Since the inauguration of the Dangote Refinery in Lagos on Monday, Ogun State governor, Dapo Abiodun, and his predecessor, Ibikunle Amosun, have exchanged words over why the project was not sited in Ogun State.
The $18.5 billion investment was to be sited in Ogun State but was moved to its present location in the neighbouring Lagos State.
Shortly after the inauguration of the project on Monday, some prominent indigenes of the state expressed sadness at the loss of the project to Lagos State
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Segun Showunmi, a governorship aspirant in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), blamed the relocation on “bad politics” and called for a law “that punishes economic sabotage occasioned by bad politics.”
In a statement he personally signed, Mr Showunmi said: “I cannot but wonder what explanation Ogun State has for not housing that project that sits pretty within our Ogun Development Master Plan with Olokola Free Trade Zone in Ogun Waterside!
“It is time to have a law that punishes economic sabotage occasioned by bad politics! No one should be allowed to set back a state on the altar of winning an election, which more than likely has queried integrity.”
But in a swift reaction, Governor Dapo Abiodun said he was not responsible for losing the refinery to Lagos.
The governor, who spoke through a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Kunle Somorin, said a disagreement between Mr Amosun and Aliko Dangote cost Ogun to lose the monumental project to Lagos.
Mr Abiodun was the chairman of the committee on the Olokola Free Trade Zone projects when the project was lost to Lagos State.
But the governor said he did everything in that capacity to make sure the project saw the light of the day.
“As we are all aware, the penultimate administration made appreciable and concerted efforts to ensure that the Olokola Deep Sea Port and other ancillary projects in the OKFTZ become a reality by rallying significant players in the oil and gas sector, including Dangote Group.
“But, the successor government between 2011 and 2019, for reasons best known to it, killed the project and frustrated the promoter of Dangote Refinery out of the state.
“The then governor, perhaps, having a personal axe to grind with the promoter of the refinery project, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, frustrated all the efforts of Governor Abiodun and his committee,” the statement reads in part
“Having become governor in 2019, it is on record that Governor Dapo Abiodun had always rued the missed opportunity, and he’d embarked on efforts in reawakening the OKFTZ. At different forums, the governor had made it known that the Olokola project is a gold mine waiting to be tapped by the state.”
Amosun Hits Back
Responding to the claims, Mr Amosun, in a 13-paragraph statement signed by his media aide, Bola Adeyemi, challenged the governor to provide evidence that he (Amosun) was responsible for losing the project to Lagos.
Mr Amosun, who accused the governor of churning out half-truths, said he had been reluctant to join issues with his successor, “I am making this exception. It is my hope that this will be my final word on the Olokola Free Trade Zone and the Dangote Refinery Lagos relocation debacle.
“Let me put it straight: The Olokola Free Trade Zone project was not solely owned by Ogun State. From its conception in 2007, it was a Joint Venture. The Federal Government of Nigeria owned the majority 51%, Ondo State Government (14.5%), Ogun State Government (14.5%), and strategic core investors (20%). Alhaji Aliko Dangote, according to the information availed us when we took office, subsequently bought and took over the 20% equity of the core investors. Ogun State was a minority equity stakeholder only, without proprietary strength and capacity to take sole decisions on the Joint Venture enterprise.
” I am proud to put on record for posterity that the brouhaha and misconception about the true and full ownership of the project became confused for reasons of the proactive and investment-friendly disposition of our administration. Ogun State, under my leadership, went beyond and above duty and did all we could to ensure that the project saw the light of day. As Governor at the time, I appointed two (2) carefully chosen stakeholders of Ogun East/Ogun Waterside Local Government extraction to represent Ogun State’s interests on the joint venture enterprise and advise the State. These were Dapo Abiodun (now Governor) and Mrs Kemi Adeosun, then Commissioner for Finance, who incidentally hailed from the host Community of the Olokola project. After Mrs Adeosun was elevated and became a minister, another son of Ogun East, Lekan Onamusi, took charge and represented Ogun State on the Joint Venture.
“Based on the advice of our representatives on the project, we engaged the majority equity holder, FGN and our joint venture partner, Ondo State Government, who were very responsive and eager to have the project in Olokola Free Trade Zone. We also vigorously engaged Alhaji Aliko Dangote and did everything possible to make the enterprise take off. A total of 10,000 hectares of land was made available. As a mere holder of 14.5% equity interest, it is most uncharitable for anyone to churn out lies that Ogun State was in a position to unilaterally frustrate the project or was responsible for the logjam. With respect to all sides, it accords more with logic to appreciate the fact that Alhaji Aliko Dangote took business decisions of his own in accordance with the goals of his business strategy and risk assessment.
“Our position was that, at the minimum, 500 hectares from the Ogun State portion be reserved for the host Community, Ogun Waterside, as against ceding the entire land of the Olokola Free Trade Zone. Indeed, at some point and at my instance, our revered Elders, Baba Olusegun Obasanjo and Kabiyesi Awujale, Oba Sikiru Adetona were involved, where we all met to ensure that the project was sited in Olokola Free Trade Zone.
“Looking back to my time in Ogun State, I remain immensely grateful to God and the good people of our State for the opportunities availed us. Our records of achievements remain incontrovertible. We opened the State to genuine entrepreneurs and investors, which led to the influx of massive private-sector investments. We also paid serious attention to the security of lives and properties—over 200 industries, both local and multinational, were birthed in Ogun State. In a particular year during our time, 75% of the entire National FDI in the real sector was birthed in Ogun State, so much so that President Goodluck Jonathan saw the need to visit commission significant private sector-led projects at least five (5) times. Ogun State, under my watch, was indeed investor-friendly and investors’ destination of choice as Ogun State literally became the Industrial Capital of Nigeria. Ogun State’s economy, at the time, grew faster than the national average. No amount of concocted lies, blackmail and orchestrated falsehood will blight these unparalleled facts.
“It is, therefore, interesting to read that the present Ogun State governor holds me responsible for allegedly scuttling the Olokola project. For the benefit of the good people of Ogun State, Nigerians and posterity, we challenge him, particularly as he was then the chairman appointed to oversee and ensure that the project was sited in Olokola Free Trade Zone, to disclose with facts, where he or the Administration was remiss, and which might have led to the project being moved away from Ogun State.
“The only thing I can recall that the government insisted on, was that about 500 hectares must be set aside and protected for the benefit of our people in Ogun East, and in particular, the host community, Ogun Waterside.
” As Governor, I would never have knowingly let any opportunity slip past Ogun State and its people. I did my best to the satisfaction and conviction of my conscience.
” As I conclude, it is my hope that this intervention will give clarity to the vexed subject of the Olokola Free Trade Zone and the relocation of the Dangote Refinery controversy.
” Once again, I congratulate the Dangote group and Alhaji Aliko Dangote for the hard work, dedication, and commitment to the results that we all saw on Monday,” the former governor said in the statement.