Top Nigerian business executives in 2018
Top Nigerian business executives in 2018

The Nigerian business environment witnessed a lot of events in 2018. As always, major deals were signed; some of which facilitated growth and others, not so much. There were also some scandals and controversies, some litigations, as well as some corporate governance breaches which resulted in various forms of sanctions. A couple of companies even voluntarily or were forcefully delisted from the Nigerian Stock Exchange — Seven-Up Bottling Company was part of the former. Most importantly, some companies made profits while others ran at losses.

All of these made for an interesting 2018 indeed. And as the new year begins in earnest, Nairametrics looks back at some of these events, focusing on the Chief Executive Officers under whose watch the events unfolded. These CEOs shaped the Nigerian business environment in 2018, both negatively and positively.

Behold the Nairametrics 2018 CEOs/business executives of the year.

MTN Nigeria’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr Ferdinand Moolman

Recall that Nigeria’s leading telecom carrier, MTN Nigeria, was rocked by fresh controversy last year which threatened to wreck the company. The said controversy centred on the alleged illegal remittance of profits and dividends (valued at $8.134 billion) to South Africa. The money was said to have been illegally repatriated, thanks to the use of irregular Certificates of Capital Importation (CCIs).

To this end, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) demanded that the money be immediately returned to Nigeria. Meanwhile, as though to worsen the matter, the company was also accused by the Nigerian authorities of owing the sum of $2 billion in back taxes; money it was asked to pay.

Mr Ferdinand Moolman, the CEO of MTN Nigeria

Although Mr Moolman’s name was hardly centre stage in the course of these developments, the truth remains that he played an important role towards ensuring a resolution of the matter. As a matter of fact, he was on top of most of the litigations and negotiations that ultimately resulted in the potential resolution of the matter as reported by Nairametrics.

Here is what you should know about Mr Moolman: he is a 54-year old South African business executive who has been the CEO of MTN Nigeria since December 1, 2015. Prior to his current role, he functioned in several other executive positions in MTN Group Limited, the parent company of the Nigerian subsidiary. He is an alumnus of the University of Pretoria, having graduated with a degree in Finance in 1987.

Sterling Bank’s Abubakar Suleiman

Last year, Sterling Bank Plc offered a rather radical approach to banking, which most people probably never thought was possible. The so called “bank wars” is part of this approach, in that it was a controversial marketing tactic that really shook the industry. Needless to say, this paid off eventually by helping to increase Sterling Bank’s customer base as well as facilitating positive financial performance.

More on the company’s financial performance, Sterling Bank has been able to record impressive growth this past year. Information obtained from its financial statement for the third quarter of 2018 shows that revenue grew by as much as 21.09% to N115 billion. This is a sharp increase compared to the N95 billion that was recorded during the same period in 2017. Profit after tax also increased by 38.1% from N5.9 billion in 2017 to N8.2 billion.

Coronation Research

Note that Mr Suleiman was appointed Sterling Bank’s CEO in April last year, and within this very short period, he has already performed incredibly well.


Abubakar Suleiman, MD/CEO of Sterling Bank Plc

Born on August 19th 1973, Mr Abubakar Suleiman is a 45-year old Nigerian business executive who is one of the youngest CEOs of major Nigerian companies today.

He holds a degree in Economics from the University of Abuja, as well as a master’s degree in Major Programmes Management from the University of Oxford.

Prior to his current position, he has worked other high profile jobs in such organisations as Citibank and Equatorial Trust Bank, among others.

Aliko Dangote, the President of Dangote Group

Alhaji Aliko Dangote topped the list of Africa’s richest billionaires, according to the annual ratings published by Forbes. Agreed, his net worth reduced by $2 billion down to $10 billion. But this should never have come as a surprise to many people. After all, the man has been expending millions of dollars on the construction of the Dangote Refineries, which is being projected to be one of the biggest refineries in the entire world.

Indeed, Mr Dangote made several business moves in 2018. Asides the refinery which witnessed intensified construction/installation works throughout the year, he was also granted a franchise by the Peugeot to construct and operate an assembly plant in Nigeria.

One of Dangote’s companies – Dangote Cement Plc – retained status as the most capitalised stock on the Nigerian Stock Exchange throughout the year. This is despite the fact that Dangote Cement’s profit dropped in Q3 2018 to N158.2 billion compaid to N230.2 year on year. The company’s capitalisation currently stands at N3,237,696,406,950.00 according to the NSE.

It is important to note that Alhaji Aliko’s strategic directions for his other companies such as Dangote Sugar Plc and Dangote Flour Plc, also contributed towards ensuring that these companies remained relevant throughout the year. Indeed, the above-mentioned companies played key roles in the economy last year, even though they may or may not be releasing the most incredible financial statements for full year 2018.

Africa's wealthiest billionaires
Aliko Dangote, Africa’s riches man

The CEO of Nestle Nigeria Plc: Mr Mauricio Alarcon

Mr Mauricio Alarcon’s Nestle Nigeria Plc can arguably be ranked as the company with the highest share price in 2018. Although the share price was not stable all through the year, hovering between N1330 and N1600, it never declined beyond N1300. The stock began 2018 at N1500 and ended at N1475. Now, this is good news for investors because their investments were relatively secured throughout much of the year.

In terms of financial performance, information obtained from the company’s third quarter 2018 financial report shows that revenue increased from N185 billion in Q3 2017 to N203 billion in Q3 2018. This represents a 9.72% increase year on year. Profit after tax also rose from N22.9 billion in 2017 to N33.1 billion in 2018, representing a 44.5% increase year on year.

Mr Alarcon is a Mexican national who was born in 1973. He studied Engineering, Manufacturing and Management at Manchester University, graduating in 1997. He also underwent the Programme for Executive Development at IMD Business School, graduating in 2015.

Prior to his current role, which he took up on October 1st 2016, Mr Alarcon also worked in different capacities at Nestle’s headquarters in Switzerland, as well as other operations across the world.

Mr Mauricio Alarcon, Managing Director and CEO of Nestlé Nigeria Plc

GTBank’s Segun Agbaje

The Chief Executive Officer of Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Mr Segun Agbaje, is one of those business executives who operate beneath the hype literally. The man is hardly in the news. But in the background, he is doing incredible things.

Under his leadership, the company was able to manage the dispute between it and Innoson Motors. Recall that at the height of the controversy, it initially appeared that Innoson Motors was the victim while GTBank was the villain. As a matter of fact, public opinion was against the bank, especially on Twitter where many people threatened to close down their GTBank accounts.

Through it all, GTBank was able to manage the crisis by mostly remaining quiet and only issuing press statements when necessary. And the interesting thing is that it emerged from that crisis remaining one of the strongest banks in the country.

According to GTBank’s Q3 2018 financial statement, profit after tax increased by 13.6% to N142 billion, up from N125 billion during the same period in 2017. This increase in PAT is despite the fact that the company’s revenue declined by 4.4% from N248 billion in 2017 to N237 billion in 2018.

Mr Agbaje is a graduate of Accountancy from the University of San Francisco, in the United States. He also earned an MBA degree from the same school. Prior to becoming the CEO of GTBank in July 2011, he worked in various capacities in different companies both within and outside Nigeria.

Mr Segun Agbaje, CEO of Guaranty Trust Bank Plc

Austin Avuru, the CEO of Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc

Austin Avuru’s Seplat Petroleum was a dominant player in the Nigerian oil and gas sector in 2018. The company reported N173.7 billion in revenues for the third quarter period ended September 30th, 2018. This is more than the N85.1 billion worth of revenue reported in Q3 2017.

It should be recalled that in August last year, the company listed some $350 million worth of senior notes for trading on the International Securities Market of the London Stock Exchange.

A 2018 Nairametrics’ analysis showed that Mr Avuru is among the wealthiest billionaires on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, with the total worth of his shares estimated at ₦49.5 billion

Indeed, Mr Avuru is one of Nigeria’s most accomplished businessmen. The story of how he went from an employee to a billionaire inspires many young and aspiring entrepreneurs both within and outside of Nigeria.

Seplat Petroleum
Austin Avuru, the MD/CEO of Seplat Petroleum

Unity Bank’s Tomi Somefun

Unity Bank Plc had a relatively rough 2018, no thanks to the Milost Global scandal, some unpleasant media reports, and a corporate governance issue which resulted in an NSE sanction.

Recall that Milost had initially entered into discussions with the bank’s top management (which is headed by Mrs Somefun) over the possibility of investing the sum of $1 billion in the bank. But mid-way into the discussion, Milost announced that it would be “terminating the transaction” — a situation that prompted Unity Bank to clarify that no transaction had begun in the first place.

Unfortunately, the unfavourable press that followed this development invariably impacted on the company’s share price, albeit negatively.

Towards the end of 2018, the Nigerian Stock Exchange temporarily placed a suspension on the bank’s shares due to its failure to release financial statements. The suspension was lifted some three days later, after the said results were eventually released.

Nigerian CEOs
Mrs Tomi Somefun, the CEO of Unity Bank Plc

But throughout the issues, Unity Bank continued to push through. Mrs Somefun even told reporters in November that the bank was on the verge of finalising a different deal with a foreign investor. The bank also ended the year as one of the companies with best performing stocks, seeing as the stock opened at N0.53 and closed at N1.07, indicating a 101.89% appreciation.

Unity Bank’s Mrs Somefun is a graduate of the Obafemi Awolowo University, where she bagged a Bachelor of Education in English language. Even though she was not a trained accountant nor economist, she went on to acquire some professional certifications, including a Fellowship at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN).

She garnered many years of experience in the banking and financial services sector before assuming her current position on August 12th, 2015.

The CEO of United Bank for Africa: Mr Kennedy Uzoka

United Bank for Africa (UBA) remained one of the most profitable banks in 2018. Revenue grew from N238 billion in Q3 2017 to N268 billion in Q3 2018, marking a 12.6% increase year on year. Profit after tax also increased by 1.14% to N61.6 billion, up from N60.9 billion.

This could only have been possible thanks to the hard work of the staff and strategic leadership of the Chief Executive Officer.

Mr Uzoka holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Benin, as well as Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Lagos. He also has an AMP from Harvard Business School. He held different important positions in UBA before his appointment as CEO in 2016.

Mr Kennedy Uzoka, the CEO of United Bank for Africa

Zenith Bank Plc’s CEO: Peter Amangbo

Checks by Nairametrics show that for the third quarter period ended September 31st 2018, Zenith Bank Plc made the highest profit in the banking sector. The company made a profit after tax of N144 billion, an 11.6% increase compared to the company’s N129 PAT in Q3 2017.

The company’s gross earnings, however, decreased from N531 billion in 2017 to N474 billion in 2018, indicating a 10.7% decline year on year. Zenith Bank’s CEO is Mr Peter Amangbo who studied Electrical and Electronics Engineering at the University of Benin. He also holds an MBA from the University of Warwick, Coventry. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (FCA), and has had many years of work experience in the financial services sector.

Mr Peter Amangbo, the CEO of Zenith Bank Plc

Notable mentions

Note that many other business leaders shaped the business environment in 2018. Some notable mentions include Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man. There is also Mr Tony Elumelu, who is doing incredible things whilst empowering hundreds of future business leaders through his Tony Elumelu Foundation.

Meanwhile, Zenith Bank’s Chairman, Mr Jim Ovia launched his highly-praised memoire, which arguably served as a manual for many aspiring entrepreneurs. Mrs Ibukun Awosika of First Bank also inspired lots of women to embrace business.

As a new year begins, Nairametrics will be watching to see the next move these business executives will be making.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.