Nigeria: Special Anniversary Focus – Emerging Business Leaders From North, Matching the Tech Unicorns of the South

Contrary to widespread perception that the north is not strong in business, there is a new crop of business leaders ready to replace the likes of Aliko Dangote and Abdulsamad Rabiu, who are doing well in various sectors across the economy. They are excelling, innovative, and ambitious.

Either in terms of personal development or collective contributions to the larger economy, the north has in recent years doubled its stripes, and it is determined to level up with the rest of the country, nay the world. This, of course, is evident in the number of leaders – business and political – it has since raised as proof of this deliberate choice.

Here is a THISDAY focus on some of the business leaders from northern Nigeria, who have been quietly shaping the narrative, albeit positively, and with sound education to boot. Although there are quite a number of them, these 24 northern business leaders, who are 60 years and below and have consciously kept a low profile, readily come to mind, given their exploits in their respective fields, where they are believed and seen to have recorded huge successes. They are the heirs to expanding new frontiers, they are challenging the traditional ways and disrupting businesses with new ideas and fresh thinking, and they are busting business myths seamlessly. As new frontiers of businesses have evolved, they have innovated to continue to be at the top of their game.

It needs to be emphasised here that this short list is by no means exhaustive. It simply provides a guide to new players shaping and reshaping the business environment from a particular region.

Dr. Lazarus Angbazo

Lazarus Angbazo is Managing Director of Infrastructure Corporation of Nigeria (InfraCo). Before he was appointed to lead InfraCo, which is a special purpose institution established by the Central Bank of Nigeria, Angbazo was the president and chief executive officer of General Electric in Nigeria. Before assuming his role in Nigeria, where he doubled the GE revenue in the country by over $1billion, he led GE’s regional operations between 2008 and 2012 as President & CEO, West, East & Central Africa. He was also President of the American Business Council in Nigeria.

Farouk Gumel

Farouk Gumel is Chairman of Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA). His nearly two decades of cognate experience spans consulting, audit, corporate finance, advisory services, and asset management. Gumel, who is also a Group Executive Director, Strategy and Investment, for the Tropical General Investment (TGI) Group, presides over the Union Bank Nigeria Plc. and Wacot Rice Limited as chairman. Before joining TGI, Gumel was a Partner and Head of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) West African Advisory/Consulting business, which covers Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Angola. Between 2016 and 2020, he was an honorary consultant to the Presidency of Nigeria on agriculture and food security, and in August 2021, he was appointed Co-Chairman of the Benin Republic’s National Committee for the Development of Rice Value Chain by President Patrice Talon of the Republic of Benin.

Ibrahim Hassan

Mr. Ibrahim Hassan, the current Chairman of Guaranty Trust Bank, is a highly experienced petroleum geologist, economic analyst, serial entrepreneur, community leader, and philanthropist with over 27 years of professional experience in the oil and gas industry. He holds an MSc. degree in Oil and Gas Enterprise Management from the University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom (UK). He is Founder/Executive Chairman of Summit Energy Limited, a foremost integrated energy contracting company.

Amal Hassan Usman

Amal Hassan Usman is a leading Nigerian techno-preneur with diverse interests across different technology verticals. In 2003, Amal set up the first organised ICT training institute in Kano that provides IT training to young Nigerians, especially, women. Her passion to unlock Nigeria’s development potential through technology-driven innovation and value addition led her to build, capitalise, and restructure a series of technology-related businesses that succeed in developing talents and creating employment for young Nigerians. In 2013, she founded Outsource Global, a contact centre business process outsourcing that now has offices in Abuja, Lagos, and Kaduna. Under her leadership, Outsource Global has emerged as the leading Nigerian contact centre provider, servicing the international market, turning the company into a truly global BPO giant, creating over 700 jobs, and putting Nigeria on the global map for contact centre business process outsourcing.

Abubakar Suleiman

Abubakar Suleiman is Managing Director of Sterling Bank. Suleiman had served as Executive Director, Finance and Strategy, before he was appointed the chief executive. In 2012, he became the chief financial officer and was appointed to the Board in April 2014, with responsibility for the financial performance of the bank and directly overseeing the finance and performance management, strategy and innovation, brand management and communication, and human resource management departments.

Halima Buba

Halima Buba serves as Managing Director and CEO of SunTrust Bank Plc. She was previously the deputy general manager at Ecobank Nigeria. Buba, who hails from Adamawa State, holds a bachelor’s degree in Business management and MBA from the University of Maiduguri. She is also an alumnus of the Lagos Business School, honorary member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, and a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants.

Mahmud Bamanga Tukur

Mahmud Bamanga Tukur is the founder of Ashgrove Group that is into oil and gas trading, exploration and technology. He was the chief executive officer of Eterna Plc until 2021, when he handed over the mantle of leadership. He is also member of Institute of Directors and on the board of seven other companies. Tukur previously occupied the position of chief executive officer and managing director at Daddo Maritime Services Limited and member-Governing Council at Nigerian Chamber of Shipping. He received undergraduate degrees from Cardiff Business School and the University of Wales. A young and dynamic goal getter by all standards, always leading from the front, he is never one to back down from challenge, but always itching for new frontiers to explore and conquer. His privileged background notwithstanding, he craves for more challenges to prove his mettle.

Aminu Babangida

Aminu Babangida, son of a former military head of state, Ibrahim Babangida, is Chairman of Unity Bank. Aminu is an entrepreneur, co-founder/chief executive officer of Phoenix Energy, Abuja, and team member of the El-Amin International School, Minna. He has also worked on the trading floor of Trafigura BV, London, UK. He attended Regents Business School, London, and Westminster Business School, London, where he obtained a BA in International Business and MA in International Business Management, respectively.

Musbahu Muhammad Bashir

Musbahu Bashir, a graduate of the American University, London, also attended Harvard Business School in the United States of America (USA). He is Director at Jaiz Bank and Chairman of Althani Group of Companies, and Cobalt International Services Limited. Bashir came to the limelight, when his telecoms company, Mafab Communications, beat Airtel Nigeria to win the bid for the 5G technology spectrum auction, alongside MTN Nigeria. Mafab is one of the technological subsidiaries of Althani Group of companies. The company has an IDA (International Data Access) License from the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) to terminate traffic to all destinations worldwide.

Mahmood Ahmadu

Mahmood Ahmadu is Founder and Executive Chairman of OIS, also known as Online Integrated Solutions Limited. He was one of the early pioneers of trading in the Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) in Northern Nigeria. His business activities and operations span 53 countries and five continents.

Born on September 9, 1966, Ahmadu graduated from the Nasarawa State University, earning a UK accredited MBA. His further education came in the form of management, IT and communication industry courses. He has utilised these skills to start small businesses that trade products and services.

Hamid Joda

Founder/Managing Director/CEO of TAJ Bank Limited, Hamid Joda led a group to realise the vision of setting up the second non-interest bank in Nigeria. With experience spanning 20 years in the financial services industry, Joda began his career at Niger Insurance Plc. in 1999 and moved to City Express Bank Limited the same year. He has also worked at Continental Trust Bank Limited and the defunct Oceanic Bank International Nigeria Limited. Joda was Divisional Head, Public Sector, First City Monument Bank (FCMB) Limited.

Aminu Umar

Aminu Umar is Non-executive Director at Ardova Plc. He has over 20 years of experience in the oil, gas and energy sector and has played a significant role in shaping the maritime industry, serving in various roles and capacities. He is President of Nigeria Shipowners Association (NISA) and a member of the Ministerial Committee on establishing Nigerian National Fleet, Ministerial Committee on Nigerian Fleet Implementation Committee Member, and member, Advisory Council to the Executive Management of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

Abdulmalik Madhi

Abdulmalik has over 14 years of cognate experience in banking and Real Estate. He has worked at First Bank of Nigeria Plc., GTBank Plc., and Jaiz Bank Plc. before leaving banking. He worked in real estate as a relationship manager at Jaiz Bank responsible for growing the bank’s real estate portfolio and later as Managing Partner, Modern Shelter. As Managing Partner of Modern Shelter, he has led the company to become a market leader in real estate marketing, sales and mortgage brokerage. Modern Shelter has become a one-stop shop for clients seeking to buy homes. The company has commenced construction of a 134-unit estate (80% sold-off plan) in Life Camp, Abuja, in partnership with Earth point Development Services Limited.

Etuh Thomas Akoh

Thomas Akoh Etuh is Chairman at Veritas Kapital Assurance Plc. and Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director at Tak Continental Limited. Etuh is also on the board of Tak Agro, Federal Superphosphate Fertiliser Co. Limited, and Cape Cross Salt Pty Limited. He is Partner at Thomasses & Associates Limited, Member of Bank Directors Association of Nigeria, and Member of Institute of Directors. He was at a time a director at Unity Bank Plc.

Schools he attended include Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State; Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi State; Lagos Business School, Lagos State; Business School of Netherlands, Netherlands; University of Navarra, Barcelona, Spain; and London Business School, UK.

Nafiu Bala Rabiu

The son of an entrepreneur father, Alhaji Isyaku Rabiu, Nafiu Rabiu is Managing Director of Balnara Universal Limited. The 31-year-old Rabiu is on the verge of replicating his father’s exceptional success in business, with two companies of his own that are high flyers in their sectors of operation, and a third one coming on stream any time soon.

Born on August 23, 1990, Rabiu grew up under his father and started working at the age of 18 in his elder brother’s company, Ramu Unique Resources, a multi-billion-naira company and the number one BUA Cement distributor. Rabiu is still with Ramu Unique Resources as Executive Director, but he has equally established his own business, Balnara Universal Limited.

Usman Dantata Jr.

Young and enterprising Usman Dantata Jr., who is married to Rukaiya Indimi, daughter of multi-billionaire Borno-born businessman, Mohammed Indimi, is the president/CEO of Anadariya Farms. The large poultry farm, located in Tiga, Bebeji Local Government Area of Kano State, was started by the late business sage of Kano, Alhaji Usman Sanusi Dantata of the Dantata dynasty, in the 1960s. A trader of various commodities in Europe before coming back to Nigeria, he has a background in investment and banking. He also has a certificate in feed production and broiler management obtained in North Carolina. Suffice it to say that he had equipped himself with the necessary training before stepping into the business.

Abdulrahman Bashir Rahamaniyya

Abdulrahman Musa Bashir (Rahamaniyya) is a Nigerian businessman and philanthropist with primary focus on trading in oil and gas. In October 2003, he established Rahamaniyya Global Resources, which specialises in trading with specific focus on the Nigerian market. Rahamaniyya Group has a large depot strategically located in Apapa, Lagos. The depot has its own Jetty through which it receives large cargoes of up to about 90000 MT of oil. It has a huge combined storage capacity of 81 million litres of AGO, PMS, DPK, LPFO, and ATK.

Hassan Usman

Hassan Usman, Managing Director of Jaiz Bank, graduated with a first-class in Accounting in 1985 from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and became an associate member of ICAN in 1989. He obtained a Post Graduate Diploma in Management in 1995 from the Maastricht School of Management.

Usman also attended the Oxford University Advanced Management Programme in 2002, and worked as Financial Controller of Nigerian Development Company Limited, Kaduna, until he joined NAL Merchant Bank PLC, where he served as Financial Controller and Treasurer between 1996 and 2001.

He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN). He was appointed Managing Director of Jaiz Bank Plc. by the Board of Directors, effective June 1, 2016.

Kashim Bukar Shettima

Founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Nigeria’s Barbedos Group of Companies, Kashim Bukar Shettima oversees a diversified conglomerate of businesses active in the agriculture, oil and gas, automotive, and aviation sectors. At the helm of Barbedos Group since 2002, Shettima brings more than 20 years of relevant experience to his work, along with an impressive record of professional accomplishment in Nigeria and beyond. He established the Barbedos Group, which he has developed and expanded to encompass aviation and automotive divisions, the import and export of oil and natural gas, and the importation of food items, agricultural products, and fertilizers. In 2004, he added the position of director of Woodcraft Industries Limited to his resume.

Adamu Atta

Adamu Atta is the founder and Chairman, Fifth Chukker Polo Club Stock, with hundreds of horses, physical assets and personnel spread across four continents – Argentina, South Africa, Nigeria, UK and Dubai. Atta has become a global polo icon and the indisputable king of African polo, who is revered and feted the world over.

He remains the most looked-up-to person in Nigerian polo. His presence illuminates tournaments and confers them with instant class and credibility. Beyond that, Atta and his fabulous Fifth Chukker polo and country club constitute the gold standard for Nigerian polo. Polo Royals and Aficionados readily acknowledge that he is the man with the Midas touch, always making it look easy.

Muhammad Jibrin

Muhammad Jibrin, a non-executive director at Sun Trust Bank Limited, has a rich experience in banking and management, having previously held positions at Union Bank of Nigeria and Citigroup N.A & Barclays Bank in four countries across Africa and Europe. Prior to joining Sun Trust as the pioneer Chief Executive Officer, he was an Executive Director on the Board of Aso Savings and Loans Plc., and at one time, the group head responsible for growing Bond Bank’s (now Skye Bank Plc.) business in Abuja and the North.

Jibrin, who holds an M.sc in Risk Management from the NYU Leonard N. Stern Business School, New York University, and MBA from the Imperial College, London, a Diploma in General Management from Harvard University, had served on various boards. He was at various times National Deputy President of the Mortgage Bankers Association of Nigeria, director, Premium Pensions Limited, Director, Federal Housing Authority Technical Board, and a member of the Presidential Committee on Affordable Housing.

He also served as the Chairman, Board of Directors of the Gombe Jewel Microfinance Bank Limited. Muhammad voluntarily stepped down as Chief Executive Officer of Sun Trust Bank on August 1, 2018 to pursue other interests, but still serves on the board of the bank.

Abdullahi Bashir Haske

Abdullahi Bashir Haske, a serial entrepreneur, private investor, and philanthropist is the founder and Group Managing Director of AA&R Investments, a long chain of oil-based companies that continue to stretch to new frontiers. Bashir was born in Yola, Adamawa State, got 51 per cent of the oil blocs left behind by Addax Petroleum. He had raised well over $300 million for the Addax but unfortunately his partners failed to raise their portion of the financing before the deal was called off.

The result-driven and future-thinking lifestyle of Abdullahi Bashir Haske is quite phenomenal and enviable. He has risen to become the focal point of discussion in several industries across Nigeria and Africa at large. He was born in Yola, Adamawa State, Nigeria on the 13th of December 1987 and he is an alumnus of the University of Abuja, where he bagged a Diploma in Political Studies and an MBA in economics from Lagos Business School. He owns huge hectres of rice farms in the north-east.

Auwal Lawal

Auwal Lawal is a Nigerian businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist. He holds the traditional chieftain title of “Sarkin Sudan of Gombe”. Lawal, the son-in-law of Ibrahim Babangida is the Chairman and CEO of Nice Corporate Services Limited registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission, Nigeria since 2004, a company that deals in real estate development, commodities trading, and supply of agricultural machinery and fertiliser. He owns several jets for charter services. He humble, amiable and unassuming.

Faruk Saleh

Faruk Saleh is Group CEO of Metro Capital Advisory Group (MCAG), a conglomerate with interests in infrastructure, real estate development, healthcare, energy, project finance and advisory.

Faruk spearheads the long-term strategic plans of MCAG. He is an entrepreneur and serves on the board of several companies operating in various industry sectors and countries, where he brings to bear his experience in project delivery. Through MCAG and its subsidiaries, he has overseen the completion of multiple high-end infrastructure and property development projects in Nigeria.

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