Benedict Peters: International excellence(opinion)

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Benedict Peters has been named by Forbes as African oil and gas leader for 2018. To understand why this unassuming man continues to rise and break boundaries within and outside the oil and gas industry, it is pertinent to examine his story and that of his flagship company; Aiteo, writes Bony Kant

Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile: Vince Lombardi

On September 27, 2018, international business media company, Forbes held its annual best of Africa Gala and Awards where it conferred one of its most prestigious titles on a Nigerian-born entrepreneur; Benedict Peters, the CEO of Aiteo energy group. Peters was named Africa’s oil and gas leader for the year 2018.

On presenting the award Mike Perlis, CEO and Vice-Chairman of Forbes Media said, “recipients are singled out for their work in bringing prosperity to all 55 countries of the African continent”.

In an era of political uncertainty and economic instability, the news of a Nigerian making the country proud on the international stage is a respite. Not many would have heard the name of Benedict Peters until recently. However, to examine why this unassuming man continues to rise and break boundaries within and outside the oil and gas industry, it is pertinent to examine his story and that of his flagship company; Aiteo.

From an oil trader to a pan-African business visionary and energy pathfinder, Benedict Peter’s story has been phenomenal. Today, The Aiteo group continues to expand rapidly, extending its operations to different countries across Africa and beyond with emerging international presence in the DRC, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Zambia, Zimbabwe as well as offices in Geneva and Paris.

Describing why the organization gave the award to the oil tycoon, Forbes CEO, Mike Perlis said of Peters: “Benedict Peters is the Executive Vice Chairman of Aiteo group, a pan-African conglomerate founded with the vision of delivering Africa’s energy future and fast-tracking its self-sufficiency. His group is comprised of subsidiaries with strategic investments in energy, mining, agriculture, infrastructure development and electricity generation. He also chairs the Joseph Agro Foundation, which he founded in 2014 to contribute over $150 million in rice production, which is addressing social and environmental issues in the agricultural sector of Nigeria. It is much for this philanthropic effort, even more than his business success, that we honour Mr Peters tonight”

According to the Editor, Emerging Markets for Forbes, Paul H. Trustfull, “Peters’ ascendancy in Africa’s Oil and Gas sector has been exemplary as well as revolutionary. His company, Aiteo, has thrived for about two decades – going from a downstream start-up to becoming a leading integrated energy conglomerate with strategic investments in hydrocarbon (or commodities) exploration and production.”

Benedict Peters ventured into the oil and gas sector as an entrepreneur in 1999 and initially traded mainly in the downstream sector. In 2008, he repositioned Aiteo as an integrated energy company with the vision of being the future of Energy on the African continent. Today, Aiteo is the largest indigenous Nigerian oil company by production.

In 2015, Peters consolidated Aiteo’s asset portfolio with a $3 billion acquisition of sub-Saharan Africa’s largest onshore block (OML 29).  Located in the Eastern Niger Delta, OML 29 contains 11 oil and gas fields; stretching over an area of 983 square kilometres and holding 2.2 billion barrels of oil equivalent (BOE). It also includes the iconic Oloibiri oil field where crude oil was first produced. As part of the deal, Aiteo became the operator of the Nembe Creek Trunk Line; a 97 km crude pipeline starting from Nembe in Bayelsa State and ending at Bonny in Rivers State. As Aiteo scaled up its involvement in the upstream sector, the company created a new subsidiary to re-develop its newly-acquired assets and explore other opportunities in Exploration and Production. Thus, its upstream subsidiary, Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company (AEEPCo) was born.

Subsequently, Aiteo optimised the asset’s yield from 17,000 barrels of oil per day (bopd) to almost 70,000 bopd within the year of the asset’s acquisition. Aiteo currently peaks production at around 100,000 bopd, doubling its initial asset value to $6 billion within three years. The company plans to invest another $4.3 billion acquiring additional offshore assets with a projected total output of 250,000 bopd in the short to medium term.  Beyond oil, the Aiteo Group has investments in mining, agriculture, infrastructure development, electricity generation and distribution, with a fast-growing retail distribution network.

Benedict Peters’ influence has also extended beyond the energy sphere. His recent initiatives have shown that he is passionate about youth empowerment and development of football on the African continent. His company, Aiteo, sponsors the Nigerian Football Federation, CAF Awards, Aiteo Cup (the Federation’s foremost tournament in Nigeria) and a football team in his company’s host community. Beyond football, Peters has assisted thousands of internally displaced persons in northern Nigeria while supporting clean water sanitation initiatives in Africa, in partnership with Face Africa, improving the lives of over 25,000 people in rural Liberia. Peters addresses social and environmental issues in the agricultural sector through the Joseph Agro Foundation, set up in July 2014 to tackle chronic unemployment and water shortage.

Prior to the recent recognition by Forbes, Benedict Peters had received accolades from within and outside the African continent. In recognition of his ground-breaking contribution to development, Peters was one of four recipients of the Marquee Award for Global Business Excellence at the Africa-US Leadership Awards in 2014. In the same year, he received the “Leadership CEO of the Year” award.  In 2015, Peters was conferred with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Awards in the “Economic Empowerment” category. And was listed as one of the ‘50 Most Influential Nigerians in 2017’ by BusinessDay. More recently, he has been recognised as the ‘Oil and Gas Man of the Year’ at the prestigious 2018 Guardian Awards.

Benedict Peters’ phenomenal rise provides great inspiration to the African continent with regards to the energy sector which is largely dominated by companies from Europe and the USA. Paul H. Trustfull, Forbes Editor for Emerging Markets, sums it up when he said: “He proves that inspirational leadership in a difficult industry is possible”

Benedict Peters’ story is an example of the triumph of courage and doggedness. With sheer hard work and focus on his vision for Africa, Peters is gradually evolving into his dream; to be the future of energy.

Bony Kant is a media consultant and sports analyst. He writes from South Africa.




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