By Sebastine Obasi
Varied reactions greet the $9-billion refinery, petrochemical and fertilizer mega project embarked upon by Africa’s richest man, Mr. Aliko Dangote, being proposed at the Olokola Free Trade Zone, OK FTZ.
Concerns for the project have been centred mostly on the viability of such a mega project, seeing as the downstream sub-sector is still regulated, and as such recouping investment may not be in the short term.
Furthermore, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, with all its federal might cannot sustain operations and retain profitability in the nation’s four refineries with combined capacity of 445,000 barrels per day.
Besides, the attraction in OK FTZ has waned since oil majors, Chevron and Shell pulled out of the OK Liquefied Natural Gas, LNG, which was the biggest push for the zone.
However, while a few think the project might turn out to be a hard sell in view of the issues noted above, others argued that Dangoteis too much of an astute a business man to go into a white elephant project.
A good venture
The Executive Secretary, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, MOMAN, Mr. Femi Olawore, noted that Dangote must have done his homework very well before embarking on such a gigantic project. Thus, the issue of feasibility of the project should not arise.
“Dangote as a businessman and businessmen are not father Christmas. They are out to make profit. As far as I am concerned, he must have known the viability before he embarked on the project, otherwise, he wouldn’t venture into it,” he said.
Olawore also added that the project would impact positively on Nigeria’s economy, as many Nigerians would be employed both during the construction of the project and when it becomes operational.
The Chairman,Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, Western Zone, Mr. Olumide Ogunmade, said the project is a welcome development, and would save capital flight from petroleum products importation.
“It is a welcome. It is going to give the country options instead of only importation. It will generate employment and save Nigeria a lot of foreign exchange. It is long overdue; it is going to work,” he said.
As regards the viability of the project, Ogunmade argued that Ondo State, where the OK FTZ is located is an oil producing state and as such, has gas deposits, which makes the citing of the project there an added advantage.
According to him, “Ondo is an oil-producing state and there is gas. That was why he cited the refinery there. But most importantly, the project will crash the price of petrol in the country. This is because the current pricing is based on importation. He is not going to pay demurrage, no freight cost, no landing fee. We will no longer be dependent on fuel importation.