30 Oct 2016

I made you a Billionaire, Obasanjo tells Folorunsho Alakija

This declaration was made, yesterday, by the former President, at the 2016 Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Forum, while reacting to an allegation by the Africa’s richest woman, that the Obasanjo administration frustrated her effort when she ventured into oil business.

Folorunsho Alakija, who spoke before Obasanjo, alleged that his administration illegally took an oil block allocated to her company after her family had invested all its savings to strike oil in commercial quantity.

She said: “This oil block is in 5000 feet depth of water and was extremely difficult to explore. It took 15 years from the time that we were awarded the licence in 1993 till 2008 when we struck the first oil.

When this event happened, 60% out of our 60% equity in the business, was forcefully taken from us by the government of the day without due process. We had to fight back by going to court to seek redress and it took another 12 years for justice to be served in our favour.

In all those years it was my trust in God and my perseverance that got me going." She used her experiences to charge the 2000 budding entrepreneurs at the event to be dogged, determined and not to give up in the face of challenges.

When Obasanjo spoke, he seized the opportunity to reply to Alakija's allegation. He said: “There is a saying in my part of the world that when a proverb touches you and you failed to reply, then you are a coward."

He explained that the action of the government then was in line with the Mining Act, which regulates oil prospection and exploration. “For you to come here and say that, for no cause whatsoever, you were denied what was rightfully yours, is not fair.

I do not know you from Adam and there is no reason I would have denied you what rightfully belonged to you. So, you have struggled, and you have struck oil. God bless your heart.

My delight is to be able to create Nigerian billionaire and I always say it that my aim, when I was in government was to create 50 Nigerian billionaires. Unfortunately I failed. I created only 25 and Madam, you are one of them,” he said.

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