By Aisar Fagge
On Monday, 22nd May, 2023 President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the Dangote oil refinery in Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos State, Nigeria. Many African leaders, envoys and dignitaries from various parts of the world attended the event.
As the Vanguard newspaper reported, the essence of building the refinery is to “help Nigeria achieve self-sufficiency in refined products and even have surplus for export.” This is a huge win for Dangote as a businessman, Lagos State for its revenue and perhaps Africa for its image at international stage.
However, many Nigerians are asking, didn’t Nigerian leaders feel any shame to attend an event of an entrepreneur who built a refinery but a whole government of the leading economy in Africa cannot?
Historically, Nigeria has four refineries: Old Port Harcourt refinery commissioned in 1965, Warri refinery established in1978, Kaduna Refinery commissioned in 1980 and New Port Harcourt refinery commissioned in 1989. However, for the past 20 years, these refineries had a poor record of operation before they ran out of steam.
Nowadays, none of the refineries works because we institutionalise corruption. Every new govt will come with the promise that Kaduna or Port-Harcourt, or Warri refinery will soon commence production, but no drop of oil will be refined. And yet, government continue paying these ghost workers who produce nothing.
The question Nigerians keep asking is, if one man can build a refinery from scratch, why does a government with all its resources fail to rehabilitate its four refineries, sack all those ghost workers, appoint new MDs, stabilise them, refine our crude oil, use the trillions of the so-called subsidy to develop education, health, agric, security, infrastructure, etc.?
Some people would argue that in today’s world, the government has no business in businesses; it should only provide an enabling environment for such private investors to thrive through competition. So, they say the government should only focus on governance, policies and regulation of private investment.
Those people will cite the US and other developed countries without public refineries. But what of the Saudi ARAMCO and other Gulf countries like UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, etc? They all own and control their refineries. Look at their development index and look at where we are languishing. Even this Dangote’s refinery is greeted with mixed reactions. Some people argue that his refinery will make little or no difference at all since it is not ours. But only time will tell about that.
Though I’m not an economist, I think transforming Nigeria into an entirely capital state will not produce the desired result, considering our current development and peculiarities. A country with weak institutions should first believe in strengthening those institutions before thinking of borrowing a Western economic model.
So, I believe the Nigerian government must provide and guarantee its citizens’ basic needs – education, security, electricity, and health before anything else. Citizens of an oil-rich country, such as Nigeria, don’t deserve this suffering we’re in. We deserve more.
We pray for the success of Alhaji Aliko Dangote. He achieved this feat against many odds. However, for Nigeria to attract more investors, more must be done at all levels.
Aisar Fagge wrote from Kano. He can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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