Bloomberg, a financial data outfit, has said Lt.Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (retd.), a former Minister of Defence, owns not less than 30 luxury properties across the world and worth about $1.2 billion (N432 billion).
Danjuma, whose worth was, until now, secret, was mentioned in the Panama Papers in 2017. He was among Nigerians said to own private foreign accounts with Swiss bank, HSBC, while in public office.
In 2006, Danjuma’s South Atlantic Petroleum Ltd. sold almost half its contractor rights for a section off Nigeria’s coast to a state-backed Chinese firm for $1.8 billion.
The ex-minister was awarded the block in 1998 by the regime of former dictator and fellow army officer Sani Abacha, making him one of a handful of Nigerians made extraordinarily wealthy from the country’s energy reserves.
He was said to have recently acquired the ‘Kings Arms Hotel’, a 300-year-old inn next to London’s Hampton Court Palace, once the home of King Henry VIII. It is set to open soon after refurbishment, with rooms costing about 250 pounds ($318) a night.
Hannatu Gentles, Danjuma’s second daughter, confirmed that the property was bought for £2.4 million. She added that redevelopment was expected to end in March.
The Danjumas have developed residential properties this year in Esher and Wimbledon. They also own a boutique hotel in Lagos, serving beef carpaccio and lobster bisque in one of three dining areas and displaying works from the family’s art firm.
Danjuma was born in 1938, the year Royal Dutch Shell received its first oil exploration license for the country and more than two decades before it gained independence from Britain.
He dropped out of college in 1960 to join the army, according to “Nigerian Politics in the Age of Yar’Adua” by Bayode Ogunmupe. He gained prominence after participating in the 1966 counter-coup against Nigeria’s first military dictator.
Danjuma, also a former Chief of Army Staff, left the military in 1979 and founded his oil firm and a shipping company, NAL-Comet, which now has more than 2,000 employees.
He paid $25 million in 1998 for the oil field exploration license that made him a billionaire. A year later, he became Nigeria’s defence minister as the country returned to democracy.
He originally teamed up with Total SA and Brazil’s Petroleo Brasileiro SA on the block. The minority stake that Danjuma’s company now owns is worth $450 million, according to Bloomberg’s wealth index.