By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA
When the young and ambitious Benedict Peters’ graduated from the University of Benin in 1989 with a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc) Hons degree in Geography and Town Planning, he had no inkling that he would in some years to come bestrode the oil and gas stage like a colossus.
He could be forgiven for being a realist with his dreams. Born in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State into a middle class family of a banker father and a homemaker mother from Onicha Oloma in Delta State, Peters had aspired to rise to the top of his chosen career as an oil and gas technocrat.
In a bold move to actualise his dreams, Peters ventured into the oil and gas industry in the early 1990s where he built a fulfilling career, by joining forces with the trio of Wale Tinubu, Mofe Boyo and Onajite Okoloko, the brains behind Ocean and Oil, which later transformed into Oando Nigeria Plc.
After a successful stint with Oando Plc, which he helped transformed into a big player in the lucrative oil and gas sector, the tireless Peters needed a new challenge. He moved over to MRS Oil Nigeria PLC as Group Executive Director (GED). He later rose to the enviable position managing director, thereby fulfilling a lifetime ambition.
However, despite his seeming successes and achievements, the young Peters was, still not contented.
In a daring move seen by many of his peers in the industry as foolishness and thoughtlessness, he abandoned the safety of a secured job as the chief executive officer of a major player in the oil industry in 1999 for the muddy and untested waters of personal business with the floating of his own company, Sigmund Communecci.
The company started as a trader of petroleum products in the downstream sector by building and operating a storage terminal in Abonnema Wharf in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Not satisfied with being a fringe player in the downstream oil sector, Peters secured a credit line of N250million for Sigmund Communecci in October 2020 from the now defunct City Express Bank with a 365-day repayment window.
To the surprise of most pessimists, the loan over-performed, prompting the bank to approve another facility of N500million in May 2002 and another N350million in June of the same year. He became the toast of many top banks executives who offered to do business with his company.
With the availability of funds, Peters saw the need to enlarge his coast. He took a big gamble by restructuring Sigmund Communecci and transforming it to Aiteo in 2008.
Thirteen years later, the rebranded company has metamorphosed into a behemoth and is currently involved in oil exploration and production; bulk petroleum storage; refining of petroleum products; LPG bulk storage retail distribution; trading, marketing and supply of petroleum products as well as power generation and distribution.
The company owns one of the largest petroleum tank farms in Nigeria with facilities in excess of over 210 million litres on over 100,000 square meters of landmass in Lagos. A new jetty was also constructed at the Apapa terminal to accommodating vessels of up to 30,000 metric tons.
Another 110 million litres housing refined petroleum products is located in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Aiteo gas subsidiary is participating in gas gathering and processing facilities, LPG production, storage and distribution, pipeline infrastructural network development and NGL (natural gas liquids) processing, transportation and logistics (including compressed natural gas solutions).
Peters and Aiteo’s major break came in 2014 when Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) divested some of its onshore assets it considered at risk in the Niger Delta.
The Peters-led Aiteo raised the single largest debt-financing in the Nigerian oil and gas sector from local banks to purchase a controlling stake of 45% of OML 29 and the Nembe Creek Trunk Line, one of Nigeria’s major crude oil transportation channel used to convey oil produced from the Niger Delta to the Atlantic coast for export.
The trunk pipeline also serves as vessel available for hire by other oil exploration and production companies to convey their crude oil to the export terminal for onward transfer to the international markets.
According to available data, the 983-square-kilometre OML 29 is a large block located in the Niger Delta. It contains 11 oil and gas fields. The group major fields also extend to Nembe (Flowstation), Santa Barbara, Ogoroba, Oloibiri and Nembe Creek Truckline.
They all contribute over 5% of Nigeria’s daily oil and gas production. The oil giant is also building a 100,000 barrel Greenfield refinery in Warri, Delta State. Aiteo has moved beyond oil and gas with massive investments in mining, agriculture, infrastructure development, electricity generation and distribution, with a fast-developing retail distribution network.
Aiteo’s electricity division successfully bided for three power generating companies, Alaoji in Abia State 1,074MW, Benin (Ihovbor) Generation Company in Edo State 451MW and Calabar Generation Company in Rivers State 561MW. The three power plants three have a combined capacity of 2092 megawatts.
Aiteo bids of $902 million, $625 and $580 for the Alaoji, Benin (Ihovbor) and Calabar Generation Company respectively were announced as successful by the bidding committee. The company also emerged the reserved bidder for the Omotosho (Obdo), Omoku (Rivers) and Egbema (Imo) Generation Companies.
Peters has also diversified, through his Bravura Holdings Company, into the development of a mine in Zimbabwe by investing with the investment of $1billion in a 3,000 hectare (7,413-acre) mine where he plans to dig for platinum. Apart from platinum, the Aiteo boss also intends to mine lithium, rare earth minerals and tin in the country.
Almost twenty-two years after Peters launched his own company, Aiteo Group has grown to be a major player in the country’s oil and gas and power industry. According to Forbes, the conglomerate has a turnover of over $20billion annually.
He is today a successful businessman who is admired and respected at home and abroad. His focus and determination helped him to chase and maximise the opportunities that presented themselves where others dared to thread.