Aliko Dangote Wonderland: A Visit to Africa’s Largest Refinery

By LANRE ALFRED 

With an estimated investment of $15billion, the Dangote Refinery and Petrochemical complex under construction in the Lekki Free Trade Zone, Lagos, is expected to be Africa’s biggest oil refinery upon completion in December 2021. On the invitation of billionaire Femi Otedola, a close friend and cheerleader of Aliko Dangote, Lanre Alfred joined a select number of Otedola’s associates on Sunday, February 7, 2021, to visit the refinery and writes that the project is nearing completion.

Like a fairy tale come to life, the magic that is the multi-billion dollar Dangote Refinery and Petrochemical Complex sited on 2,600 hectares of swampland in Ibeju-Lekki area of Lagos can now be seen by all, sceptics and supporters alike. Promoted by Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote’s Dangote Group, the complex is reputed to have a pipeline infrastructure that is arguably the largest anywhere in the world; with 1,100 kilometres gas pipeline to handle 3billion Standard Cubic Foot of gas per day and a 400MW Power Plant that can meet the total power requirement of Ibadan DisCo. It also has a gas processor, the world’s biggest plant for ammonia and urea, which is used in making plastics and fertilizer, and a fertilizer plant that will utilize the refinery by-products as raw materials. One of its many derivables is that it will connect the Niger Delta to the Lekki free trade zone (LFTZ) in Lagos.

Covering a land area of approximately 2,635 hectares – about six times the size of Victoria Island – the infrastructure facilities for the refinery complex include a pipeline system, access roads, tank storage facilities, and crude and product-handling facilities. A marine terminal, including a breakwater, jetty and harbour, has also been developed as part of the project. Other facilities developed to support the project include an administrative building, guardhouses, fire station, and pump stations. Dangote has already built a jetty near the project site to receive heavy equipment for the refinery construction.

At the outset, the entire venture was estimated to cost $9bn, with $3bn in equity from the Dangote Group and $6bn to be raised in loan capital to build the world’s largest refinery in an oil-rich nation that relies, alas, on importing petroleum products because of its dilapidated refineries. Now a $15billion investment, the refinery arm will have the capacity to process about 650,000 barrels per day of crude oil, making it the largest single-train refinery in the world, satisfying local consumption of over 200million people and having more than enough to create a market for $11billion per annum of Nigerian crude. It is equally expected to increase Nigeria’s refining capacity two-fold by processing a variety of light and medium grades of crude to produce Euro-V quality clean fuels including polypropylene, 10.4 million tonnes (Mt) of gasoline, 4.6Mt of diesel and 4Mt of jet fuel a year.

“We have other opportunities. Agriculture is there. Petrochemicals are there, Nigeria has more arable land than China. If we finish our gas pipeline, it can generate 12,000 megahertz of power. That’s huge. That’s more than what we are looking for in Nigeria and we can supply the rest of West Africa,” Dangote said in 2020. He added, “Nigeria will soon become the biggest and only urea exporter in sub-Saharan Africa for the first time and we are not only exporting, we are exporting big time. Fertilizer exports alone will generate about $2.5 billion in revenue annually.” On a tour of the facility last year, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, said that when fully operational, the project would lead to an increase in its workforce from the current 34,000 to over 70,000.  

David Pulling of Financial Times described layout of the project as “so big, so audacious and so potentially transformative that it is like Africa’s Moon landing and its Panama Canal — a Pyramids of Giza for the industrial age.” Pulling was not done; “If Aliko Dangote, the billionaire businessman behind what even he calls his ‘crazy’ $12bn project, can pull it off, he will go down as the continent’s John D Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Mellon combined.”

There was no mistaking the excitement on the visage of billionaire Femi Otedola as he led some of his associates to the gasp-inducing complex last Sunday. Otedola, who would later confess that he had not been there for about a year because of the corona virus pandemic, said he was impressed by the level of work done so far. The day after, he posted on his verified Instagram handle; “Yesterday, I visited the Dangote refinery and petrochemical project, what I personally call the DANGOTE WONDERLAND. Not been there in a year and now it’s almost completed! Kudos to my brother, Aliko Dangote.”

Call him what you want, but recognize him for what he is: a futuristic magnate cum problem solver and an effective one at that. Dangote is soft-spoken, but the patriotic yet, a realistic believer in Nigeria and her people and potentials, is driven by a fierce determination to bring progress to his beloved Nigeria and the African continent. It is the quality of his choices that distinguishes him from both the dreamy minion and hackneyed aristocrat. With a combination of guts and genius, he has transmuted from just being an entrepreneur with an interest in a particular business to becoming a respected and renowned empire builder. He is one of those risk-taking individuals that struck out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success, to prosper themselves and their society.

No wonder that every year, he tops the rating of billionaires. According to Forbes’ latest list of Africa’s 2021 billionaires released Friday, January 22nd, Dangote maintained his top position as the richest man in Africa — for the 10th consecutive time — with a net worth of $12.1 billion from last year’s $10.1 billion. “For the tenth year in a row, Aliko Dangote of Nigeria is the continent’s richest person, worth $12.1 billion, up by $2bn from last year’s list, thanks to a roughly 30 per cent rise in the shares of Dangote Cement, by far his most valuable asset,” Forbes said. Bloomberg, in its Billionaires Index, a daily ranking of the world’s richest people, rates Dangote the 117th richest person in the world with an estimated net worth of $17.6billion. In calculating net worth, Bloomberg states that it strives to provide the most transparent calculations available, and each billionaire profile contains a detailed analysis of how that person’s fortune is tallied.

Dangote had his entrepreneurial epiphany early in life. According to him, “I can remember when I was in primary school, I would go and buy cartons of sweets and start selling them just to make money. I was so interested in business, even at that time.” By the time he was in his late teens, his entrepreneurial streak had germinated fully and he was ready to take on the world. With a loan from his very influential uncle, Sanusi Dantata, he established the Dangote Group dealing in commodities and building materials. He moved to Lagos in 1977.

Over four decades later, the Dangote Group has become an octopoidal conglomerate – with the Dangote Cement emerging the largest in sub-Saharan Africa while superintending the sugar, salt and flour markets. That he is globally referred to as the richest African alive is no shtick; he is worth every penny and more adduced to him. A man to envy and emulate; a businessman with hands in virtually every sector of the global economy, Dangote has been Africa’s richest man for over a decade in a row, according to Forbes. A redoubtable philanthropist, he donates substantially to different charitable causes across the world.

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