The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, has described the $9 billion Dangote Refinery and the fertiliser plants, which are under construction at the Lekki Free Trade Zone, as transformational projects for Nigeria.
Emefiele said this at the weekend during a facility tour of the project site in Epe, Lagos.
He was accompanied by the Deputy Governor, Financial System Stability, CBN, Mrs. Aisha Ahmad; President of the Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote; top officials of the company, as well as project engineers.
Addressing journalists after the tour, the CBN governor noted that the fertilizer plant, which has been completed and due for inauguration in April, is twice the size of Eleme Petrochemical.
He also said when the refinery takes off in the first quarter of 2020, Nigeria would not only be self-sufficient in the production of refined petroleum products, but would join the league of countries that export petroleum products to other countries.
Emefiele said, “You all will attest to the fact that this is certainly a transformational project for Nigeria, and it totally keyed into the objectives of President Muhammadu Buhari that says that we need to think about how to conserve foreign exchange and diversify the economy.
“And to put it in proper perspective, by the time you dimension the size of foreign exchange that we use in importing petroleum products into the country today, it is at least the one third of the foreign exchange that the Central Bank spends to import items into Nigeria today.
“By the time we also add the 42 items that we have, which of course, certainly we are going to increase maybe to 50, in due course because we are going to be more aggressive in ensuring that food items that are being imported into this country, that more and more of them are added into the FX Restriction list.
“I’m saying by the time we add the savings from the production and export of petroleum products, by the time we also add the foreign exchange that we spend on food items, close to almost 55 to 60 per cent of what Central Bank or what the government spends in funding, the foreign exchange operations would have been saved in the country.
Furthermore, Emefiele said: “I am truly looking forward that I will be alive the time this comes to fruition. We need to thank the President of Dangote Industries, for this gigantic project. I’m sure that if he knew the scope of the project that he was going into at the time he conceived of it, with the kind of stress he goes through today in trying to actualise this project, he probably would not have gone into it.
“But I want to thank him, I want to congratulate him, thank him for persevering this stress. About 18 months ago when I came here, I said that we would support anybody, any Nigerian company that takes priority for manufacturing items, for agriculture items along the entire value chain.”
Emefiele restated the support of the CBN to any local company that is interested in diversifying the Nigerian economy and joining government in making sure that they equally partner with the government in restructuring the base of the Nigerian economy.
This support, he explained could come both in form of funding and in providing the foreign exchange required for the importation of manufacturing items needed for the project.
While noting that the country stand to gain from the venture, Emefiele stressed that the projects would create millions of jobs for Nigerians. He however, disclosed that the CBN contributed almost about N75 billion to support the refinery project, and that the project was also being supported by foreign banks.
He added, “You will imagine, N75 billion is just a drop compared to about $9billion that this project is costing. But we will continue to show support to individuals and companies that display the determination to help government, to support the government and support the Central Bank of Nigeria in restructuring the base of this country.”
In his remarks, Dangote who put the cost of building the fertilizer plant at $2 billion, however revealed that apart from the N75 million given to support the refinery project, the CBN under Emefiele also gave his group N50 billion to support the fertilizer project.
Dangote said: “But more importantly is the moral support that we’re actually receiving from you (Emefiele), encouraging us to make sure that we continue with these transformative projects. Most likely people don’t understand what these projects mean; what they mean is that they are transforming the Nigeria’s economy.
“The biggest problem that we have really is that Nigeria imports more than what we produce like any other African country. But by the time we finish the fertilizer plant, I think Nigeria will be the largest fertilizer exporting country in Africa, not even in sub-Saharan Africa.
“We will also be the largest exporter of petrochemicals, maybe head to head with South Africa because of SAWSO, and then we will be the biggest actually in Africa in exporting petroleum products.
“So the change in terms of importing 90 per cent of what we consume and also exporting about one third out of the country. So it’s a major transformation, and also the gas pipeline which we want to do is actually three billion-scope, which is equivalent to NLNG today, and these are all projects that I believe will transform the economy of Nigeria.”
He added that currently, more than 26, 000 people have been employed and that by the time the projects picked up fully, especially with the establishment of filling stations, almost 80,000 people would have been employed in the facilities.