Africa’s richest man and multi-billionaire, Alhaji Aliko Dangote is investing over N1.5 trillion ($9 billion) to establish the Dangote Refineries and Petrochemical Company at the Lekki Free Trade Zone, Lagos, southwest Nigeria.
The formal take-off started on Sunday, with Governor Babatunde Fashola introducing Dangote to the host communities in Lekki.
According to Dangote, the Lekki Free Trade Zone is going to be the biggest of such zones in the African Continent.
“Looking at what the governor has done by bringing this here I can assure you that this is going to be the biggest free trade zone in the African Continent and I know that the people will begin to show their appreciation.”
He disclosed that the project would create thousands of jobs for job seekers.
Expressing confidence that the Zone holds enormous economic benefits for Lagos State and the country, Dangote declared: “For instance, there is no way we can put down over nine billion dollars of our money here without making sure that the zone is going to work,” adding that his group was going to work at a very high speed.
The billionaire said the host communities stand to benefit enormously from the project as over 8,000 engineers would be trained while jobs would be created for youths of the communities.
The major highlight of Sunday’s ceremony was the unanimous agreement by the host communities to accept and cooperate with the company and other investors in the development of the zone.
Also at the event were traditional rulers, including Aladeshonyin of Noforija, Oba Babatunde Ogunlaja; Alara of Ilara, Oba Akeem Adesanya; Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice George Ade Oguntade (rtd.), community leaders, residents and other stakeholders.
After the ceremony which featured unanimous acclamation by members of the communities, including Obas, Baales and community leaders as well as youths, Fashola expressed joy at the development, saying it signalled a breakthrough in the quest to fast track development in the zone.
According to Fashola, “we have reached an agreement in public. There has been a clear understanding today. We spoke in both local language and dialect and you can see that by clear show of hands the people themselves have given their support. It wasn’t a voice vote; it was a unanimous show of hands that they want this project; so we are ready to go.
“Whenever there are misunderstandings, it is the duty of government that such do not disrupt the activities in the trade zone. I find it hard to reconcile the demand for jobs and disturbing the factories and industries that will provide jobs.”
He added that “Lekki Free Trade Zone is beginning to take shape. The Master Plan is being realised, investors are trouping in. Tank farms and major refineries are springing up to service the demands of the country and make room for export. The refineries create a major selling point and release of the opportunities that lie ahead in this zone, create opportunities for the local people and the potentials for Lagos and the Nigerian economy.”
Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Mrs. Sola Oworu, said establishing a refinery in the zone had opened up enormous economic opportunities not only for Lagos but for Nigeria, adding that only about 35 percent of the goods to be produced in the zone would be consumed in Lagos while the rest would be exported.