Breaking: Nigerian Oil Moguls Take  Over Julius Berger…

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Breaking: Nigerian Oil Moguls Take  Over Julius Berger…

Breaking: Nigerian Oil Moguls Take  Over Julius Berger…
March 01
19:53 2021
Once protected by military presidents who made a significant contribution to its fortune, the construction company Julius Berger Nigeria is now dominated by the Nigerian oil kings.
Registered in Nigeria in 1970, the successful construction firm Julius Berger Nigeria, a subsidiary of German group Bilfinger SE, has long had a knack for roping in business and political heavyweights to help expand its business in Nigeria. As well as many contracts in Lagos, including bridges, roads and power plants, Julius Berger owes its vast expansion to the construction of the new capital Abuja in the 1980s and 1990s.
It was able to secure this quasi-monopoly thanks to its privileged relationship Ibrahim Babanguida, the military ruler of Niger from 1985 to 1993. Babanguida, who seized power from head of state Muhammadu Buhari in 1985, and his entourage have long been associated with the growth of the public works group. Today, of its 13 board members directors only five are German. The rest are Nigerian and mostly oil sector executives. In late 2020, the firm announced that it wanted to diversify into agricultural investments after trying, so far with little success, to branch out into the oil industry in 2017. The group’s shareholders are very different today to what they were at the beginning.
A board full of oil and gas experts
The former CEO of Shell’s local offshoot Shell Petroleum Development Co (SPDC), Mutiu Sunmonu, has been the chair of Julius Berger since 2017, and has sat on the board of numerous oil firms, including San Leon Energy, Petralon Energy and Eroton. Another director of Julius Berger, the Igbo businessman from Imo State Ernest Azudialu-Obiejesi, founded what is now one of the largest oil services firms in the country, Nestoil, in 1991. Nestoil’s head office was built in 2016 by Julius Berger. Very close to Sunmonu, Azudialu-Obiejesi is also the chairman of Neconde, operator of the 600-million-barrel OML 42 since acquiring Shell’s 45% stake of the licence in 2011.
Another oil and gas player, Oriental Energy Resources (OER) vice president Goni Musa Sheikh, is also a board member of Julius Berger. Goni Musa Sheikh is the righthand man of OER founder Mohammed Indimi, one of the wealthiest men in the country thanks to production from several OML 67 oilfields previously owned by ExxonMobil. Indimi has woven an extensive political and network through the marriages of his 20 or so children. His son Ahmed Indimi married President Buhari’s daughter Zahra Buhari in 2016.
The “Adenuga connection”
When Julius Berger announced it had plans to diversify its business model by entering the oil sector in 2017, a decision that has had little to show for it so far, the predominantly male board was joined by two women. The daughter of billionaire Mike Adenuga – Nigeria’s second-richest person thanks to his oil trader and E&P firm Conoil behind Aliko Dangote – Belinda Ajoke Disu is now a director. Adenuga also controls the country’s second largest mobile phone network with 45 million subscribers, Globacom, also active in Benin and Ghana. Ajoke Disu is the executive vice president of Globacom.
The second woman to join Julius Berger’s board is lawyer Gladys Olubusola Talabi. Like Ajoke Disu, it was Adenuga who pushed her into the construction business: she is also executive director of legal services and security at Globacom. Adenuga also knows how to make sure his overseas network is alive and well: in 2018, he was awarded the Légion d’honneur by French President Emmanuel Macron after contributing to the construction of the new Alliance Françaiseoffices in Lagos. Just in the last few days, he took steps to position Conoil on Chevron’s stakes in OML 86 and 88, on sale for more than a year.
Ex-politicians and senior civil servants
Since 2019, Julius Berger has also relied on input from Ernest Chukwudi Ebi, former vice governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria from 1999 to 2009. He also has signing rights on many other boards, including at Dangote Cement. Jafaru Damulak has taken a unique path. He worked for the group from 1988 to 1999 before serving in the House of Representatives for two terms until 2007. At the end of this political hiatus, he returned to the construction group as a non-executive director. Originally from Plateau State, Damulak is also on the board of Netcom Africa, one of Nigeria’s largest telecommunications companies.
German technicians
Four of the five German board members hold key executive roles and have followed a similarly typical career path. Managing director Lars Richter worked for the parent company Bilfinger from 2002 before joining Julius Berger in Nigeria in 2009, as did vice president George Marks. Marks has been with Bilfinger since 1976. He was seconded to work with Julius Berger Nigeria in 1988 and became general manager in 2001, serving on and off until 2016. CFO Martin Brack has been in Nigeria for 20 years. The company’s 41-year-old corporate development director Tobias Meletschus has been active in the firm since 2012. The latest arrival on the board, architect Karsten Hensel, is CEO of Julius Berger International.

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