There is so much hope on the new refinery being built by Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, in Lagos.

The project is huge and Nigeria, indeed Africa, is banking on it to end fuel importation from Europe.

Dangote had projected that the refinery will be ready by 2019 but sources with direct knowledge of the matter has revealed that the refinery is unlikely to start production until 2022.

This would be two years later than the target date.

The 650,000 barrel per day (bpd) refinery is expected to boost Nigeria’s growth and turn the country from an importer of refined products into an exporter, transforming global trade patterns.

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Billionaire Aliko Dangote, who built his fortune on cement, told Reuters last month he hoped to finish building the refinery in 2019 and to start production in early 2020.

However, the sources, who have been on the site many times, said they do not expect gasoline or diesel output before early 2022 and even then, many units at the refinery and accompanying petrochemical plant would not be complete.

Dangote Group Executive Director Devakumar Edwin, who oversees the project, described the suggestion that the refinery is unlikely to start production until 2022 as the product of “someone’s wild imagination”.

“Ninety-five percent of engineering has been completed, 90% of procurement has been completed.”

“We started civil works in July last year and we have scheduled 2-1/2 years for mechanical completion,” he said, referring to the point where a plant is ready to be handed over for commissioning.

Dangote, who expects the project to cost $12-14 billion, said in July he has raised more than $4.5 billion.

“I’ve never seen a refinery of that scale built in two years. It’s highly improbable due to the sequence of events that need to happen, it cannot be fast-tracked safely,” a source advising the Nigerian government said.

The sources said a refinery on such a scale would likely need five years to complete and the piling underpinning the plant had only started in the second half of last year and would take some more months to complete.

Extra piling was needed to support the plant’s units in the swampy area, causing an unforeseen delay, the sources said.

Analysts also anticipate delays owing to the scale of the project, due to Nigeria’s limited infrastructure.

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