BY Abu Mubarik, 6:00am July 10, 2024,

Meet Shafi Edu, one of Africa’s richest men you’ve probably never heard of

Shafi Edu. Photo via Facebook/Epe Division focus

Shafi Edu is a Nigerian multi-millionaire businessman and pathfinder. Edu, from a small town straddling Ikenne and Odogbolu in Ogun State, Nigeria, rose to prominence as one of Nigeria’s foremost entrepreneurs.

He started his journey in the world of entrepreneurship as a ship chandelier, food contractor, and timber trader. After weathering many storms, he expanded his business interests into areas like transportation, and he came to be behind Slee Transport Limited, specializing in oil haulage and petroleum product transportation.

His Slee Transport Limited became a major contractor for British Petroleum from the 1950s to the end of the First Republic. His business prowess would catch the attention of Time Magazine as one of the richest men in Nigeria, with several businesses under his name. 

In 1965, the magazine described him as “Chief Shafi Lawal Edu, 54, who is president of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce, has built a fleet of eight oil tankers. He owns a silver-blue Rolls-Royce but usually drives around in a Mercedes. He thinks it is less ostentatious.”

His involvement in the oil industry extended beyond mere oil haulage and petroleum product marketing. He established Niger Petroleum Company, which later had a working relationship with Diminex, according to his biography by Siyan Oyeweso. He also came to have shares in big companies like Bata, Alumaco, Wiggins Teape, BP (formerly British Petroleum), Lever Brothers, and Nigerian Breweries.

He co-founded the country’s first indigenous insurance company with Talabi Braithwaite and was the first president of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and the Lagos Rotary Club.

Edu retired from business life in 1981 at the age of 70 but remained active till his death in 2002. Until his demise, he served on the boards of Blackwood Hodge Nigeria, Haden Nigeria, Glaxo Nigeria, and the Federal Industrial Loans from 1954 to 1959. 

Prior to starting his own business, he resigned from Holland West African Line and got inspiration from business moguls like Oga Josiah Henryson Doherty, the “Prince Merchant of Alakoro Fame,”  W. A. Dawodu of Olowogbowo, Chief Timothy Adeola Odutola, Alhaji Sule Oyeshola Gbadamosi, Sir Mobolaji Bank-Anthony, and Alhaji Issa Williams, to be an entrepreneur.

Edu did improve on his formal education but his passion was in buying and selling and he engaged in that while his peers were acquiring degrees or getting into politics.

In his political life in later years, Edu was elected into the old Western Region’s House of Assembly in 1951 and was later nominated to represent Epe at the Federal House of Representatives.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: July 10, 2024

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