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Nigeria’s Mega Businessmen...

Aliko Dangote


The chairman of Dangote Group is highly shrewd and deeply feared by his competitors. Aliko Dangote is the ultimate embodiment of the gritty mercurial instinct for which the quintessential Nigerian businessman is known. He successfully transformed a small trading business which he began in 1977 at the age of 21 to a multi-billion naira business which now spans the West African Sub-region. His businesses, which are all under the Dangote Group include foods, sugar, salt, cement, haulage, flour concerns among others. Presently, Dangote dominates the sugar market in Nigeria as he is the major supplier of sugar to the country's soft drink industry, breweries, and confectionery industries.  He is also a principal commander of salt and flour markets. He is referred to as the Al Calpone of Nigeria's manufacturing sector. A quintessential industrialist who believes firmly in wealth creation. A sugar and rice magnate, a major transporter, a  former banker, an Insurance broker and a cement merchant.

By every calculation, Aliko Dangote sits atop a flourishing business empire that is growing in leap and bound. Simple, unassuming, sociable and immensely rich. Although in his 40s, he seats strong in the old economy while making significant inroads in the new economy. He is widely connected within the business and political circles. He bought over Federal Government's Shares in Benue Cement Company BCC. He maintains a domineering presence in consumables. Interestingly, he competes favourably with foreign manufacturers of similar products for the Nigerian market. He has built factories and established production plants across the country for the various brands, from spaghetti, to cement, to salt, flour and sugar. His company is also into the production of Gum-Arabic which is used as adhesive. But that is not all, Dangote Group is also into textile production. He recent acquired majority Shares in Savannah Sugar company in Adamawa. 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.

Hardly one to grant interviews, the man's annual turn according to close sources is the region of N150 billion. By appointing him a member of Nigeria Investment and Promotion Council, President Obasanjo may finally have come to terms with the young man's immense contributions to the industrial and economic growth of the country. And now wants him to make policy input to open up the environment to more people like him. And how can the business team to  South Africa be complete without Aliko? The man  the President would have loved to succeed him.  It will be recalled that, Dangote played a prominent role in the funding of Obasanjo’s re-election which he contributed over N200 million . He doled out N50 million to the national Mosque under the aegis of friends of Obasanjo and Atiku and contributed N201 million to the presidential library project.



Femi Otedola

Femi Otedola is the billionaire owner of multi-billion naira indigenous oil giant Zenon. Zenon, which is directly ran by Otedola is the dominant force in diesel business among oil marketing concerns. It supplies this all important fuel used to power the generating sets of most Nigerian industries to nearly all the major manufacturing firms in the country. These include Dangote Group, Cadbury, Coca Cola, Nigerian Breweries, MTN, Unilever, Nestle, Guinness among others. Otedola is the son of former Lagos State governor, Sir. Michael Otedola. Otedola owns one of the largest oil storage facility which he purchased for N2.8 billion. He bought hundred brand new trucks purchased for N1.3 billion to strengthen the distributive arm of his business and acquired a massive flat bottom bunker vessel with a storage capacity of 16, 000 metric tonnes of diesel for 6.8 million dollars.  Zenon owns four cargo ships.  One of them is just one of four in the world and the first of its kind in Africa.  He owns Atlas Shipping Agency, Swift Insurance, FO Properties Limited, FO Transport.

He is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Zenon Petroleum and Gas, the company that is currently sitting at the commanding heights of the nation's diesel and kerosene business. A firm believer in deregulation. Youthful, dynamic,  untiring and master strategist to the core.  

Otedola started Zenon about five  years ago and within a short time seized control of the market. Today he has become the pacesetter in the downstream sector while expanding the frontiers of competition. NNPC Group Managing Director, Engr. Funso Kupoloku acknowledged this much when he said Zenon was now the company to beat in the downstream sector.

This 40-year-old son of a one time Executive Governor of Lagos State, Sir Michael Otedola, is not about to look back. He admitted that much when he declared sometime ago that he wants to build an empire.

From nowhere, Zenon is today rated among the top five companies in the country, with a turnover that will make his competitors green with envy.

But how did he do it many have asked?  In an interview some two years ago he attributed his phenomenal leap to “hard-work and staying focused on what you want and going all out to get it."

He exhibited patriotic sentiments in the same interview when he said: "We are investing our money here, to create job opportunities for people. Nobody is going to take the money outside the country."

His company appeared to have fully prepared itself for the deregulation of the petroleum sector as evidenced in its purchases. Buying three cargo ships in quick succession to bring its total number of ships to four. All named after his parents and wife. MT Sir Michael (his father), MT Lady Doja (his mother), MT Nana  (his wife). His latest, he named Zenon Conquest.  Energy experts say Zenon's expansion is to consolidate its competitive edge in the market.

Apart from being the biggest diesel and kerosene marketer in Nigeria today, he is said to be the biggest ship owner in the country. Which partly explains his recent nomination as President of Nigeria Chambers of Shipping, a powerful and highly influential body in the maritime sector. The oil baron and shipping magnate also bought 100 brand new DAF trucks from Netherlands  to strengthen his distribution arm. Zenon now boasts of a total storage capacity of more than 147,000 metric tonnes total holding of diesel making it the biggest depot owner with the largest single storage capacity in the country.

He is also the owner of Atlas Shipping Agency, Swift Insurance, FO Properties Limited, FO Transport and Seaforce Shipping Company Ltd. His appointment last year  into the board of Nigeria Investment and Promotion Council, NIPC, observers believe, is the President’s vote of confidence on the young man's business abilities. It is for this that he was also nominated by the President on the team of top Nigerian businessmen to go on an investment drive to South Africa They are essentially to meet and interact with the south African business community and the South African President, President Thabo Mbeki.

On his part, Otedola contributed  well over N100 million  to the President’s re-election expenses. And under the aegis of friends of Obasanjo and Atiku, he contributed N25 towards the rehabilitation of the National  Mosque in Abuja. He was one of the co-launcher of Obasanjo Presidential Library, where donated N200 million. He is said to have direct access to the President



Funso Lawal

Otunba Funso Lawal is the Chief Executive Officer of the Charterhouse Group, a Lagos-based consulting and financial advisory services group. He is also the chairman of the Corporate Forum, a private sector initiative that is seeking proactive ways to improve the Nigerian economy. He is a businessman with varied interests and vast experience in the energy, real estate and banking sectors. He is a former employee of Citibank.

He is said to have the president's ears and also to have made some inputs to the president's thinking on agriculture, oil, gas, manufacturing, solid minerals and tourism matters.



Nicholas Okoye

Nicholas Okoye is a top notcher at the Nigerian Stock Exchange, NSE. He got into the NSE as a Technical Advisor to the Director General and Chief Executive Officer. His experience in advanced financial management and large scale project financing is certain to come handy during the group's operations. In the NSE he is responsible for building a Global Franchise for the exchange. This involves getting an estimated ten million Nigerians in the Diaspora to invest in the Nigerian economy. He used to be a financial consultant and global investment advisor for Merrill Lynch. He has worked as a consultant with the Nigeria’s National Investment Promotion Commission, the Anambra State Government, the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Ministry of Commerce. He studied Applied Microbiology and Genetic Engineering at the Anambra State University of Technology graduating in 1988. After which he was at Harvard University, Boston Massachusetts USA, Global Investment Management and Technology.



Jacob Moyo Ajekigbe

Mr. Jacob Moyo Ajekigbe  is the Managing Director of Nigeria's biggest bank, First Bank of Nigeria (FBN). Until 2002, he was First Bank's Executive Director, Retail and Consumer Banking. He succeeded Mr. Bernard Alonge after the latter's compulsory retirement as a result of a botched investment deal. Confidence in his ability was entrenched after the impressive performance posted by First Bank even after the N10b the bank had to set aside as a provision against the $100m exposure to the botched Investors International (London) Limited's attempt to acquire controlling interest in NITEL in 2002. Ever since First Bank has been doing well. d.

The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) was immediately directed by the Federal Government to terminate sale of core investors' ownership of NITEL to IIL even as the consortium lost $131.7 million deposit (out of which about $100 million was provided by First Bank) which it paid shortly after its selection as preferred core investors to NITEL.



Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke

Dr. (Mrs.) Ndi Okereke Onyiuke is the tough but soft spoken Director-General of the Nigeria Stock Exchange (NSE). She joined the organisation as Manager and Head of Research and Information Services Department (now Research and Infotech Department) in 1983. She rose and became DG in January 2000. Her tenure has witnessed both changes and growth in the Exchange. She is credited with turning the research section of the Exchange into a viable data centre while she also spearheaded the computerization of the Exchange in 1985. She was part of the team that created the “The Nigerian Stock Exchange” All Shares Index and started the Stock Exchange’s Authorised Clerkship Examination. She was the Chairman for the Technical Committee on Privatisation and Commercialisation (TCPC) now Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE).  She attended Queen’s School, Enugu, Enugu State, where she passed out with Grade 1 in her West African School Certificate Examination in 1965.  She earned a First Class Honours (Magna Cum Laude) in Business Administration, Computer Sciences and Economics from Baruch College of the City University of New York in 1975.

She also has a Master of Business Administration, (MBA) from New York, Graduate School in 1977 and a Doctor of Philosophy/Doctor of Administration in Finance and Securities Market at City University Post Graduate centre, New York.



Festus Odimegwu

Festus Odimegwu is the CEO of Nigeria's biggest brewer, Nigerian Breweries Plc. Odimegwu is a stickler for excellence and a goal-getter. No sooner had he taken over at NB Plc than he undertook a modernization programme that has further lengthened the distance his company and its competitors. He was the spirit behind the partnership with Heineken that resulted in the construction of one of the world's biggest breweries in Nigeria. The brewery which is located at Enugu produces more notttles of beer than any other brewery in the continent. Odimegwu studied Chemistry at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Anambra State and he graduated in the First Class division.

An acclaimed scholar and a celebrated student who graduated with first class honours in Chemistry from the University of Nigeria (UNN), a feat yet to be beaten since the university's inception in 1960, he bagged the award of the "Best Graduating Student" of the department and faculty, he also won the "university's overall best graduating student" award for the year.

Little wonder, with such a background Odimegwu has been able to position the company in such a way that it now dominates the brewing sector of the Nigerian economy and the West African sub-region. Festus aims to turn Nigerian Breweries into a world class business. But the question he is often asked is, how can you have a world class concern in Nigeria? To him: "why not? World Class vision simply means to be the best according to international standards."

Recently, Nigerian Breweries became the first company in Nigeria to declare a profit of N14 billion in a year and in the history of corporate Nigeria to give a dividends of almost N8 billion. "We are first in everything, our ambitions are even far more than that and all these were before our modern brewery in Enugu started production on the 24th of March this year. So you can imagine what will happen when the breweries start full-scale production." The positive economic implications of this scenario can of course be de-linked with measurable national development.

Born August 7, 1953, in the Enyimba, commercial city of Aba, Festus had his Primary education in the same town. He recalls those early days when he was jack of all trades: "During my school days, I was a footballer, I was in the band. I was in the legion of Mary, I was mass server, and in short I had an active childhood. I played football on the streets, broke glasses and fought on the roads. It was an interesting life, growing up in Aba in those days."

His impressive credentials stood him out for the Chairmanship position of NIPC. The way he has steered the breweries to success is now a bench mark for new calling. Odimegwu is also on the investment team to visit South Africa and meet with Mbeki.



Tony Elumelu

His entry into the banking sector ignited a revolution that has transformed the sector and challenged old stereotypes. 10 years after he led a team that took over Standard Trust Bank, the man still dishes out fresh ideas and surprises that always seems to catch his competitors off guard. His most recent being the proposed merger of STB with United Bank for Africa, UBA. He has led the bank from merely existing to a pre-eminent position and is yet to blink.

A trained research economist, with degrees at graduate and post graduate levels. He also has the benefit of academic exposure from the business schools of Harvard, USA and Lausanne, Switzerland. His banking/financial career spanning close to two decades has also seen him occupying positions such as Area Manager, Allstates Trust Bank PLC; Executive Director, Linkage Assurance Company Limited; Founding CEO of BGL Limited and Executive Director, Merchant Bank of Commerce Limited, just before his appointment as Managing Director of Standard Trust Bank which he superintended  over its turn-around.  Today the bank’s rating is at an all time high. It is on the basis of his achievements that he has won the attention of the Federal Government.  Elumelu is presently a member of several federal government committees, the Presidential Committee on NEPAD, the Advisory Board of the FCT and various other national committees.

STB started operations on June 4, 1990 as a commercial bank after the acquisition of the distressed Crystal Bank, with “the vision of being the ‘role model for African business through consistent achievement of superior returns for their numerous stakeholders’. Within a short while, the bank succeeded in establishing a strong network of over 86 real time on-line branches." On is balance sheet, the bank has over N74.2 billion deposit base, making it the fourth largest bank in the country in terms of deposit base and the fifth most profitable bank. STB was among the banks that were called upon by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to rescue some ailing banks sometime last year. Also last year, it acquired 51 per cent majority shares in Continental  Trust Bank in the bid to redeem the fortunes of the bank. STB was among the seven banks appointed by Central Bank  of Nigeria (CBN) to become settlement banks after meeting all the criteria set out by apex bank. The settlement banks were supposed to pay collectively N72 billion collateral before the commencement of the new policy on April 1.  Only recently, President Obasanjo appointed him member of the elite business committee that is to travel to South Africa to meet with President Thabo Mbeki and South African businessmen.



Jim Ovia

Jim Ovia is a co-founder and the pioneer Managing Director and Chief Executive, Zenith International Bank, Nigeria. He is also a member of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group and was recently elected President of the Nigeria Internet Group. His bank provides services in private and consumer and investment banking. From practically nowhere, he has built the bank to become the fourth most profitable bank in Nigeria in terms of a jumbo asset size of N68 billion, as well as ranks among the top four with the largest shareholders' funds of N15.674,368 billion.  Total assets plus contingent liabilities is currently put at N215, 226,766 billion. With interests in e-commerce and information technology, Ovia's bank was the first Nigerian bank to register its presence on the internet. He has been at the forefront of delivering financial services electronically through the use of technology.

Only recently Zenith Bank won Central Bank's recognition and approval as one of the few settlement banks in the country. According to industry watchers, it is a testimony to the bank's successes. Steered by a man who maintains a reticent public reserve but combines vigour, hard-work and excellence in pursuit of his goal. His appointment into the Board of NIPC last year was seen as a move to tap his wealth of experience in banking and financial matters to assist in promoting the investment climate in the country.

Ovia  is the pioneer President of the Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), a non governmental organisation. He has over 23 years of banking experience. He joined IMB as a financial analyst in 1980 and rose to the management cadre in 1987. He headed corporate finance department of Merchant Bank of Africa, 1987 to 1990. His interest in computers was pickled in 1977 when he worked as a part-time computer operator at Baton Rouge Bank & Trust Company, Louisiana. Jim Ovia is the proprietor of University of Information and Communication Technology, Agbor, Delta State. He is a holder of the Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR).

He has a master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) from University of Louisiana, Louisiana in 1979 and a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Southern University, Louisiana, 1977. He is also an alumnus of Executive Education of Harvard University. He is also on the President’s list of nominees of tyop businessmen on investment drive to South Africa. They are to meet South African President and top rated South African businessmen to exchange ideas and deepen the economic ties between both countries.



Waziri Mohammed

He is a senior partner in the law firm, Adebayo Mohammed and Adewunmi and a director (non-executive) of Oando Plc. His other positions include: Chairman of International Procurement Services Limited, Mothercat Limted, Nigerian Railway Corporation. He is a board member of Pacific Merchant Bank Limited, Royal United Nigeria Limited and PW Limited. He is a political “son” of the president and one of the most prominent young politicians and businessmen from Northern Nigeria.



Adegboye Olulade

He is currently chairman of Adonai-net Nigeria Limited and Marble Properties and Investment based in South Africa.  Olulade is an investment banker, stockbroker and financial consultant. He is a product of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife.



Tony Ezenna

He is the chief executive officer of Orange Drugs, a major player in the pharmaceutical sector of the Nigerian economy. Orange drugs products, though imported, are household names in Nigeria today.

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