It is an indictment of successive governments that over the years, none of them was able to manage any of the country’s refineries efficiently and effectively. This explains why importation of petroleum products became an integral aspect of our national life. On the heels of this scandalous development was the regime of turnaround maintenance that gulped billions of naira.
Of course, the unbridled importation of petroleum products created channels of corruption and illegal bunkering. The problem of bunkering became so escalated that amnesty had to be granted the Niger Delta militants to foreclose production disruptions and huge loss of national revenue to oil theft. Efforts to get private investors into oil refining have not yielded the desired result as many of those who obtained licences for refineries did not go ahead to build or operate them.
It is in this regard that the decision of the president of the Dangote Group of Companies, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, to establish a refinery that will cost $8 billion is welcome. It will take only an entrepreneur of the capacity and clout of Dangote to succeed where our governments had strained unsuccessfully. When completed in the next three years, the proposed refinery is expected to double the installed production capacity of all the refineries in the country.
It is an irony that a private person is about to do in less than three years what no government could do since oil was discovered in this country in 1958! We are impressed by the fact that the upcoming refinery will not only serve Nigeria, but cater to the energy needs of other African countries. It is a development that speaks volumes of Dangote’s entrepreneurial vision and supranational investment competence. It is unfortunate that successive governments could not get the oil majors in the country to build small refineries here for the refinement of our crude oil.
The practice where unrefined petroleum products are exported at low prices, processed overseas and brought back at very high cost to local consumers is demonstrative of the kind of leaderships the country has been saddled with since the attainment of independence in 1960. This is in addition to the mismanagement of the oil revenue realised and the outlandish theft of crude oil that has characterised the system. Nigeria remains the only oil-producing country that does not have a functional refinery.
The exportation of our crude oil means that citizens of other countries are gainfully employed refining our oil while we have bursting youth unemployment in Nigeria. We also have loss of incidental revenue and comparative advantages that would have accrued to us were these products refined in our country. At the heart of the challenges that have prevented public or private ownership of refineries is corruption. Those charged with the responsibility of the actualization of such facilities are neck-deep in activities that have prevented successful take-off of refineries here.
This is so because the present chaos and messy situation enable them to rip off the entire country through importation. But, with the pedigree and current disposition of Dangote, all such deliberate bottlenecks and frustrations induced by government functionaries will hopefully be overcome this time. This intervention is long expected and we are convinced that Dangote will make a success of this laudable initiative largely because of his antecedents and global reputation as Africa’s most successful businessman and the richest man on the continent.
We commend Dangote for this ‘rescue mission’, which will make life better for Nigerians and other Africans. By this effort, Dangote has again shown that beyond profitability, he has the foresight to uplift the quality of life of the human race in his sphere of influence. We cannot but wish him success on this project. The government must ensure that Dangote is provided with enabling environment to actualize this refinery plan. It is in the interest of everyone that this ambitious enterprise comes on stream in 2016 as envisaged. This will hopefully end the regime of fuel importation and subsidy scams in the country.