fallen due, such a move has been viewed cautiously by supporters and critics of the project alike.
These reports also suggest that the company unsuccessfully approached the outgoing president Muhammadu Buhari administration to release the remainder cash sum of 1.7billion dollars which was to have been paid upon completion of the project. According to these reports, President Buhari backtracked after further due diligence was done on the project which revealed that the project would not be completed before 2025 unlike the December 2022 date the company had promised at the time of signing the agreement.
As a result, intense pressure is now being mounted on the incoming government of Bola Tinubu to pay the remainder sum of $1.7billion dollars upon taking office as well as approve a new cash injection of 3billion dollars and crude for additional 20% equity in the project so the company can raise sufficient cash in the short term to pay outstanding interest costs and complete the project. This is premised on the fact that the new government has declared it wants to plug revenue gaps by removing the subsidy but the company has now given them the impression that the project will be completed by mid-2024 – which is far from the case. The incoming government must therefore be wary of yet another such lofty promise by the project owners as sources close to the Chinese company brought in to salvage the refinery project say a 2024 date is not feasible.
Should the incoming government go this route, it does nothing to solve the problems with the completion of the refinery, adds further unnecessary debt burden to the country and its citizens, and takes away money from critical and immediate solutions to the subsidy removal. Nigeria is already over-leveraged to the Dangote refinery project.
Many commentators believe that rather than relying on the uncertain completion of the Dangote Refinery, the Nigerian government should focus on the ongoing refurbishing exercise of its existing refineries. This strategy would not only provide a more reliable short-term palliative solution but also pave the way for a smoother transition from imported petroleum products. They should also encourage the modular refineries to ramp up production.
In addition, the Nigerian government should explore alternative strategies, such as investing in renewable energy sources, to reduce the nation’s reliance on imported petroleum products. This approach would provide long-term benefits to Nigeria’s economy and environment, while also fostering self-sufficiency in fuel production.
The removal of fuel subsidies offers Nigeria a unique opportunity to reassess its priorities and invest in a more sustainable future. By rejecting the new investment proposal for the Dangote refinery which has become an albatross whilst focusing on feasible alternative strategies, Nigeria can emerge stronger and more resilient in the face of global challenges. Can the incoming government afford to mortgage Nigeria’s scarce resources on a false hope? With billions of dollars and the country’s economy at stake, Nigeria cannot afford to pin all its hopes on the Dangote Refinery and even if the new government were to invest further in the project, there must be proper due diligence done before any investment is considered.
Sylvester Audu is a Writer and Social Justice Advocate writing from Abuja