Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, may very well has set his sights on taking on the world. And to do that, he is beginning from taking on more and more of his nation, Nigeria, West Africa and Africa. And then moving on to the rest of the world via preliminary forays in the United Kingdom and Nepal.
Recognising the importance of ensuring that his primary national base remains in good shape, he has recently been hard at work in ensuring that the country gets it right.
He has for example recently affirmed that Nigeria must change its way of doing business because there were very clear dangers lying ahead if it did not.
The industrialist who was speaking to media executives in Lagos stated that one of the very obvious manifestations of the looming crisis would be felt in the next four and a half years when the nation is expected to cross the very critical 200 million population mark.
‘Do you know what 200 million people really are? Where would we find the resources to feed and take care of them, he queried.
Giving insights into some of the changes that could help in preventing the looming crisis, the president/Chief Executive of the Dangote Group called on Nigerians across all strata to show more concern and understanding with the government and the real needs of the Nigerian people, saying that he had personally reconciled himself to some of the changes that people like him must make.
‘Yes, I will be willing to accommodate a 5 percent increase in the VAT rate for example. This will personally cost me some N30billion naira but the truth is that the government needs more and more resources to deliver value to us. We have crunched the numbers; with an additional 5 percent in VAT proceeds, the nation will be grossing some more N900billion. This will help,’ he stated.
On the vexed issue of oil subsidies, he encouraged Nigerians to look beyond the surface of things, asserting that it indeed had to do with our overall national survival.
‘We are currently spending some 38 percent of our foreign exchange on the importation of petroleum products. Let me confess that I will personally make more money if the subsidy regime stays, but at what cost? Today, many of our states cannot pay salaries to their workers and virtually all of our critical infrastructure is in bad shape so we cannot afford to continue like this.’
Continuing the industrialist opined that a bold decision by government to frontally deal with the question of subsidy would ultimately result in a total recalibration of the entire economics of the industry and sector in the country. He affirmed that though it would lead to even reduced profits for him and the Dangote Group, it will critically be helping Nigeria overcome its presently very crippling dependence on imported refined products, adding that it was also very likely that the price for petrol, post-deregulation would be in the neighbourhood of N110.
‘Let me put it this way. The petroleum market and indeed refining profits is largely driven by volume. At the moment almost all of the refineries in the sub-region are producing at what will be termed a loss. That is why in building our own refinery, we opted for mega-volume. From a starting base of 400,000 litres per day, we have now moved on to 650,000 litres which makes our proposed plant the biggest in the world.’
Commenting on the issue of power, Dangote stated that it had now become very clear to all that the power privatization process had been very poorly executed.
‘How do we explain a situation where, one year into the exercise, government is giving N213billion naira to the companies as bail-out. That is not it. In my thinking, this is a confirmation of the fact that some of the firms that had been involved in the bids for those licences were really not fit.’
He called for a comprehensive revamp of the power sector in the country, saying there should now be closer attention on ensuring a mix of power systems in the country. Along this line he reported that plans were already underway for Dangote power plants to begin using coal as energy source by the end of 2015 even as work continues on pipelines to help evacuate gas from the Niger-Delta to the Lagos area.
In a related development, Dangote has equally revealed that his company is in the process of building a Gas Pipeline from Bonny to under the sea which when done, will provide Lagos with 24hr power supply.
Speaking in the course of a visit to the Lagos State Governor, Akinwumi Ambode, he disclosed that he was ‘building the largest ever single refinery of 650,000 barrels per day, which is by far more than the consumption of Nigeria and that would satisfy our consumption at least for the next 7 to 10 years by the time we finish.’
He was not done: ‘Also, we are building the largest fertilizer plant of two to three million tonnes of Uranium and Amonia also in the Lekki Free Trade Zone and assure him that we are going to do a Gas Pipeline from Bonny to under the sea, in which when we finish, Lagos state will never ever experience blackout, there would be electricity 24 hours a day.
There are quite a lot of things that would come along with, that would create so many jobs. I think Lagos will be one of the fastest growing cities in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. I can assure you that we would do our own bit in terms of your efforts in policing Lagos, for security and whatever the need is, feel free to call us, we would partner with you and whatever you want us to do to make Lagos a better place. It’s not a small project.’
He however noted that though he had foreseen that there would be some challenges on the way, but that he and his team were poised to cooperate with the government in containing same.
‘We would have challenges in getting people to work there, because at the height of it, we would have almost close to 38,000 people working at the same location, this is something that we have to partner with the state government. Having 38,000 people on one site, not every one of them will be from the community, others will be from other states, there would be cultural issues and all that, we need to integrate everybody to ensure that the whole thing work out fine,” he said.