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Profiles

Jimoh Ibrahim: The successes and controversies of a billionaire entrepreneur

With investments in several sectors, Jimoh Ibrahim has had his own fair share of wins and loses.

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One Nigerian businessman who has recently found himself faced with a series of controversies is Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim. An astute investor with interests in the oil and gas, hospitality, aviation, banking, real estate, insurance, publishing and the media industry. Ibrahim recently had a bulk of his assets seized by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) over a N69.4 billion debt.

Though his assets are said to run into millions of dollars, everyone is looking to see how the 53-year-old businessman will pull through this major dip. Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim is Nairametrics founder of the week.

READ: AMCON debt could rise to N6.6 trillion by 2024 – Expert  

Education

A native of Okitipupa in present-day Ondo State, Ibrahim was born on the 24th of February 1967 to Alhaji Yakubu and his wife, Omofemiwa Jimoh. The family was a big one with his father having seven wives and several children.

Ibrahim started schooling at Igbotako and finished his secondary school at Saint John’s School before proceeding to bag his Law degree and then, Masters in Public Administration (MPA) at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife (now in Osun State). He then headed for Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA for a combined Master of Laws & International Taxation (LLM/IT).

Ibrahim earned an Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) degree at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School and a Master of Science in Programme Management at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.

He attended various executive education programmes including the University of Cambridge Advanced Leadership Programme (ALP), University of Oxford Negotiation Programme, University of Oxford Advanced Leadership and Management programme, Harvard Business School Senior Executive Leadership Program for the Middle East and the University of Cambridge programme on How to Lead Successful Projects. Ibrahim also attends the guest category of the annual meeting of the World Bank/IMF.

READ: Oba Otudeko: A self-made billionaire entrepreneur

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Early business and career moves

Ibrahim picked an early interest in making money out of his knowledge, even as an undergraduate. He first observed that only the federal and state governments had laws, and so proposed organising law seminars across local governments in Nigeria, to teach them how to make their own laws. Simple as this might have seemed, he made quite some money from it. He also made some money from organising workshops for top government officials.

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One might imagine what the young man was thinking as an undergraduate, but it was clear to him even at that age that he did not have to wait till he left school to make money. He also used his fathers’ bricklaying materials to execute some small scale contracts which he secured.

Ibrahim always had his eyes prowling in search of opportunities. When it came to his notice that the federal government was having challenges recovering its withholding tax from multinational oil companies, he sent in a proposal on how he could help recover the funds. He executed the proposal to the letter, recovering billions of naira for the government and earning himself a fortune as well.

In his capacity as a tax professional, he also worked with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and was a part of the Harvard team that backed the tax reforms in Bangladesh.

The full-fledged entrepreneur

As a businessman, Jimoh Ibrahim is known to have interests in key business outfits across several sectors and uses the Global Fleet Group, where he sits as chairman and chief executive officer, as the umbrella company for his investments. Global Fleet is now a diversified conglomerate with presence in several countries.

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He started out the Global Fleet Oil and Gas in 2004 as a petroleum marketing company. The company did not focus on setting up fuel stations, but instead set out to buy out other fuel stations. Within a year, they bought about 150 stations and started averaging about $1 million daily in oil and gas sales. Since then, the company has acquired more fuel stations.

Ibrahim founded Energy Commercial Bank, Accra, Ghana in 2009 and it is considered an arm of the Energy Group, one of the largest Africa conglomerates with diversified interest in banking and financial investment. The Group also acquired 100% of the Oceanic Bank (STP) in June 2011, changing its name to Energy Bank Sao Tome & Principe (STP) and making it another arm of the Energy Group and a subsidiary of the Global Fleet Group.

Air Nigeria was established in 2010 as Virgin Nigeria, with Ibrahim as a major shareholder. Ibrahim is also the Group Managing Director of NICON Insurance and one of its subsidiaries, Nigeria Reinsurance Corporation in Lagos state.

In the hospitality industry, Ibrahim acquired the former Le Meridian Hotels in 2003 and changed its name to NICON Luxury Hotel.

Ibrahim is also the owner of Global Media Mirror, publishers of the National Mirror, and has acquired 51% of Newswatch Communication Limited to give him a substantial stake in Nigeria’s media industry.

Ibrahim served as the Chairman of the board of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in Nigeria, from April 2009 to December 2012. It was quite a turbulent tenure that saw the CAC workers embarking on industrial action in May 2011 to push for his removal.

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In 2011, he was also appointed the Honorary Consul of Sao Tome and Principe to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The controversial loan and seizure of assets

On November 4 2020, a federal high court sitting in Lagos granted an interim order allowing the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) to take possession of twelve prime assets belonging to Barrister Ibrahim and freeze all accounts belonging to him and his companies over a N69.4 billion debt.

In compliance with the court order, AMCON took possession of all the assets through its Debt Recovery Agent – Pinheiro Legal Partner, and also took shares belonging to Ibrahim and his two companies as domiciled in Nigerian Re-Insurance Company Plc, NICON Insurance Company Plc, Nigeria Stockbrokers Limited (NSL) and NICON Trustees Limited.

READ: AMCON sets to publish names of prominent Nigerians owing N5 trillion

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The properties affected include the building of NICON Investment Limited at Plot 242, Muhammadu Buhari Way, Central Business District, Abuja; NICON Hotels Limited building at Plot 557, Port-Harcourt Crescent, off Gimbiya Street, Abuja; the building of NICON Lekki Limited also at No. 5, Customs Street, Lagos; the building of Abuja International Hotels Limited located at No. 3, Hospital Road, Lagos; as well as a property at Plot 242, Muhammadu Buhari Way, Abuja.

The former Allied Bank Building on Mile 2, Oshodi ExpressWay, Apapa Road, Lagos; Energy House located on No. 94, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos; NICON Building at No. 40, Madeira Street, Maitama, Abuja; a Residential Apartment at Road 2, House A14, Victoria Garden City, Lagos; NICON Hotels Building at Plot 3, Road 3, Victoria Garden City, Lagos as well as the NICON Luxury Hotel’s Building, Garki I, FCT, Abuja were also affected.

Ibrahim and his companies sued to recover the seized assets on grounds of “non-disclosure and misrepresentation of material facts” requesting an indemnity of N50 billion from AMCON, but the Federal High Court declined his application, upholding the subsisting order.

The case between Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim and AMCON has been a longstanding one dating as far back as 2016. The loan was one of the 393 loans AMCON purchased from Union Bank of Nigeria plc during the first phase of Eligible Bank Assets (EBA) purchases. Since then, attempts made to recover the loan have proved futile. AMCON also seized assets belonging to other debtors in the same year, taking advantage of the amended Act, which had been signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.

READ: NASS pledges support to AMCON on debt recovery 

In his response to the asset seizure, Ibrahim had said there were no grounds for such an action since his organization already had over £220 million as bank deposit in Union Bank. “The order is discharged already as Union Bank is owing us £220 million that is over N150 billion; four times over what AMCON is claiming, so AMCON is pursuing nothing,” he said.

Another hearing has been fixed for March 9, and while AMCON pushes on with its moves, Ibrahim is clearly not going to give up without a fight.

Other interests and Honours

Jimoh Ibrahim has been conferred the honour of the Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic OFR, and Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic CFR. He has also received honorary doctorate degrees from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State; Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State, Ladoke Akintola University, Ogbomoso, Oyo State and the Ondo State University.

In 2003 and in 2016, Ibrahim attempted to become the governor of Ondo State, on the platform of the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) respectively but was not successful. He has authored three books.

Ruth Okwumbu has a MSc. and BSc. in Mass Communication from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and Delta state university respectively. Prior to her role as analyst at Nairametrics, she had a progressive six year writing career.As a Business Analyst with Narametrics, she focuses on profiles of top business executives, founders, startups and the drama surrounding their successes and challenges. You may contact her via [email protected]

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    Profiles

    Meet Adebayo Ogunlesi, Nigeria’s investment banker shaking up Wall Street

    Though his name does not ring a bell like Aliko Dangote, Otedola and Mike Adenuga, Ogunlesi is equally a “billionaire” in his own right.

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    Some refer to him as a “silent billionaire”, and this is not a wrong statement about the man who has stakes in a number of airports around the world, including Gatwick Airport, the second-busiest airport by total passenger traffic in the UK and the ninth-busiest in Europe.

    Adebayo Ogunlesi, a Nigerian who started out as a lawyer and later an investment banker, has spread his wings around the globe and is now currently the Chairman and Managing Partner at the private equity firm Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP). Though his name does not ring a bell like Aliko Dangote, Otedola and Mike Adenuga, Ogunlesi is equally a billionaire in his own right.

    Early years

    Adebayo hails from Makun, Sagamu, Ogun State, and was born on the 20th of December 1953 to the family of Dr Theophilus O. Ogunlesi, who later became Nigeria’s first Professor of Medicine in Ibadan.

    He had his primary education there in Sagamu and then attended the prestigious King’s College, Lagos before travelling to England where he bagged a B.A. with first-class honours in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Oxford University.

    He went on to pursue two degrees concurrently at Harvard, and in 1979, received a J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School.

    He worked as a law clerk to Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall of the United States Supreme Court from 1980 to 1981, and as an attorney at Cravath, Swaine & Moore – a law firm in New York City till 1983.

    Armed with his MBA, Adebayo made the switch to investment banking when he joined First Boston Investment Bank as an advisor on a Nigerian gas project in 1983. He also worked with the Project Finance Group, as a financial advisor to several clients on the transactions of North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

    Other places Adebayo worked include the Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB) (earlier known as Global Energy Group) where he advised clients on strategic transactions and financing for some years, before becoming the Global Head of CSFB’s Investment Banking Division. He was appointed member of the Credit Suisse Executive Board and Management Committee in 2002, and became the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Client Officer of CSFB between 2004 and 2006.

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    While at the CSFB, he was also lecturing at Harvard Law School and Yale School of Management.

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    He was appointed a member of the Board of Directors of Goldman Sachs in October 2012 and became Lead Director on the 24th of July, 2014.

    Ogunlesi, the investor

    In July 2006, he founded a private equity firm Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) in New York City, with CSFB and General Electric as the first investors; and assumed the role of Chairman and Managing Partner. In the same year, GIP bought London City Airport an international airport located in the Royal Docks in the London Borough of Newham in the City of London. GIP later sold off the airport after a decade.

    Three years later in 2009, GIP invested £1.455 billion to acquire the majority share in London Gatwick Airport, a major international airport near Crawley, Sussex, England. Another three years after in 2012, GIP bought Edinburgh Airport, said to be the busiest airport in Scotland in 2019, handling over 14.7 million passengers.

    GIP also bought Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori in February 2018.

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    Some other GIP Investments In the Transport Sector include Terminal Investment Limited, Port of Melbourne; Pacific National; Italo; Access Midstream Partners; Biffa Group Limited; Port of Brisbane; Great Yarmouth Port Company.

    GIP also had stakes in infrastructure assets around the world, with selected equity and debt investments in several sectors. The company manages a portfolio of combined annual revenue greater than $46 billion, and investments of over $51 billion for its investors.

    The company is an infrastructure investment fund that makes both equity and selected debt investments. It has investments in high-quality infrastructure assets in the energy, transport, water and waste sectors.

    In the energy sector, Gip has investments in Guacolda Energia, Freeport LNG, CPV, Saeta Yield/Bow Power, Hess Infrastructure Partners, Vena Energy, Naturgy Energy Group and several others.

    Other interests

    Ogunlesi is now a Member, Board of Dean’s Advisors at the Harvard Business School; Member, Leadership Council of New York at Harvard Law School; and Member, Global Advisory Council at Harvard University.

    He is also a Member, Board of Directors of the Partnership for New York City Fund; National Board of Directors NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; Board of Trustees NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital; and the King’s College Old Boys Association.

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    He is a member of the District of Columbia Bar Association. He taught a course on transnational investment projects in emerging countries, as a lecturer at Harvard Law School and the Yale School of Management, while also working at Credit Suisse First Boston.

    In October 2012, Ogunlesi was appointed to the Board of Directors at Goldman Sachs and became Lead Director in 2014. There is no confirmed source of his net worth, but Wallmine estimates that Ogunlesi is worth at least $22.5 million dollars and owns at least 66,677 units of Goldman Sachs stock as of 7 May 2020.

    In December 2016, Ogunlesi was named among business leaders that would be part of Donald Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum, but the forum was disbanded 8 months later.

    Ogunlesi was given The Award of Excellence by The International Center in New York, and in 2019 was cited as one of the Top 100 most influential Africans by New African magazine. He is still actively engaged in several volunteer works across Africa.

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    Atsu Davoh is building ways for Africans to easily acquire and spend cryptocurrency

    Atsu Davoh has gone from failed projects to running one of Ghana’s most innovative startups.

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    In recent times, the tech space in Africa has experienced immense growth, with the introduction of several key players and disruptors across various sectors. One sector that is also rising is the cryptocurrency space with Africa experiencing greater crypto ownership and trade volume.

    The number of Bitcoins processed on a single day reached its highest value at the beginning of 2021, as more people displayed interest in the cryptocurrency. Due to its fast adoption, more fintech players have created platforms that have made trading with cryptocurrency easier. One of such players is Atsu Davoh who calls himself the “product guy.”

    Atsu Davoh dropped out of college (Carleton College) in the United States and moved back to Ghana to help innovate on Africa’s financial infrastructure. Atsu first discovered Bitcoin in 2017 during the first boom when it became mainstream. Before then, he and his co-founder Samuel Baohen had been involved in many failed projects.

    He developed a USSD system where people could buy bitcoin through their phone numbers, like tying crypto to phone numbers in a native way. This was one of the first iterations of Bitsika.

    Atsu was invited to Join Binance Labs Incubator by Yele Bademosi where he got $150,000 after graduating from the incubator. Bitsika went on to raise around $900,000 from investors. This brought the total seed raised to $1,050,000.

    This USSD system worked in Ghana but didn’t work in Nigeria. Atsu and his team then pivoted the platform to a donation crowdfunding platform, which allowed people living in other countries to send donations to African nationals in need of the funds before finally building it into a cross-border crypto remittance platform.

    Bitsika users can deposit and remit money across multiple currencies using the app, with all monies deposited in Bitsika stored in USD credits or stable-coin.

    Bitsika has over 50,000+ downloads on Playstore and processed nearly $40 million in 2020 with $18,872,474 in deposits, $17,890,807 in payouts (withdrawals), and $3,189,834 in internal peer-to-peer transfers.

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    Despite a few unfavourable regulations surrounding cryptocurrency in Africa, the market has shown no signs of slowing down as more people are building products that will make trading seamless.

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