Timipre Wolo is the CEO of TFN Energy Limited and the Founder of the Centre for Gender Equality, Education and Empowerment (CGEEE), an NGO which she set up in response to the high level of illiteracy and poverty amongst women and girls in rural areas across Africa. Growing up in the oil rich but highly impoverished Niger Delta region of Nigeria, Ms. Wolo developed an early interest in finding lasting solutions to the development issues in the region. The loss of her mother at the age of 12 did not stop her from pursuing her dream of becoming a lawyer. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Law in 2005 and proceeded to the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom where she obtained a Masters’ Degree (LL.M.) in Oil & Gas Law.
Timipre began her career in private legal practice, whilst also running the Greener Nigeria Initiative, an NGO focused on the environment which she co-founded. In 2010, she joined the Legal Department of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), Nigeria’s foremost government agency responsible for capacity development in the oil and gas industry and was subsequently appointed Special Assistant to the Executive Secretary. In September 2011, she was assigned the responsibility of leading the team tasked with fostering closer collaborations between the PTDF and relevant stakeholders in the industry such as IOCs, NOCs, the academia, the National Assembly and Oil producing communities. Thus, becoming the youngest person to ever serve in the PTDF Management.
Driven by her passion and commitment to youth development, while serving as Head of the Fund’s Industry Collaboration Unit, Timipre championed several youth empowerment initiatives including the PTDF Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme; Special Training and Educational Scheme; and an educational collaboration with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). These initiatives led to the award of scholarships to about 400 disadvantaged youths from the Niger delta and across Nigeria, to study at various institutions overseas.
Timipre also championed the first ever Helicopter Pilot Training Programme for the petroleum industry in Nigeria with the training of indigenous youths as internationally certified commercial helicopter pilots. Following the successful completion of their training, she played a key role in facilitating PTDF pioneer job-creation partnership with the private sector, culminating in employment of 15 of the young budding pilots into positions hitherto held by expatriates.
Listed as one of 90 personalities who inspire Nigeria by an international communications agency, THOSE WHO INSPIRE, Timipre’s service to humanity and leadership of excellence has been recognized by the international and local guild.
She has received numerous accolades including a “Letter of Recognition” by the Commonwealth Youth Council; the “African Woman of Worth” 2015 Award, by the African Women in Leadership Organization; as well as the Role Model for the Female Child 2016, Award. She also emerged as a finalist in the Professional Achievement Category of the prestigious British Council Alumni Awards 2017 and was recently appointed chairperson, Ladies in Oil & Gas, Nigeria. She also emerged winner of the Woman of The Year Award at an award ceremony organized on December 10 by the Her Network Woman Of The Year (HNWOTY) in Lagos.
Ms. Wolo, who represented Nigeria at the United Nations Youth Assembly in 2005, 2006 and 2008 respectively, has a passion for educating young girls. She dedicates time to supporting and mentoring young women and girls, through the CGEEE and ONE HOUR WITH THE KING, a non-denominational Christian Fellowship she founded in 2013. She enjoys traveling and working with vulnerable children in orphanages and refugee camps and believes that education is a vital tool for sustainable development and that with quality education, anything is achievable irrespective of your status at birth. She tells her interesting story to GuardianWoman
Early Years And Studies
Growing up in the oil rich but highly impoverished Niger Delta region, Timipre recalls her fascination for development, and her resolve to bring this to her people someday. She dreamt of being a lawyer and owning a company, but was almost disillusioned by the loss of her mum at an early age of 12. However, the loss of her hardworking ‘super-mum,’ took a toll on her family and left them to depend on her ‘civil-servant’ dad’s lean salary. Notwithstanding, she stayed resolute and determined to make her mum proud.
Some of her ‘Making-Mum-Proud’ moments include representing her school in competitions, and breaking the record of being the youngest prefect. Her resolve also drove her to take on a 12-hour night-shift job as receptionist at 16, while doubling as a Law Diploma Student. Deep down, she wanted to help lighten the burden on her father, who was committed to seeing all five of his children through university, get university education. Eventually, she gained admission to study Law at Ambrose Alli University.
In her final year at University, serving as the 1st female elected vice president of the National Union of Bayelsa State Students, she was accepted and sponsored to attend the United Nations Youth Assembly at the UN HQ, New York, an experience she describes as ‘divinely orchestrated turning point’ in her.
Timipre did not stop making mum proud even when she moved to Scotland for a Masters degree in Oil and Gas Law at the University of Aberdeen; she found an innovative way to support herself in school. Having noticed that there was no single Nigerian restaurant in the whole of Aberdeen, she saw an opportunity for a new business amidst the growing Nigerian community there; started a food business, which included delivery services. The catering project was a stroke of ingenuity, the kind of inspiration, which she attributes to her mother.
Career and professional life
Upon obtaining an LLM, with commendation, Timipre returned to Nigeria and began her career in private legal practice, while also running the Greener Nigeria Initiative, a Non-Governmental Organization co-founded by her that was focused on the environment. By 2010, she joined the Legal Department of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), for capacity development in the oil and gas industry in Nigeria, and was subsequently appointed Special Assistant to the Executive Secretary.
In September 2011, she was assigned the responsibility of leading the team tasked with fostering closer collaborations between the PTDF and relevant stakeholders in the industry such as IOCs, NOCs, the academia, the National Assembly and Oil producing communities. She became the youngest person to ever serve in the PTDF Management and her team was responsible for leading and formulating strategies for capacity development under the Fund’s Post Amnesty policy, adopted as a fallout of the Fund’s membership of a sub-committee of the Post Amnesty Committee set up by President Umar Musa Yar’Adua in 2009. Timipre attributes her milestones at the PTDF to team effort, and was renowned for her impeccable professionalism and attention to details,
Under her leadership as the pioneer Head of the Fund’s Industry Collaboration Unit, Timipre championed several groundbreaking youth empowerment initiatives, which led to the award of scholarships to about 400 disadvantaged youths from across Nigeria, to study at various institutions overseas. Some of these initiatives include a pioneer foreign undergraduate scholarship initiative that targeted 50 restive youths from oil producing communities and other parts of Nigeria in 2012; a Special Training & Educational Scheme leading to the award of 70 foreign undergraduate scholarships in 2013; an educational collaboration between the Fund and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) for 60 young Nigerians to study at undergraduate level in Norway in fields such as petroleum engineering, marine engineering, mechanical engineering and other oil and gas related fields; a partnership between the Fund and a Financial Institution to support 120 trainees of the Fund access SME loans to enable them set up small businesses in 2014; a pioneer partnership with a United States University with the award of scholarships to 20 girls and 20 boys from very humble backgrounds in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
Her penchant for innovation and quest to break new grounds led to her championing the first ever Helicopter pilot training Programme for the petroleum industry in Nigeria. Under the scheme, 20 young men and women selected from across Nigeria were fully sponsored to train as internationally certified commercial helicopter pilots. After obtaining their licenses, Timipre played a key role in initiating PTDF pioneer job-creation partnership with the private sector. This partnership culminated in employment of 15 of the young budding pilots into positions hitherto held by expatriates. Amongst them was Nigeria’s youngest pilot, Tosin Ajibola from Kwara state and the first female helicopter pilot from Katsina state, Ruqayat Suleiman, along with three other young women from Ondo, Rivers and Bayelsa States.
Timipre Wolo had to go the extra mile to see young pilots engaged because she wanted to change the narrative of training without a trajectory. The essence of training them in the first place, she noted, was because there were identified existing gaps in that area. Whereas helicopter is a one means of transporting workers and supplies to the oil and gas rigs in the Niger Delta, expatriates manned most of these helicopters. Also, being part of their journey and seeing the transformation, she just could not bear the thought of the young pilots returning to Nigeria to join the already teeming unemployed youths.
Being an entrepreneur
When the PTDF discontinued the special training and educational scheme in 2016, due to the economic recession, Timipre decided her assignment at the Fund was done and it was time to chase her professional dreams of starting her energy company. She believed she would be able to fund her passion. In her words, “one of the reasons I am very passionate about women being educated is that when you are educated, and you combine that with your faith, then you can take a leap and break any glass ceiling.”
She admitted that it was a huge risk resigning from a well-paying job, but that she took it in faith, trusting that God, who brought her thus far would have her back, and that she remained focused and dedicated to the goals ahead of her. She refers to her decision to start her own energy company as one of the best decisions she has ever made. Her company TFN Energy Limited currently helps girls from the internally displaced persons camps (IDP’s), through scholarships to cover fees, school supplies, feeding and some living stipend. She confirmed that this year alone, TFN Energy and CGEEE has awarded scholarships to 5 girls from an Internally Displaced Camp (IDP).
“Nothing is more gratifying. If I were sitting down in my cozy office on the 10th floor of the PTDF Tower, perhaps these five girls would have become part of the statistics, who got pregnant or married off as child brides. I have seen and experienced firsthand, how education of the girl can impact not just a family, or a community but an entire nation, and that is what fuels my passion. I now know that this is part of the reason I am here because seeing these lives transform gives me an indescribable sense of satisfaction and
fulfillment,” she said.
Thriving in a male-dominated workplace
On how she surmounted the challenges of being the only representation of the south-south geopolitical zone, and youngest member of the male dominated PTDF Management, Timipre said she was too focused on the task ahead and was able to scale the hurdles because of her determination to leave an indelible mark. According to her, “The truth is that when you produce results, nobody remembers your gender or where you come from. The PTDF was very proud of the initiatives and constantly showcased them in the media. So many women in Nigeria and around the world have proven that given the opportunity, women are change drivers and I was determined to be one.”
She attributed her successes to being visionary, strategic, dogged, driven and most importantly to God whom she says gifted her with extraordinary grace.
Awards And Recognitions
Timipre’s contribution to local content development in the petroleum sector, as well as her service to humanity and leadership excellence, have been recognised by the international and local guild. She was a finalist in the ‘professional achievement’ category of British Council Awards 2017 and was also recognised by the commonwealth Youth Council. In 2015, she received the honour of African Woman of worth Award by the African Women in Leadership Organisation (AWLO), alongside two serving female Deputy Governors (Lagos State and Akwa Ibom State). In October 2015, she was listed as one of ‘those who inspire Nigeria’, alongside President Olusegun Obasanjo, Wole Soyinka and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and others.
Passion for empowering young women
She attributed it to her late mum, adding, “I guess it is the influence of my mother. Prior to her demise, she would wake me up very late at night, and speak to me about why it was very important to have an education. She said it was the key to becoming whatever I wanted to be. She was a mother to everyone and we always had a lot of non-relatives; orphaned or underprivileged young adults whom my mum supports, as head of the Teens church at the Deeper Life Bible Church back then. Also my personal journey/experience so far has contributed to shaping me into the woman I am today; a multifaceted woman of virtue, faith and purpose.”
Timipre dedicates time to mentoring young women and girls through the CGEEE platform, and her non-denominational Christian Fellowship, One Hour With The King, which she founded in 2013. Timipre says she takes mentoring very seriously because if she had a mentor growing up, perhaps she would have avoided some of the pitfalls and mistakes she made.
“I see the success of my mentees as my success too because they are a part of my journey just as much as I am part of theirs,” she said.
She has a team of volunteers for CGEEE, and organises trainings and mentoring sessions at the CGEEE HQ in Abuja. She was recently appointed 2018 President/Chairperson, Ladies in Oil & Gas Nigeria for and hopes to work with the Founder and other women in the industry to not only advance the cause of pushing for more opportunities for Nigerian women in oil and gas, but to achieve increased participation of women owned businesses in the sector.
Advice to Women
“Do not seat down and wait for anyone to tell you when to take a leap, identify your purpose, what gives you true fulfillment, have a vision and a plan and then go get it! Start from where you are, with whatever you have. Don’t wait till tomorrow; start today! No dream is too high to attain because The One who gave you the gift of imagination, is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, far above all you could ever ask or think.”