consists of sitting in a cubicle and staring at a computer screen, wishing they could go out and meet people, should meet Marty Reinier.

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For the last year-and-a-half, the Elmwood native's job has consisted of traveling halfway across the world to work in Nigeria, where he has been Project Manager for Lemna International, whose specific assignment has been building houses.

Lemna International is part of the Lemna Group, headquartered in Minneapolis, a developer known in the environmental, transportation and energy areas. Lemna Group has completed projects in Turkey, Eastern Europe, Central Asia and recently has been expanding its business to include Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Reinier's specific project has been at "The Lord's Estate at Abeokuta," a 200-house development that, according to its Web site, www.thelordestate.com, "are (houses) built in a variety of sizes and styles and feature a broad array of high tech communication and environmental amenities drawn from Lemna's more than 20 years as an environmental technologies innovator."

The 200 houses include 72 twin homes, 20 custom home compounds, 32 single family homes and an unknown number of vista homes. The development also includes a community gymnasium, library, courtyard fountain, swimming pool, utility compound and fountain. The owner of the land is the current King of Nigeria, Iyalode Bisoye Tejuosoon. His son, the Prince Dr. Lanre Tejusoon, is the developer of "The Lord's Estate."

For those who don't know, Nigeria is located on the western coast of Africa and is the most populous country on the continent, in the range of 131 million people. It borders countries such as the Republic of Benin to the west, Chad and Cameroon to the east, Niger in the north and the Gulf of Guinea in the south.

From the 19th century until 1960, Nigeria was under Britain rule, then gained its independence. It fell to military dictators from 1966 to 1999 until regaining its independence again that same year. The government style is similar to England, Reinier explained; therefore, the King can't tell the Nigerian government what to do.

The capital city of Nigeria for the last 15 years has been Abuja, located in the central part of the country. It's not its largest city, as that title goes to Lagos, a seaport city, which has in the neighborhood, Reinier estimates, of 26 million people, which would put it as the most populous city in sub-Saharan Africa and one of the most populous cities in the world.

Reinier estimated he's been to the country four to five times in the 18-month span, usually for three weeks at a time.

Reinier listed a couple unusual facts about the development so far. First, because Nigeria didn't have any tools, everything for the project was shipped from the U.S.

Then, there is the crew, which was made up of native tribes of Abeokuta. Surprisingly, he said most of them were women and that men only worked in relation to the picks and shovels. The crew didn't speak English--despite English being the official language of Nigeria. Reinier said typical pay for the crew was the guys earning equal to eight American dollars a day and the women averaging around six dollars a day.

Which led him to mention the following.

"You never go out at night by yourself," he said. "They'll shoot you, so they can steal from you. They're that poor."

Food is also another experience.

"You never know what you're going to eat," he said.

Then, there is the Aluma Rock. Located in Abeokuta, it's a very sacred rock to the natives. Reinier explained that, in the 1700s when Britian was ruling Nigeria, they either killed or sold the slaves. To escape, Nigerians kept climbing up the rock, to the point where the British couldn't find them. It's been sacred ever since.

Reinier is expected to be in Nigeria at this end of the month. He won't be the only one from this area making that trip, as he listed Bob Manor from River Falls, Dan Webb from Elmwood and Rich White from Ridgeland.

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