Fear grips NNPC as Dangote Struggles to get approval to operate uncompleted refinery
…safety concerns mount.
The Dangote Refinery, a significant undertaking in Nigeria, is enmeshed in new controversy. This time, there is tension between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man and owner of the Dangote Group, which has sparked concerns over the safety, quality, and ethics surrounding the refinery.
Inside sources have informed us that Alhaji Aliko Dangote has applied for a license to operate, which is the last step of approval before any refinery can start any form of production but NNPC, the regulatory body has hesitated to provide this license due to safety concerns, because the refinery remains uncompleted. He also approached the NNPC to purchase crude but the NNPC declined saying they cannot sell crude to a refinery that is uncompleted. It is now alleged that Dangote is trying to source Nigeria’s crude through trading houses which he would then import into Nigeria – a move that might be seen as ‘going through the backdoor.’
But even if he gets the crude, there are safety and quality concerns voiced by employees of Dangote, contractors, and some officials at NNPC. Without the completion of the refinery, there are concerns that the quality of jet fuel and diesel produced would be subpar. NNPC is anxious because substandard jet fuel and diesel could endanger lives. The refinery, as it stands, can only carry out the first phase of crude distillation which is similar to what illegal refineries operating in the Niger Delta region have been found to do. However, due to the complex nature of the Dangote Refinery, whose catalytic cracking unit is still uncompleted, the quality of the refined products is in question.
It is alleged that some staff within the Dangote Group have voiced their apprehensions regarding the move to start the refinery without its completion. Despite these valid concerns, Dangote’s response suggests a desperate need for the venture to work, potentially as a ‘matter of survival.’
Financial Strain biting hard?
Dangote is reported to be mired in significant debt, pushing the company to the brink of receivership if they don’t secure additional funds to repay certain loans by December. This financial pressure may explain why Dangote is so eager to secure a license to start operations, even with the refinery not being fully complete.
You will recall that earlier this year, the uncompleted refinery was hurriedly commissioned by the former President Buhari in order for Dangote to access additional equity funding from the Nigerian Government as well as a crude allocation of 300,000barrels per day which insiders say would have been sold to raise cash for creditors and partly fund the completion of the refinery. This crude allocation was however put to a hold when the new Government of President Tinubu was sworn in, and it was discovered that the refinery was far from being complete but was falsely commissioned in order to take the crude allocation and sell outside the country.
The standoff between Dangote and the NNPC underscores a broader issue of safety, quality, and financial security that have bedevilled the Dangote refinery project. With concerns over substandard products potentially jeopardizing lives of workers at the uncompleted refinery and nigerians in general, and a major business figure risking immense financial losses, the resolution of this impasse will have far-reaching implications for Nigeria’s oil industry.