17 Leaders who Defined Nigeria’s Last Decade in Business

 

They come in a galaxy. They shine like stars. Everything they literally touch is money-spinning, value-driven. Their success stories are breathtaking as well as inspirational. From Abuja to Akwa Ibom, Lagos to Lokoja; Los Angeles to Paris, Abu Dhabi to Kuala Lumpur, and Angola to South Africa, they run the show. All starting local, going global, Nigerian-born, Nigeria-driven, they are men with acumen that borders on the legendary.  The story of the last decade will not be complete without the titans who towered above all in the business arena by dreaming big and effecting positive change. They reshaped the Nigerian narrative, left their mark and etched their names in the history books. Rather than stand by and watch events unfold, they took the bull by the horns and made things happen. They bravely stepped into unknown territory, ventured into uncharted waters and reaped bountifully; not just for themselves, but also to the benefit of the Nigerian economy. They helped define the decade, touched thousands and affected millions of lives positively. They became synonymous with success and as their influence widened with each passing year, inspired others to aspire to greater heights, setting off a ripple effect felt beyond the shores of Nigeria.

Aliko Dangote leads the pack as the richest man in Africa. He’s not alone among men and women who have shaped Nigeria’s business landscape in the last decade, raking in billions of Naira, expanding the empire of their enterprises; building more. They are not self-serving wealthy individuals: they are also raising other business legends. His close friend and fellow billionaire, Femi Otedola, started the decade as an oil tycoon but ended it as a major investor in Nigeria’s underwhelming power sector. From Benedict Peters, whose Aiteo took over an oil mining license from Shell and quadrupled its capacity in less than two years, to Tunde Folawiyo, who put Lagos State in the league of oil producing states in Nigeria, the success stories abound.They include Abdulsamad  Rabiu, a Forbes-certified billionaire who sits atop BUA Group, a conglomerate with diversified interests, and Innocent Chukwuma, a pioneer defying stereotypes through Innoson Motors, Nigeria’s first indigenous automobile manufacturing company, which has so far manufactured more than 10,000 vehicles.

There are yet more inspiring stories. From Sayyu Dantata of MRS Oil, who is leaving his footprints in the oil and gas sector with quiet but audacious moves, to Otunba Mike Adenuga connecting the African continent in unprecedented fashion through Globacom. It would be unfortunate if the great strides made by these exemplary Nigerians aren’t sustained. Thankfully, another shaper of the last decade, Tony Elumelu, chairman of Heirs Holding, UBA and Transcorp, set aside $100 million to invest in thousands of emerging entrepreneurs across Africa.      The above named and others profiled below certainly left their imprint on the 2010s. It is difficult to imagine the last decade without them. They raised the stakes and by their achievements inspired a multitude to believe in their capabilities and dream of limitless possibilities. They have set examples through their exploits, as the country steps into the new decade with optimism of a much more prosperous future. Kunle Aderinokun, Bayo Akinloye and Demola Ojo take a look at some of the personalities that shaped the last decade. This is list is by no means exhaustive provides a guide

1) Aliko Dangote: A Man of Unparalleled Determination to Conquer

Aliko Dangote is the Group CEO of Dangote Group which he founded in 1978 when he took the plunge into business. He has since nurtured the business into a diversified and fully integrated conglomerate, with an annual group turnover in excess of $4.1 billion.

According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, the 62-year-old Nigerian businessman and Africa’s most prominent industrialist ended the decade with a net worth of almost $15 billion, making him the 96th wealthiest man in the world. Currently Africa’s richest man, he was reported to have been$4.3 billion richer in 2019.  His conglomerate, Dangote Industries, includes the biggest cement company on the continent, the Nigerian Stock Exchange-listed Dangote Cement Plc. That’s one of four publicly-traded companies under the Dangote umbrella that account for more than a fifth of the value of the NSE.

It is expected that 2020 would likely be a momentous one for the billionaire, who is close to completing one of the world’s largest oil refineries in Nigeria. The plant, according to Bloomberg, has the capacity to meet more than Nigeria’s entire fuel consumption and could transform an economy that currently imports all its refined product needs. The Dangote refinery, solely financed by  Dangote Group has the capacity to refine  650,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Currently, under construction, the refinery which has a total cost of $13 billion, is estimated to meet the country’s entire domestic fuel demand as well as export refined products.

Dangote is also constructing a fertilizer factory on the same site. He is also investing heavily in agriculture, automobiles, and philanthropy. He set up the largest Foundation in Africa with an endowment of $1.25 billion. Locally focused, but globally-minded, the Dangote Foundation is at the forefront of improving the nutrition, health, and education of Nigerians. He is passionate about lifting the most vulnerable people out of poverty through economic empowerment.

2) Femi Otedola:  Turned Around loss making Forte to profit and exited

Femi Otedola is a dyed-in-wool and visionary entrepreneur whose energy is directed at transforming enterprises and putting them on the path of sustainable growth. A strong leader with a track record of achievements in business and always aiming to make things better and adding value in areas where pioneers have trodden.

He was thrust into the public’s consciousness with his foray into the downstream sector of the oil industry when he started Zenon Petroleum and Gas Limited. Zenon disrupted and redefined the standards in the sector and to ensure that his very high standards are met, he also invested in storage, shipping, insurance brokerage, and port agency and petroleum retail outlets building a formidable, value-driven presence along the downstream value chain.

In his quest to grow his foothold in the sector, he initiated the purchase of majority shareholding in the then African Petroleum Plc in May 2007 and joined the board as chairman on May 25, 2007.

His vision transformed African Petroleum Plc into Forte Oil Plc. The company grew in leaps and bounds to become a model of the possibilities inherent in Nigeria, winning numerous accolades in recognition of the successful business turnaround, diversified portfolio, prompt financial reporting, strong corporate governance and investment of choice within the oil industry and the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

Highlights of the Forte transformation include the resumption of payments of dividends to shareholders and the company’s foray into power generation through the purchase of the then 414 MW Geregu Power plant in Ajaokuta, Kogi State. He divested from the company when he accepted the offer of the Ignite Consortium led by Prudent Energy Services Limited for his entire shareholding in December 2018 and handed over control upon completion of the transaction in June 2019.

The divestment from Forte Oil Plc and his subsequent and resumed focus on power generation through the acquisition of FO Plc shares in Geregu Power Plc will once again put him into the limelight as a turnaround businessman. This is in continuation of his long-term interest in the power sector dating back to 2007, when he made the very strategic decision to participate in the privatization program of the Nigerian government and his doggedness culminated in the acquisition of a majority stake in the 414MW Geregu Power Plant in August 2013. Suffice it to mention that Otedola led a team that successfully acquired the plant, carried out a major overhaul in the sum of $90 million and ramped up capacity to 435MW. Geregu Power Plc today is contributing approximately 10% of the generating capacity available to the national grid. Clearly, Otedola is on the path of raising the standards for performance in the Nigerian power sector.

A philanthropist with deep involvement in the educational cause at all levels via the Sir Michael Otedola Scholarship Awards Foundation, he has continued to demonstrate his passion for his Epe community in particular and Nigeria in general, committing huge financial resources to the sponsorship of promising but financially disadvantaged students. The new Augustine University in Epe is also a beneficiary of his huge commitment to education. His philanthropy took an international dimension when he gave N5 billion (approximately $13.88 million) to Save the Children towards the North-East intervention to alleviate the difficulties experienced by the people in the area as a result of the prolonged conflict; a cause dear to his daughter and internationally renowned DJ Cuppy’s Foundation. He has distinguished himself in business, leadership, and philanthropy.

3) Mike Adenuga: Connecting the Continent

From making his first million at 26 by selling lace and distributing soft drinks, to receiving a drilling license and striking oil in the shallow waters of Southwestern Ondo State at 36, Otunba Mike Adenuga has progressed in leaps and bounds, with his bold business moves shooting him to the top echelon of Africa’s businessmen.

During the last decade, Adenuga rose to become the second-richest person in Africa with his worth reaching an estimated $9.2 billion.

Adenuga owns Globacom, Nigeria’s second-largest telecom operator, which has a presence in Ghana and Benin and is rapidly expanding to other West African countries.

While he is heavily involved in banking and oil exploration – his oil exploration outfit, Conoil, operates six oil blocks in the Niger Delta – Adenuga made the most impact on Nigerian (and African) lives in the last decade through Globacom.

A few years ago, Globacom became the first single telecommunication company in the world to own its own submarine cable. The high capacity Glo 1 optic fibre cable directly connects West Africa to the UK and the rest of the world. The 9,800 km long cable provides excess bandwidth to all the cities connected to the cable and translates to much faster and more robust connectivity for voice, data and video.

The cable will connect 14 West African countries to the rest of the world, thereby boosting economic activities in the region, but Adenuga isn’t sitting back to take plaudits. Rather like a bull, he is charging down all obstacles and rewriting the rules. Globacom has taken further steps by constructing another multi-billion naira optic fibre submarine cable called Glo 2.

Glo 2 would be built along the Nigerian coast from Alpha Beach in Lagos, where Glo 1 landing station is located, to the Southern part of the country. The facility will enable ultra high capacity connection to Nigeria’s South-South Region and provide capacity to offshore oil platforms and communities. Glo 2 will be the first submarine cable in Nigeria to land outside Lagos and will provide high speed internet connectivity as well as digitalize oil platforms to improve productivity. It is also designed for further expansion southwards to Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola and other countries in the southern part of Africa.

4} Abdulsamad Rabiu: Chasing Dangote

Abdulsamad Rabiu is the founder and chief executive officer of BUA Group, a Nigerian conglomerate, which began operations in 1988 as a private limited liability company specializing in the importation and marketing of iron and steel, agricultural and industrial chemicals. Since then, BUA has rapidly developed into a fully-fledged, diversified business with a stake in a wide range of business sectors, including sugar, cement, iron and steel, real estate and logistics.

BUA Sugar Refinery Limited refines imported and locally sourced raw sugar. Essentially, the refinery was conceived as an ultra-modern, automated plant with state of the art equipment. It has an installed capacity of 2,000 MT of sugar a day. The refinery which is 100 percent Nigerian-owned and 100 percent equity-financed has its technology from Brazil, acclaimed to be the best technology in sugar production and refinery.

Another company in the conglomerate, BUA Oil Mills Limited Lagos, which has been in existence for almost 20 years, has two refinery plants and matching fractionation plants with a combined installed capacity of 700TPD.

The older refinery was supplied by Desmet of Belgium and has an installed capacity of 200TPD, while the new refinery, which was commissioned by BUA Oil Mills, was supplied by Alfa Laval with an installed capacity of 500TPD. BUA Group plays strong in cement manufacturing with three major subsidiaries and plants in Northern and Southern Nigeria. It also has a 2-million metric tonnes per annum floating terminal serving niche markets. Rabiu-owned BUA’s interest in cement includes a $900 million plant in Okpella, Edo State as well as majority shareholding in Cement Company of Northern Nigeria (CCNN), Sokoto.

The group also holds a stake in Damnaz Cement Company Ltd which is the majority shareholder in CCNN. The group’s plants have the capacity to provide various grades of cement as required in the local Nigeria markets and meet the highest standard of cement manufacturing. Rabiu, who returned to the billionaires’ club with a net worth of $1.6 billion in 2019, has his group’s influence affecting the strata of the society.

5) Benedict Peters: Strikes Gold with Oil

As the founding GMD/Vice-Chair of 20-year-old Aiteo Group, the integrated, global-focused Nigerian energy conglomerate, Mr. Benedict Peters’ entrepreneurial savvy has directly impacted the entity’s strategic development, policy formulation, and execution.

This has translated into meaningful indigenous participation in a sector dominated by international oil companies (IOCs) and considerably deepened Nigeria’s capacity to manage its oil assets and create critical local content.

Following the asset divestment by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Aiteo acquired Oil Mining Lease 29 (OML 29) and the industry’s 97-kilometre, Nembe Creek Trunk Line (NCTL) in a deal worth $2.7 billion following a highly competitive bidding process. At the acquisition period, the assets were reportedly worth 5 percent of the Royal Dutch Shell global portfolio. This strategic national asset occupies a top spot in Nigeria’s energy calculus.

The acquisition made it Aiteo’s largest asset in Africa from a local content point of view. Aiteo quickly augmented production on the asset from below 25,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 90,000 in the space of 18 months, thereby installing it as Nigeria’s largest oil producing company.

Unassuming, press-shy Peters strongly believes that it is long past time that the oil sector is made to work for Nigeria and that the wealth created by oil and gas should lead to the sustainable development of the country’s economy. With his vast, invaluable industry knowledge, Peters is clearly a key force to reckon with as a transformative agenda for the strategic oil industry in the new decade is unfolded. In 2008, the very successful Sigmund Communecci metamorphosed into the company now referred to as Aiteo. Since its formation, Aiteo has experienced exponential growth in the Nigerian integrated energy sector, with much of the credit rightly assigned to the innovative leadership of Benedict Peters and his knack for identifying and recruiting exceptional talents.

As a measure of his growing business clout, an international recognition the US Chamber of Commerce announced recently that Peters will serve on the Board of Advisors for the US-Africa Business Center. The mission of the US-Africa Business Center is to build lasting prosperity for Africans and Americans through job creation and entrepreneurial spirit, something that Mr. Peters has been active in on the continent for many years. Welcoming Mr. Peters to the Board of Advisors, Chairman of the U.S.-Africa Business Centre, Scott Eisner, remarks: “We value and appreciate the insights from companies such as yours as they not only benefit the Center but also play a pivotal role in strengthening the ties between the United States and countries throughout Africa.” No doubt the last decade was significantly defined by Mr. Peters’ tenacity and sheer audacity to dream and dream big.

6) Tope Shonubi : Reshaping African narrative

When the trio of Tope Shonubi, Ade Odunsi, and Tonye Cole founded Sahara Group in 1996, little did Africa know that an energy conglomerate with prospects for global dominance had been established.

They would be joined by the trio of Wale Ajibade, Kola Adesina and Moroti Adedoyin-Adeyinka as well as a collection of over 4000 unique professionals to transform Sahara into what it is today – an energy giant with operations in over 38 countries across Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

Today, Sahara Group is a foremost player in Africa’s upstream, midstream, downstream, power and infrastructure sectors and operates one of the largest privately run power generation (Egbin Power); and distribution companies (Ikeja Electric) in Africa. Sahara Group continues to promote good governance through its membership of the World Economic Forum’s Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI). Sahara Group also supports sustainable development goals (SDGs) via Sahara Foundation’s partnership with the United Nations and other stakeholders.

Sahara’s Upstream division is one of  Africa’s leading independent exploration and production players with a diverse portfolio of nine oil and gas assets (as of 2017) in prolific basins across Africa. These assets are at various stages of development ranging from exploratory fields to mature producing fields with huge potential for positive returns. The company currently has a capacity to produce at least 10,000 barrels per day (bpd) with plans to boost production to at least 100,000 bpd over the next five years.

In recent times, the company traded over 100 million barrels of crude and 4 million MT of refined products, annually, through strategic partnerships and investments. Sahara trades with a highly diverse group of international players, with its key client base being national oil companies, refineries and other major players in the energy industry. Sahara is a key shareholder in some African refineries.

The West Africa Gas Limited (WAGL), a  joint venture company of the Nigerian National  Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Sahara, has since acquired two 38,000 CBM LPG vessels,  MT Africa Gas and MT Sahara Gas that are ensuring stability in the supply of LPG to the African/European region. The unique design of the vessels enables berthing at any LPG terminal facility globally.

With over 20 years of experience, Sahara’s downstream expertise covers product procurement, bulk sales and distribution of petroleum products across the globe. Sahara Group has storage terminals across Africa, the Middle East, and Europe with a combined capacity in excess of 380 million liters for a range of refined petroleum products. Recently, the group expanded operations in Eastern Africa with a focus on enhancing the availability of refined products around the region.

Sahara currently owns/operates retail stations across West Africa. Sahara has an additional capacity of 180 million liters of bulk storage in Antwerp and Malta. At the heart of Sahara’s business objectives, lies an unwavering commitment to promoting good corporate citizenship across the globe. This is achieved through the Sahara Foundation – the vehicle for the Group’s Personal and Corporate Social Responsibility (PCSR) initiatives. The activities of the Sahara Foundation are aimed at empowering the communities where the Group operates in a sustainable, transparent and efficient manner. Sahara Foundation has so far touched the lives of over 2,000,000 beneficiaries across its locations.

Sahara Group’s executive director, Tope Shonubi argues that unified standards would de-fragment African markets resulting in favourable economies of scale in intra-regional trade, regional harmonization of taxes and excise duties, reduction in smuggling and adulteration of products,  improved local refining capacity, reduced landing costs of petroleum products, joint infrastructure projects as well as export diversification and access to a larger customer base. Shonubi said Africa must accord the prospects of intra-regional trade the urgency it deserves to ensure accelerated economic development.

He said, “In line with the vision of a harmonized Africa, Sahara Group is building an integrated energy business across Middle Africa to harness the potential of intra-regional trade. We are delighted to be one of the first African companies to carry out full-cycle crude and product trade transactions using only African resources within the continent. All transactions were carried out by Africans for Africans using African resources. The future of our business depends on how well we can work together across Africa.” According to Shonubi, Sahara Group’s ascendancy in the global energy business has its roots in the company’s indomitable entrepreneurial spirit and a firm resolve to demystify the impossible.

“We are humbled by the successes we have recorded over the years and are delighted that Sahara Group has become a leading African energy conglomerate that competes globally and serves as a source of inspiration for other African businesses, especially in the area of good governance and corporate citizenship where Sahara continues to give wings to the aspirations of individuals, communities, and businesses,” he explained.

7) Ernest Azudialu-Obiejesi: From Oil Servicing to Oil Drilling

Over the last decade, Dr Ernest Azudialu impacted humanity, the business community and indeed the Nigerian economy through the Nestoil Group of companies and the Obijackson Foundation. The Nestoil Group of companies which he founded 28 years ago presently employs about 3,000 Nigerians drawn across all the geo-political zones of the country. This is besides the indirect jobs he has created through a robust supply chain that services the vast operations of his companies. Nearly all employees in his companies are Nigerians thus supporting efforts by respective governments for job creation.

Despite humble beginnings, Azudialu has grown a conglomerate of companies spanning the entire value chain of services in the Oil and Gas industry. These services include dredging, industrial fabrication, civil, operation and maintenance engineering, ship drydocking and repair services, marine logistics as well as exploration and production. The impressive footprints across the entire value chain of the Oil and Gas industry has earned the Nestoil Group, the enviable reputation of the Face of Local Content in the Oil and Gas industry.

Over the years the Nestoil Group has built over 300 kilometres of pipelines across different parts of the Niger Delta and other parts of the country – thus contributing to the needed pipeline and other infrastructural needs in the industry. These pipelines evacuate nearly a million barrels of crude oil per day. Given that Oil is the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, this is a direct contribution to economic growth and development of the country.

Beyond Oil and Gas infrastructure, the Nestoil Tower in Lagos, which is the Corporate Headquarters of the Nestoil Group is the only LEAD Certified Green Building in Nigeria – built with sustainable materials, posing no threat to the environment.

 One of the ways he  has impacted humanity is through the Obijackson Foundation – a not-for-profit organization that addresses the needs of the less privileged by focusing on 4 strategic pillars of engagement: Economic Empowerment, Healthcare, Education and Infrastructural Development. Hundreds of indigent persons have received financial benefits from the Foundation in the form of Bursary Awards for students and grants for small scale businesses. In his hometown Okija over a hundred kilometers of roads have been constructed with street lights adorning most of them. The Obijackson Women and Children’s Hospital which he founded is the first of its kind in the entire Eastern Nigeria.

Azudialu’s humanitarian footprints are not limited to eastern Nigeria. In Ibadan, Oyo state, Azudialu through the Obijackson Foundation has taken charge of the total upkeep of the Juvenile Correction Centre, Sango, Ibadan. The centre currently has about 200 inmates made up of abandoned and trafficked children. About 50 of these children have been fully rehabilitated and integrated into the school system. Obijackson Foundation takes care of all their bills. In Lagos, Dr Azudialu-Obiejesi through the Obijackson Foundation feeds the inmates of the Ikoyi Prison and those of the Kirikiri prison every month. The foundation also feeds over 2000 persons every week in the Government Rehabilitation Centre, Owutu, Ikorodu. Azudialu-Obiejesi is an admirable philanthropist, serial entrepreneur and lover of humanity. As a bridge builder, Dr Azudialu-Obiejesi is a shining example and role model.

8)  Innocent Chukwuma: Cars Made for Nigerian Roads

Innocent Chukwuma started his trading outfit in the 1980s and successfully grew it into a big trading giant that diversified into manufacturing away from distributive trade in support of the federal government industrialization policy. He is the founder and CEO of Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing, Nigeria’s first indigenous automobile manufacturing company, which has so far manufactured more than 10,000 vehicles. Innoson, which is now carrying the Nigerian flag in automobiles, operates from its manufacturing plant in Nnewi, Anambara State.

Its product line includes SUVs, high capacity city bus, mini & midi buses, pick-up trucks, and garbage collecting vehicles. The company also provides services for repairs and parts supply. Vehicles produced by Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing, which comes with the brand name, IVM and nicknamed Pride of African Road, are now a regular feature on Nigerian roads.  In fact, when in 2016, the federal government ordered ministries, departments, and agencies to patronize made-in-Nigeria vehicles, IVM brand was among the major locally assembly automobiles listed and since then the brand has been a common sight at government formations. Apart from vehicles, Innoson Group is the leading company in Nigeria involved in the manufacturing of motorcycles, tires and tubes and plastics.

9) Austin  Avuru: Took Seplat  to London Stock Exchange

Avuru is the outgoing Chief Executive Officer of Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc, which is listed on both Nigerian and London Stock Exchanges. He is to be replaced by Roger Brown by July of this year. Avuru, in partnership with the Chairman of Seplat, Mr. ABC Orjiako, now runs a portfolio that comprises eight oil blocks, direct interests in seven blocks in the Niger Delta area, four of which Seplat operates.  Seplat was formed in June 2009 through the partnership of Shebah Petroleum Development Company Limited and Platform Petroleum Joint Ventures Limited to specifically pursue upstream oil and gas opportunities in Nigeria, and in particular. Seplat pioneered the acquisition of oil and gas assets divested by the international oil companies (IOCs) when it bought 45 percent stake belonging to Shell, Total and Agip in Oil Mining Leases (OMLs) 4, 38 and 41.

 

10) Tunde Folawiyo: Discovered Oil in Aje Lagos

  Tunde Folawiyo is the managing director of the Yinka Folawiyo Group, a conglomerate with interests in energy, agriculture, shipping, real estate, telecommunications, banking, and engineering.

After spending 25 years exploring for hydrocarbon resources off the coast of Lagos, Yinka Folawiyo Petroleum and its partners had in May 2016 catapulted Lagos State into the league of oil and gas producing states in the country, with the commencement of oil production from the Aje oil field located in Oil Mining Lease (OML) 113, offshore Lagos,

Folawiyo has deployed his managerial skills in turning around the family business that was started by his father in 1957. He is a philanthropist and a scholar. He is a goodwill ambassador, honorary citizen of the city of Houston and honorary consul of Barbados. He is one of those who defined the last decade.

 

11) Tony Elumelu: Building Africa’s Entrepreneurs

It was difficult keeping up with Tony Elumelu and his innovative business ideas during the last decade as he left large footprints across key sectors of the Nigerian economy from banking to real estate and oil and gas.  His influence went beyond the shores of Nigeria to the African continent and in some cases, Europe. However, what has set Elumelu apart from his peers and contemporaries is his desire is to help build and nurture Africa’s next generation of entrepreneurs.

The chairman of Heirs Holdings, UBA and Transcorp is not just a successful economist and entrepreneur, he’s also a philanthropist of note. The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) is the largest African philanthropic initiative devoted to entrepreneurship.

His origination of the Africapitalism concept, driven through the foundation, is changing lives and creating businesses across the African continent.

For a large part of the last decade, Elumelu has helped thousands of budding African entrepreneurs with thousands of dollars to help fulfill their dreams as part of $100 million he plans to give away.

Last year alone, more than 3,000 entrepreneurs drawn from 54 countries across the continent benefited from Elumelu’s investment in the future of Africa’s youth. This nurturing of Africa’s future businessmen and women means Elumelu already has a say in how this decade will be shaped, just as he helped shaped the last.

 12)  Sayyu Dantata: Building Africa’s Largest Lube Plant

The seeds planted by entrepreneur and investor, Alhaji Sayyu Dantata, when he founded MRS Oil really came to fruition in the last decade.

Sayyu’s MRS got its big break when it was hired by the NNPC in 1998 to dispose of Low Residue Stock (a by-product of the refining process).

Dantata had previously learnt the ropes as Director of Engineering and Transport at Dangote Group, one of Africa’s biggest conglomerates, and he must have picked up a thing or two from Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man.

A case in point was the audacious acquisition of Chevron about 12 years ago, following its divestment from the downstream sector of Nigerian oil and gas which it operated under its Texaco brand.

Notwithstanding the numerous challenges affecting the downstream sector of Nigerian oil and gas, MRS has maintained its over 10000 direct and indirect workforce. Recently, MRS started the rebranding of its stations and acquisition of new ones. Its positive influence over the Nigerian economy is further boosted by the group building the biggest integrated blending plant in Africa. When completed, it will blend 2.5million litres of various lubricants, aerosols and other household items daily. In line with its forward-looking outlook, the packaging of the materials will be derived fully from recycled materials. A further 5000 Nigerians will benefit from this. Dantata’s MRS has helped in fueling the Nigerian economy by getting refined petroleum products to the nooks and crannies of the country.

It has further consolidated its position as one of the leading Nigerian oil companies by quietly expanding its operations by exporting beyond the the shores of Nigeria. An avid polo player, Dantata has interests in other sectors beyond oil and is a director at Hydro Alternative Energy, the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited and Transcorp.

13) Cletus Ibeto: Breathing Life into NIGERCEM

Cletus Ibeto is the founder and Chairman of Ibeto Group, the largest conglomerate in eastern Nigeria. He is the biggest producer of automotive batteries in the country and is a leading player in real estate, hospitality, printing, cement manufacturing, agriculture, auto parts as well as petrochemicals. Cletus Ibeto is from the Nnewi industrial city. During the oil crash in the 1980s and there was a controversial import licensing regime, which was negatively impacting the Nigerian manufacturing environment, Nnewi went through a growth period.

The Ibeto Group under the Ibeto’s leadership was a pacesetter in the region and nation’s trading and later manufacturing development. He actually started business as a spare parts import dealer, after going through an apprenticeship in the motor parts business, a gradual step taken by many eastern traders. His company, Ibeto Cement owns majority stakes in Nigeria Cement Company Plc (NIGERCEM), Nkalagu.

In May 2018, Ibeto Cement Company Limited announced a reverse merger with Century Petroleum Corporation, a United States publicly-traded petroleum exploration and production company in a move to enter global markets and bypass the complex process of listing. Ibeto acquired a 70 percent controlling stake of the company and Cletus Ibeto was subsequently made the chairman of the board of directors.

14) Jason Njoku: Beaming Nollywood to the World

Entrepreneur and start-up investor, Jason Njoku, started off the decade with a brilliant idea that has gone a long way in defining the decade in Nigerian entertainment industry.

Njoku came up with the idea of launching a new distribution platform for Nollywood aged 30, after a number of failed enterprises.

He is the co-founder and CEO of iROKOtv, one of the early video-on-demand movie platforms for Nigerian movies. A self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur, iROKOtv is Njoku’s 11th attempt at starting a business. On this attempt though, he hit gold by satisfying a need.

Irokotv was launched in 2011 with its headquarters in London, United Kingdom. It is one of Africa’s first mainstream online movie streaming websites, giving instant access to over 5,000 Nollywood film titles.

Dubbed the ‘Netflix’ of Africa, irokotv is the world’s largest legal digital distributor of African movies. While living in London, Njoku realized how popular African movies had become. Despite a growing worldwide demand, there was no legal option to watch movies from his home country. He therefore decided to take matters in his own hands and negotiate licensing deals with local Nigerian producers. The rest as they say is history, with irokotv now a household name in Nigeria and one of the major in the Film industry. He defined the decade that just ended.

15) Mohan Vaswani: Building West Africa’s Busiest Port

Mohan Vaswani is Chairman of Tolaram Group, the company behind the construction and development of the $1bn Lekki Port which is projected to be the busiest in West Africa and would help transform Africa’s largest economy when completed.

The Tolaram Group is headquartered in Singapore with operations in Nigeria, Estonia, Indonesia, Ghana, South Africa, Egypt and India.

But $900 million of its $1.1bn annual sales is made in Nigeria. Tolaram is Nigeria’s biggest food company after turning Indomie noodles into one of Nigeria’s national dishes.  Over the past two decades, Tolaram has shed its other businesses across the world to focus almost exclusively on Indomie, entering a joint venture with the Indonesian company behind Indomie to manufacture it in Nigeria.

Now it is moving into infrastructure in a big way. The Lekki port is the anchor of an 800-hectare free economic zone the company plans to build.

 Tolaram said the project would allow Lagos to reclaim its place as the region’s top port from nearby Togo, a much smaller country that has focused on making its port state of the art and its regulations business friendly.

16) Cornelis Vink: Winning International Confidence

Three years after buying 40 per cent stake in Chi Ltd, Coca Cola, a world-class soft drink giant, made 100 per cent acquisition of the company, Nigeria’s leading manufacturer of juice products. For Coca Cola to be attracted to Chi spoke volume of how the company, which was established in 1980  as a start-up, has evolved over the years to be a leader in the  fast-moving consumer goods  industry, where it plays favorably above its peers. Coca Cola had said the decision to acquire Chi Nigeria Limited was in line with the desire to evolve into a total beverage company as the diverse ranges of beverage products in Chi’s portfolios perfectly complement and fit that of the company, thus enabling it to expand into new categories and grow the business in Africa. Incorporated Nigeria by Dutch entrepreneur, Cornelis Vink, it began operations in March of the same year. The company became part of the Tropical General Investment (TGI) conglomerate which has diverse business interests in food, healthcare, agriculture, engineering and other industries.

The company began distribution of Capri sonne in 1982 which later emerged as one of its flagship brands. In 1990, it introduced to market CHI juice, which was originally sold in cans but after a couple of years it was packaged in Tetra Pak. In 1996, the firm introduced Chivita orange flavored juice to the market and like the previous drink it was originally sold in cans until 1997 when a paper carton packaging machine was installed. The firm later launched three new flavors in Tetra Brik: pineapple, mango and apple and in 1999 it introduced blends of orange and pineapple.

CHI Limited was pioneer in the industry in the use of Tetra Pak packaging for its dairy product, Hollandia. The company is run by Vink as chairman and  Rahul Savara, who is group managing director  as well as Deepanjan Roy, the managing director.

17) Raj Gupta: The Steel Magnate

African Industries, popularly called African Steel, is into steel milling and processing services in Nigeria. It is a diverse Nigerian group focused on development of steel industry in the country, using international technology and quality comparable to international standards in the manufacture of Iron rod, angle, billets, wire rod, nails, BRC mesh and other steel profiles with over giving employment to around 8,000 local Nigerians directly and indirectly guided by a strong work force of trained managers who have decades of experience on steel industries abroad.

The group currently operates in eight different locations within the country, and exports its products mainly to other West African nations.

The group manufactures international grade steel, chemicals with an objective to help Nigeria in industrialization and self- reliant on steel sector.

Integral to the manufacturing efforts are international certifications for quality and manufacturing processes. In addition, African Industries operates high capacity gas generators wherever necessary to support its electricity needs, when there is interruption and shortfall from Disco. According to its chairman,  Raj Gupta,  African Industries continue to invest in Nigeria and exporting its locally manufactured products comparable to international standards into other ECOWAS nations. The company has, in the short term, made new investments in businesses in the country for the promotion of exports where it sees excellent opportunities, and integrating new technology to improve efficiency and streamlining its operations. The decade that just ended was truly remarkable for Africa Steel.

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