For many years, Nigerian-born America-based oil tycoon, Dr. Kase Lukmon Lawal, was seen as a skilled fixer who fixes things with his head. He represents one of Houston, Texas’ greatest power sources. The moneybag runs prosperous Camac Holdings with subsidiaries like Camac International Corporation, Camac Energy Inc and Allied Energy Corporation, a thriving energy firm in the United States. He is also the Chairman, Board of Directors of Unity National Bank, the only federally insured and licensed African-American-owned bank in Texas. Lawal and his brother, Kamoru, Camac Int’l CEO, represent a select cadre of African-American power players in the oil patch. For many years, the Ibadan, Oyo State-born businessman dominated headline positively as he served as chairman of 30-year-old energy company, Camac, which engages in the exploration, development, and operation of oil properties in Africa and South America. However, in recent times, the billionaire is said to be riding on a rough patch. He is obviously growing grey hairs literally over a litany of stories about bad business decisions and attendant legal issues that many believe might send him into irrelevance if not successfully handled on time.
Spotlight gathered that Lawal has, for long, been enmeshed in several legal woes, which by extension, caused some of his companies to be gasping for breath due to choking debts. In business, Lawal seems to be losing the magic wand. Early June, his company, Allied Energy Resources Nigeria had its oil license (OML 120 and 121) alongside five others belonging to some prominent Nigerians, revoked by the Nigerian government following presidential directive to recover legacy debts. It was gathered that the problem dates back to 2012 when Agip, the Nigerian unit of ENI, Italian global supermajor, sold its interests in the two blocks to Lawal’s Erin Energy (Camac), though it reportedly never received the full amount due for the sale. Yet, Agip that was recognised as the operator of offshore OML 120 and 121 yielded the fields to Erin Energy, a US-based subsidiary of Camac. But things got worse as the New York and Johannesburg exchanges-listed Erin Energy filed for bankruptcy in May 2017, as it seeks to restructure its debts and regain financial viability.
Before then, the OML 120 and 121, which included the Oyo oil field owned by the billionaire, was not as productive as envisaged. This got some of the Erin shareholders angry as to sue Lawal over the deal that went awry. The shareholders claimed that Erin Energy CEO overpaid by almost $200 million in the Oyo field deal that also benefited Allied Energy, another company solely controlled by Lawal.
His litany of legal woes grew worse in early 2018, when Agip nearly brought him and his company to their knees at the same time Cayman Islands was on the hunt for $1billion void in Lawal’s Camac’s books. The liquidation of the Cayman Islands-registered company, Camac International, is being very closely tracked by the financial services division of the country’s Grand Court. On April 9, two of the court’s representatives requested all recorded information relating to the company’s property or financial affairs from the Southern District of New York. The two liquidators want to get to the bottom of the dissipation of nearly $1 billion of assets held by Camac’s subsidiaries. The liquidators noted that Camac’s two indirect subsidiaries Allied Energy Nigeria and Camac International Nigeria (CNIL) transferred shares they held in American junior Erin Energy, of which Lawal was CEO from 2011 to 2016. Although the then current market value of Allied Energy’s shares in Erin Energy was approximately $164million, they were later handed over to two firms, Oltasho Nigeria and Latmol Investment, before their voting rights were bought by Lawal himself for a mere $10. A string of similar cashflow transactions appeared to have stripped parent group, Camac, of a total $1 billion. Amid all these brouhaha came the cancellation of his oil licence by the authorities in his home country. Despite facing hard time at home, sources said he still has footholds in about six different African countries.
Lawal founded the Camac Group in 1986 originally to export American tobacco to Africa. He soon scored a lucrative oil contract in Nigeria worth 55,000 barrels a day in 1999. His business interests in South Africa grew during Jacob Zuma’s presidency. Zuma accompanied Lawal to his alma mater – Texas Southern University – to accept an honorary doctorate shortly after making a commitment in 2010 to pay R5 million to Zuma’s Education Trust. He later scored R3 billion contract with the country’s Public Investment Corporation, PIC. But his relationship with the Southern Africa nation’s state company has since turned sour.