BENEDICT PETERS: A TRUE NIGERIAN EXPORT

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Jackson Ugbechie pays tribute to Peters, an entrepreneur with a difference

In a season when some Nigerians are being demonised across the world as agents of crime and criminalities, we cannot but raise our glasses to salute the likes of Adewale Adeyemo, Joe Biden appointee as Deputy Treasury Secretary; Dr. Onyema Ogbuagu, the Nigerian-American medic who was one of the brains behind the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. Or Benedict Peters, a Nigerian entrepreneur making waves in Africa and across the world as one who has built an enterprise from the scratch to a billion-dollar multinational.

Remember Kehinde Wiley? He’s a portrait painter of Black people who masterfully painted his way to the White House. He was commissioned in 2017 to paint a portrait of former President Barack Obama for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery which showcases portraits of all the US presidents. Wiley is the first black artist to paint official portraits of any US president for the National Portrait Gallery.

The list is long. But we must say hello to Dr. Olurotimi John Badero who earned his medical degree from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State before relocating to the United States where he became a specialist and interventional cardiologist, nephrologist and cardio-nephrologist, ranking as the world’s first and only fully trained cardio-nephrologist. There are many more Nigerians doing exploits across the globe but the name Benedict Peters strikes a resonance with what portends the greatness of Nigeria. While others excelled as Nigerians in the White man’s land, Peters is excelling at home and successfully exporting his magical entrepreneurship skills from Nigeria to the rest of the world. He answers the question: can anything good come out of Nigeria?

Yes, many good things have come out of Nigeria, wafting across several seas and mountains to add impactful fragrance to a world in need of heroes. Peters is one of them. He represents a true Nigerian export. He symbolises the Nigerian spirit of derring-do, chutzpah and unvarnished excellence.

Last month, his company, Bravura Holdings Ltd., made history when it successfully entered into the competitive, capital-intensive and technology-driven platinum mining marketplace of Zimbabwe. To make good this feat, it shelled out the sum of $1 billion to engage in an industry once dominated by expatriates from Europe, the Americas and Asia. The beauty of this venture is that Peters, being a genuine pan-Africanist, would be fair to Zimbabweans and other Africans who would be directly or indirectly linked to his enterprise.

Peters would be stamping his big foot on a swathe measuring about 3,000 hectares (7,413-acre) of land in the Selous area, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Zimbabwe’s capital Harare where it plans to dig the mine. Reports said his choice of operational base is close to existing platinum mines.

Having already won the concession, a lot of activities are projected to happen in the next 18 months, explains Lionel Mhlanga, Bravura’s manager in Zimbabwe.

“From where we are now, we will go to resource definition, after that we will go to resource modeling, after mine development and then mine construction. Those are all things that should happen in the next 18 months,” an obviously elated Mhlanga told the media during a tour of the site last month.

The United States Geological Survey lists Zimbabwe as the third largest producer of platinum, only next to Russia and South Africa.

Currently, the Russian-Zimbabwean platinum venture, Great Dyke Investments (GDI), a joint venture (50% parity owned by Russia’s Vi Holding and Zimbabwean investors) is reputedly the biggest platinum mining project in the country with a $2 billion investment outlay. But the Bravura Holding venture represents the new African push for continental integration both in trade and production.

In Nigeria where Peters’ Aiteo Eastern E & P Company is the biggest domestic oil producer, the billionaire oil and gas magnate has demonstrably deployed his wealth to foster development, engender socio-economic growth and improve the nation’s human development index. From philanthropy to community development and sports sponsorship, Peters’ Aiteo has endeared itself to the hearts of the Nigerian people. Since 2017, when it took over the sponsorship of Nigeria’s longest surviving club football league – The Challenge Cup – now aptly called Aiteo Cup, life has returned to the colourful multi-tier football fiesta, postponed this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is a pointer to the good times that await Zimbabweans with the admission of Bravura Holding into the exclusive club of platinum and other minerals miners in the country, a club dominated by Russian and Cypriot companies. Media reports say Bravura is already looking beyond platinum. Zimbabwe is endowed with treasures in her sub-soil and Peters’ company intends to explore mining lithium, rare earth minerals and tin in Zimbabwe.

Beyond that, it’s also seeking to mine cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo, copper in Zambia, gold in Ghana and iron ore in Guinea, with eyes on exploring mining opportunities in Namibia and Botswana. Quite a handful! It’s a case of Africa taking back Africa.

For far too long, Africa has left her richly endowed earth at the mercy of the western world. Nigeria has rich reserves of oil and gas which she yielded to western merchants and exploiters. It was not until Nigeria switched to the next gear in the promotion of local content in the sector that she started the journey of maximizing the benefits of having huge reserves of crude oil and gas. Though, so much still remains to be done in the aspect of processing and minding the entire value chain, but the entry of the likes of Aiteo into Exploration and Production (E&P) has kindled hope that someday the owners of the resources would effectively process their resources and have full value of them.

Having made a success of his presence in the Nigerian oil and gas sector, Peters’ foray into Zimbabwe mining sector and plausibly into the mining sectors of other African nations is a priceless public relations stunt for Nigeria. It’s a salute to the industry and illustriousness of Nigerians. When some sections of the global community rise to tar us in evil and despicable coatings, we trot out the likes of Peters and others who by dint of hard work, academic excellence and entrepreneurial acuity have put Nigeria and Nigerians on the global map of achievers, outliers and role models.

Ugbechie wrote from Abuja