By Lanre Olaleye
When Nigeria commissioned Dangote Refinery in May 2023 many jumped for joy amid hopes of transforming the country into a net exporter of petroleum products, but today such joy has been shortlived by revelations of underhand schemes by the billionaire businessman to rip off the poor and down-trodden Nigerians.
From afar, Aliko Dangote cuts a perfect figure of a successful business man, a pride to Nigeria and the African continent at large. But close scrutiny have since revealed the dark and ugly side of the Chairman and CEO of the Dangote Group.
From an humble beginning in 1991, the Kano-born businessman had risen to become African weathiest man with a net worth of $1.2bn garnered from lucrative ventures into foodstuffs, including pasta, sugar, salt, and wheat; cement; haulage; and other concerns.
However, the most ambitious projects that Dangote was involved in was the construction of a massive oil refinery in Lagos State. He spearheaded the project in 2013 in an effort to solve the fuel crisis in Nigeria, which, despite being a leading oil-producing country, had to import most of the refined petroleum products it needed.
But like the proverbial shylock, Dangote took advantage of the high level of corruption riding the petroleum industry to perfect a grand scheme to build the oil refinery using funds provided by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
In a tripod-like plot, Dangote, according to findings had sought the cooperation of former President, Muhammadu Buhari to complete the refinery and thereafter grant him a crude oil operation license, a request which the former President expressly granted without due consultation with stakeholders in the oil industry. Buhari surreptitiously agreed to commission the refinery even when it was not fully completed with Presidents of five African countries in attendance.
He reportedly shared the details of his meeting with former CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele and equally sought his support just as he allegedly convinced him that the successful completion of the refinery was of utmost priority to the former President.
Thereafter, Emefiele literally handed over the country’s treasury to Dangote by providing the needed fund. This much Emefiele alluded to during the official opening ceremony of the refinery in May when he informed that in ensuring the successful completion of the project, CBN provided over N125bn to cover the domestic currency requirements of the venture, while also ensuring the availability of foreign exchange to pay for the importation of some of the machinery.
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He had projected that the Dangote Refinery could earn Nigeria foreign exchange savings of between $25bn and $30bn yearly, stressing that the impact of the savings would be directly reflected in Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves by reducing the pressure on the country’s balance of payments.
Given the processing capacity of 650,000 BPD, the CBN governor said the refinery was more than able to meet all of Nigeria’s domestic fuel consumption, which is about 450,000 barrels per day, while the excess production will be available for export.
Dangote and Emefiele had both projected the in-coming administration of President Bola Tinubu would support his grand scheme for continued funding of the oil refinery. But unknown to them, Tinubu and his egg heads have since uncovered the unholy scheme and therefore decided to stop further funding as well as revoking the application for exploration license earlier promised by Buhari.
Aside this, The Snoop gathered that Tinubu also directed total refund of funds made available to Dangote in respect of the oil refinery. The new twist reportedly jolted Dangote and therefore began moves to endear himself to the new president.
In his bid to appease the new President, Dangote reportedly dragged his fellow billionaire, Bill Gates to Abuja in order to persuade Tinubu to rescind his decision to clampdown on Dangote and his dream project.
Sources at the Presidential Villa informed that the American waited five hours to see Tinubu but was kept at bay by presidential aides who pointedly told him the President was busy with other urgent state matters.
However, it took the spirited intervention of the National Security Adviser (NSA), Nuhu Ribadu who personally took Gates to President Tinubu. Inside sources said the meeting was very brief as Tinubu told his American guest to give him time to ponder over his request. But he seemed to have made up his mind on the clampdown of the funding of the refinery which is seen as being against public interest.
Moreso, Dangote had all along portend to be an honest businessman but those who know him too well attest to his dirty antics perpetrated to run opposition aground.
Recently, BUA Group-owned by Ishaku Rabiu detailed several acts of sabotage inflicted on its company and it’s businesses by Dangote and his cronies. These are some of his subterfuge moves that has propelled him to become the largest producer of cement, sugar, fertilizer and other foodstuffs in Africa.
However, President Tinubu may have taken to wise counsel by clamping down on Dangote’s refinery project which is meant to further improverish Nigerians through cement production.
Today’s Dangote brand of cement remains the costliest in the market at N5, 200 per bag.
Sadly, the refinery project which was hurriedly commissioned in May is currently stalled due to lack of funds following the hardline of the new CBN governor, Yemi Cardozo to advance further funds. It is not yet known when and how the Kano-born businessman hopes to put his dream project back on steam.