BY ROTIMI OGUNLEYE
The commissioning of the Dangote Petroleum Refinery and Petrochemical Plant in the 16,345.87 hectares Lekki Free Zone (LFZ) in the Ibeju-Lekki Local Government Area of Lagos State is a landmark worth celebrating. The project which started in 2016 with an initial estimated cost of $9 billion, rose to $12 billion and later peaked at $18.5 billion on completion. It is a testimony to Alhaji Aliko Dangote’s tenacity, investment acumen and unwavering commitment to bail Nigeria out of its perennial problem of inability to domestically refine its huge crude oil stock. The Dangote Group’s history is the story of a company which started in the 1970s with the importation of sugar, milk, flour, fish, rice, cement and iron rods to become today one of the biggest diversified conglomerates in Nigeria.
The refinery situated on 2,635 hectares in the South-East quadrant of parcel A in LFZ has a processing capacity of 650,000 barrel of oil per day plus 900,000 tonnes of polypropylene dwarfing the nation’s comatose four refineries’ combined capacity of 445,000 barrels per day. It will produce daily 53 million litres of gasoline commonly called petrol or premium motor spirit, 10 million litres of kerosine, two million liters of aviation fuel and 34 million liters of diesel. The installed capacity of 650,000 barrels per day makes it Africa’s biggest refinery and world’s largest single-train refinery being imbued with a single integrated distillery system with the capacity to produce a variety of petroleum products and petrochemicals instead of having different units for each type of products.
While congratulating Nigerians for this valuable economic breakthrough, the Lagos State government has to be particularly commended for providing the LFZ template, an invest hub that has provided the platform for this gargantuan leap to the next level. LFZ, licensed under the former Decree No. 63 of 1992 now Cap 107 Nigerian Export Processing Zones Act Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 Volume 10, is one of the nation’s export processing zones aimed at diversifying the Nigerian monoproduct economy. Free Zones can be operated and managed by a public, private or a combination of public and private entity under the supervision of and with the approval of the Nigeria Export Processing Zone Authority (NEPZA) established under section 2 of the NEPZA Act.
Schedule A attached to the licence states that LFZ’s entire parcel of land delineated on plan number LS/D/LA/614 measures 16,345.87 hectares. President Bola Ahmed Tinubu deserves to swagger in the klieg light for midwifing the LFZ which, apart from the Dangote project, also houses the Lekki Free Zone Development Company (LFZDC) and Lekki Deep Sea Port in LFZ’s parcel A. LFZDC is a partnership between the Lagos State Government and the Chinese Consortium, China Africa Lekki investment Limited (CALIL), where 3,000 hectares of land are being developed in the Southwest Quadrant of parcel A for the manufacture of diverse non-oil products aimed at economic diversification. As at 2017, a total of 116 investors had registered to do business at LFZDC and another prospective 100 investors had signified their intention to come into the enclave. The Lekki Deep Sea Port, a tripartite venture between Lekki Port Investment Holding Inc. (LPIHI), Nigerian Ports Authority (N.P.A.) and Lagos State Government with a depth of about 14 metres designed to berth heavy vessels that would expectedly sail into the activity-prone LFZ, complements the unique facilities in parcel A. In parcel B is the Lekki Epe International Airport and the North West Quadrant Development Company Limited (NWQDCL), a joint venture between the Lagos State Government and Rendeavours Holdings Limited which had flagged off a real estate development project tagged the Alaro City. Having served at the material time as the Honourable Commissioner in the Lagos State Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Co-operatives (MCIC) which Ministry supervises the LFZ, I am particularly happy at this fulfilment of the Dangote dream which started with threatening challenges in 2016. I resumed in the office in October 2015 at a time when the communities resistance to LFZ’s investment thrust was at its peak with the fear of it blossoming to the height of the Niger Delta crisis. The Managing Director of Lekki Worldwide Investment Limited, Mr. Tajudeen Disu, had on the 12th of October 2015 in the course of a fatal civil disturbance and protest been felled by an unknown marksman at the junction between the road leading to Dangote’s parcel of land and the Resettlement land in the Abejoye zone of parcel A opposite Okunraiye Community. The Okunraiye people were complaining that the indigenes were not employed on the refinery site. Disu was trying to make peace but he died in active service. He is a matyr of LFZ and the recently commissioned project that merits a national honour. The Justice Olateru Olagbegi Tribunal of Inquiry was set up on the incident and subsequently a white paper was released and duly implemented by us.
Therefore, it fell to the table of my team and I to forge out a peaceful way forward. The Ministry constituted democratically elected Lekki Free Zone Resettlement Committees in Abejoye, Abomiti, Yeguda, Lekki Coastal and Lekki-Epe Airport zones. All the members of the committees were elected by their people without any interference by the Lagos State Government and hence we were able to institute a steady two-way communication which eventually brought the desired peace. In line with section 44 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which prescribes prompt payment of compensation for the compulsory acquisition of interests in immovable property, compensations were paid to the host communities and particularly in parcel B to Yeguda, Abomiti, Lekki Costal, Lekki- Epe International Airport zones where hitherto there were outstanding money to be paid.
I therefore congratulate some personalities, starting from the government’s side. Commendably, Alhaji Dangote had at his project commissioning expressed his gratitude to the originator of the LFZ project, President Bola Tinubu, and his able successors Mr. Raji Fashola, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode and the incumbent Mr. Babajide Sanwoolu. They all deserve to be commended. At the MCIC level with me then was the Special Adviser to the Governor on Commerce Hon. Adeyemi Olabinjo, the Permanent Secretary, a legal practitioner and brilliant administrator, Alhaji Olalekan Fariudeen Akodu now retired, the then Director of Commerce Mr. Hakeem Adeniyi who later became the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture who is also retired and the diligent Legal Officer now a director in the Lagos State Ministry of Justice Mrs. Joke Oladipupo. Others with whom we rode in the Ministry’s buses on innumerable occasions on fence-mending and trouble-shooting are the distinguished professionals in the State’s Inter-ministerial Technical Committee including Dr. Taiwo Salami and TPL Adebisi Ogunlewe among others who liaised with the Dangote team to ensure the project aligned with the requirements of the master plan and necessary Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Transport Impact Assessment (TIA). With the Ministry team were the commendable duo of Mr. Abiodun Dabiri, the Chairman of LWIL and LFZDC and Otunba Teni Zacheus, NWQDCL Chairman. Also, to be commended are the royal fathers in Epe division particularly the Oloja of Elepe, Olu of Epe, Onibeju of Ibeju and Onileki of Lekki. When the estimated 65 million cubic meter of sand that were being dredged from the ocean to the project site to elevate the site by 1.5 meters, the challenge of erosion to the properties on the coastline was huge and the assistance of the royal fathers and chiefs came in handy to manage the situation. To be particularly commended on the Dangote Group’s side is the late Engr. Joseph Makoju, the experienced and mature Adviser to the Group on the project. He drew on his wide experience as Chief Executive of the Portland Cement Plc and defunct National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) to put human touch to solving the challenges.
LFZ, an industrial paradise, is a quintessential enabling environment where companies operate without the damocles sword of inhibiting taxes and levies as well as bureaucratic bottleneck stifling the real sector of the economy. The goods and services produced therein are geared towards exportation for the desired foreign exchange inflow and the domino effect of boosting the nation’s foreign reserve and economic weal. The Lagos initiative lying and situate at Ibeju Lekki is divided into parcels A and B and each of the parcels is divided into two quadrants each, making a total of four. They are South-East and South- West quadrants in parcel A as well as North-West and North-East quadrants in parcel B. The Dangote project properly known at MCIC as Dangote Refinery and Petrochemical Complex including a fertilizer plant is a comprehensive production behemoth that would feed not only the downstream sector of the petroleum industry but also sectoral activities in construction, food and beverages, plastics, pharmaceuticals, paint manufacturing and the agriculture value chain. The project which would halt importation of fuel, petrochemicals and fertilizer is expected to save the country over $26 billion and generate $10 billion inflow from exports. It would also pave the way for the country to become a net exporter of petroleum products.
As we bask in the euphoria of the commission of the Dangote refinery, it is imperative for the company and others in the Lekki Free Zone to respect the various Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) signed with the host communities and implement them accordingly to sustain the cooperation and camaraderie. With the storage facility of the refinery put at 177 tanks of 4.742 billion litre capacity and total tanker loading of 2,900 based on tanker capacity of 33 kilolitre (KL), there is need for a massive infrastructural upgrade around the LFZ corridor to complement the existing infrastructure to avoid the repetition of the intractable problem at the Apapa axis.
Ogunleye, a journalist and lawyer, is a former Honourable Commissioner for Commerce, Industry & Co – Operatives in Lagos State.