The Inspirational Odyssey of Winifred Akpani: Transforming a N200k Startup into a Multimillion-Dollar Empire


If you’ve been in Nigeria over the past ten years, the odds are slim to none that you haven’t come across a Northwest Petroleum station. Northwest Petroleum & Gas Company has etched its presence across the nation, with sprawling gas stations frequented by a bustling swarm of motorists.

The journey of Northwest Petroleum & Gas Company Limited has evolved into a robust international brand, a feat achieved through nearly thirty years of unrelenting dedication and unyielding tenacity.

Venturing into the oil and gas sector demands unwavering determination, a formidable skill set, and the audacity to brave challenges.

This spotlight features Winifred Akpani, the visionary force behind Northwest Petroleum & Gas Co. Ltd. She stands as the founder and Chief Executive Officer of this indigenous petroleum products marketing powerhouse.

Early Life and Professional Beginnings

Winifred Akpani embarked on her academic journey by earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from the University of Benin, Benin City. She further honed her knowledge with a postgraduate diploma in Computer Science from the University of Lagos.

Despite her educational background, Akpani took a detour in her career path, aspiring to become an accountant. In 1987, she embarked on her professional voyage as a Trainee Accountant at Oni Lasebikan and Co (now Ernst and Young). Subsequently, she made her mark at Arthur Anderson & Co (now KPMG Professional Services), culminating in her qualification as a Chartered Accountant in 1990. Her tenure at the firm saw her rise to the position of Audit Senior before her departure in 1992.

Her trajectory led her to Flame Petroleum & Gas Company Limited, a startup oil marketing enterprise. She joined as a Financial Controller in 1992 and within five years, ascended the ranks to become an Executive Director in 1997 – a remarkable accomplishment by any measure.

While this path could have solidified her reputation in the corporate sphere, Akpani opted for a more audacious leap into the realms of entrepreneurship in 1998.

The Genesis of Northwest Petroleum

In 1998, Akpani laid the cornerstone of Northwest Petroleum & Gas Company Limited. This nascent venture would become a crucible for testing her entrepreneurial prowess and the amassed skills from her professional journey.

Embarking with a modest startup capital of N200,000, Northwest Petroleum commenced its operations, distributing diesel in 200-liter drums to residences, guest houses, banks, and corporations. Today, a quarter-century later, the company orchestrates international oil trading and services transactions worth millions. It holds investments in the midstream and upstream sectors of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry.

The company boasts an extensive storage capacity, with ownership of over 100 million liters in Nigeria. Northwest Petroleum operates two state-of-the-art mega Petroleum Products Storage Terminals, boasting a collective capacity of 96.8 million liters certified and sanctioned by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR). Additionally, an ultramodern Berthing Facility, equipped with top-tier firefighting and safety apparatus, is situated within the Calabar Free Trade Zone, Cross River State.

The company has also established several distinctive 24- and 26-nozzle Ultra-Modern Mega Filling Stations, bolstering its prominence across the nation.

Akpani’s Role and Beyond

Winifred Akpani remains deeply engaged, ensuring quality assurance and control across all projects. Her responsibilities encompass the formulation of strategic business plans and policies, as well as overseeing the company’s affairs.

Akpani’s influence extends beyond Northwest Petroleum. She holds various stakes in the energy, oil, and gas sectors. She serves as a Director of Millennium Oil and Gas Company Limited, the operator of Oza Marginal Field, and Northwest Energy Nigeria Limited, a company within the exploration and production sphere. Furthermore, she’s significantly invested in the banking industry and holds a Directorship at Fleet Travels and Tours Nigeria Limited, a premier travel agency.

She also assumes the role of a non-executive director at GDL, a prominent diversified financial institution, contributing to wealth creation and societal transformation through innovative financial solutions.

Accolades, Achievements, and Contributions

Winifred Akpani is recognized as a Fellow of both the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (FCA) and an Associate Member of the Institute of Directors (100). Her pursuit of continuous learning led her to undertake various courses, both locally and internationally, spanning Finance, Oil & Gas, Corporate Governance, and Banking.

In 2019, Akpani was elected as the Chairman of the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria (DAPPMAN), an organization instrumental in advising and supporting governmental policies that bolster the nation’s economic well-being, particularly within the downstream petroleum sector.

Her commitment to humanitarian endeavors and charitable giving underscores her multifaceted contributions. Her philanthropic efforts were notably acknowledged in 2009 when Pope Benedict XVI conferred upon her The Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal, the highest honor of the Catholic Church for distinguished service to the church and humanity.

In Conclusion

Winifred Akpani’s journey from a modest N200,000 startup to steering a multimillion-dollar empire is nothing short of inspirational. Her narrative underscores the power of vision, tenacity, and the indomitable spirit of entrepreneurship. Northwest Petroleum’s transformation from its fledgling days to a dominant force in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector exemplifies Akpani’s unwavering commitment to excellence and innovation.


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