How Dangote resisted international pushback to build world’s largest refinery in Nigeria


Global and local oil mafia including international banking interests all made several moves to foil the location of a big oil refinery in Nigeria, according to Alhaji Aliko Dangote and other knowledgeable sources, according to reports by Empowered Newswire.

Dangote made this revelation during an interview Friday at the Afreximbank Annual General Meeting in Nassau, The Bahamas.

The 650,000 bpd Dangote Refinery is located in the heart of Lekki, in Lagos, Nigeria.

According to him, he didn’t realise the oil mafia was stronger than the drug mafia until he started building the refinery.

National growth LS

Dangote had granted an interview with CNN’s Eleni Giokas where he had earlier pointed to how western and international finance interests tried to frustrate the building of the refinery. But the Nigerian industrialist said CNN carefully left out such comments when the interview was published.

“They tried all sorts. But you know like what I told you in our interview. I told you that I’m a person that has been fighting all my life. So I think it’s part of my life to fight, the Nigerian businessman said during the Q&A at the Afreximbank AGM.

Explaining the push back from different quarters for him not to build this refinery, Dangote said: “I think the luck that I had by getting the refinery done is because people believed that we were crazy. It will never happen.

“So I think the people who were sort of sabotaging us, they were less concerned because they knew that this guys have entered into something that they were not going to be able to finish. So they didn’t really bother much.

“They thought we were going to fail so I must really thank a lot of our bankers for not panicking. The issue is, and I must state this not because President Oramah is here, that this refinery won’t have been possible without Afrexim Bank. I think he is one person that has so much belief in the refinery himself, and then the other gentleman is late now, Herbert Wigwe of Access bank but President Oramah, he is actually more convinced than some of my staff.

“He’s more convinced because when we took him there both him and some of his board members, they became so much sort of convinced this is the right way to go.

Then Dangote pointed to how CNN censored his comments in the previous interview which was also done with Giokas who also interviewed him at the AFREXIMBANK AGM.

“I must honestly tell you that, which I told you in the interview even though I didn’t see that part, I said that you know without the likes of Afrexim Bank, African finance corporation it will be very difficult for us to industrialize because you need to go to banks that do understand your language, do understand your own issues, your programs, forget about all the other banks.

“All the other banks only come in for taking us to the market, raising bonds, raising whatever you know and a lot of them, especially during the Covid, that they believe that we were going to stop somewhere. The Covid would’ve stopped us actually from constructing the refinery. They all left but now they’re coming back when they see the food has been cooked. The food is cooked, it’s on the table.

Dangote again narrated how the Saudi oil interest also tried to discourage him.

“But to tell you the truth, I learnt a lot because I know that four years ago I was in Saudi Arabia during the fasting time and I was invited for the Iftar dinner, which is breaking of the fast, and Dr. Farley, who used to be the minister of energy invited me to just come and break the fast with him and I went there.

“He just said, “Aliko I heard that you’re planning on building a refinery. What capacity?” I said 650,000. He kept quiet for a while and said… ‘but my advice to you is not to do it because normally refineries are built by major corporations or sovereign countries.’

“I said Your Excellency, but unfortunately we have already started so I’m not really looking for an advice. That was really how we continued. But to tell you the truth, it was very very scary.”

On raising the funds to complete the refinery, Dangote said he borrowed $5.5 billion to complete the project, but met a brick wall from international banks.

He explained: “When you look at it when we were building the refinery….first of all, we knew that yes, if we had gone with the idea of doing a project financing, the international banks would have actually shut it down. Shut it down in the sense that may be they might have asked me for my great grandmother’s certificate of birth, which I don’t think I will be able to find it anywhere.

“So what we did was to go in terms of borrowing the money based on our own balance sheet and you know that time naira was very strong and that was how we went through. So we got the money, borrowed the money based on our own balance sheet.”

“We borrowed $5.5 billion. But I know we paid also a lot of interest as we go along because the project was delayed (due to) lack of land you know also the sand fillin. It took a long time. Almost six years or so we didn’t do anything. So it was actually five years it was actually in 2018 we started.

“We have borrowed that much and we have actually paid interest and some principal of over S2.4B. Yes we have done very well. We now have only about 2.7 billion left to be paid so we have done very well for a project of that magnitude.

On a positive note, Africa’s richest man added. “We will end up winning because the population and the government will be on our side because what we are doing is right.”

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