The Vice-chairman of Famfa Oil, Folorunsho Alakija, has decried speculations attributing her acquisition of an oil well to the late Maryam Babangida, wife of former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida.
Prior to her venture into the oil industry, Alakija was a clothes maker who made “blouses” for the former first lady.
In the twilight of the Babangida era, in May 1993, Alakija’s Famfa Oil Limited applied and got approval for the allocation of an oil prospecting licence (OPL) and the license to explore for oil on a 617,000-acre block—now referred to as OPL 216.
The oil magnate fell off the Forbes 2021 world billionaires list which was released in April following the decline of her fortune below $1 billion due to falling oil prices.
Alakija who was a guest interview on Arise TV, Thursday, stated that the late Mariam Babangida first lady assisted in facilitating meetings with the petroleum minister at the time, but she (Alakija) did what was required by the Ministry in order to obtain the license.
Alakija disclosed that a London friend sought her assistance with access to Ibrahim Babangida over an oil deal while on a trip to Lagos.
The friend did not make an inroad into Nigeria’s oil and gas minefield, causing Alakija to find out how she could secure a contract and diversify her streams of income because she was only a stylist at the time.
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Alakija stated that her oil bloc licence was approved after three years and several appointments with different petroleum ministers.
“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.”
Alakija also recounted the rejection she experienced at the hands of oil exploration companies after she was awarded an offshore oil block and oil exploration companies.
She stated that the oil she eventually secured was not lucrative at the time and had been turned down by everyone else because the technology to drill it down thousands of feet was not yet available.
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.”