President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the $2.5 billion Dangote fertiliser plant yesterday in Lagos, with an assurance that the country was poised to end its massive dependence on imported agricultural products soon.
The fertiliser plant, with installed capacity of three million metric tonnes of urea per annum, is located in Ibeju-Lekki, within the Lekki Free Trade Zone.
Buhari, who was on a one-day visit to Lagos State, also inspected the Lekki Deep Seaport in the same axis. He directed the timely completion of the seaport.
The president, then, proceeded to Ikeja to inaugurate the newly built international terminal at the Murtala Muhammed Airport.
Earlier, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, in his goodwill message, stressed that the fertiliser plant was well-timed considering recent developments on the global scene, where the prices of wheat, fertiliser, and crude oil had spiked by over 20 per cent, following the Russia-Ukraine war.
At the Dangote fertiliser plant, the president declared that the plant would further advance his administration’s drive towards self-sufficiency in food production in the country.
According to the president, the country also stands to gain extensively in foreign exchange earnings from the fertiliser factory.
“I am informed that we have already started exporting to USA, Brazil, and India,” an elated Buhari said.
He noted that the operation of the plant had created huge opportunities in the areas of employment, trade, warehousing, transport and logistics. “This would drastically create wealth, reduce poverty, and secure the future of our nation,” the president stated.
Buhari commended the management of the company for their courage in conceptualising and building the new plant to support his government’s poverty alleviation drive, increase the inflow of foreign exchange, and reduce the country’s dependence on importation of fertiliser.
He said, “In particular, I would like to commend the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Development Finance Institutions, and the local and foreign commercial banks that have supported the investor to make these projects a reality.
“Dangote Cement holds the enviable record as our continent’s largest cement producer, with footprints in 15 countries. Its integrated cement plants (quarry to bagging) have effectively ended Nigeria’s dependence on imported cement products. “Along with the several other subsidiaries, Dangote Industries has created thousands of jobs across Nigeria. It is the second biggest employer of labour in this country, after the federal government.
“Job creation by private sector operators is vital to security, as it takes thousands of youths off the street. Dangote Group has been at the forefront of driving the nation’s industrialisation efforts with huge investments in diverse sectors, such as sugarcane plantation and refining, rice, salt, and other allied products, vehicle assembly and logistics.”
The president noted that in the agricultural sector, another focal point of his administration’s economic policy was to ensure a boom in fertiliser production, saying fertiliser is now readily available.
He revealed that many Nigerians who hitherto practised subsistence farming because of non-availability of necessary inputs now have the opportunity to take up agriculture as a business.
Buhari said his administration expected the rise of a new breed of agropreneurs, who would add value to farming and make the country self-sufficient in food production. He said the government was focused on providing an enabling environment for private sector investors to thrive.
The president pointed out that his administration would continue to deliver on infrastructure, power, and security, and enact relevant laws and regulations that would drive investment in the economy.
According to him, “This new plant is a testament to the widely acknowledged patriotism of Alhaji Aliko Dangote and the leadership of Dangote Industries Limited. It also demonstrates their commitment to the socio-economic development of our country and the well-being of our people.
“We are partnering with the private sector, via a tax credit scheme, in the rehabilitation of roads across Nigeria under the Presidential Order No. 7. As we all know, good roads contribute to easy movement of goods and services across the nation, thus, reducing cost of doing business and improving productivity.
“We are also rehabilitating our railway lines and building new ones to lessen the burden on our roads and create more effective multi-model transportation networks.
“It will be my pleasure to inspect the impressive 650,000 barrels per day refinery and 900,000 tons per annum petrochemical complex, which I look forward to coming back to inaugurate by the end of the year.
“On a personal note, I commend Alhaji Aliko Dangote for helping to rebrand Nigeria through his mega investments across Africa. He has fuelled job-led growth and transformation of several African economies. I am proud of his contribution to affirming Nigeria’s leadership status in the continent.”
Earlier in his remarks, Emefiele stated that out that with lessons learnt from the protectionist actions of countries during the early days of COVID-19, the investment was also a glaring testament to the foresight and passion of the president for encouraging domestic production of goods that could be produced in Nigeria, especially agriculture.
He said this would not only stimulate greater productivity in the agricultural sector but also help in insulating Nigerian farmers from dependence on imported fertiliser.
Emefiele added, “I am delighted, extremely elated indeed, that a Nigerian in the person of Alhaji Aliko Dangote has taken not just this great initiative of helping to solve a perennial petrochemical imports problem, but has taken advantage of the emerging huge market opportunity presented by recent developments.”
Emefiele further described the event as a “stellar” realisation of Buhari’s vision, saying it is timely in the light of the war in Europe.
The CBN governor applauded Buhari for his determination to support growth in the real sector, which according to him prompted the apex bank and private sector investors to invest in projects targeted at inclusive growth.
He said, “I am delighted that a Nigerian has taken not just this great initiative of helping to solve our perennial problem of importing petrochemical products, including fertiliser, but has taken advantage of the emerging huge market opportunity presented by recent global developments.
“This Dangote fertiliser plant with an installed capacity of over three million metric tons per annum is a very significant feat in the diversification agenda of Mr. President. This is because it will help to increase the value chain in the petrol-chemical and allied sector, create jobs for our youths and boost our agricultural productivity.”
Emefiele added, “Mr. President, in the early days of my stewardship under you, you made your vision for our country clear to me. This vision was wrapped around the broad theme of self-introspection for local resources and self-sufficiency in local consumption.
“In summary, you told me that you would like to see urgent support for our farmers, small businesses, and large manufacturers. You wanted to see a Nigeria that produced what it consumed and reduce forex expenditure on agricultural imports.
“Given our unflinching believe in you, we immediately set out to work at the CBN. We thoroughly studied, deeply assimilated, and enthusiastically implemented this vision from day one of your administration. It is based on the many nights and days of painstaking work in pursuit of this vision that today’s ceremony is emotional for us at the CBN.
“Indeed, the completion of this plant is a stellar example of the realisation of your vision. It is only fitting, therefore, that this plant is being commissioned by Mr. President himself, the original owner and protector of this vision.
“For your unparalleled leadership and timely vision, and on behalf of my grateful colleagues at the CBN, I say a heartfelt thank you. To avoid losing momentum and backtracking on these gains, we will work hard, every day to protect your legacy and ensure that posterity remembers you for all you have done for our country.”
Emefiele disclosed that prior to Buhari’s assumption of office in 2015, Nigeria imported virtually all its fertiliser products to support the agricultural sector. To address the problem, Emefiele said the president inaugurated the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative, chaired by Jigawa State Governor, Alhaji Muhammad Abubakar and “charged us with resolving this perennial fertiliser shortage problem in Nigeria.
“I am delighted to note that their work and the continued support of Mr. President has resulted in a significant increase in our nation’s blending capacity, from seven plants in 2015 to over 48 active fertiliser blending plants today.
“Indeed, during the past five years, over 35 million bags of blended fertiliser has been produced in Nigeria. Consequently, our import bill on fertiliser has not only declined significantly but we are also witnessing rising investment in the fertiliser industry, such as the one being commissioned today by the Dangote Group.
“Today, Nigeria is self-sufficient in the production of urea, and we are also the leading producer of urea in the African continent. There is no doubt that improving access to fertiliser will contribute to significant improvements in the productivity of our local farmers.
“But probably more importantly, it will enhance our nation’s drive to improve food security and ensure we consume what we produce in Nigeria, thereby fulfilling another key promise and vision of this administration.”
He added, “With sustained efforts, other indigenous companies like Indorama and Notore with a combined capacity of over 2.5 million tons per annum have tried to match the market demand, yet the country still faced a huge shortfall of fertiliser supply.”
In his remarks, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said the Lekki Free Trade Zone was conceived by former governor of the state, Senator Bola Tinubu, in 2003, to attract investments to the state.
On his part, Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Niyi Adebayo, said although the fertiliser complex was just one part of the Dangote Refinery project, “this part alone offers unquantifiable value” to the economy.”
Adebayo added, “I am aware that this facility has the potential to produce three million metric jobs per annum of urea fertiliser in phase one alone. This will go a long way in bridging the current fertiliser gap and improving soil and farm yields.
“One of the federal government’s key ambitions is for Nigeria to be both self-sufficient in food production, and also to be a net exporter of food and value added products. The Dangote Fertiliser Plant goes a long way in realising this vision not just for Nigeria, but for the entire continent.
“Dangote fertiliser has the potential to meet not just Nigeria’s needs, but at its current capacity, it will earn the country millions of dollars from exports. It will also help with the unemployment problem our current country is currently faced with.”
The president of Dangote Group expressed delight over the success of the fertiliser plant. Dangote said the plant was the largest in Africa and the second-largest urea plant in the world.
He said products from plants have reached the African market, and across Brazil, India, and Mexico.
According to Dangote, “It is an ambitious project that will reduce unemployment in Nigeria. Low fertiliser usages have been the reason for low yield of agriculture products in the sector.
“Our goal is to make fertiliser available in quantity for our farmers. We are rolling out initiatives that will transform the agric sector for all. This will boost productivity and enhance output across the nation.
“We believe that many new farmers will emerge in the nation, providing millions of jobs and ushering us into the era of agricultural entrepreneurs, (agroprenuers). These breed of agroprenuers will take to farming on large scales, providing food and raw materials for our industries.
“We are rolling out innovations that will transform the agricultural sector in the form of extension services for small and medium scale farmers. We have acquired a well-equipped fertiliser soil-testing laboratory to enable us to analyse and identify a particular soil deficiency and the appropriate fertiliser blend. Applying the right fertiliser to the soil will boost productivity. This service is to cover all the geopolitical zones and has the capacity to transform farming into a lucrative profession.
“Dangote Fertiliser works with farmer associations, corporate farms, NPK blenders, NGO/development partners and state governments all over Nigeria, and governments across Africa and beyond who are looking for sustainable approach to improve soil quality and farm yields.”
He appreciated the CBN and other agencies of government for their support.
Buhari Tours Lekki Deep Seaport
Buhari also praised the efforts of the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, towards making the Lekki Deep Seaport in Lagos a reality.
He directed him to consult and bring up a memorandum to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to link the facility with the railway network and also to ensure its timely completion.
As part of his engagements in Lagos, the president inspected the pace of work at the first Deep Seaport in Nigeria located in Lagos Free Zone, 65Km east of Lagos.
In the course of the inspection, Buhari received firm assurances that the port, which has a concession period of 45 years and sits in a land area of 90 hectares, would be completed on schedule by September.
Amaechi while speaking during the tour, revealed that the Ibom Deep Seaport had gotten the federal government’s approval to begin operations in the country. Besides, the minister stated that the federal government was also fast pursuing the Badagry seaport in its bid to decongest the Apapa and Tin Can ports.
He stated, “By the time we leave office, all those people who would have been granted approval are all private seaports. The only one that the government will participate in its ownership is the Bonny Seaport because the minster is from Rivers State.”
Amaechi said the president’s inspection would publicise the seaport and put pressure on the owners to complete the port project in earnest
The minister said, “The port is almost ready, if not for the equipment, they can actually get this place ready before June, but they said the equipment are arriving by June and installation will take them till September and then it can be commissioned in September.”
He added, “The miracle of bringing the president here, that is why it is important for a president to inspect projects, this will hasten the process of completion if there is money.”
Reacting to a question over possible traffic congestion if the seaport begins operation, the minister stated that the country was broke and unable to build a rail network.
Dangote “We don’t have money, if you give us money we will build railway here. As the Minister of Transport I do not do roads. These are private investment so they can get private investors. “This seaport is not our business; it is private investment. You should be asking for money for Bonny seaport and others where Government may be interested in putting their money,” he added.
“This is a private port, not a government port, so no agency will run here. The agencies will be present but they will not run here because it is a private port and here is heavily automated so we won’t have too many staff working here.
“You won’t see it the way you see Apapa Port and all goods won’t come to Lagos, goods will go to Warri, Port Harcourt and what the government needs to do is to either rehabilitate those ports or build new ones. I am convinced that we should commence work in Bonny deep seaport before we leave office,” he added.
The Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko, said the Lekki Deep Seaport would be ready for test run in September this year after which the first commercial visit would be received at the port.
Bello-Koko, who noted that the commencement of Lekki Port would reduce the rate of traffic at Apapa and Tin-Can Island Ports, said there would be Ship-to-Shore (STS) cranes that will enable faster processing of goods.
“Some of the businesses we have lost to other neighbouring West African countries due to draught limitation would be regained. There will be employment creation and increase revenue for government.
“It will create competition and compel other terminal operators to up their games to reduce cargo dwell time at their terminals. Apapa and Tin-Can Island Ports have been operating far beyond their capacity which means that the excess cargoes that have been going there would be diverted to Lekki Port.”
Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Emmanuel Jime had lamented the method of evacuating cargoes in the country, saying that Nigeria is yet to put in place the necessary infrastructure that would allow for quick evacuation from the Lekki Deep Seaport.
Buhari Pledges More Support in Infrastructure Development
Buhari also said his administration had prioritised infrastructure development to spur the creation of jobs and boost the nation’s economy.
He directed the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and Planning to make funds available for the building of a second runway at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. Buhari stated these when he unveiled the new terminal at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos yesterday.
The president said despite the lean resources at the disposal of the administration, especially in its first tenure, he sustained the infrastructural projects he inherited and initiated new ones.
He pointed out that because of the importance of having modern airport facilities, his administration had completed the four new terminals at the four major airports in the country.
With the inauguration of the new international terminal in Lagos, the completed terminal at the Mallam Aminu would International Airport, Kano, the four airport facilities started in 2013 by the Chinese and Nigerian government, collaboration would have come on stream.
“Our continuous investment in the building of long lasting infrastructure in the aviation, road and rail transportation, agriculture, telecommunications and other critical sectors is yielding massive results, and the people of Nigeria are now increasingly attesting to benefiting from the associated dividends.
“Starting from the year 2015 when we commenced our first tenure in office as a government, we have been deliberate and consistent in identifying and investing in critical projects that would improve the standard of living of our people, as well as contribute immensely to our growth and development as a nation,” the president said.
He noted that despite obvious limitations in terms of availability of resources, “our investments in inter-state rail connectivity, road networks, agriculture, power and telecommunications, just to mention a few, have been unprecedented.”
Buhari said taking into cognisance the importance of airport infrastructure as a catalyst for economic growth, enhancement of foreign direct investment and development globally, his administration decided to prioritise the completion and delivery of five brand new international terminals, which were at 11 per cent completion level when we came into power in 2015.
“Government is responding by further investments and partnerships in the sector to tend to this challenge. Consequently, the Minister of Aviation has been directed to fast track the airport concession programme.
“Similarly, the Abuja second runway is being fast tracked. The Minister of FB&NP has been directed to source special funding for the project while the MFCT is directed to conclude the titling of the approved 12,000 hectares of land to accommodate the runway and other developmental projects.”
In his speech, Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, called on the CBN to release the $283 million blocked funds for foreign airlines and subsequently pay them as they earn their revenue so that there would no more be blocked funds in Nigeria.
Sirika also urged the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) to import aviation fuel (Jet A-1) in large qualities to overcome the current scarcity and urged CBN to make forex available to major marketers to import the product.
Sirika also called for the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions to enhance seamless air travel, which is a catalyst to the development of any country. he said
Bello-Koko, “Mr. President is aware of the recent chaos in the sector caused by lack of Jet-A. Flights are unduly delayed and/or cancelled unpleasantly. While apologizing to our teaming passengers, I wish to use this medium to humbly request Mr. President to direct NNPC to import Jet-Al in good quantities and devise means to sustain supply as well as directing CBN to allocate Forex for the major marketers to sustain supply.”
The minister assured that the airport concession project (including the newly commissioned terminals) had reached advanced stage and promised that his ministry would be issuing Request for Proposal (RFP) to the shortlisted firms before the end of March.
“We expect to announce a partner in 2nd Quarter 2022 and handover by 4th Quarter 2022,” he said.
On the new terminal he said, “This terminal you are about to commission has the capacity to process 14 million passengers per annum. There are 66Nos. check-in counters, 5Nos. baggage collection carousels, 16Nos. Immigration Desks at Arrival, 28 Nos. Desks at Departure, 8Nos. Security Screening Points, 6Nos. passenger boarding bridges with remote boarding and arrival. Other facilities include 2Nos. food courts, 4Nos. premium lounges, 22Nos. guest rooms and Spars, 16Nos, airline ticketing offices, visa on arrival and port health facility, praying areas, more than 3,000sqm duty free spaces and over 5,000sqm let-table utility spaces.”
The highlight of the event was the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Lagos State government for the construction of access roads linking the airport from Ikotun, Sasha and Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway.
The Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, signed on behalf of the state government, while FAAN Managing Director, Captain Hamisu Yadudu signed on behalf of the agency.