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Biggest Givers: Nigeria’s Leading Philanthropists



The art of giving to impact lives has evolved over the years, and the benefits of philanthropy to the socio-economic development of countries, especially developing nations, cannot be overemphasised. Even in developed countries, philanthropy contributes in no small measure to the betterment of the society. In this report, BUKOLA IDOWU, OLUSHOLA BELLO and LAWRENCE WILLIAM-WEST, write on philanthropy in Nigeria and the major players in the game.

Philanthropy is regarded as any goodwill to fellow human beings, especially efforts towards promoting their welfare. It could take several forms, including giving money, time, expertise, skills and assets.

Philanthropy or charitable giving is currently at an exciting stage of development in Nigeria. Over the past few years, there has been an increase in institutional philanthropy and the field now consists of private, corporate, family and public foundations all working with the lowliest of our society. The founders of these foundations are well-meaning Nigerians including the following.


Aliko Dangote

With a fully integrated conglomerate that has operations in 15 African countries, Africa’s richest man and the world’s richest Blackman, Aliko Dangote, through his foundation, Aliko Dangote Foundation, addresses the suffering of the people of Nigeria, Africa and the world at large.

From record, in the last few years, the generous philanthropist has spent an estimated $6 billion in rehabilitating universities in Nigeria and equipping them with modern facilities as part of his commitment to funding the educational sector. He has also donated $18.2 million to cushion residents in Nigeria from the effects of unprecedented flooding and to help them start anew.

Outside of Nigeria, he has also extended his charitable contributions to countries like the Republic of Congo, where he donated $500,000 to victims of a fuel tanker explosion that killed over 220 people in 2012. He has also given $740,500 to help the people of Niger Republic deal with the effects of famine while contributing $2 million to the flood victims in Pakistan.

Dangote’s wish is for people to remember him not as the richest man in African but the most philanthropic, and he is working towards that, one act of kindness at a time.


Tony Elumelu

Nigerian economist, Tony Elumelu, is a serial entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is the chairman of Heirs Holdings, the United Bank for Africa, Transcorp and founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation.

The Foundation, the largest in Africa, targets building economies through empowering entrepreneurs. Founded in 2010, the foundation has empowered no fewer than 7,520 entrepreneurs with more than $25 million. Elumelu’s foundation is based on his belief that, with the right support, entrepreneurs can be empowered to contribute meaningfully to Africa’s prosperity and social development.

It not only provides funding but also mentorship and a marketplace for budding entrepreneurs across the African continent. The Foundation is intent on charting a new course for African philanthropy and does not operate merely as a grant-awarding organisation. It is a pioneer member of the Global Impact Investment Rating System (GIIRS).


Theophilus Danjuma

Theophilus Danjuma, also known as TY Danjuma, is a retired Nigerian soldier, a high-profile businessman and philanthropist. He is the chairman of South Atlantic Petroleum (SAPETRO), May and Baker and ntel.

His TY Danjuma Foundation was established in 2009 and the next year, in 2010, the foundation became fully operational and has continued to make grants ever since.

The TY Danjuma Foundation is an independent private Nigerian philanthropic organisation committed to improving the quality of life for disadvantaged Nigerians by supporting primarily health care and education interventions implemented by Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Community Based Organisations (CBOs), faith-based organisations (FBOs), youth organisations, women groups and similar groups working in Nigeria.

The foundation has given out several millions of dollars to its varied causes.


Mohammed Indimi

Mohammed Indimi is a Nigerian oil mogul who founded Oriental Energy Resources Limited, a private oil exploration and production company, in 1990.

His charity foundation, Mohammed Indimi Foundation (MIF), is focused on lifting individuals and families in the northern part of the country out of poverty, illiteracy and health challenges. More importantly, his foundation also brings succour to those who have been displaced and their lives shattered by environmental havocs by providing shelter for them.

The foundation empowers and supports people affected by boko haram crises in the northern part of Nigeria. It has built a 100-unit housing estate, provides food, clothing, and health care, etc., at an estimated cost of N600 million in Ngala local government area, a community that faced devastating attack by insurgents in Borno State.

The impact of Indimi’s foundation also extends to the southern part of the country where an estimated N700 million was spent to build 100 units of housing estate.


Folorunsho Alakija

Featured as one of Africa’s richest women and the richest black woman in the world, Folorunsho Alakija is a billionaire businesswoman who is into fashion, oil, real estate and printing industries. She is the group managing director of The Rose of Sharon Group which consists of The Rose of Sharon Prints & Promotions Ltd, Digital Reality Prints Ltd and the executive vice-chairman of Famfa Oil Ltd. She also has a majority stake in DaySpring Property Development Company.

Her foundation, The Rose of Sharon Foundation, seeks to guarantee financial independence and educational opportunities for widows and orphans through schemes and programmes that assure greater self-esteem and ease of socio-economic integration.

The foundation is focused on working to alleviate the plight of the world’s most vulnerable people- widows and orphans – by giving a zero per cent interest loan to widows to start up business. Through her foundation, she has directly impacted the lives of more than 4,262 widows and indirectly 10,000 immediate family members in Lagos, Ogun and other parts of the country.

Asides the zero per cent interest loans her foundation grants widows, they also offer mentorship and educational programmes to widows and orphans.


 Kanu Nwankwo

Former Super Eagles player, Kanu Nwankwo, is Nigeria’s football sweetheart who won the hearts of many as the captain of the Nigerian team that brought home the Gold  medal at the 1996 Olympics, Nigeria’s  biggest achievement in football so far . However, soon after returning from the Olympics, Kanu underwent a medical examination which revealed a serious heart defect; he underwent surgery in November 1996 to replace an aortic valve.

His experience led to his founding the Kanu Heart Foundation (KHF), a non-governmental organisation that helps predominantly young African children who suffer heart defects. The foundation’s work was expanded to provide aid for homeless children in 2008.

The KHF helps indigent Nigerian children with cardiac diseases to obtain life-saving surgeries within and outside Nigeria.

Since its launch in 2000 and in pursuit of its vision, KHF has successfully helped 538 children of varying ages get open heart surgeries in hospitals across the world. According to the coordinator of KHF, Pastor Onyebuchi Abia, the Foundation has spent about $4.2 million, an average of $10,000 per person, for surgeries outside Nigeria.


Jim Ovia

Nigerian businessman, Jim Ovia, is not just a philanthropist but also a motivational speaker and writer. He is the chairman and pioneer CEO of Zenith Bank Plc, Nigeria’s largest and Africa’s sixth largest bank by shareholders’ funds. He is a versatile businessman who is not just making waves in one sector of the economy.

Ovia recognised the role sound education played in his life’s success which is why he established Jim Ovia Foundation in 1998, a non-profit organisation in Nigeria. The aim of Jim Ovia Foundation is to invest in the Nigerian youth’s unlimited and untapped potential as the key to socio-economic growth. He believes that investing in the youths will enhance the standard of living of the society and improve the Nigerian economy.

Jim Ovia Foundation has four arms: The James Hope College, Jim Ovia Scholarship, Jim Ovia ICT Entrepreneurs Programme and Empower Youth Programme. All four arms have helped with providing over 1,500 students with university scholarships and another more than 3,500 empowered since 2002. Also, over 500 entrepreneurs have been empowered with ICT skills.


Oba Otudeko

Oba Otudeko is an accomplished entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist who has contributed immensely to Nigeria’s economy. He is an astute investor whose investment cuts across different sectors of the economy.

Founder and chairman of the Honeywell Group, Otudeko also serves as chair of FBN Holdings and founder of the Oba Otudeko Foundation (OOF).

The OOF, which was inaugurated in 2003, is a private, independent, not-for-profit institution that has four focus areas: Education, Health, Environment and Public Enlightenment. The OOF also provides grants and material donations to other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and worthy social causes.

The Foundation is convinced that the continuing chronic shortage of human and institutional capacity presents a major constraint to economic growth, poverty reduction and sustainable development in Nigeria and other sub-Sahara African countries.

With the central goal of building a heritage of responsibility in the African continent in addressing development challenges beyond the dream of its founder, the Oba Otudeko Foundation is committed to programmes aimed at ensuring that Nigeria keeps pace with the technologies and competencies that will define the 21st Century and beyond through people empowerment, capacity and building of institutions.


 Sir Emeka Offor

The chairman of the Chrome Group, Sir Emeka Offor, controls a leading conglomerate that offers vast experience in oil and gas services, power, logistics and telecommunications. A dynamic and hard-charging entrepreneur, he exhibits the strength of character, vision and dedication required to be successful in an often challenging and demanding environment.

The success of Chrome Group has allowed Offor to give back to his community and country with The Sir Emeka Offor Foundation (SEOF) which was established in the mid-1990’s as a charitable, non-governmental organisation dedicated to helping people in need become independent and self-sufficient.

SEOF seeks to alleviate the suffering of the less privileged in society and is committed to providing support in the areas of human capacity development, skills acquisition and the establishment of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and cooperative societies

The foundation’s projects are varied, but tied together by a single vision – to help people help themselves. The Foundation is striving to become a model for development efforts in Nigeria and beyond.


Otunba Subomi Balogun

Otunba Subomi Balogun, a consummate banker, entrepreneur and philanthropist, is the founder of First City Monument Bank (FCMB) as well as the Otunba Tunwase Foundation, a philanthropic organisation that undertakes all his philanthropic endeavours and services to humanity.

The foundation is a referral institution for healthcare and general welfare of the Nigerian child. Balogun’s foundation invests in specialised studies and academic researches into all manner of diseases and ailments affecting children.

The foundation also commissions research fellowship endowments in several universities and colleges of technology in Nigeria. Some of the beneficiaries of the endowment fund from the foundation include University of Lagos, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Yaba College of Technology and Africa Leadership Forum.

His philanthropic work also extends to the University Teaching Hospital, Ibadan, where it undertook the maintenance and upkeep of the children’s emergency unit. At Ijebu-Ode General Hospital, the foundation built and equipped a 40-bed childcare centre.


Femi Otedola

Nigerian businessman and philanthropist, Femi Otedola, is also the former chairman of Forte Oil PLC, an importer of fuel products. Otedola is the founder of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd, and the owner of a number of other businesses across shipping, real estate and finance. He has recently invested in power generation as part of the liberalisation of the sector in Nigeria.

Otedola has made several donations to the Michael Otedola University Scholarship Scheme, which was established in 1985 to give underprivileged students in Lagos State access to higher education. In 2005 Zenon donated N200 million to the scheme’s fund. Since its inception the scheme has benefited more than 1,000 students.

In 2005, Otedola made a N300 million personal donation to the completion of the National Ecumenical Centre—Nigeria’s primary place of Christian worship—in Abuja. In 2007 he was among a group of donors who gave N200 million to the State Security Trust Fund in a drive to reduce crime in Lagos State. Later that year he donated N100 million to the Otedola College of Primary Education in Noforija, Epe. In 2008 he donated N80 million to the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Port Harcourt.

Recently, he picked up the medical bills of two prominent Nigerians – Soccer coach Christian Chukwu and actor Sadiq Daba.


Rochas Okorocha

Okorocha is a Nigerian multi billionaire businessman, education philanthropist and politician of Igbo extraction from Imo State. Okorocha is a former governor and the senator representing Imo West Senatorial district at the ninth Nigerian Senate.

He is the founder of Rochas Foundation, a charity comprising a number of special schools that are spread all over Nigeria that gives scholarship to the less privileged children in the Nigerian society.