It’s painful when people attribute acquisition of my oil block to Maryam Babangida, says Alakija

Folorunsho Alakija, the vice-chairman of Famfa Oil, says it is very painful when people attribute her acquisition of an oil block to Maryam Babangida, wife of former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida.

Before her journey into the oil sector, Alakija, who is now regarded as one of Africa’s richest women, made “blouses” for the wife of the ex-military leader.

In May 1993, Alakija’s Famfa Oil Limited applied and was granted an allocation for oil prospecting licence (OPL) and the license to explore for oil on a 617,000-acre block—now referred to as OPL 216.

Forbes had dropped Alakija off the 2021 world billionaires list released in April because her fortune dropped below $1 billion due to lower oil prices.

Speaking on Thursday during an interview on Arise TV, the businesswoman said the former first lady helped her facilitate meetings with the petroleum minister at the time, but she (Alakija) had to put in all the work needed to secure the licence.

Recounting her experience, Alakija said a London friend wanted her to help with speaking to Babangida over an oil deal while on a trip to Lagos.

After the friend was denied an inroad into Nigeria’s oil and gas minefield, Alakija said she asked herself how she could secure a contract and diversify her streams of income because she was only a stylist at the time.

She said it took her three years and several appointments with different petroleum ministers to finally get the oil bloc.

“It was a case of discretionary allocation at the time. The President, through the NNPC, was the one that would decide who gets it. I think I was one of the first women to get the license. It’s very painful when you listen to people say that “oh! It’s because she makes blouses for Mrs Babangida or Oh! It’s because she was one of them,” she said.

“How about all the others who got the license, and weren’t in the oil industry at the time that they got the license? So because they are men, they have two heads? Is it fair on womanhood? Why relegate us to the background. Why say we can’t when we can? When all the prerequisites, the boxes could be ticked?

“Everything that I needed to do, to supply before I could qualify to apply for a license or get one, I made them all available; our technical partners etc. I went here and there, I got everything, and I supplied everything.”

She also recalled the difficulties she encountered after she was awarded an offshore oil block and oil exploration companies declined to partner with her company to drill for oil.

Alakija explained that the oil she eventually bagged was not lucrative at the time and had been rejected by everyone else because the technology to drill it down thousands of feet wasn’t yet in place.

The oil mogul, who clocked 70 on Thursday, noted that her transition from a fashion entrepreneur to an investor in the oil industry was ordained by God.

“As I look back now, I can say that there is nothing to regret. My only regret in life is not coming to Christ earlier, which is almost 30 years. That is my only regret in life. I transitioned from fashion to oil to the glory of God, moving from fashion to the oil industry,“ she said.

She further advised young people to do away with the get-rich-quick syndrome, warning that they may live to regret it.

“For those who want to get wealth quickly, it’s not the way to go. It gets people into trouble. If you want to do it very fast, you will end up cutting corners. And when you cut corners, you are going to regret it more often than not. I will say 95 per cent of the time, you are going to regret it, or live to regret it,” Alakija added.

“I will say slow and steady wins the race because as you are going slowly, you are planning, you are applying what you have planned, you are applying wisdom.

“Also asking questions and putting the answers into this cooking board, just like you want to cook and want it to be a very delicious food at the end of the day.”

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