Nigerian businessmen and women have been flocking to Sao Tome and Principe since it became known that the small islands country in the Atlantic Ocean could be sitting strategically on top of oil and gas.
In 2009, for instance, 110 Nigerian business men and women were in the archipelago nation exploring business opportunities at the behest of the Nigeria Sao Tome and Principe Joint Development Authority, JDA, the body administering an area straddling the territorial waters of Nigeria and Sao Tome and Principe in the Gulf of Guinea believed to hold substantial volume of crude oil and gas.
Known as the Joint Development Zone, the area has historically fuelled tensions and conflicts between the two countries, but is now owned jointly by them, courtesy of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration which negotiated a 60:40 ownership structure on the area in 2001 with Nigeria holding the larger stake.
Oceanic Bank opened for business in Sao Tome and Principe in 2009, drawing the entire gamut of its management, including former managing director, Cecilia Ibru, to the islands country.
Ecobank entered the country earlier, maintaining what a Nigerian staff in the Sao Tome office described as “a strong presence”. Peter Nwachukwu then managing director and chief executive officer of Oceanic Bank Sao Tome, at the opening ceremony said the bank was in that country to draw from its huge potentials.
“We are not just here for the oil, but that’s a big factor. There are a whole lot of other opportunities like in property and real estate development, infrastructure development, shipping services, aquatic and fisheries, logistics and the hospitality industry” he said, disclosing that his bank was already looking at the possibility of facilitating the building of a high-brow five star hotel in the likeness of the Nicon Hilton Hotel in Abuja to cater to the string of tourists and businessmen coming into the country.