Amid encomiums from eminent personalities, including President Muhammadu Buhari and presidents of five other African countries, founder and President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, yesterday expressed optimism that the newly commissioned 650,000pbd refinery would employ over 100,000 Nigerian youths and generate over $21 billion in revenue.
According to him, this will save the country huge forex that would have been spent on fuel importation.
He also disclosed that the first products from the refinery would hit the market towards the end of July this year, adding that the refinery currently has over 33,000 employees.
Speaking at the inauguration of the Refinery by President Buhari at Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos, Dangote said its products "will be in the market before the end of July."
He said: "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."
According to him, the accomplishment is to enable Nigeria to eliminate what he described as the tragedy of import dependency and stop "once and for all" toxic, sub-standard 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 Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS and wider regions in which 53 countries of 55 are dependent on imports to meet their petroleum products' demand," he added.
The billionaire businessman said the project was the realisation of a "clear opportunity" for Nigeria, citing the African Union's commitment to the creation of an African common market through the African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA.
The facility is expected to produce Premium Motor Spirit (petrol), diesel (Automotive Gas Oil), aviation jet fuel and Dual-Purpose Kerosene (DPK), among other refined products.
Dangote Refinery, a game changer -- BUHARI
Also speaking on the occasion attended by Presidents of Ghana, Togo, Niger, Senegal and a representative of the President of Chad, President Buhari, who commended Alhaji Dangote's leadership in executing the plant, urged other entrepreneurs to emulate his example in driving economic growth and realizing Nigeria's economic potential.
He stressed the need for African countries to come together, integrate their economies, eliminate trade barriers, and rally their populations to achieve Agenda 2063 for the continent's prosperity.
He said: "I urge and encourage our other great entrepreneurs to emulate this iconic Nigerian industrialist and join the government in accelerating our growth in order to realize our country's globally recognized economic potential.
"When I travel around Africa and meet and engage my brother Heads of State (and I am delighted some of the Excellencies are here) I often sense a quiet expectation that our country is blessed with resources and human capacity to lead Africa's rise to economic prosperity and the attainment of Agenda 2063 - 'The Africa We All Want.'
"But to achieve the goals of Agenda 2063, Africa must come together, we must integrate our economies, eliminate barriers to trade and energize our youthful population to scale up our productive capacity.
"We must create necessary conditions for our private sector to grow and partner with the public sector to accelerate economic growth across the continent. We must not allow outside powers to use some of our leaders to destabilize our economic and political trajectory."
President Buhari acknowledged the visionary investments made by the Dangote Group, under the leadership of Alhaji Dangote, in transforming Nigeria's economy through its involvement in critical industries such as cement and fertilizer.
He noted that investment in these sectors had played a crucial role in shifting Nigeria from heavy import dependence to becoming a net exporter.
He also acknowledged that Nigeria's economy had faced significant challenges over the years, including deficits in economic infrastructure, insurgency, and external crises, such as the global financial crisis, oil price collapses, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Russia-Ukraine war.
"The consequence of these challenges constitutes a severe strain on our economy, limiting the government's ability to provide basic infrastructure without resorting to huge borrowings.
"Our government, therefore, took the decision to focus attention on 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.
"We recognize that without the active participation of the private sector and a strong commitment to a public-private partnership, our economy would continue to remain severely challenged and our economic growth impeded," Buhari said.
In their respective goodwill messages, Presidents of Ghana, Senegal, Niger, Benin Republic and Chad expressed satisfaction that the Dangote Refinery would serve the West African region.
They added that their countries would be beneficiaries, saying the Dangote Refinery is an African company for Africa by an African entrepreneur.
Refinery presents many benefits to Nigeria -- Emefiele
Also speaking, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Godwin Emefiele, noted that the take-off of the Dangote Refinery and Petrochemical factories comes with numerous economic benefits to Nigeria.
He said: Your Excellencies, we have it on good authority that the Dangote Group has paid down some portion of the commercial loans, even before the commissioning of this facility. As of today, the total outstanding stands at $2.7 billion.
"This reflects the astute creditworthiness and commercial capability of the Group and its Chairman, Alhaji Aliko Dangote. Your Excellencies, please permit me at this juncture to appreciate all the participating local Nigerian banks, who did not only partner with the project through effective financing but were keenly aware of the importance of the project to our nation.
"They provided immense support and exceptional understanding, even when interest payments and principal repayment had fallen due. Mr President, I must thank you for your astute vision to ensure that Nigeria produces what we consume and that we consume what we produce.
"This refinery and petrochemical project is a testament to your vision for Nigeria. It shows that, regardless of what the world thinks, Nigeria can be self-sufficient in all products that we consume and at the same time export our excess output to the rest of the world. Please permit me to recall the events leading to Nigeria's eviction from the JP Morgan index in 2017, following their pessimism on Nigeria's economic outlook and our ability to take charge of our fortunes.
"At that time, we had explained the ongoing efforts to diversify our economic base, through import substitution and export promotion strategies, to sustainably attain self-sufficiency. They were very sceptical, saying Nigeria typically crafts brilliant policies that could engender diversification but lacks the ability to fully implement them.
"Even when we insisted that, under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, ongoing efforts will be actively implemented to diversify the economy and make the country globally competitive, they still doubted us.
"Aside from enumerating our strategic efforts in agriculture and other critical sectors, a sterling project that we highlighted to our foreign investor community was this gigantic Dangote Refinery and Petrochemical project.
"Your Excellencies, they doubted our willpower to succeed with this project. In hindsight, I could appreciate their scepticism because they do not understand how a single individual could build a refinery capable of serving an entire nation and continent.
"To them, projects of this magnitude are usually only undertaken by sovereigns, not individuals. But like Nelson Mandela once famously said, "It always seems impossible until it is done."
"Today, it is with extreme delight that I say that President Mandela's quote has come true for us. The impossible has today become possible. I am glad that we never doubted ourselves.
Nigeria to cease importing petroleum products
"Under President Muhammadu Buhari's leadership, this seemingly unattainable project has berthed and, correspondingly, under the incoming administration of President Bola Tinubu, Nigeria will cease importing petroleum products, fertilizer and petrochemicals that drained over US$26 billion in FOREX in 2022.
"In the first instance, this refinery will have an enormous impact on job creation by generating thousands of direct jobs and millions of indirect jobs, with over 135,000 permanent jobs.
"I understand that so far, there are nearly 4,000 Nigerian personnel on site, excluding employment by the various contractors and sub-contractors at the project site.
"I am also proud to state that the project will generate up to 12,000 megawatts, MW of electricity. In addition, the refinery and the other ancillary projects will have significant multiplier effects on other sectors of the economy by supporting a diverse range of sectoral value chains.
"For instance, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry noted that the project could spur 'further growth and development across its value-chain, including cosmetics, plastics, and textiles, while strengthening value addition in agribusiness, including the sugar backward integration projects that plan to create a strong localised supply in the sugar industry, benefiting local suppliers across the sugar value-chain.
"More importantly, this project avails Nigeria with significant savings both in terms of foreign exchange and in easing the fiscal burden on the Federal Government.
"Available data at the Central Bank of Nigeria as of 2014, shows that at least 30 per cent of the foreign exchange required to meet Nigeria's import needs went into the importation of refined petroleum products.
"It is instructive to note, distinguished guests, that according to the balance of payments statistics, the cost (including freight) of petroleum products imports into Nigeria doubled over a five-year period from about US$8.4 billion in 2017 to US$16.2 billion (indicating an annual average of US$11.1 billion), before rising further to US$23.3 billion by end-2022.
"At this rate, the average annual cost of petroleum products imports to Nigeria could reach US$30 billion by 2027 if we continued to rely on petroleum imports.
"These figures suggest that the refinery could engender foreign exchange savings to the country, of between US$25 billion and US$30 billion."
Our investment in Dangote Refinery strategic -- Kyari
In his remarks, the Group Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited, NNPCL, Mele Kyari, stated that the refinery offered opportunities for efficiency and healthy competition.
He explained that NNPC will continue to support production in the sector as opposed to importation, describing Dangote Refinery as a new deal that will surely provide domestic security in the industry. He also stated that NNPC investment in Dangote Refinery is strategic and in good order to ensure a regular supply of petroleum products in Nigeria.
Similarly, the governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, commended Dangote for siting the refinery in Lagos, adding that "the project provides enormous opportunities for Nigerian youths."
He said: "In Lagos, we will continue to provide opportunities to investors. Other investors should emulate Dangote. We need to replicate the likes of Dangote in Nigeria."
Dignitaries in attendance
Dignitaries at the event included the President of Ghana, Togo, Niger Republic, Senegal and a representative of the President of Chad; President-elect, Bola Tinubu, was represented by Vice President-elect, Kashim Shetima; Ahmed Lawan, Senate President, and Ibrahim Wase, Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives.
State governors who attended the commissioning are Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto, Dapo Abiodun of Ogun, Umar Ganduje of Kano, Babagana Zulum of Bornu, Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna and Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa.
Also present were the immediate past governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, former governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke and his counterpart in Delta State, James Ibori. The presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the 2023 elections, Peter Obi, governor-elect of Enugu State, Peter Mba, his counterpart in Abia State, Alex Otti, and the Ooni of Ife also graced the occasion.
Some captains of industry at the ceremony included the Chairman of Zenith Bank Group, Jim Ovia, Femi Otedola of Geregu Power Plant, Tony Elumelu of UBA, and Wale Tinubu, of Oando, among others.