“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard”.
This was one of the excerpts of the famous speech of President John F. Kennedy in 1962, titled: “We Choose the Moon”. In 1969, what began as thoughts expressed via a presidential speech, gave birth to Apollo 11 mission that saw United States of America, historically, put a man on the surface of the moon. It was the ultimate synchronisation vis-a-vis crystallisation of imagination, conceptualisation and belief that metamorphosed into an idea whose time had come. What seemed hitherto impossible became possible. Greatness is a long-short-way of hard choice, because at the beginning the journey usually appears endless and difficult—the reason only the brave and persistent reach the finish line.
In 2007, when it was obvious that the Federal Government’s privatisation initiative that would had seen a consortium led by Alhaji Aliko Dangote, take over Port Harcourt and Kaduna moribund refineries had collapsed, it looked as if it was the end of the road for Dangote’s adventure into the oil and gas sector. He did not give up on the dream. The easier route to owing and running a petrochemical refinery had closed but the vision did not die, rather it incubated. Few years down the line, Alhaji Aliko Dangote decided to go to the moon of impossibility. He chose the harder path—to build from the scratch.
He conceived the idea to construct the biggest single train refinery in the world with 650,000 per day capacity. It appeared impossible to some people. Naysayers doubted. Conspiracy theorists went to work. But the owner of the vision was ready to see it to fruition, against all odds. Like Martin Luther King, Jr., postulated: “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the entire staircase”. The veteran industrialist, Dangote, began the journey of thousands of miles he started with a bold step. Few years later, the vision, courage and resilience of one man has paid off, not only for the entire nation, but Sub-Sahara Africa.
Today, Nigerians in particular and Africans in general are overwhelmingly proud of this magnificent project. It is the dawn of a new era. A breath of fresh air. The light at the end of the tunnel. The much-awaited Dangote Petroleum Refinery is finally here—a reality. The Refinery is located in the Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos, spanning an area of approximately 2,635 hectares, equivalent of seven times the size of Victoria Inland. The world’s largest single-train 650,000 bpd Refinery with 900 KTPA polypropylene plant. The implication, is that Dangote Petroleum Refinery can meet 100% of the nation’s domestic requirements and still have more for export. It has the capability to produce 53 million litres of gasoline per day; 34 million litres of Diesel per day; 10 million litres of kerosene per day, and 2 million litres of Aviation Jet1 fuel per day.
Dangote Refinery has its own power plant with installed capacity to generate more than 435 Mega Watts (MW) of electricity, that can meet total power needs of five states of Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ekiti and Kwara, respectively. Energy sufficiency for the entire Petrochemical Complex is already guaranteed. In fact, the power plant attached to the Refinery will play a major role increasing the nation’s generating capacity. In a bid to bring over dimensional cargoes close to the site directly, Dangote Group had to develop its own port and constructed two quays in the port with load bearing capacity of 25 tonnes/sq metre.
The Refinery has its own quarry—world’s largest granite quarry, built to supply coarse aggregate, stone column material, stone base, stone dust and material for break water, ten million tonnes per year production capacity. It is also designed to process large variety of crudes, including many of the African crudes, some of the Middle Eastern crudes and the United States’ light tight oil. One of the measures of a high capacity refinery is its storage capability. Dangote Petroleum Refinery lives up to expectations in this area, because it boasts of 177 tanks with cumulative storage capacity of 4.7 billion litres.
It has largest sub-sea pipeline infrastructure in the world—1,100 kilometers—for crude supply. Its loading capacity is also topnotch with its tanker loading of 2,900, assuming it is based on trailer-tank capacity of 33,000 litres. Dangote Petrochemical Complex located at Lekki Free Trade Zone, FTZ, has been the biggest construction site in Sub-Sahara Africa since this project kicked off. With the combination of three-million-ton-per-year Dangote Fertiliser Plant with the 650,000 bpd Refinery, over 130,000 jobs will be created—making it the largest job concentration in Africa created by a private organisation.
Humongous projects like these are usually undertaken by sovereign nation not an individual or private organisation. Dangote Group has redefined standard in this aspect. It has blazed the trail and set a record that will be difficult to equal. Ironically, the two government-owned refineries the then consortium led by Alhaji Dangote wanted to take over, have been in sorry state of comatose seventeen years after the failed deal. It was a costly mistake on the part of then Administration to have reversed the privatisation without any justifiable argument. Nigeria has paid direly for such irrational decision. We became the only OPEC-member country importing refined petroleum products. The four government refineries with refining capacity of 445,000 bpd have been a shadow of what it ought to be, gulping billions of dollars in endless Turn Around Maintenance (TAM).
The age-long incapacitation in local refining created a bottomless pit of corruption called subsidy regime, where the nation has been hemorrhaging profusely by a cartel of economic saboteurs that has taken corruption to stratospheric level in the petroleum sector. It has been a vicious cycle of waste. Importation of petrol has really stretched the nation’s economic string beyond its elastic limit. Our foreign reserves has been seriously depleted, and this has limited the capacity of the apex bank, the Central Bank of Nigeria, to stabilize the local currency, the naira. In 2022 alone, the nation spent $10 billion in petrol subsidy without much positive impact on the economy. These abnormalities have created uncertainties with its attendant vulnerability and volatility in the downstream sector.
An average Nigerian on the street is always terrified and worry-wary of when the next fuel scarcity will hit the town. Petrol sufficiency has eluded this nation for long; we are always few days away from the next scarcity, with its downward spiral of sufferings in the land. Festive seasons are usually riddled with petrol crises, turning supposed moments of celebration to groaning. Increments in petrol prices usually trigger inflation, simultaneously, thereby making life harder for already impoverished masses. Airlines in the country have really had their fair share of crisis as a result of perennial challenge of Aviation fuel scarcity. The list is limitless.
Like Winston Churchill propagated in his historic—The Finest Hour: “the darkest hour of the night is the closest to the dawn”. With the inauguration of Dangote Petroleum Refinery, it is the dawn of a new era. For the first time since independence, Nigeria will be self-sufficient in refined petroleum products. It will attract estimated $21 billion in revenue and save billions of dollars in the foreign reserve. The economic benefits that will emanate from this unprecedented project will be too numerous to mention. It will herald a paradigm shift from consumption to production, which is the hallmark of industrialisation.
During the inauguration of the Refinery, I read some funny but unfortunate innuendoes and conjectures made by a school of thought populated by naysayers and critics, alluding that Alhaji Aliko Dangote was able to accomplish this giant feat because of “favours” he got from the government. As laughable as it sounds, it resonates with an Igbo adage which opines that if a child fetches more firewood than his contemporaries, he will be accused of fetching his own in the evil forest.
It is obvious that Dangote has eaten the lunch of global oil marketers, subsidy scammers and Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) contractors, who never wanted the country to be self-sufficient in refining. He has ended monumental cesspit of corruption of unscrupulous petrol importers. He should not go to sleep because the oil cartel whose cashcow he is about to end might fight back via acts of sabotage.
As someone who started with trading and progressed to importation—to manufacturing over three decades ago, Alhaji Dangote, an astute investor cum industrialist who has written his name in the sky, and deserves all the accolades and encumiums he is getting today, because he believes that the greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it, apology to William James.
Nwobodo can be reached on email@example.com