SUNDAY AKINTOLA: HOW MUSHIN HOME BOY GREW MULTI-MILLION NAIRA BUSINESSES IN MUSHIN, LAGOS

SUNDAY AKINTOLA is specially proud of beating all the odds as a home boy growing up in the densely populated Mushin area of Lagos State to become a successful owner of business chains that span micro finance and telecommunications. In this interview with GOKE OLUWOLE, and TAI ADEWALE SHOFELA, Chairman of Sovereign Micro Finance Bank, AKINTOLA shares his journey to conquering the litany of challenges that littered his path to business success.

How would you describe yourself?

Yes, by His grace, I am Sunday Akintola, a gentleman who happens to be one of the lucky entrepreneurs whose company is positively impacting on Nigeria in the area of poverty alleviation. I am the Chairman of the Board of three companies; Covenant Perazim Investment Limited, a multi-facetted company established to operate in the Oil, Gas and Agriculture sectors, Sufi Enterprises Limited, which is a company involved in the sale and distribution of GSM companies recharge cards, and Sovereign Micro-Finance Bank. I am a graduate of Accounting from the University of Lagos. I am also an ex-banker having worked with one of Nigeria’s fastest growing banks Zenith Bank Plc.

Briefly, can you tell us the background to how you grew this multi million naira business empire?

Most big businesses always start in small ways. This multi-million business concern, like you rightly said, is a business that was registered first as Covenant Perazim Investment Limited in November, 2003 while I was still in service with Zenith Bank. It was then the thought occurred to me on what I could do to change my life and touch the lives of other people around me. I thereafter initiated the venture, but we started operation with four staff which included my wife and my brother in-law in a shop here in Mushin from where we sold telecoms recharge cards.

I resigned from my banking job six months after we commenced operations, to be precise, July 1, 2004, two days after securing the NCC dealership licence. In fact, I got my licence on a Sunday and I put in my resignation the following Tuesday, and by August, 2004, I was already able to raise the mandatory N5 million to join the recharge card dealership community of the then V-Mobile Network with Sufi Enterprises Ltd.

All these while, my colleagues, some in the banking halls and some from other companies like Chevron, Exxon-Mobil and other multi-nationals, were greatly disturbed about my decision to go into business; they asked if something was wrong with me and how could I leave certainty for uncertainty; leaving the bank to go and sell recharge card. For them, it sounded absurd. But I told them I wanted to go and develop my business.

Things started to crystallize for us because all we were doing then was to get some money to buy and sell recharge cards until we had our breakthrough when in 2006 the V-Mobile Network started seeing us as a serious business entity, and in 2007, we won the best dealers award of the V-Mobile Network. That same 2007, we were among the 25 dealers selected in Lagos and promoted to the status of big dealers. However, as part of the requirements of that new status back then, we were also expected to have our own building as office complex. On the back of this, we decided to build our own building. Thankfully, by the end of 2007 we were able to build our own office complex.

Personally, how had your background influenced the development of your business?

I am a proper Mushin boy, born and bred in this community where people have the notion that nothing good can come out of the community. While we were in the secondary school, those of us from Mushin were seen as boys from homes of hooligans and thugs but to God be the glory, we came out very disciplined, because I am fortunate to have very responsible parents who gave us good up bringing.

Can you believe that as far back as 1963, my Dad refused all discouragement from others not to send my elder sister to school; he sent her to the only private boarding school then in Abeokuta, the Baptist Private School, Idi-Aba, Abeokuta. People were laughing at our parents for sending my sister to the boarding school. Ironically, I had to attend a public school, Odo Abore Primary School in Mushin. I guess my brilliance then impressed the school management such that they made me the school’s senior prefect.

After finishing at Odo Abore, my parents preferred that I schooled out of Lagos State, they rejected my preference for the Nigerian Model College at Idi-Oro, a suburb of Mushin. They sent me to Baptist High School, Saki, in Oyo State. From Saki I proceed to the Lagos State College of Education, and later, to the University of Lagos where I studied Accounting. I also taught in a primary school for two years before I joined Zenith Bank in 1993 where I spent 11 years before quitting in 2004.

Though my parents were not rich, I remember that they always struggled to pay our school fees then. They thought us about God and, my mother, especially, taught us the principle of prudence and wealth creation. All these contributed to my success today, but the secret to my business success is God. There is nothing we do in this office that we don’t ask for God’s favour, He is our Alpha and Omega. In this office there is nothing we do that we don’t tell God; we pray in the morning and we pray to close each of our day’s operations.

As a major player in the telecoms recharge card distribution and marketing sub sector, how would you describe the industry?

Yes, the industry is full of illiterate and semi illiterate people, but with the new policies from all the companies, I expect that the situation will finally change. I believe that there will be a lot of changes because it is only in the telecoms sector that some illiterate people will buy something at the rate of N400 and sell it for N250, that is about 80 per cent less than the cost price. But now, the business is getting more exciting, interesting, and rewarding than what it used to be.

What prompted your interest in establishing a microfinance bank, which is seen as very risky commercial engagements, or do we reason that you preferred this because of your banking background?

It wasn’t my background in banking that inspired me to establish Sovereign Micro Finance Bank, rather, it was due to my interaction with the people at the grass-roots of my immediate community here in Mushin while I was operating the telecoms business. The economic plight of these people rekindled my interest in empowering the people in my immediate community. You know when we were doing the telecoms business a lot of people always came to us for financial aids in form of soft loans, but there was no way we could be able to solve all these needs, so we now saw the opportunity to serve and empower our people when the CBN came out with the guideline and licensing procedures for establishing micro finance bank, that was the vision.

Again, there was this experience I once had while I was trying to establish a friend in the recharge card business in Abeokuta. I then realized that what most people need is micro-credit, soft loan, when you don’t help people within your neighborhood they will be the same set of people that will make life difficult for you. Do you know some of those my friends who thought something was wrong with me when I left Zenith Bank today are now begging us to be part of what we are doing. But we shall adopt them provided CBN reviews its policy on the board membership; we are also looking for a way to involve them through our forthcoming private placement.

Don’t you think it is easy for Nigerians to abuse the concept of micro finance banking just like the earlier banking and finances houses of the past?

The establishment of microfinance banks and transformation of community banks is a thought in the right direction by the government, it shows the government knows what the needs of the people are; forget about the bastardization of the earlier finance houses, I can tell you the impact of the micro finance bank vision is already showing on our economy. As I am talking to you now, we are highly regulated, every MFB has a CBN supervisor attached to it and every bank is mandated to do a monthly return to CBN. They will trace and check all the loans you disbursed that month, so there is no way you can give all the loans to your family like in the era of finance houses and commercial banks of the past.

You can log on to the CBN’s website and check the full list of the MFBs as they are arranged alphabetically, this is also part of the effort to showcase them (micro finance banks) and for you to know the ones you can deal with, I can assure you there is no MFB that will like to go under because there are lots of opportunities in the micro financing business

Of all the MFBs in Lagos what do you think stands your Sovereign Micro Finance Bank out from the rest?

We believe so much in God, and this is the anchor of our own business philosophy… to be the fulcrum of creating financial independence for the people. You see, all these area boys, some of them have great talents but what they mainly want is financial empowerment. One of them approached us about three months ago that he wanted to have his own bus and I told him to go and start saving, that if he can save N50,000 out of the N450,000 he needed to buy a Faragon Volkswagen Bus, we will fund it.

He jumped at the offer and each day, he deposited N1500 with us out of the N3000 of his daily income from the transport business. We also work with other professional groups on how to empower their members. All these are parts of the ways to eliminate criminality from their minds because if someone has a wife and kids and a job, his approach to life will be different. He will not be thinking that he wants to die because he already knows he has a stake in this world.

What gave you the impression that Mushin people deserve another micro finance bank despite all the commercial bank branches that populate the roads?

I don’t think there is any other community that I will want to serve than the Mushin community; these are the people that deserve to be uplifted and empowered financially. It is the rural people who need micro-credit or micro-funding; our vision in Sovereign MFB is to empower all these so called area boys, and since I grew up in this area, I understand the economic philosophy and psychology of the people.

We’ve already started some collaboration with the professional groups’ trade and artisan associations on how to serve them better, and even the National Union of Road Transport Workers [NURTW]. We hope to set them up with financial backing of our bank.

Our operations here as telecoms recharge distributor had opened our eyes to many needs of the people. We are now able to understand the need of the people of this area, ask anybody here around Mushin, if they know Sufi Enterprises Limited, they’ll tell you that they know us very well, it is the goodwill we’ve created over time that is rubbing on the bank.

I have also realized that commercial banks are too big to recognize micro financing opportunities, they will not fund or support your business when you are small, it is always the big projects of billions and millions of big establishments that they will always be interested in funding while the man whose business need just N5, 000 to survive is left to wallow in abject poverty.

Which was the riskiest investment venture you had made?

The biggest investment risk I ever took was the outright sale of my entire investment portfolio when I couldn’t secure a loan to finance this MFB project. A friend at FirstBank just told me point blank that since my office complex didn’t have a certificate of occupancy, no bank will give me a loan and the best, he advised I did, was to liquidate my stock portfolio. That was how I sold all my stocks just as if I was been pushed by a spirit but to God be the glory, I was lucky enough to escape the stock market crash now being witnessed by investors. Up till today, my stockbroker still enquire from me how I was able to escape the downturn in the market.

There is no business that doesn’t have its own ups and downs, tell us the challenges being faced by operators of microfinance banks in Nigeria?

Our major challenge is commercial banks, they are becoming jealous of our achievements, which is why you see a lot of the country’s mega banks transforming into micro banks. They see us as threats, because they know we can go for clearing by statutory order and with this the commercial banks always stalemated us. At present, we have a serious battle with a commercial bank over a facility of N110million we got from a company which the company, the bank and us decided was supposed to be given to us but when the money was ready, they sat on it, denied us access to it because of our capital base. We need more money to service the micro needs of our people. What we devised now is that we have contacted about three to four banks for our clearing, one is in charge of the financing of Okada scheme, one for the NURTW scheme, while we also get another to manage our other schemes because it would be too risky to keep all our good eggs in one basket.

We are currently working with a commercial bank to provide us with an ATM which will soon be installed to serve the people of Mushin. We are going to table most of these problems before the Central Bank Governor at the next conference of MFBs in Nigeria. Maybe the Governor can help us caution the commercial banks.

Another major challenge we are facing, like every other business in Nigeria, is the problem of power supply. Large amount of our money goes to fuelling of generating sets, and mind you, we bought our own transformer at about N1.8million while our 100 KVA generator costs a whopping N2.9million and this we fuel with N8, 000 daily. If we plough these back into our business do you know the number of people that will benefit from our micro finance bank? The issue of multiple taxation, too, is another serious challenge to business in Lagos.

As an entrepreneur what will you say is your greatest achievement?

What I personally see as our achievement may not be too fantastic to you but for a company that started in a small shop five years ago on this street, selling recharge cards, now owns an edifice housing the headquarters of all our businesses which include banking, aquaculture, oil and gas, and telecoms; all these we can boast is valued to be above N100million.

We have about 60 well remunerated staff, with at least over eight brand new Toyota cars for our staff, and in the next three months, we are going to take delivery of another set of five new Toyota cars for our middle cadre officers. Some of our staffers who were employed some years ago with school certificates are now graduates while some are about completing their choice of courses in various higher institutions. While studying, we make sure they don’t lack anything. None of our staff has been involved in stealing and none had left us. We are still one united family five years after we started. Last December, we harvested our fish pond and the return from the investment yielded about N1.5miilion because it is safer to diversify to other businesses to expand our capital base and income sources.

What is your management style?

I am a hard working person, and all my staff members know this. I am always the first person to resume here and the last person to leave. Can you believe I live in Alagbado, yet I’m always very punctual at the office? You’ll see me resume here by 7.30a.m. everyday, I mentor my staff, they’ve all imbibed discipline from me. You know, I operate an open door policy here, all my staff are well remunerated. If a CEO is not disciplined, the staff will not be disciplined. Again, let me tell you that yesterday (Friday, 9 January) I was with one of my colleagues way back at Zenith Bank and he was reminding me how disciplined we were then while employed at Zenith Bank. He said it was I who once said that I dreamt that one day I would have my own bank, but we all did not believe it then because of the situation surrounding the licensing of commercial banks. But today, both of us are owners of full fledged micro finance banks; he owns Olive Microfinace Bank on Awolowo Way, Ikeja, Lagos, while my own is Sovereign Microfinance Bank, Mushin, Lagos. What we thought was impossible is now a reality in our lives. God has done it, it is easy now to grow a micro-finance bank into a commercial bank and that is our future because in the nearest future we hope to go public.

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MIXED FEELINGS OVER JIMOH IBRAHIM’s NATIONAL HONOUR

The intention of the Federal Government to honour controversial lawyer cum businessman, has come under heavy criticism by Nigerians.

It is being echoed that Ibrahim’s lifestyle and his debt ridden business status alongside other controversial and unresolved issues, do not present him as the best worthy to be honoured.

The belief is rife that Ibrahim is nominated for this award because he was a ready catalyst to discredit the Obasanjo administration as well as be positioned as ‘government friendly business ally.’

A few, however, consider him most suitable for this honour, as one from humble background who shook off the mud to be considered relevant for courting by banks, who have strongly backed virtually all his initiatives financially.

Another vital factor is the age advantage. In his early 40’s, he has embarked on gargantuan projects in the nine figure range.

His investments span hospitality, insurance, oil and gas, human capital development, real estate, etc.

…ACQUIRES 500POUNDS HOTEL IN LONDON

Words filtering in as at press time reveal that Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim is on a spending spree once again. He is said to be on the verge of acquiring Cumberland Hotel, Central London, in the United Kingdom. Details are still sketchy, but his business history shows his flair for hospitality business.

Prior to this Cumberland Hotel purchase, he has in his kitty Nicon Hotel, Ajuba, Hilton Hotel, Lagos, among others.

It is yet to be clarified which financial institutions provided the back up for the acquisition of the said hotel.

FINANCIALBRIDGE: HOW TO DO BUSINESS WITH THE AMERICAN INVESTMENT COMPANY THAT FACILITATES OFFSHORE FUNDING FOR NIGERIAN BUSINESSES

When Patrick Fournie, Senior Advisor with FinancialBridge, Inc. made his presentation on the “Private Ownership of Modular Refineries in Nigeria: The New Trend in Building Petroleum Refining Capacity: The Financialbridge Experience” at a seminar organized by the Energy Industry Development Initiative at the Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos State, this past Tuesday, 11 November, 2008, seminar participants listened with rapt attention.

Fournie presentation, was for the Nigerian and other foreign participants at the seminar, a revelation of a new vista in financing strategies on the pivot of offshore financing, he informed the seminar of how FinancialBridge is facilitating funding for a Pharmaceutical Project in Abuja, at a cost of $12.2 million and an aluminum roofing sheet & allied project at Onna in Akwa Ibom State at a cost of $6.6million. FinancialBridge, he said, is also involved in funding for an amusement park project at Isheri, Ogun State, at a projected cost of $22.3 Million, a pit quarry mining project at Oyebiyi, Oyo State at a projected cost of $7.5 million and a 5-Star luxury hotel in Abuja at a projected cost of $55.8 million.

Other projects FinancialBridge had been engaged to facilitate funding for by Nigerian entrepreneurs are the phase one of the 12,000Barrels per day modular refinery project at Eket in Akwa Ibom State at a cost of $43.7 million and the 12,000Barrels Per Day modular refinery project at Kolo Creek in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State at a projected cost of $121.3 million. A $197.5 million 18,000Barrels Per Day modular refinery project in Edo State is also one of the projects FinancialBridge is facilitating offshore funding for.

Fournie who flew into Nigeria to make further revealed how his company had structured funding and project implementation procedures for the soon to be streamed 12,000 Barrels Per Day Amakpe Refinery Project at Ikot Usekong – Eket in Akwa Ibom State and the Rehoboth Refinery, also a 12,000 Barrels Per Day Refinery Project in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.

Fournie, who, on behalf of Financialbridge, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) appointing Energy Industry Development Initiative as its representative in Nigeria, explained that FinancialBridge is an export finance and business credit consulting firm:

“We work with U.S. and international financial institutions to provide innovative funding solutions to private companies and government agencies, including: export trade finance, project finance, public sector financing and export working capital. We are also involved in equity financing and facilitation of bridging loans” Fournie said.

“We cooperate with Project Implementation and Management Companies in ensuring effective utilization of procured funds for successful planning and execution of related projects and trade transactions.”

Highlighting its primary sources of export funding in the United States financial market, Fournie said his company’s sources include: Export-Import Bank of the United States (U.S. Ex-Im), Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the Export Finance Banks and Credit Insurance Companies, among others:

“Ex-Im Bank is the official Export-Credit Agency of the United States that helps create and maintain U.S. jobs by financing the sale of U.S. Exports, primarily to emerging markets throughout the world. Ex-Im Bank provides Loan Guarantees, Export-Credit Insurance and Direct Loans, in fiscal year 2007, Ex-Im Bank authorized $12.6 billion in financing to support an estimated $16 billion of U.S. exports worldwide.” Fournie said.

Perhaps, of importance to Nigerian entrepreneurs, is the revelation by Fournie that the Ex- Im Bank has approved a $1.0 billion facility to guarantee Nigerian Projects (of which $800 million is still available) despite the global financial melt down.

Explaining the process for securing offshore funding for projects in Nigeria, Fournie said:

“Under the Ex-Im Bank Guarantee Program, the Promoter is required to provide Statutory Equity Contribution of 15% of U.S. Cost Content, while the U.S. Lender funds 85% of the U.S. Cost Content utilizing the Comprehensive Credit Guarantee of Ex-Im Bank. The Project Promoter is further required to provide Local Bank Guarantee to support the 85% portion of the U.S. Loan as well as finance local In-Country Costs requirements within the overall Project Cost.The U.S. Ex-Im Guaranteed Loans have Medium Term Tenure of 5 to 7 years at Interest Rates of +/- 2% above Six Months Floating LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate).

Some of the projects funding prospects of FinancialBridge include Oil and Gas (Modular Oil Refineries, Gas Gathering & Processing Plants, Downstream Petrochemical Projects, Pipelines, etc.), Energy (Gas Turbines and Diesel Powered Plants), Communications (Wireless VSAT Network VoIP Telephone, Fax, High Speed Broadband Internet Systems, Cable TV, etc.) and Solid Mineral (Quarrying & Processing).

Other funding prospects are: Manufacturing and Assembly (Small and Medium Scale Plants), Construction (Pre-engineered Buildings & Facilities, Stadiums & Arenas, Industrial Parks, etc.) Agro-Business (Farming & Food Processing), Medical (Pharmaceutical Projects, Supplies & Clinics), Tourism (Amusement Parks, Hotels/Resorts, etc) and Aviation (Used & New Passenger & Cargo Aircrafts, Helicopters, Airport Development & Expansion, Avionics & Spare Parts, etc.)

Highlighting the milestones already attained with the 12,000 Barrels Per Day (BPD) Amakpe Refinery as a case study, Fournie said:

“The Amakpe Refinery is being implemented in two phases, with Phase 1 – 6000BPD Refinery Plant originally estimated to cost about $36.5 million and now revised to cost $43.7 million, including Escalation, and revised Field Erection Costs. Construction of 12KM Dual Steel Pipeline connecting Exxon/Mobile QIT and Amakpe Tank Farm is estimated at $10 million of Additional Cost. The Project is expected to start production by October 2009. Out of the current revised Project cost of $43.7 million, $26.2 million has been expended while $17.5 million is outstanding to complete full funding of the Project.

“UPS Capital/Ex-Im Bank Loan of $10.3 milion is being disbursed to Ventech, based on P&M Construction Progress Payment while Amakpe Refinery has fully paid required statutory Equity Contribution and continues to pay the Counterpart Funds. Akwa Ibom State Government Investment of $8.5 million has also been applied to the Project

“As at June 27, 2008, Ventech achieved 50% Mechanical Completion of the Refinery Plants and Machinery Fabrication, which was certified by visiting representatives of the Department of Petroleum Resources, including Mr. M.D.B. Ladan-Head Downstream, Mr. O.A. Adeleke- Assistant Director, Dr. D.M.E. Eradiri- Chief Environmental Officer, Mr. Oyedele Sangobowale and Mr. Hussaini Basaka-Site Representatives. Based on this development, Amakpe Refinery has qualified to receive $1.2million Security Deposit earlier paid to DPR as a requirement for revalidation of related Refinery Construction License.

“Sterling Bank has approved additional $9.3 million Loan Facility for the Project. Amakpe Refinery is planning to issue 15,000,000 Shares of Common Stock of the Company for sale to Private Investors. The Private Placement is being packaged by Financialbridge and Sterling Bank for issuance by Sterling Capital Markets (Issuing House).

To start -up the process of obtaining required funding, a Company is required to retain the services of Financialbridge which will develop a Bankable Business Plan that will satisfy U.S. Export Financial Market requirements and procure the Project Loan.

The retainership will further cover service coordination of Project Loan Packaging and Procurement that will involve the Borrower and the U.S. Lender. The U.S. Lender will underwrite the submitted statutory documentation leading to Loan approval, following which the Lender will request the U.S. Ex-Im Bank for issuance of Political Risk and Medium-Term Insurance/ Comprehensive Credit Guarantee before disbursement of related Loan. The process of underwriting the Loan through approval and disbursement could be concluded within 45-90 days after the U.S. Lender receives the complete statutory documentation as outlined.

Financialbridge be responsible in carrying out tasks that will result in the successful procurement of U.S. Loan for the implementation of the project which include: Conduct of Feasibility Study and preparation of Bankable Business Plan that will satisfy U.S. Export Financial Market requirements. The Business Plan will be concluded within 30-45 days from receipt of Engagement Fee, Data from Market Research as well as Borrowers information. The draft of the Business Plan will be forwarded to the Company for approval and possible input before production of final Document.

FinancialBridge also processes Due Diligence, Approval and Disbursement of Project Loan within 45-90 days of the U.S. Financial Institutions receiving and underwriting complete statutory documentation from the Nigerian company.

If required, Financialbridge can also be engaged to Package and Instrument Private Placement of Shares of Common Stock of the company to raise additional funds through Private Equity Investment, utilizing a local Nigerian Bank as Issuing House.

The Funds raised through the Private Placement could be applied to fund Local Project Site Development and In-Country Costs as well as required Equity Contribution, etc.

The Nigerian company shall be responsible for the following within the requirements for successful Loan Procurement, including: Obtaining Nigerian Bank Guarantee for 85% or 75% of the total U.S. Loan amount to fund the Project, depending on the Ex-Im Bank or OPIC requirement.

Securing all required Permits and Licenses from Nigerian Regulatory Authorities, submission of three years audited financial statements of the Nigerian bank as certified by a renowned accounting firm. Provision of Equity Contribution of 15% of total U.S. costs content within the overall Project cost for U.S. Ex-Im Bank Guaranteed Loan to be added to 85% of total U.S. cost content as Loan, or 25% as statutory Equity contribution of total Project

Confirming Energy Industry Development Initiative’s (EIDI) relationship with FinancialBridge, the organisation’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Tom Obaseki said FinancialBridge has already shown interest in facilitating funding for some project ideas it had forwarded to FinancialBridge.

“As we speak, we have forwarded project proposals for the establishment of 5-7 MMSCFD Modular Gas Gathering, LPG and Lean Gas Production Plant in Nigeria, the establishment of Integrated 55MW Power Plant, Natural Gas Gathering and LPG Processing Project in Nigeria and for Development of Pre-engineered Medical Clinic & Diagnostic Centers, Pharmaceutical Project and Customized Medical Trailers & Boat Clinics, complete with Outreach Medical Technicians Training Support.” Obaseki explained.

BETRAYAL! WHY OTEDOLA, DANGOTE FALL APART

The prospect of Mr. Femi Otedola and Alhaji Aliko Dangote engaging in direct business competition is already exciting Nigerians across the economic strata.

Until about two months ago, Otedola and Dangote have been known to be buddies in both the social and business senses. A source that had trailed the relationship between the two observed that though Dangote had had preeminence in the nation’s economic sphere before Otedola, but as soon as Otedola emerged in the big league of business owners about six years ago, he and Dangote became a pair both in public places and business alliances.

 In the early days of Transcorp, Otedola and Dangote were on board of the company, positioned back then as Nigeria’s answer to the dominance of the multinationals. Perhaps the most high profile business alliance between the two was the Blue Star Consortium, a special acquisition vehicle the two had used to acquire controlling stakes in the Port Harcourt and Kaduna Refineries. The acquisitions, were, however, revoked soon after Alhaji Umar Musa Yar’Adua assumed the office of the nation’s president.

Beside, though Dangote is known to be the face of Obajana Cement Company, a cement manufacturing concern propositioned to be the biggest in production capacity in Africa, Otedola, his friend has also been mentioned to be part of Obajana in terms of stake holdings.

But now, it would seem that the business collaboration between the two may have been put under pressure arising from what sources close to the very moneyed men describe as betrayal of trust.

 “I think it all has to do with the battle to acquire Chevron Plc, the downstream arm of Chevron Oil and Gas in Nigeria.” A source close to the two said. “Of course, you know by now that Femi had an intense interest in the acquisition of the company. The benefits to him were obvious, if he had acquired Chevron, he would have become the indisputable dominant operator in the downstream sector of the oil and gas industry. He would have merged Africa Petroleum, (a downstream behemoth in its own right after it was merged with Zenon) with Chevron Plc. With the two you can only imagine Femi’s competitive edge in the market place” The source revealed.

“Before the divestment of Chevron Oil and Gas from Chevron Plc was made public, Femi had apparently got information on the move and had shared his desire to buy Chevron with his friend, Dangote. I know that initially, Dangote was all in support of the scheme by Femi to acquire. But that was until Sayyu Dantata came into the picture.” The source said.

Sayyu Dantata, aside being a former business protégé of Dangote, is also related to Dangote, so it would seem natural that the balance of emotions by Dangote would tilt in favour of Sayyu.

“As it turned out, I am not too sure if Femi thought along that line. At least, he and Dangote had been at the Chevron thing for a while so there would have been no suspicion of Dangote’s shift of loyalty. So as the negotiation and bidding for Chevron proceeded, Femi constantly updated on his next moves and strategies. As issues evolved, he got to know that Sayyu’s MRS Group, the company that eventually won the bid was always outflanking him. The long and short of it is that there is the suspicion that Dangote might have availed his cousin, Sayyu of information Femi had shared with him.”

The same source said there had been a confrontation between the two where Dangote explained that Otedola could not have expected him to go the whole hog with him in consideration of his (Dangote) relationship with Sayyu.

“You know these people are matured men, you don’t expect them to bring their small fights to the public place, what I know is that Femi has decided to review and locate any opportunity in the economic space that enable him contribute to the economic advancement of the country. So all these talks about Femi taking on Dangote in competition by deciding to go into establishment of cement manufacturing plant is principally about expanding his business horizon. It has no direct bearing on the role Dangote played in the bid for Chevron.” The source explained.