It is no longer news that Dangote is building a refinery in Lagos, Nigeria. This refinery is set to be the biggest in Africa and one of the biggest in the world when completed. The refinery has the capacity to refine 650,000 barrels of oil in a day thus proving for the Nigerian petroleum demand and having surplus for export.
For a country like Nigeria that is sitting on 37 billion barrels of oil able to serve the country for 273 years it is definitely correct to say that this has been a long time coming. Nigeria imports almost 100% of its fuel consumption even though it has crude oil in abundance, imagine the humongous lost revenue all these decades of not having a functional refinery. Oil, Nigeria’s main source of revenue, has been called a curse as it appears to have caused much harm. The truth is that the curse is not in the oil but in the management of the oil and in the politics surrounding the oil
Dangote says he intends that our oil should be able to expand the economy. This is true and basic common sense. Consider the fact that the building of the refinery has already given jobs and delicate training to about 50,000 Nigerians, excluding the 11,000 foreign expatriates who are on ground to provide experience and other human resource input.
It is expected that when completed the refinery will provide jobs to at least 250,000 persons. This should go a long way in reducing the unemployment rate in Nigeria even if just by a little percent, and don’t forget that it will also provide economic activities to other parts of Nigeria beyond the refinery and Lagos state in particular. Surely, the socio-economic standard of the citizens will be augmented a bit.
One would have thought that Dangote’s novel move at establishing a refinery of such capabilities will be welcomed by all and sundry in Nigeria, but alas, there have been criticisms from different angles. Conspiracy theories too have risen out of it.
Some argue that he is been given undue advantage by the Nigerian government, like in the 20% stake by the NNPC in the project which means that the NNPC will give some funds to Dangote to aid the completion of the project while also giving him crude at discounted price.
There has also been suggestions that the project, though a worthwhile endeavor, is coming at a wrong time as the global demand for oil and gas in the coming years is set to drastically dwindle due to steps taken to curb climate change and also the continuous development of technology as we see in the increased use of electric cars and policies by developed countries to reduce oil dependence.
These fears and concerns may be justifiable, but we must not lose sight of the great benefits it stands to offer to Nigeria and its people. We shouldn’t also be quick to forget that all business is risk and that Dangote is taking a huge risk in this refinery enterprise.
The Buhari led government has persistently spoken of infrastructure development as being one of its main concerns. It is not wrong to say that the refinery is going a long way in fulfilling this plan. It is going beyond infrastructural development by policies into business-led infrastructural development which is more continuous and lasting.
Bode Ososami, an erudite business analyst with Arise TV said it will take Dangote around 20 years to recover his investment in the refinery, according to him we need more Dangotes, he couldn’t be more right. If the ‘big men’ in Nigeria where to invest half of their wealth in the large expanse of land scattered across Nigeria, especially in the North, one can only imagine how developed Nigeria will be today. Please mark the word ‘invest’. It is not like they are being asked to give away their money just like that; they are bound to reap great returns, even if not them, their children will.
The reverse is the case. Investments of various degrees by Nigerians are done in foreign countries and profit accrues to these countries where Nigerian-owned industries and establishments are located. Worse is that there are those, mostly politicians, who do not even know how to invest or put money to use, they store cash in bags in funny locations only to have them eaten by rats or rendered useless by aging in the bags.
Barack Obama wrote about the “Audacity of Hope”, in Dangote’s case we should be talking of the audacity of charity, this is because the refinery at $19 billion will cost him more than his net worth, an estimated $12.1 billion. In his words “I plan to give most of my wealth while I am alive”. He surely deserves commendation.
Even as we talk of what he stands to gain, we must also consider what he is giving up for the time being, a decade or more of wealth accumulation. While other big guns in the polity wait for the next big catch to butcher, he is offering not just his wealth, but himself as a sacrifice to make Nigeria achieve its potential of being a giant beyond words but in reality.