Nigeria has produced billionaires over the last few decades; the likes of Aliko Dangote, Femi Otedola, and Tony Elumelu, to mention a few. Most of these billionaires are in their 50s and above, and they make headlines every other day.
Igho Sanomi, a 47-year-old billionaire, is the founder and CEO of Taleveras, a leading global energy and services company that was officially launched in 2004. Over the years, his hard work and dedication have paid off. He is renowned for pushing his limits and has parlayed this single attribute to stunning effect, growing Taleveras into one of the largest physical commodities trading companies in Africa. According to Forbes, his net worth in 2017 was $2 billion.
Background: Sanomi broke into the oil and gas industry at the young age of 23. Despite the high barriers to entry into Nigeria’s oil & gas industry, Sanomi did it. While in his final year studying geology and mining at the University of Jos in Nigeria, he became fascinated with the oil industry. At the time there was a local physical oil trading company called First Fuels, which had an internship program for undergraduates, and Sanomi had a colleague who worked for the firm.
- “That’s where my interest was piqued,” Sanomi says. “This friend of mine worked for First Fuels and he would come back and brag about all the things he was learning: oil prices, fixing ships, hedging, taking positions, and all that stuff. Over time he made the whole business so exciting that the allure of physical trading was too powerful for me to resist. So while most of my colleagues were dreaming of joining ExxonMobil or Shell and the other oil majors after school to work as engineers and geologists and all that stuff, I was more fascinated by the prospects of trading.”
In his final year at the university, Sanomi started reading everything he could find about physical oil trading, and he looked for an opening to get into the business. He soon found one. At the time it was popular for local Nigerian businessmen to bid for fuel import contracts from the state-owned oil company, and then upon winning the contracts, they resold the contracts to foreign oil trading companies for a tidy sum – without lifting a finger. Very few local business people wanted to do the dirty work. This is where Sanomi saw an opportunity. He began looking for some of the businessmen who won those contracts and offered them a deal they couldn’t refuse.