Witness to Industrialisation, Job Creation

Guest Columnist: ISSA AREMU


Africa Industrialisation (Day AID) 2020 assumes a special importance as it was observed with week-long manifestations, making it truly Africa Industrialisation Week (AIW) not just a Day. In 1989, the United Nations General Assembly, proclaimed 20 November “Africa Industrialisation Day” (AID) within the framework of the Second Industrial Development Decade for Africa (1991-2000). Since then, the United Nations system led by United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) held events annually raising awareness about the importance of Africa’s industrialisation and the challenges faced by the continent.

In the past six years, the affiliate trade unions of IndustriALL Global Union in Nigeria had been active, observing the day through industrial policy dialogue with relevant stakeholders that include organised businesses in Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), organised labour in Nigeria Labour Congress ( NLC), Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, Bank of Industry (BOI) and some industry-promotion states of the Federation. IndustriALL global union organises 50 million manufacturing workers along the global value chains in 140 countries. In Nigeria, affiliate unions of IndustriALL Global Union are drawn from petroleum, gas, chemical, textile and iron and steel sectors. Expected sustainable industrial policy is one critical success goal of our global union.

As the elected Vice President, (IndustriALL Africa), I can confirm that Nigeria’s Council is the most consistent in marking AID/AIW in line with the promotion of Sustainable Industrial policy goal of IndustriALL Global Union. Other goals of the global union are; Defence of workers’ rights, building union power, engaging global capital and fighting precarious work. 2017 was memorable with a three-day programme; 6th Special Policy Dialogue Session on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (INDUSTRY4.0: Implications for Africa).

The objective was to draw attention and critically examine the opportunities for Africa to diversify its economy, promote mass decent employment with respect to workers’ rights within the context of digital/smart manufacturing (Industry 4.0). One positive enduring outcome was the launch of Industrial Revolution Manifesto which impacted on the Federal government.

In 2018, the leadership of National Union of Textile and Garment workers had a historic audience with President Muhammadu Buhari during which he unveiled the Cotton, Textile and Garment (CTG) policy aimed at reviving the sector. This is one positive outcome of policy advocacy. The year’s Industrialisation Day Webinar, featured the participation of Africa Development Bank (AfDB).

As significant as all these activities are, the singular visit to Dangote Petroleum Refinery located in the South-East of the Lekki Free Trade Zone (FTZ) in Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos, on Monday November 30th as part of AIW was the game changer in revealing what value addition and investment in Industrialisation promises for Nigeria as much as for Africa. Trade Unions drawn from energy, petroleum and gas, chemicals and engineering as well as textile had sought a visit to which Aliko Dangote, Founder/ President/Chief Executive Dangote Group had graciously accepted through the Group Executive Director, Devakumar V. G. Edwin. Of course, it’s an open knowledge that Dangote Group is a leading “Doing Group” in Africa. Dangote has hugely shared in the ownership of Nigerian development challenges in a way many elected and appointed officers and private sector investors have not. He has moved Nigeria from being the world’s second largest importers of cement, to self-sufficiency, and then export (all within a decade!), constructing “8-million-ton capacity cement export terminals” to make cement Nigeria’s largest industrial export.

However a visit to the on-going largest Single Train Petroleum Refinery in the World -650,000 barrels-per-day (more than enough to meet Nigeria’s petrol needs and for export) confirms that Aliko Dangote has long changed the narrative of Nigeria from pessimism to optimism in terms of manufacturing value added. Alhaji Aliko is truly a lesson in investment patriotism, despite challenges. We spent over an hour in a bus ride, yet we could only cover five per cent of the site. The land area is approximately 2,635 hectares (six times the size of Victoria Island!). The site also hosts two of the World’s Largest Fertilizer Trains – 3 Million Tonnes per Annum (bigger than the 1.4 million tonnes per annum Indorama Fertilizer Limited!). Under construction is the largest Sub-Sea Pipeline Infrastructure in any country in the World – some 1,100 kilometres to handle 3 Billion Standard Cubic Foot of gas per day.

The projected 400 MW Power Plant in the Refinery alone is capable of meeting the total electricity requirement of Ibadan DisCo of 860,316 MWh covering five states including Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Kwara and Ekiti. Dangote Petroleum Refinery can meet 100 per cent of the Nigerian requirement of all refined products (Gasoline, 57 million litres per day; diesel, 27 litres per day; kerosene, 11 million litres per day and aviation jet, nine million litres per day) and also have surplus of each of these products for export. When operational, this refinery would create market of some $11 billion per annum of Nigerian crude, which COVID-19 pandemic suffer fall in global demand.

This refinery for once would make Nigeria enhance national benefits from its crude through beneficiation with annual foreign exchange saving from import substitution of USD 7.5 billion. Designed for 100 per cent Nigerian crude with flexibility to process other crudes it is strategically located with marine infrastructure for crude receipts and product trade. As unionists, our interest is decent mass employment.

It’s remarkable that Dangote has employed over 10,000 Nigerian personnel on site. Employment by the various contractors and subcontractors at the site is 7,500. The current ratio of Nigerians to Expatriates is 93 per cent Nigerians to seven per cent expatriates. A total of 900 Nigerian engineers are to be trained in design, engineering and design of the refinery. The company recently completed the training of 200 artisans selected from the host communities in the areas of masonry, carpentry, AC electricians, plumbing, welders, iron-benders and auto mechanics. This was achieved in collaboration with the Nigerian Directorate of Employment and Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board. The point cannot be overstated that industry is the key driver of sustainable jobs and development for national economies and the foundation of good living standards.

The benefits of Dangote Refinery include technology transfer, employment, generation of power and annual foreign exchange earnings from exports of some USD 5.5 billion. Dangote Fertilizer Project is the largest granulated urea fertilizer complex coming up in the entire fertilizer industry history in the world, with an investment of USD 2.0 billion capacity of 3 Mil TPA, consisting of ammonia and urea plants. For decades, Nigeria has been accused of polluting the atmosphere by flaring gas while the country itself has been facing shortage of gas. The EWOGGS pipeline project as part of this singular project would unlock significant gas supply for industry and will considerably reduce flaring. Power Plants, Fertilizer, Refinery and Petrochemical Projects and others will benefit from this gas supply. No wonder at the end of the visit all felt “prouder” as Nigerians that rather than agonising over “recession” and poverty, it’s time for value addition and industrialisation as Dangote Group is doing for a “self- reliant Africa”.

However we left Lekki with some critical questions in mind? If Aliko could audaciously drive the building of the 650,000 bpd refinery from ground zero on dredged sea land into near completion, why would NNPC prove incapable in managing four refineries with various sums of monies disbursed for so-called turn around maintenance (TAMS)? Why would NNPC prefer wholesale importation to import substitution with all the attendant pressures on scarce foreign exchange, unemployment and underemployment? If only we could have 10 investment patriots like Aliko, would Africa not have been on the path of the long trumpeted sustainable development?

•Aremu mni, a labour leader, wrote from Abuja