African prince gives up privileged life — to work for British water company

A Nigerian prince has given up a life of royalty at home to spend his days hunting leaks for Thames Water in London – in a story reminiscent of the Eddie Murphy comedy Coming to America.

Akeem Adenuga, 62, comes from near Lagos in Nigeria where his brother – King Asunmo Aderibigbe – is The Paramount Ruler of Odo-Ayandelu.

The prince took a break from royal duties in 1994 to study in the UK and fell in love with the country, taking a job as a trainee leakage technician at Thames Water in 2000 and he has worked there ever since.

Eddie Murphy’s 1988 film depicted a fictional Prince Akeem, the crown prince of a made-up African country, who travels to the US in the hope of finding a woman he can marry.

The real-life Akeem now leads a team of 24 engineers who find and fix hidden subterranean leaks across the city.

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Father-of-five Akeem said: “I really look forward to coming to work, and I’m always raring to go out and get stuck into work in the streets of the capital.

“I love my job, and the people I work with really make it special.

“That’s why it’s so important to me that I look after my team – health and safety is my top priority.

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“It gives me joy every day when they all get home safely.”

Despite moving thousands of miles away, Akeem remains deeply connected to his hometown of Agbowa-Ikosi — a small town two hour's drive from the city of Lagos.

He and five friends donated $25,000 for an ambulance in 2017, so that locals could take patients to the nearest hospital – an hour away.

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Akeem, who is a massive Arsenal fan despite living in Tottenham, said: “As a prince back home, my family gets a wonderful welcome every time we visit.

“But I always remember the advice my late father gave me many years ago – be humble, kind and productive.

“That’s a really good way to live and has always carried me through.”

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His brother is Royal Majesty Oba Asunmo Ganiyu Aderibigbe Balogun, Jamade the first, the Paramount Ruler of Odo-Ayandelu.

But before taking up his role he studied Block Laying and Concreting at a technical college.

He then went on to be a masonry officer and union leader at the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) in Nigeria.

Thames Water is now uncovering a record number of leaks, with more than 70,000 repaired in the last financial year.

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It is spending more than £1 million a day to help reduce leaks on an underground network of pipes that’s almost long enough to circle the Earth.

Recent successes include plugging a leak that was losing three million litres per day in Guildford Street, near Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Danny Leamon, Thames Water’s head of water networks, said: “We have dozens of teams working around the clock to find and fix an average of around 1,400 leaky pipes every week right across our region.

“We’re determined to drastically reduce the amount of water that escapes from our pipe network to help protect customer supplies and the environment for now and future generations.”

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