- To pull back from his business
Africaâ€™s richest man and President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, has advised the federal government to introduce â€œdraconian policy to stop people importing milk, just like they did with cement.â€
Speaking in an interview with the Financial Times of London, Dangote decried the fact that Nigeria still imports a lot of things that could be produced locally.
â€œWhat Nigeria needs is to produce locally what we can produce locally. Nigeria still imports vegetable oil, which makes no sense.
â€œNigeria still imports 4.9 million tonnes of wheat, which does not make sense. Nigeria still imports 97 or 98 per cent of the milk that we consume.
â€œThe government needs to bring out a draconian policy to stop people importing milk, just like they did with cement,â€ he was quoted to have said.
Speaking about his $12 billion oil refinery project expected to become operational in 2019, he said, â€œwhen we finish this project, for the first time in history Nigeria will be the largest exporter of petroleum products in Africa.â€
When it is up and running, â€” the refinery will process 650,000 barrels of oil a day, a third of every drop Nigeria produces and approaching one per cent of planetary production.
That will make it the biggest oil refinery of its type in the world.
It will pump out all the plastic Nigeriaâ€™s 190 million population needs, as well as three million tonnes of fertiliser a year, more than all its farmers currently sprinkle on their fields.
The project requires sinking 120,000 piles, on average 25 metres in length. But, no port in Nigeria is big enough to take delivery of the massive equipment, which includes a distillation tower the height of a 30-storey building, and no road is strong enough to bear its weight.
Dangote disclosed that he had to build both, including a jetty for which he has dredged the seabed for 65m cubic metres of sand.
There is not enough industrial gas in the whole country to weld everything together, so Dangote also revealed that he will build his own industrial gas plant. There arenâ€™t enough trucks, so heâ€™s producing those in a joint venture with a Chinese company, he added.
The plant will need 480 megawatts of power, about one-tenth of the total that electricity-starved Nigeria can muster, he further hinted.
Dangote is building his own power plant too.
For years, and absurdly, Nigeria has exported all its oil as crude and then reimported refined petroleum, such as petrol and benzene.
That has been a lucrative racket for the middlemen who scheme over import contracts and who concoct ways to scam a system distorted by subsidies.
â€œIâ€™m sure you know about this game,â€ Dangote said. Because of its reputation for skulduggery, he said, he has shunned the oil trade.
â€œIt is very simple to destroy a name,â€ he added, referring to a family business that stretches back to his great-grandfather on his motherâ€™s side, Alhassan Dantata, a prodigiously wealthy merchant who imported kola nuts from Ghana and exported groundnuts from Nigeria.
â€œBut itâ€™s very difficult to build it.â€
Dangote reiterated his desire to acquire London-based Arsenal Football Club, saying â€œI love Arsenal and I will definitely go for it.â€™
He reckoned that the football club is worth about $2 billion.
Speaking about his daily schedules, he said, â€œpeople call me in the middle of the night to tell me about their problems.â€
According to him, Tony Blair, a former British prime minister and his friend had told him he needed to screen his calls. â€œTony said he only makes three phone calls a day,â€ Dangote said, adding that each day scores of emails come rat-tat-tatting in. â€œYou try to be polite and reply but they come back to you with a longer email, not minding that here is a very, very busy person,â€ he said.
He reckoned that he takes more than 100 calls a day.
â€œâ€ŠLook Alikoâ€™,â€ he said Blair had told him, â€œâ€Šthe world is not going to fall apart if you donâ€™t answer your phone.â€™â€Šâ€He, however said his ambitions were changing as he is considering pulling back from the business, concentrating on strategy and letting others run things day-to-day.
â€œIâ€™m trying to step back from some of the boards.â€
Commenting on leadership in Nigeria, he said â€œNigeria has always had a lack of visionary leadership.â€