The world of Nigerian business is often cutthroat. From power struggles to intense feuds, billionaires in Nigeria are no strangers to fierce conflicts and heated rivalries.
These wealthy individuals engage in a fierce battle, not with weapons, but through legal tactics and strategic moves. Whether in oil or telecommunications, these industry leaders are driven by the lure of immense wealth and untapped opportunities. Their strong desire for dominance turns the pursuit of riches into an ongoing struggle, where only the most determined and crafty can come out on top.
As the saying goes: where there’s muck, there’s brass. These feuds show the industries/businesses Nigeria’s wealthiest men think are worth fighting over. So, here’s a rundown of every public feud between Nigerian billionaires.
The battle for African petroleum
In 2007, two Nigerian billionaires, Femi Otedola and Jimoh Ibrahim, went to ‘war’ over the ownership of African Petroleum Plc (AP). The battle was long and bitter, and it ultimately ended with Otedola taking control of the company.
The fight between Otedola and Ibrahim began when Otedola, who was the chairman of AP at the time, accused Ibrahim, the managing director of the company, of using his position to enrich himself and his cronies. Ibrahim denied the allegations, and he accused Otedola of trying to take over the company.
The dispute escalated quickly, and it soon became clear that neither man was willing to back down. Otedola filed a lawsuit against Ibrahim, alleging that he had committed fraud and mismanagement. Ibrahim filed a countersuit, alleging that Otedola was trying to illegally oust him from the company.
The battle between Otedola and Ibrahim dragged on for months, eventually reaching the Supreme Court of Nigeria. In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Otedola, and he was appointed as the new chairman of AP.
Fighting to keep the lights on
In 2010, shortly after the oil bubble burst, there was a feud between Femi Otedola and Aliko Dangote. It began when Chevron announced its intention to divest Texaco Nigeria, and Otedola, who had been buying Chevron shares, confided in Dangote. However, Dangote’s cousin’s company, MRS Holdings, outbid Otedola. This led to Otedola declaring war on Dangote by investing $2 billion in industries that were Dangote’s territory.
Otedola also accused Dangote of manipulating the share price of a company in which Otedola held significant shares. Eventually, the two reconciled, but the falling oil prices and banking crisis in Nigeria had a significant impact on Otedola’s wealth, pushing him off the Forbes billionaire list.
The cement wars
Dangote Cement is the market leader in Nigeria, but BUA Cement has been growing rapidly in recent years. The two companies have been competing for market share, and there have been allegations of price-fixing and other anti-competitive behaviour.
In 2018, Dangote Cement accused BUA Cement of price-fixing. The Nigerian Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (NCPC) investigated the allegations but found no evidence of wrongdoing.
In 2020, Dangote accused Abdul Samad of price-fixing again. This time, the NCPC issued a preliminary report finding that BUA Cement had engaged in anti-competitive behaviour. However, the NCPC has not yet issued a final ruling on the matter.
That same year, Dangote accused BUA Cement of trespassing on its mining site in Obu-Okpella, Edo State. BUA Cement denied the allegations, and the matter is currently being litigated in court.
The battle for Transcorp
The most recent billionaires’ feud that caught the public eye was between Femi Otedola and Tony Elumelu. The feud began this year when Otedola made a bid to acquire a majority stake in Transcorp Plc, a Nigerian conglomerate. Elumelu, who was already the chairman of the company, blocked Otedola’s offer. This led to a public feud between the two men, with Otedola accusing Elumelu of betrayal and Elumelu accusing Otedola of trying to take over Transcorp at a fire-sale price.
The feud eventually led to Otedola selling his stake in Transcorp to Elumelu. However, the damage had already happened. In May 2023, Otedola made a series of explosive allegations against Elumelu, accusing him of backstabbing him on multiple occasions. Otedola also alleged that Elumelu had taken advantage of his bankruptcy in 2008 to seize control of his businesses.