Nigerian League of Billionaires

Nigeria’s League Of Billionaires
By Godwin Ijediogor and Samson Ezea

Although only two Nigerians- Alhaji Aliko Dangote and Chief Femi Otedola- were listed in the recent Forbes world billionaires, there are more Nigerians who are naira-denominated billionaires. The list has been growing in the last couple of years, sometimes because of government’s skewed policies that they larch on or outright favouratism that almost creates monopolies. In some

cases, those who are elected or selected to serve the people had ended up cleaning public treasury, depriving the people of the much-needed development in the process. Despite ostensibly serious and now lack-lustre anti-corruption crusades, little has been achieved to retrieve these billions of naira stolen from the commonwealth by those they entrusted their collective destiny. Hence it is very difficult and almost impossible to say with accuracy how much Nigerian billionaires are worth individually and collectively. Apart from having held public office or ‘executed’ one government or the other at one point in time, the source and state of wealth of most Nigerian billionaires are not certain, especially politicians, including former national and state chief executives amongst them, who are known to have lived and still be living ostentatious lifestyles. Our list is inexhaustible, indeed, some of those listed might not be worth the list, going by the global economic crisis that may have deflated their wealth, especially as most of this wealth are domiciled or stashed abroad in foreign currencies. Some of them that do not want to attract ‘attention’ could even be shouting: “Who told them that I am a billionaire?” As a matter of fact, some obscure traders may be richer than some of those listed, just that their wealth can neither be computed nor ascertained. So there might be too many naira billionaires in Nigeria, where billions have become commonised.


AMONG those billionaires on the Forbes list is Alhaji Aliko Dangote, said to worth $1.2 billion. He had joined the league of billionaires last year. He was named the richest black African, with an average ranking of 334 with $3.3 billion last year.

The 51-year-old industrialist began his career as a trader at the age of 21 with loan from an uncle. He built his Dangote Group into a conglomerate of reckoning, with interests in sugar, flour milling, salt processing, cement manufacturing, textiles, real estate, and oil and gas.

The Dangote Group chairman and chief executive had maintained his position as the richest Nigerian. His flour and cement manufacturing companies remain household names in Nigeria, with offices across the country. He is a major player in the Nigerian stock market.

Though initial offerings of his sugar and flour companies were oversubscribed in 2007, stocks in both have fallen nearly 70 per cent since the global economic crisis started. But that has not diminished his wealth considerably, at least in Nigeria.

Using his membership of the government economic advisory board to encourage the federal government to rescue the nation’s capital markets, his conglomerate, Dangote Group, has expanded its cement operations, with new plants across Nigeria, as well as South Africa and Ethiopia.

Dangote sits atop a flourishing business empire that is growing by the day. He is widely connected within the business and political circles and bought over federal government’s shares in Benue Cement Company (BCC) to consolidate his grip of the cement industry. He is presently under taking a simultaneous construction of three cement factories in Kogi, Cross River and Ogun states, which on completion will make the country self-sufficient in cement production.

He competes favourably with foreign manufacturers of similar products for the Nigerian market and has built factories and established production plants across the country for the various brands, ranging from spaghetti, to cement, salt, flour and sugar, especially with majority shares in Savannah Sugar Company in Adamawa State.

His annual turnover is put in the region of N150 billion. He is closely linked to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who appointed him a member of Nigeria Investment and Promotion Council (NIPC).

Dangote played a prominent role in the funding of Obasanjo’s re-election by contributing over N200 million. He donated N50 million to the National Mosque Fund in Abuja under the aegis of Friends of Obasanjo and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and another N201 million to the Obasanjo’s Presidential Library project.


FORTY-TWO-YEAR-OLD Chief Femi Otedola is one of the eight Africans to appear on the recent Forbes list of billionaires. The 42-year-old business tycoon owns Zenon Oil, a dominant force in diesel business among oil marketing concerns and which supplies this all important fuel used to power the generating sets of most Nigerian industries.

He holds controlling (majority) shares in the African Petroleum Company (AP), where he is also president and chief executive, after it was taken away from its initial buyer, Chief Jimoh Ibrahim by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and sold to him under controversial circumstances.

Otedola is said to worth $1.2 billion.

He is said to be planning to merge AP with his private firm, Zenon Oil, to create one of the continent’s largest oil companies. He is ranked the fourth richest black person in the world and the third richest African.

Otedola, who is the biggest supplier of diesel in Nigeria and almost holds a monopoly of it, also holds substantial shares in ChevronTexaco and Mobil, both big oil companies in Nigeria.

He owns Seaforce Shipping, F.O Properties, and F.O Transport, Atlas Shipping Agency, Swift Insurance, among others.

“I am humbled by the rating. You see, all this money means nothing to me. I want to be able to touch lives in a positive way,” Odetola said of the Forbes listing.

The son of former Lagos State governor, Chief Michael Otedola, also owns one of Nigeria’s largest oil storage facilities worth N2.8 billion.

Not quite long ago, he bought 100 brand new trucks for N1.3 billion to strengthen the distributive arm of his business and acquired a flat bottom bunker vessel with storage for 16,000 metric tons of diesel for $6.8 million.

Otedola started Zenon a few years ago, and former Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) group managing director, Mr. Funso Kupoloku, once acknowledged that Zenon is now the company to beat in the oil downstream sector. It is rated among the top five companies in Nigeria.

Otedola attributes his success to “hardwork and staying focused on what you want and going all out to get it. We are investing our money here, to create job opportunities for people. Nobody is going to take the money outside the country.”

His Zenon appears to be preparing for the government’s deregulation of the petroleum sector, as evidenced by his purchase of three cargo ships in quick succession to bring its total number to four.

Three of the vessels are named after his parents and wife- MT Sir Michael (his father), MT Lady Doja (his mother), MT Nana (his wife), while the latest is named Zenon Conquest.

Apart from being the biggest diesel and kerosene marketer in Nigeria, he is said to be the biggest ship owner. He was in 2007 appointed to the board of Nigeria Investment and Promotion Council (NIPC), and is the president of Nigeria Chamber of Shipping.

He contributed well over N100 million towards Obasanjo’s re-election. Under the Friends of Obasanjo and Atiku, he donated N25 million towards the rehabilitation of the National Mosque in Abuja and was one of the co-launcher of Obasanjo Presidential Library, where he donated N200 million.

He recently won the African CEO of the Year award in the maiden edition of the African Leadership Awards, organised by Leadership R.

But he has been in the news lately over an alleged attempt to poison him. He once life claimed that his friend and fellow billionaire, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, broke a gentleman’s agreement between them when he thwarted Zenon’s bid to buy Chevron’s local subsidiary in September.

In retaliation, Otedola started buying shares in Dangote’s publicly quoted sugar company and the simmering face-off between them rages.


THERE is no question about Globacom chief, Dr. Mike Adenuga, being in the billionaires’ league. Indeed, some say with the telecommunications firm, it could have become so even within one month. Perhaps what is not certain is how much he is worth, especially as the Ijebu man rarely discusses his wealth or grants press interviews.

Son of an astute trader, the late Ma Oyinkansola Adenuga, 54-year-old Adenuga is an astute businessman, who dabbled into telecommunications at a time the industry was going through teething problems. Having gone through the thick and thin of the industry to emerge the second national carrier, his Globacom is ruling Nigeria, and perhaps the world, as its name goes, just as its owner smiles to the bank.

An entrepreneur who dared where others feared, Adenuga’s wealth increases by GSM calls. His business acumen started in the United States (US) as a student of the Northwestern State University, Oklahoma and the Pace University, New York, where he studied Business Administration with bias in Marketing.

While in the university, Adenuga did some odd jobs to eke out the comfortable living he is experiencing today. He engaged in driving taxi to sustain himself, something that should spur many people today.

Adenuga has won several awards in Nigeria and abroad. Former Ghana President John Kufuor once described him as a pride to Africa and a beacon of hope to the continent.

Adenuga will certainly continue to rule in years to come, especially with his Conoil, Equatorial Trust Bank Plc (ETB) and other investments at home and abroad.


THE gradual rise of the chairman of NICON Group and Global Fleet Oil and Gas, Chief Jimoh Ibrahim started during his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme, when he made his first millions and built his four houses in Egbe area of Lagos in 1991 by organising 17 seminars on reforms for local governments during the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida regime through his Africa Centre for Policy Studies.

After training the permanent secretaries in all states of the federation, he erected his first storey building at Idimu, Lagos. In 1994, Ibrahim bought four houses in one street in London.

A Harvard alumnus, he was a consultant on tax matters to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

An Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife-trained lawyer, he became the new kid on the country’s business environment during the last administration by acquiring federal government’s over 70 per cent controlling stake in NICON Insurance. Buoyed by that, he bided for and acquired controlling stake in Le Meridien Hotel, Abuja, as well as 51 per cent stake Nigeria Reinsurance Corporation, NICON Airways within a spate of four months.

He announced his entry into the down stream oil and gas business with his Global Fleet Oil and Gas, buying up unused and abandoned filling stations, which he rehabilitated, beefing up the number from just three filing stations in 2003 to over 250 today.

In his early 40s, Ibrahim’s attempt to take over AP by mopping up its shares was thwarted by Obasanjo, who alleged that due process was not followed, only to turn around and allow Otedola to take over the company.

Ibrahim’s acquisition of NICON and Re was reversed by the Present administration, but he went to court to challenge the action and the firms were later returned to him in an out-of-court settlement.

Not long ago, he had a brush with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over allegation of forgery and fraud, but the charges were dramatically withdrawn later by the anti-graft agency.

Ibrahim sees money as a vehicle for social transformation, saying it is useless if it cannot serve its purpose of transforming lives. The son of a bricklayer, Ibrahim had a humble beginning at his Igbotako, Ondo state hometown, he was at a time a tax consultant to the federal government on petroleum tax payment.


MR. Cletus Ibeto is the founder of the Ibeto Group, which he incorporated in 1984.

An acclaimed entrepreneur, he was president of Nnewi Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture from 1994 to 1998. He has for over 25 years played active role in the Nigerian real sector.

With such subsidiaries as Ibeto Group Homes, Ibeto Industries and Petrochemicals, Unionparts, Odoh Holdings, Kings Palace Hotels, Palmex Agencies and Ibeto Cement, his attempt to ‘encroach’ into Dangote’s ‘fiefdom’ of cement importation was thwarted by the Obasanjo administration, as his cargo laden ship was left stranded on shore.


CHIEF Jim Ovia is co-founder and has been managing director and chief executive of Zenith Bank Plc since inception. He has over 25 years experience in banking.

He is also chairman of the fast-growing Visa Communications, operators of Visa phone, which has been rated the fourth largest telecommunications outfit in Nigeria. Ovia is also chairman of the Nigeria Software Development Initiative (NSDI) and National Information Technology Advisory Committee (NITAC).

He is a member of the Governing Council of Nigerian Investment Promotion Council (NIPC) and Lagos State University (LASU); Honorary International Investor Council; Board of Trustees, Redeemer’s University For Nations, Lagos.

He is proprietor of the proposed University of Information and Communication Technology, Agbor, Delta State. He served on the Board of American International School, Lagos between 2001 and 2003.

The founder and chairman of Mankind United to Support Total Education (MUSTE), a philanthropic organisation focused on providing scholarship for the less privileged, Ovia also founded the ICT Foundation for Youth Empowerment, which focuses on improving the socio-economic welfare of Nigerian youths by inspiring and motivating them to embrace Information and Communication Technology.

A 2000 awardee of Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR) national honour, Ovia, a Business Administration graduate, is an alumnus of the Harvard Business School (Executive Management Program).

Since delving into telecommunications, his investment empire has grown into reckoning in Nigeria and one of those that call the shot in Nigeria’s business.


MR. Tony Elumelu, group managing director and chief executive of UBA Group is one of the young Turks in the Nigerian financial industry. A graduate of Economics, Elumelu is an alumnus of the prestigious business schools of Harvard, USA and IMD, Lausanne, Switzerland.

With a banking career spanning over two decades, he was appointed managing director and chief executive of then Standard Trust Bank Plc (STB) in 1997 and carried over the position at the merger of STB with United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc during the consolidation exercise in the banking industry.

Before then, he was Area Manager of the defunct Allstates Trust Bank Plc; Executive Director of Linkage Assurance Company Limited; founding chief executive of BGL Limited; and Executive Director of Merchant Bank of Commerce Limited, just before his appointment as Managing Director of STB, which turn around he superintended.

He served was member of the Presidential Committee of the Heart of Africa Project; Presidential Committee on NEPAD; Advisory Board of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT); and others.

Elumelu was a founding director of Transnational Corporation (Transcorp) Plc and member of the Governing Council of the Financial Institutions Training Centre (FITC); director of the Central Securities Clearing System (CSCS) Limited; and president of the West African Bankers’ Association (WABA).

A Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR) in 2003, the UBA boss was the 2006 African Business Leader of The Year. Though his exact worth is not known, there is no doubt that Elumelu is not just one of the big boys in the financial sector, but also the country.


OTUNBA Olasubomi Balogun is as one of the country’s foremost bankers, having established the first merchant indigenous bank, First City Merchant Bank, now First City Monument Bank (FCMB), in 1982.

The Ijebu-Ode Ogun State-born Subomi, as he is fondly called, studied Law in England and is reputed to be the first Nigerian to receive special training in Legal Drafting. But his success in the financial sector has since overshadowed his law trained.

Though out of day-to-day banking business, having groomed and left his son to take over, Balogun still is a factor in the industry and controls billions.


THIS Owerri, Imo State-born former chairman and managing director of Diamond Bank Plc is one of the brains behind telecommunications giant, MTN in Nigeria.

The London School of Economics-trained Economist and successful banker has since stepped aside from active banking and is currently chairman of MTN Nigeria. He a former president of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), with extensive experience in capital market and an in-depth knowledge of aviation finance.

He is said to be a quiet billionaire that rarely wants to be announced.


TALK of astute industrialists and money-spinners and you cannot miss Chief Razaq Okoya. A successful businessman, philanthropist, Okoya maintains stupendous monumental wealthy.

Although some may wont to ascribe investment success to good education, the case of Okoya, chairman and chief executive of Eleganza Group, has proved all that wrong, considering his low academic background.

Starting with 50 pounds in those days, Okoya’s Eleganza Group is one of the biggest homegrown conglomerates in Nigeria today, with over six factories, and its products are household names in Nigeria neighbouring African markets.

His sprawling Oluwaninsola Estate on Lekki-Ajah Expressway in Lagos is eye popping, just as his property and estates Ikoyi, Ikeja, Orile-Iganmu and Apapa are income earners.

He is no doubt in the billionaire world.


PRESIDENT of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), Chief Obafunke Otudeko, or Oba, as he is fondly called, one of the richest men in the country today.

He studied Accountancy at Leeds College of Commerce, Leeds, Yorkshire, United Kingdom and obtained the associateship of the Chartered Institute of Bankers (ACIB) in 1964, winning many prizes in his professional examination.

He started his banking career with the Cooperative Bank Limited, Ibadan in 1960, rising to become the deputy chief executive officer of the bank during his 23-year career before retiring into private life.

In private business, Otudeko carved out a niche for himself by becoming a foremost entrepreneur, participating in the key sectors of the economy. The chairman of Honeywell Group, which comprises eight major companies that engages in oil and gas, flour milling, engineering, high sea trawling, real estate and marine transportation.

Otudeko is a core investor in First Bank Nigeria Plc and one of the largest investors in Guinness Plc. He is on the board of several companies as a non-executive director. He recently went into hospitality industry, with his Radisson Hotel in Victoria Island nearing completion.

There is no doubt that Otudeko has been in the billionaire class for long and will be around for some time to come.


CHIEF Sunny Odogwu, Ide-Ahaba of Asaba, has been rich as long as he has been around, being one of the early millionaires in the country.

Now in his late 70s, Odogwu is a reputed businessman, with interest cutting across different areas of the economy, including telecommunication, shipping and publishing.

His Grand Hotel in Asaba is one of the best in that part of the country and indeed the country.


CHIEF Adekunle Ojora is another Nigerian billionaire entrepreneur, industrialist and businessman, with investments in almost all segments of the Nigerian economy, from oil to food, insurance, office equipment and the finance.

Now in his late 70s, age has not stopped his millions from rolling in. The London-trained industrialist was once a journalist, as an assistant editor with British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), London in 1954.

He later returned to Nigeria to join the federal civil service between 1955 and 1961.

He is the leading single shareholder of many blue chip companies in Nigeria, enabling him to be director in them for a long time. These include Agip, where he was director from 1967 to 1970 and later its chairman, until he called it quits.

Though in the clique of old time billionaires, Ojora wealth is never say die.


CHIEF Molade Okoya-Thomas, who joined the CFAO conglomerate, where his father was the first indigenous staff to rise to enviable position, as an accountant in December 1959 has remained an ambassador of sort for French businesses in Nigeria.

Today, Okoya-Thomas, apart from being on the Board of several Nigerian companies, is chairman of the CFAO Group and six other French-related companies, including Transcap Nigeria Limited, Studio Press Nigeria Limited and Cica Nigeria Ltd.

A recipient of French highest national honour, Chevalier De La Legion D’Honneur, Okoya-Thomas is a notable sport philanthropist.

Despite his wealth and status, Okoya-Thomas keeps a low profile, while insisting that he is not a rich man.


MR. Sayyu Dantata, a relative of Dangote, is behind M.R.S, a major petroleum products supplier.

A mechanical engineer by training in one of the Ivy-league schools, Polo freak Dantata started his business over 12 year ago and has made a success out of it to join the league of billionaires, just like Dangote.


EVEN though most Nigerians would easily remember him for his alleged role during the Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju administration in Anambra State, Chief Emeka Offor has been able to bounce back, especially with his exploits in Sao Tome and Principe.

His sudden rise from obscurity to fame was a surprise to many who knew him very well. The executive vice chairman of Chrome Group, which allegedly handled the Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) of Port Harcourt Refinery under the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, his wealth came to the fore during the 1999 general election that saw the election of Mbadinuju, where he was the major financier of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party PDP at the state level.

Before 2003 election, he lost out to Chief Chris Uba in a power struggle over who controlled the state government, just as his Afex Bank closed shop.

He subsequently relocated to Sao Tome and Precipe, where his company won a major contract in oil exploration that would last for years. He has since become a major stakeholder in the tiny country’s oil-rich economy.

Though he still maintains some business interest in Nigeria, most of his major business interests are in America, Europe, Middle East and other parts of Africa. His companies include Globalscan Systems, Chrome Oil Services, ETHANIG, Starcrest and Choffan Communications

The Orafite-born businessman in his 50s and has everything going for him, if he continues to oil his business in Sao Tome and Principe.


THIS young Turk is the Group Managing Director of Dantata Group, a conglomerate of over 50 companies.

The group’s annual turnover runs into several billions of naira.


HE is one of the most respected players in the corporate world, not just because he is the son of the late Alhaji Wahab Iyanda Folawiyo, but having been able to add value to his father’s business empire.

An Economist and lawyer, Tunde is the Group Executive Director of the Yinka Folawiyo Group. He pioneered group’s entry into the oil and gas, telecommunications and banking sectors. He is on the board of Ecobank Group and MTN Nigeria.


PASSIONATE about his Oando and indeed the oil and gas sector, British-trained lawyer-turn oil magnate, Mr. Adewale Tinubu has since become denominating name in the industry. He not only championed the setting up of the Ocean and Oil Trading and Shipping, he also led the group that took over Unipetrol (now Oando), and later AGIP, all at great cost.

In his 40s, he bagged a Bachelor of Law degree from the University of Liverpool, England, in 1988, and completed an LLM at the London School of Economics, specializing in International Finance and Shipping in 1989.


HIS imposing stature does not betray his worth as a member of the exclusive billionaire club in Nigeria.

Akinruntan, the chief executive of Obat Oil and Petroleum Limited, is a shrewd businessman and a dogged fighter for financial freedom.

Though not born with the proverbial golden spoon in his mouth, but he looked at poverty eyeball-to-eyeball and told it to get out of his way. Pulling himself up by his bootstraps, Akinruntan picked up the bits and pieces of his life and began to rebuild it, brick after brick.

Today, he owns the largest petroleum storage facility in Africa and the second largest in the world. He is at an advanced stage of owning a private refinery and can afford any article that catches his fancy.

The ultra-modern storage facility, which has capacity to store 64.8 million litres of petroleum products, is also supported by a gantry that have 10 loading arms, through which petroleum products are dispensed into trucks, via an electronic device called Accuload III that can load 33,000 litres of petroleum products in less than 15 minutes.

As a major market maker in the country, Akinruntan Obat Oil has about 100 retail outlets with hundreds of tankers and three oil vessels, which market petroleum product in the West African coast.

A very revered and reserved personality, his taste is that of the royalty. Last year he shook the world when he bought a custom-built Rolls Royce, the very type that the Queen of England, Elizabeth 11 uses, making him ostensibly the first Black man to purchase the car, according to manufacturers.

He major challenge now is to see through his multi-billion naira private refinery, which is billed to refine 120,000 barrel per day, come on stream.

He attending the Bill Clinton Global Initiative lecture in New York with Obasanjo in September last year, which gave him an inspiration to do something new in life- set up his own Obat Foundation.


HE is a business mogul whose investment spans across insurance, information technology and manufacturing.

Ekeh, who is chairman of Task Systems, also presides over Zinox Computers, one of the foremost indigenous computer firms in the country.

Ekeh was honoured as an ICON of Hope by Obasanjo as a model for new generation of Nigerians. He has a record of incisive entrepreneurship and his vision to computerise Nigeria made more popular in Nigeria IT industry.

He pioneered Desktop Publishing and Computer Graphics in Nigeria with his Task Systems in 1989, as well as ICT products distribution in West Africa with his Technology Distributions Limited and ICT Solution through ITEC Solutions Limited.

Ekeh is largely seen as the Bill Gates of Africa by IT industry watchers.

He holds a Bachelor in Economics from the Punjab University, India and a post-graduate in Risk Management from Nottingham University, England.


THE Executive Vice/Chairman and chief executive of the Intercontinental Bank Group, Chief Erastus Akingbola, whose bank is one of the most capitalised in Nigeria is a quiet moneyman.

He is an achiever, by dint of hardwork, considering his background.

Born at Okeigbo in Ondo State in 1950, Akingbola’s fate changed in 1971 when he secured appointment with Union Bank of Nigeria Limited, as a clerk. He soon registered for a professional course in banking on a part-time basis, which earned him an Associate Diploma of the Institute of Bankers (AIB) London in 1975.

An alumnus of University of Lagos (MBA), Akingbola’s work experience, which started with Union Bank, soon took him to NAL Merchant Bank, where he was at various times an Executive Assistant to the then Operations Manager; Senior Executive Assistant; and Assistant Manager in the International Division in 1982.

By 1984, he was promoted Senior Manager, International Operations and Correspondent Banking until he left NAL to join FCMB as Controller of Operations.

He later became the founding chief executive of Intercontinental Bank and is today president of Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN).


THOUGH more easily recognised as a corporate lawyer, Chief Wale Babalakin is one Nigerian that crept into the billionaires’ list unannounced.

Today, Babalakin’s Bi-Courtney has stamped its feet of authority in the construction industry with the edifice, MM2 local terminal, at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos.

He still practices Law and controls huge investments in many companies. His construction firm is currently handling the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway expansion project, with his eyes still on Lagos State’s 4th Mainland Bridge contract.