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Sunday, 8 September 2013
Dangote’s Breath-taking Day At The Hilton
THE paradox of fuel importation in the midst of Nigeria’s heavy crude oil exports may soon come to an end following a N50 billion loan agreement signed, last Wednesday, by the Dangote Group with a consortium of banks for the building of what President Goodluck Jonathan referred to as Africa’s biggest refinery, petrochemical and fertiliser plant.
The loan, which was facilitated by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), represents the $3.3 billion commercial bank tranche of the $6.75billion debt financing for the proposed $9 billion project. The plant, which is to be sited in the free trade zone of Ondo State, has the biggest funding ever to have been provided to a single entity by the Nigerian banks.
The agreement-signing ceremony, which was conducted in the full glare of the creme of Nigeria’s public and private sectors at the Transcorp Hilton Abuja, appeared to have leveraged the 19th Nigeria Economic Summit (NES19) to get all the attention it needed.
The NES 19, which started on Tuesday and ended Thursday, paid great deal of attention to economic diversification through the commercialisation of Agriculture.
The loan-signing ceremony lasted for less than one hour, obviously cashing in on the timeout offered to NES 19 participants. It was actually conducted during the 45-minute lunch break.
A near-stampede, which lasted for more than 10 minutes, kept Olusegun Mimiko, Ondo State Governor, almost stranded at the entrance, as his aides fought hard to contain hundreds of NES 19 participants and journalists, who struggled to gain early and vantage position inside the relatively smaller auditorium, where the “side event” took place.
Already seated inside the hall, were seasoned technocrats, politicians, led by the Chair of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Board of Trustees (BOT), Chief Tony Anenih, and the full compliment of Nigeria’s private sector in the form of bank executives (serving and former), all struggling to get the right sitting position.
Of course, officialdom took its deserved position, as President Jonathan, represented by Vice President Namadi Sambo led some key cabinet members, including the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, to the venue.
Describing Nigeria as the foremost investment destination in Africa, Sambo, said the President has created the enabling environment for the private sector to thrive.
“This project which was cited in a free trade zone in Ondo State, will be the biggest in Africa,” he said.
Sambo stressed that the multi-billion dollar refinery/petrochemical/ fertiliser plant would create “employment directly and directly,” even as the plant “will provide the necessary support for farmers and government’s industrialization efforts.
“Other prospective investors should take a cue from Dangote by taking advantage of the environment provided to invest massively in Nigeria. We are the number one investment destination in Africa. Nigeria is now a large-scale exporter of cement; Dangote is leading in this drive. Nigeria will soon become self-sufficient in sugar production. Indeed, the train is moving. All investors should join the train now before it is too late.”
Chairman of the Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote later addressed the packed audience of the Nigerian elite, including state governors, Central Bank Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Alison-Madueke, and a host of his bank chief executives, who arranged and facilitated the loan.
He (Dangote) said the move was in response to Federal Government’s efforts at industrialising the country, adding that the nation could not be developed without the massive revival of the industrial sector.
Stressing his company’s efforts in this direction, Dangote disclosed that the Group had opened sugar plantation in, at least, seven states, including Jigawa and Adamawa.
Thanking the federal government for support the private sector in recent times, Dangote cited the religious implementation of the backward integration policy, which took a Nigeria from the position of biggest importer of cement in Africa to that of exporting nation. He said government’s avowed commitment to diversifying the economy is, indeed, creating huge investments.
He lauded the CBN for making available a special intervention fund, which his company, according to him, latched upon.
Sanusi, in his usually engaging manner, said the apex bank would continue to support subsidy, not for consumption of imported products, which only create employment in foreign lands, but for local production that would provide domestic capacity for job creation.
Governors of Anambra, Edo, Kebbi, Ondo, Bauchi, Katsina and Kogi were at the event.
Also in attendance were representatives of governors of Kaduna and Kano State, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and former CBN governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo.
Mimiko said it is high time Nigerians appreciated the good works of the Federal government, stressing that those, who predict evil for the country should now hide their faces in shame.
“We are celebrating Nigeria in many forms; after all the heat in the polity, there is need for a change to celebrate Nigerians. Those, who predict and conjecture negative things about Nigeria, should hide their faces in shame. Let me congratulate Mr. President; he surrounds himself with the best brains,” the governor said.
“Dangote’s confidence in Nigeria is palpable, you can touch it. You (Dangote) couldn’t have chosen a better location than Ondo State. Dangote is a world-class brand and so is Ondo State.
“For the banks, I used to wonder where all the multi-billion profits do come from. But today, I congratulate them. Your dream of a great industrial nation, starting fro Ondo State, will come to fruition.”
Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, praised Nigerian banks for coming together in this manner to support this kind of endeavor. Dangote’s taking our refinery to the private sector is absolutely wonderful and this shows that our efforts are yielding results. The Petroleum Minister expressed the hope that Dangote’s would be the first in a number of efforts to make massive investments in private refining business, even as she envisages 20 million tones of fertilizer in local production between 2017 and 2018.
The Coordinating Minister for the economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who was represented by the Minister of State for Finance, said Dangote has been participating actively in Federal Government’s economic committees and has been making tremendous contributions, the result of which manifests in his demonstration of true entrepreneurship.
Guaranty Trust Bank’s Chief Executive Officer, Segun Agbaje, who spoke on behalf his bank — the lead arranger of the loan — and other funding financial institutions (the United Bank for Africa Plc, Zenith Bank, First Bank Plc, Ecobank, Standard Bank and Fidelity Bank, among others), said the banks, having put the money on the table, now expects huge value creation from the ‘gesture’.