Blackstone Africa unit makes big Nigeria hire

Lamido Sanusi, former governor of Nigeria's central bank.
Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Blackstone Group has strengthened its ties to Nigeria, the West African country where it could put big money to work.

The private equity giant announced Thursday that its Black Rhino unit had appointed Lamido Sanusi as chairman of its board of directors. Sanusi is emir of Nigeria's northern Kano state, a traditional leader who still wields considerable influence, and the former governor of the country's central bank.

The appointment comes after $310 billion Blackstone announced in August 2014 that it had partnered with Dangote Industries—led by Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote—to invest jointly up to $5 billion over the next five years in energy infrastructure projects across Sub-Saharan Africa, part of President Barack Obama's Power Africa initiative to match private capital with continental energy needs.

No projects for the joint venture have been announced, but Blackstone is considering an investment alongside Dangote to construct pipelines to bring gas from the country's energy-rich southern delta region to its business center, Lagos, according to a person familiar with the situation and comments previously made by Dangote. Dangote said he plans to invest up to $2.5 billion in the pipes, which would potentially quadruple the supply of gas to the country.

A spokesman for Blackstone declined to comment on the pipelines.