By Michael Okunade
The CEO of Aiteo Group, Benedict Peters is well known as an oil tycoon; an identity recently validated by Forbes, which named him Africa’s oil and gas leader during its Best of Africa awards 2018. Benedict Peters is not only a pacesetter in the petroleum industry and one of the richest men on the African continent, he has also built a strong profile as a continental business leader. Besides his exploits in business, Benedict Peters is a compassionate philanthropist and fervent contributor to youth empowerment.
Riding atop what is currently the largest indigenous energy company in West Africa by production, Benedict Peters has built an enviable record for himself and his country. Under his leadership, Aiteo has grown from an oil trading company in the downstream sector to an upstream giant producing more than any other Nigerian company.
His story is that of resolute optimism and obstinate focus. Benedict Peters was born in 1966, at Abakaliki, Ebonyi State in South Eastern Nigeria to a banker. He grew up in a middle-income family in the midst of three other siblings.
Known as an incurable optimist and dogged fighter, Benedict Peters’ positive outlook to life perhaps, explains the major decisions he made in his career that had catapulted him into success. In 2008, still in its early stage of development, Benedict Peters changed the name of his company to Aiteo and positioned it as an integrated energy company with a vision of being the future of Energy in Nigeria and the African continent. Although the company was predominantly into petroleum product sales, there were plans for venturing into the upstream sector, as well as power.
Today, Benedict Peters is fulfilling those dreams. Aiteo has been established as an upstream giant with its acquisition of one of the largest acreages in sub-Saharan Africa; OML 29 in 2015, and subsequent upsurge in production from 23,000bpd to 90,000bpd within three years. Aiteo also operates what is perhaps the largest crude evacuation facility in the region; the Nembe Creek Trunk Line (NCTL), which extends from Nembe in Bayelsa state to Bonny, the evacuation terminus in Rivers State.).
Today, The Aiteo group continues to expand rapidly, extending its operations to different countries across Africa and beyond with emerging international presence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Zambia, Zimbabwe as well as offices in Geneva and Paris. The company has also diversified from oil and gas into mining, power generation and renewable energy.
Benedict Peters’ response to a protracted attack on his reputation, stimulated by speculative allegations at the onset of the current Nigerian regime indicate a dogged and optimistic attitude. Over the course of two years, he won a series of court cases that culminated in the court declaring his earnings legitimate and the EFCC expunging his name from a ‘wanted’ list. That Benedict Peters achieved most of his success at a time of great travail is a testament to his optimism. The Editor, Emerging Markets for Forbes, Paul H. Trustfull calls Peters’ ascendancy in Africa’s Oil and Gas sector, exemplary as well as revolutionary.
The media-shy and unassuming Benedict Peters has also been an active Philanthropist. In 2014, he founded the Joseph Agro Foundation, to contribute over $150 million in rice production, thereby addressing social and environmental issues in the agricultural sector of Nigeria. Peters has assisted thousands of internally displaced persons in northern Nigeria while supporting clean water sanitation initiatives all across the African continent, in partnership with Face Africa. His initiatives are said to be improving the lives of over 25,000 people in rural Liberia.
Whenever Benedict Peters talks about youth empowerment in Africa, it is always with passion and optimism. His desire to empower African youths has stimulated a phenomenal adventure into football. Under his leadership, Aiteo became the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) optimum partner after a much-needed injection of funds. Aiteo also sponsors the CAF Awards, the local FA Cup (Nigeria’s oldest tournament now renamed Aiteo Cup), and a football team in its host community.
Benedict Peters has been a recipient of several recognitions and awards. Early this year, he was listed as one of the ‘50 Most Influential Nigerians in 2017’ by BusinessDay. In recognition of his contributions to the world of business, 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. In August 2018, he was recognised as the ‘Oil and Gas Man of the Year’ at the Guardian Oil and Gas award.
Okunade is a Lagos-based social commentator