How Atiku Abubakar made his money

Born to a father who wanted him to either become an Islamic scholar or a herdsman, takes a look at how Atiku Abubakar, one of Nigeria most renowned entrepreneur and politician made his money.

One thing that is still common in Africa is parents trying to impose career choice and direction in life on their children. Famous politician and entrepreneur Atiku Abubakar was by all indication almost a victim of this circumstance.

Atiku Abubakar was born on November 25, 1946 in Jada, Adamawa State of Nigeria as an only child of his father, who was an only child of his grandfather, He admits that he grew up in an atmosphere of love.

“As a young boy growing up in Kojoli, my parents doted on me. They tried their best to provide for me and to ensure that I grew up in a wholesome environment of love and spirituality. My father saw me as a rare gift, a child of destiny.”

His grandfather was a farmer and also kept livestock. His father was a trader who moves from place to place on his donkey selling jewelry, caps, needles, potash, kola nut and others.

Not much has been said of his mother but Atiku Abubakar had this to say:

“When it was time for him to marry, my father chose a young girl from nearby Jada town whose parents had migrated from Dutse, now the capital of Jigawa State. My mother, Aisha Kande, was born in Jada”

The power struggle started early in life as his father never wanted him to go to school. According to Atiku Abubakar, his father was suspicious of Western Education and would not support his going to school. But he kept fighting until his father realized he could no longer stop him.

“My father, Garba Atiku Abdulkadir, was fond of me. He wanted me to become an Islamic scholar, herdsman, farmer and trader – just like him. He was a deeply religious man who was suspicious of Western education which he believed could corrupt the impressionable minds of young people.

“My father did not want me to go to school. He tried to hide me from the prying eyes of Native Authority officials who had embarked on compulsory mass literacy campaign in the region. My father soon discovered that he could not resist the wind of change that was blowing through the area at the time.”

His father change of mind did not come easily. He was arrested for trying to stop Atiku from getting educated.

“For trying to stop me from going to school, my father was arrested, charged to an Alkali court and fined 10 Shillings, He refused to pay the fine. He said he had no money.

“He spent a few days in jail until my maternal grandmother, who made local soap for sale in the community, raised the money to pay the fine and father was released to her.

“But my father was not a happy man. He was sad and angry that his only child had been taken away from him to be exposed to a strange world. He saw Western education as a threat to their cherished values and way of life.”

The promising future of a young Atiku Abubakar went bad after he lost his father. He became responsible for his mother. This motivated him to become successful and excel in life.

“I resolved to work hard, remain focused and be successful in life to make my father proud, I was sure that he was somewhere watching over me. I did not want to disappoint him, I wish father had lived long enough to see the benefits of Western education in my life.”

His First Money

At age 15, Atiku Abubakar will spend his holidays working to raise money for his needs and his mother.

He found a job as a clerk at local Authourity and his boss happened to be the famous Adamu Ciroma.

It appears Atiku developed his money management skills early as he was able to save money from his holiday job to buy a house for his mother at such a young age.

“From my holiday job earnings, I bought a house for my mother in Ganye, the headquarters of the local government council. The thatched mud bungalow had two rooms plus a kitchen and bathroom. It cost me about nine Pounds Sterling. My mother was very happy and proud of me. I had saved her from homelessness after her older brother sold the family house in Jada without her knowledge.”


While studying for Diploma in Law programme in June 1969, he stumbled on recruiters from the Federal Civil Service Commission in the university. They got to access his file and that is how they got to know him and he ended up working for the Department of Customs and Excise.

In his words, he credited his recruitment into the customs as the work of an invincible hand steering him towards his destiny. “The invisible hand that has always shaped my life had once again steered me towards my destiny.” he said.

His initial duty included collecting duties on imported and exported goods, stop- ping the entry and exit of banned items, and arresting and prosecuting smugglers at Idi Iroko border station.

From there he served in  Ikeja Airport, Apapa port and Ibadan where he became a Superintendent of Customs.

He admitted being a big fan of former head of state, General Murtala Muhammed, during his time at the customs and was sad when he was assassinated

“I admired General Muhammed and tried to promote the same values and attitudinal change in our office. I was nick-named “Murtala Muhammed Junior” by my Customs subordinates in Ibadan because they said I was behaving like him. Although I was second-in-command in Ibadan, I used to order late-comers to be locked out of their offices.”

Atiku would go on the Excel in Customs.

Reflecting on his time at the Customs, he said:

“I saw Customs not as a punitive institution but as a way of making money for government. Instead of seizing goods and extorting money from their owners, I made money for  government. A lot of people tried unsuccessfully to induce me”

Business and entrepreneurship

Atiku Abubakar said he discovered very early in life that he had a thing for business. So he applied for a housing loan of about N31,000 in 1974. With it he built his first house and rented it all out.

“In 1974 I applied for and obtained a Federal Staff Housing Loan. The loan, which amounted to 31,000 Naira, was the equivalent of my salary for five years. I was granted a plot of land by the Gongola State Government at Yola Government Reserved Area (GRA).

“I hired a foreman and began building my first house. With close personal supervision, the bungalow was completed on time and to my taste. I rented it out immediately. The rent I collected in advance on the house was substantial enough for me to purchase a second plot.”

With the rent from the house, he built his second house and from there he kept on building houses and renting them out.

“I built my second house there and rented it out. I continued to plow back the rent into the building of new houses and within a few years I had built eight houses in choice areas of Yola, I also built a new house for my mother and rebuilt the old mud house I bought for her in Ganye when I was a 15-year-old student.

“Property investment can be very rewarding. It is safe and the returns are high de- pending on the location. Kaduna, for instance, was a good place to invest in property before the emergence of Abuja. I built my first house in Kaduna with rent from other property. I bought six more plots and built residential houses and rented them out to individuals and institutions.”


In his own words, his most successful venture has been in the oil sector. While working for the customs at Apapa ports, he met an Italian who they got talking and decided to go into oil business. That is how NICOTES was formed which is today known as INTELS, one of Nigeria’s biggest business.

“Of all the businesses into which I would venture, the most successful and the most lucrative would be a small oil services company I established with an Italian business man in the early 1980s. I met Gabriel Volpi when he was working at Apapa Ports in 1982. The Genoa, Italy-born Volpi was a director in MED Africa, a shipping company.

“Volpi suggested we go into oil and gas logistics. He knew Nigeria’s future was in oil and gas. We registered the Nigeria Container Services (NICOTES), operating from a container office at Apapa Ports. I was not involved in the running of the company.

“NICOTES relocated later to the Federal Lighter Terminal in Port Harcourt when the business began to grow.  The company, now known as INTELS (Integrated and Logistics Services), has grown into a multi-billion Naira business providing over 15,000 jobs in Nigeria and other African countries, and paying hefty dividends to its shareholders.”

His major businesses today

Atiku Abubakar wealth span from oil, agriculture, education and others

Currently, Atiku Abubakar  has 4 major businesses that he is directly involved in. These businesses have made him a mutli billionaire and one of the richest men in Nigeria.

The businesses include:

1. INTELS (founded as NICOTES )

Founded in 1989, Intels Nigeria Limited provides integrated logistics services for the Nigerian oil and gas industry.

The services offered by the company include but not limited to: cargo services; port management and support services in shore bases; and manages client operations including pipe racks, stacking areas, warehousing, enclosed areas, jetties, offices, water tanks, fuel storage, generators, compressor and others.

This company is said to employ over 15, 000 people currently.

2. Farm

He has a farm which he makes profit from.  He said his first venture into farming failed but he has since reinvented himself into farming. The first venture was when he aquired 2,500 hectares of land in Adamawa to start maize and cotton farm.

3. Prodeco

Prodeco another venture of Atiku Abubakar has two main divisions: Prodeco Property Development Company and Prodeco International.

The company is focused on buildings, marine, and infrastructural construction with a focus on the oil and gas industry.

4. ABTI schools

This is focused towards the education sector. The biggest brand being the American University of Nigeria (AUN) located in Yola, Adamawa State of Nigeria.

Other ventures

Atiku Abubakar ‏ is also a successful Nigerian politician having been Governor, Vice president and served in other capacities.

It is public knowledge that Atiku Abubakar assets are numerous but there is currently no way to pin the exact Atiku Abubakar net worth for many reasons.

He once describe himself as the highest employer of labour in Nigeria.

“As an individual, I believe my record in employing young Nigerians is unrivalled by any single private investor in Nigeria,” He wrote on twitter using the hash tag #LetsTalkJobs.

He has mansions, private jet and other properties.

Conclusion: It is amazing what the power of determination can do. His father didn’t want him to go to school, wanted him as to be an Islamic scholar or a herdsman but he defied all odds to become one of the richest men in Nigeria.

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**Additional resources for this article from Vanguard

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Editorial staff

Editorial staff is a platform that connects people with ideas, opportunities and latest trends in personal finance growth online and offline. It is the most read personal finance platform in Nigeria

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