Richest Nigerians: Why Forbes Got It Wrong – By Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu



Every year Forbes publishes the list of the richest people in the world amongst which some Nigerians have prominently featured in recent times, chief among them Aliko Dangote with an estimated net worth of $14.7 billion in 2015 down from $25 billion in 2014. Other Nigerians such Ms Folorunsho Alakija with an estimated net worth of $1.9 billion, Femi Otedola with an estimated net worth of $1 billion, Abdulrahman Rabiu with a net worth of $1 billion and Mike Adenuga with an estimated net worth of $4 billion also made it to the Forbes list of richest Nigerians. Their predominant source of wealth and primary business concerns are not surprisingly Nigeria’s corrupt oil/ gas industry, no doubt linked to the infamous oil bloc patronage system which Nigerian leaders past and present have variously used to set up those fronting for them or reward those connected to them.


Within Africa the number of billionaires in 2015 remains same as 2014 at 24, while globally Bill Gates retains the top spot as the world’s richest man.  The Forbes list also records 290 new billionaires with China alone accounting for 71, while young people under the age of 40 account for 46 of the new global billionaires. The staying power of most existing billionaires and the rise of so many new billionaires in spite of a global recession that is still biting demonstrate how resilient industrialists and businesses can be. Researching and collating data on the world’s richest persons is definitely a challenging task particularly in third world countries where accurate statistics are hard to come by and also given the penchant of industrialists and businesses to hide their true net worth through various schemes to reduce their tax liabilities. This tax dodging scheme exists even in advanced economies where statistics and regulatory regimes are more reliable.


Forbes therefore deserves commendation for their efforts every year to pile through the mountains of statistics and known assets which they use to make estimates of the financial standing of each billionaire. While this is laudable it also provides room for wrong information and in the case of Nigeria that is exactly the case. In publishing the list of the richest Nigerians Forbes exhibited its ignorance of the Nigerian society and the true owners of wealth in the Nigerian system.  They can be forgiven for classing Nigeria as a normal country and thus make its estimate of the richest Nigerians on that basis. Normality may be true of most other nations from which the Forbes list of richest billionaires was obtained unfortunately Nigeria is not a normal country.


This should be self evident from the fact that while billionaires from other countries are mainly engaged in manufacturing being their predominant source of wealth in Nigeria it is the oil and gas “patronage” industry from the government that constitutes the primary source of wealth for the billionaires.  Indeed the fact that Saudi Arabia that boasts the largest oil deposits in the world but where oil bloc patronage systems do not exist has no billionaires listed as beneficiaries of the oil and gas industry further highlights the Nigerian abnormality. While Forbes has listed some seeming industrialists as Nigeria’s richest persons, the fact remains that Nigeria’s richest individuals are politicians and not industrialists.  It is understandable that politicians not being industrialists shield their assets and finances from public view.  But enough information still exists in the public domain to determine the wealth of Nigerian politicians.


The biggest industry in Nigeria is government and this explains why existing billionaire industrialists make their wealth through patronage systems that derive from the government. Thus government officials and not industrialists are undeniably Nigeria’s richest individuals. More than $3 billion of late General Sanni Abacha’s loot, a former head of state has been returned and this is just some of the loot traced directly to him. In 1983 a former minister Alhaji Umaru Dikko was reported to have stolen the then equivalent of £2 billion. Former heads of state Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar are estimated to have looted more than $10 billion each. Asiwaju  Bola Tinubu the godfather, who controls a whole region and owns tax collecting firms, hotels, media houses, tolled highways and other sundry businesses is reputed to be worth more than $16 billion and thus easily the richest Nigerian.


There are so many such hidden or not so hidden billionaires in Nigeria’s government circles that are by far richer than the individuals estimated by Forbes to be the richest Nigerians. Next time Forbes should do a more in-depth analysis of Nigeria’s richest individuals including government and former government officials. That is the only way they can arrive at an accurate assessment of Nigeria’s real richest individuals.

Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu




  1. In as much as I tend to agreewith the facts pointed out in this article I must say the stats are grossly exaggerated because there are no reliable data to back them up.

  2. Your write up, which I very much agree with tells why Nigeria is in such a vertiginously, and for this particular matter, a comatose economic state. Industries, which are the sources of money, and which, from every economic point of view are what indeed makes millionaires/billionaires, are surprisingly and comparatively lacking in Nigeria. For example, Bill Gates, the world’s richest man is not a politician. He is an self minted tech guru, whose products find uses all over the world. Industrialists and people like Gates sweat for each dollar they make. They put their sweat and blood to see to it that their products sell and make money. Such product creators are veritable money makers. Not so in Nigeria. Nigeria is the only country where politicians, who do not know their left from their right, as far as industrial know how’s are concerned have become billionaires, beyond their wildest dreams. Nigeria is the only country in this wide world where politicians own private jets, and the competition to own a private jet among the mindlessly corrupt politicians is always on the rise. Nigeria, is reportedly the only country where a Senator aspires to, if not does make more than the President of the United States in income. Sadly enough we have a President, in Goodluck Jonathan, who is consciously and eminently aware of these lags and loopholes and cannot do anything about them. He defiantly refuses to declare his assets, after six years in office, a feat which his opponent, General Buhari, and who has been labeled as senile, is willing and ready to embrace and live up to. This refusal to declare his assets, after six years in office as President, should shock every one who voted for this erstwhile school boy who went to school without shoes.
    While my choice for the next President of Nigeria has see saw ed quite a bit since the last few weeks, I think I have come to point where I just let the chips fall where they may. My matured mind is telling me to vote for the candidate who would bring order, discipline, and who has vowed to put a check on corruption or millionnires and billionaires who are not industrialists or manufacturers. The other tells me why vote for a candidate who, just four short years ago promised a sitting President that his administration would be ungovernable, the manifestation of such ungovernability being the siege which a terror group has on the pulse of the Nigerian nation, which to me is a clear indication that this candidate has, or is fully aware of what it takes to uproot every vestige of the terror group’s shenanigans, and yet puts his hands in his pockets and watches and relishes brazen terror take place. It further tells me that the love of one Nigeria is not in this candidate’s heart, and that he wants power by all, and every possible means. These feelings should worry any body who professes to have a love for one Nigeria. And it is too bad that the Nigerian political system is still in it’s embryonic stage to not be able to produce candidates who can offer more to the citizens they aspire to govern, or preside over and hold them accountable for their pronouncements


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