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Business News of Friday, 12 November 2021


How Alakija won a 12-year legal tussle with Nigeria over a lucrative oil well

Nigerian billionaire, Folorunsho Alakija Nigerian billionaire, Folorunsho Alakija

“There will always be challenges but through perseverance, we develop the grit, the skill and the ability to help us achieve our purpose. Have a wonderful day!”

The above tweet was from Nigeria’s most successful female entrepreneur, Folorunsho Alakija in June last year. The name Alakija has become synonymous with wealth thanks to the perseverance of the business mogul.

Born in Lagos in July 1951 to Chief L.A. Ogbara, of Ikorodu, Lagos State. The success of her upper-middle-income family which was quite large didn't deter her from becoming an entrepreneur.

She completed her schooling partly in Nigeria and U.K. Shortly after her education, she finally settled in Nigeria where she worked as an executive secretary to the Managing Director of the former First National Bank of Chicago, which is now known as FCMB (First City Monument Bank). After more than a decade, she rose in ranks to become the Head of the Corporate Affairs Department.

Through all her experience in the corporate world, her drive for owning her business led to the launch of her first company, Supreme Stitches, a fashion brand.

She later renamed it The Rose Of Sharon House of Fashion in 1996 and within a few years, it became a stable name in Nigeria.

Rose Of Sharon House of Fashion became and is still one of the top fashion brands in Nigeria. According to the official website, they deal mainly in mass production of tee-shirts and are also into monogramming on readymade shirts, towels, bedsheets, uniforms, table cloths.

In 1991, Alakija saw the need to diversity her skill in entrepreneurship. In September of that year, FAMFA Oil was incorporated and in 1993, she was granted an Oil Prospecting License (OPL) on 216, a 617,000-acre oil block located in the Agbami Field of the central Niger Delta.

While there are rumors that she acquired the bloc because of her relationship with Maryam Babangida, the wife of the former Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida, Alakija described that piece of business as divinely orchestrated by God.

She entered into a joint venture agreement with Star Deep Water Petroleum Limited (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Texaco) three years later. Nairametrics reported that she appointed Star Deep Water as technical adviser for the exploration of her license and transferred 40% of her 100% stake to the company.

Star Deep ceded 8% of the 40% to Petrobras, thus bringing in even more players. It was no surprise, therefore, that they succeeded in their exploration and soon grew to become one of the largest indigenous exporters of crude oil in Nigeria.

She explained how she ventured into oil exploration in a series of tweets in 2018.

“My encounter with the glory of God. When I got to my wit’s end, I covenanted with God for blessings in return for a lifelong work and walk with Him. To say that I did not see HIS Glory come into my life would mean I have turned God into a liar. It is only God who could have brought me from the back burner to the front burner.

“He Himself orchestrated and organized by divine intervention, the beginning and continuation of our delving into the oil industry. The oil block allocated and licensed to us was not wanted by any oil company; we accepted it by faith and it has become the chief cornerstone in West African and Africa as a whole.

“The Government came back to “take” 50% out of our 60%, but after a 12 year battle in court, all was restored to the glory of God. God has continued to be faithful as to be expected and I am here today as part of the fulfillment of my obligations to that covenant,” she wrote.

With her success in the petroleum sector, Alakija dived into other interests including printing and real estate.

Alakija versus Federal Government

After more than six years of exploring and investing in the bloc, they struck oil in OPL 216. The Federal Government swooped in immediately the news of their discovery went public.

They (Federal Government) snatched a 40% stake and an additional 10%. The argument at the time from the government was that the Alakija family would be making as much as $10million daily if they had kept their shares.

For 12 years, they fought the government in court until they won and were asked to keep the oil bloc.

She commented when asked about the legal tussle with FG in an interview: “We felt like it was unfair. We had taken the sole risk and invested everything we had in the business. It had become a family business. We spent six years as a family to ensure this worked out and now that it was bearing fruit. They just stepped in and took away everything we had struggled and worked extremely hard for. I said to myself, ‘Folorunsho Alakija does not give up, my husband does not give up and my children do not give up’.”

Recognition and Awards

Alakija’s influence has grown as the years go by. Forbes ranked her the richest woman in Nigeria with a net worth of $1 billion as of 2020.

She was number 20 in the 2020 Africa’s Billionaire list which was released in 2021.

In 2015, she was listed by Forbes as the second most powerful woman in Africa and the 86th most powerful woman in the world alongside Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

In July this year, Alakija received an Honorary Degree from the Benson Idahosa University, Benin City for her contribution to the business world. The recognition was number eight she had received from Universities in Nigeria and the United States of America.

She became the first female chancellor in Nigeria in 2016 when she was appointed Chancellor of Osun State University in March 2016.

Through The Rose of Sharon Foundation and other philanthropic ventures, Alakija has helped and empowered widows and orphans through scholarships and business grants.

Folorunso Alakija is also the sponsor of the Agbami Medical and Engineering Scholarship Scheme which awards over 1000 beneficiaries with scholarships annually. She has also donated a skills acquisition center to the Yaba College of Technology.

This article was written by Novieku Babatunde Adeola