Our attention has been drawn to a press statement by Prince Dapo Abiodun, Governor Ogun State, where he accused Senator Ibikunle Amosun as being responsible for why Ogun State lost hosting the Dangote Refinery to Lagos State.
1. On Monday, 22 May, 2023. I was privileged to attend the official commissioning of Dangote Refinery, Lekki Free Trade Zone by Mr. President, H. E. Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR. I congratulate my brother, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, GCON, on this significant accomplishment for the larger benefit our Country. I also congratulate President Muhammadu Buhari, Governor Babajide Sanwoolu of Lagos State, and the good people of Nigeria on this momentous occasion.
2. Since my tour of duty as Governor of Ogun State statutorily ended in May 2019, I have refrained from directly engaging and very rarely joined issues on any matter of policy undertaken by our government or the successor administration. The logic is simple: even if one were to stand right before a 10-storey building, a congenital liar and unrepentant pessimist will still indulge in selective amnesia and see nothing.
3. But, when lies and half truths are churned out so repeatedly and unashamedly, without being challenged, the innocent public may begin to reckon with such concoctions as the gospel truth. Hence, 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.
4. 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 Goverment (14.5%), Ogun State Goverment (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.
5. 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 the 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.
6. 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 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.
7. 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.
8. 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, birthed in Ogun State. In a particular year during our time, 75% of the entire National FDI in the real sector birthed in Ogun State so much so that President Goodluck Jonathan saw the need to visit to 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.
9. 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 remis, and which might have led to the project being moved away from Ogun State.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. Thank you.