The paradox that is Nigeria’s oil sector may soon be history now that the less-than-a-decade-old billion-dollar initiative of the world’s wealthiest black man is open for business.
No thanks to Dangote Petroleum Refinery and Petrochemical as expectations are sky-high that the oil-rich nation, Nigeria is on the verge of ending its incessant bouts of petrol scarcity and price hikes, as well as a debilitating subsidy regime.
Taking the stage at the inauguration of the staggering 2,635-hectare facility, President Muhammadu Buhari described the establishment of Dangote Petrochemical Refinery and Petrochemicals in Lagos state as a game-changer and milestone for Nigeria’s economy.
According to Buhari, the Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos state-based complex described as the largest single-train facility in the world with a capacity to process 650,000 barrels of crude a day would enable the country to achieve self-sufficiency in the refined products and a surplus for export.
Accorfing to Buhari, “This clearly makes this event a notable milestone for our economy and a game changer for the downstream petroleum product market not only in Nigeria but the entire African continent,” he had said during the commissioning of the project.
The president added that the country’s economy, which has been stressed for many decades by huge deficits in economic infrastructure and over a decade of insurgency, had also been severely affected by several external crises, including the global financial crisis, the collapse of oil prices, the coronavirus pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine War.
“The consequences of these challenges constitute a severe strain on our economy, limiting the government’s ability to provide basic infrastructure without resorting to huge borrowing.
“He said the government must therefore pay attention to creating an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive and fill the enormous gap in investments, not only in infrastructure but also in all critical sectors,” he stated.
One could almost see the gleam in his eye as an accomplished Aliko Dangote strode up the stage before hundreds of guests and thousands more watching from across the world with his sweeping black agbada painted a picture of the continent of the black race, one he calls home, as much as it is reminiscent of the raw product which his new factory will daily turn into some of the world’s most sought-after commodities.
Giving the welcome remarks at the event, the billionaire revealed that the first product of the $12 billion facility would be in the market before the end of July and at the beginning of August this year.
“Beyond today’s ceremony, our first goal is to ramp up production of the various products to ensure that within this year, we’re able to fully satisfy our nation’s demand for higher quality products,” he said.
According to him, the accomplishment is to enable Nigeria to eliminate what he described as the tragedy of import dependency and stop what he termed ‘once and for all’ toxic, substandard petroleum products from being dumped in Nigeria’s market.
“Beyond this, we intend to ensure that our plants are run at the highest capacity of utilisation and the highest efficiency to enable us to export competitively to other markets, especially in the ECOWAS and wider regions in which 53 countries out of 55 are dependent on imports to meet their petroleum products demand,” he added.
Turning the tide
For the president-elect, Bola Tinubu, the day was one of the greatest in the contemporary annals of Nigeria’s history.
Tinubu, who was represented by vice president-elect, Kashim Shettima said the accomplishment was highlighted by what he called the ‘huge prospects of the gigantic project for reversing Nigeria’s reliance on imported petroleum products’.
The refinery would also generate a humongous quantum of jobs and stablise the naira, he noted.
Arguing that it is safe to say Dangote Refinery would be the most consequential single project to come on stream in recent times, the president-elect stated that the factory is bound to leave a sizable impact on the growth and development of the country’s economy, while positively influencing the lives and wellbeing of the people.
“Therefore, on behalf of the president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, I heartily commend and congratulate Alhaji Aliko Dangote and Dangote Group on not only envisioning this significant project but for their courage, resilience, and team power in bringing this edifice to fruition,” Shettima said.
Africa’s pride and joy
From the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, to the group chief executive officer, Nigerian National Petroleum Company Ltd. (NNPCL), Mele Kyari, there was a who’s who of prominent Nigerians at the opening of the refinery.
But the celebration wasn’t a strictly Nigerian affair as a cross-section of African leaders also graced the event, sharing their thoughts on the attendant benefits of the project to the West African region and the continent as a whole.
The presidents included Nana Akufo-Addo (Ghana), Mahamat Déby (Chad), Mohamed Bazoum (Niger), Macky Sall (Senegal), and Faure Gnassingbé (Togo).
The Ghanaian leader expressed his commendation on the completion of the refinery, telling the audience Africans must encourage the culture of entrepreneurship.
His Senegalese counterpart also celebrated the refinery but did not hesitate to invite The Dangote Group and other Nigerian enterprises to expand their operations to his country.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in his remarks, said Dangote came to Lagos state with nothing, adding that in 45 years, the businessman had been able to build an empire.
“Dangote has put Africa on the global map and we are proud of his achievements,” the Lagos governor stated.
Emefiele, enumerating the benefits of the refinery on the economy, noted that the factory would save Nigeria $30 billion in forex annually while generating 12,000 MW of electricity.
According to the CBN governor, the industrial behemoth would create 135,000 permanent jobs and give the economy an inflow of $10 billion yearly, saving the nation $30 billion in forex.
“It shows that Nigeria can actually produce everything they need and export surpluses in the international market place. Creating an enabling environment for the businesses to thrive,” he said.
For Kyari, the federal and state governments have created a conducive environment for businesses and the commissioning is a proud moment for Nigeria.
The NNPCL boss also noted the effects of subsidy, saying the government could not continue to bear the burden of paying subsidy for petroleum products.
As The Dangote Group branches out beyond its signature cement and sugar subdivisions, the stakes remain as high as ever for the Nigerian state and the near-indelible reputation of the counntry’s most industrious figure, arguably.