Just who is Kase Lawal?

Kase Lawal is the son of a Nigerian politician and textile trader, who sent his child to study in the United States in 1972, where the youngster obtained a bachelor’s degree in chemistry.

Lawal got started in business in 1985, exporting tobacco to cigarette factories in Cameroon and founding his 100% family-owned Camac Group in 1986.

Lawal’s break into oil came in 1989 when he met the powerful Nigerian oil baron Rilwanu Lukman, currently special adviser on the oil industry to Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo.

Through his Nigerian contacts, Lawal, who holds joint US-Nigerian citizenship, secured exploration rights which he then exploited in partnership with US oil giant Conoco.

But Lawal really arrived in 2002, when Camac topped the revenue stakes for black-owned US businesses with a turnover for 2001 of almost US$1-billion and he featured prominently in business magazines.

It now appears that Camac’s spectacular growth in turnover from 1999 to 2001 may have been built on the Nigerian oil deal concluded courtesy of the South African Oil Company and with the assistance of the South African government.

The deal was Camac’s first serious outing as an oil trader, so it won the contract without having a track record in this regard.

Camac had revenues (turnover) of $114-million in 1999.
By 2000 that had shot up to $571-million, and for 2001 it reached just short of a billion dollars.

The increase in turnover roughly matches the dollar value of the Cayman-registered South African Oil Company’s Nigerian contract: the 55 000 barrels per day in 2000 and 120 000 per day in 2001.

According to an article in Forbes magazine, Lawal got his introduction to South Africa in 1996 when he was invited by the Clinton administration to be part of the US-SA Binational Commission.

In that year he also established Camac South Africa, a wholly owned subsidiary of his Houston-based group. In 1997 Lawal also established Allied Energy Investment in South Africa, which was initially linked to powerful establishment figures.

The initial CEO, and a significant shareholder, was Dr Vincent Msibi, part of Thabo Mbeki’s informal kitchen cabinet. Msibi resigned in August 1999. He has declined to elaborate on his reasons for leaving.

Others who served short periods at Allied included former Women’s Development Bank director Daphne Motsepe and Post Office chair Max Maisela, a man with close ties to the ANC treasury.

The longest-serving South African director is prominent Eastern Cape businessman Hintsa Siwisa, brother-in-law to Eastern Cape Premier Makhenkesi Stofile. Nomusa Mufamadi, wife of Cabinet minister Sydney Mufamadi, joined the company in 2000.

In March 1999, the first directors of the South African Oil Company (the local, not Cayman Islands-registered, entity) were appointed.

Directors were initially Lawal’s Nigerian point-man in South Africa Tunde Fahm and Brian Casey, a confidant of former minerals and energy minister Penuell Maduna.

Later, after Casey and Lawal apparently fell out, Siwisa, Mufamadi and the ANC treasury’s “Mr 15%”, Zwelibanzi “Miles” Nzama, also joined the board of the South African Oil Company.

Lawal is said to have lobbied to bid for a stake in the state-owned oil entities now under the PetroSA umbrella. He has also tried to float a project to relocate and upgrade an old US refinery to the Eastern Cape.

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