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Nigeria’s President Buhari launches $2.5 billion Dangote Fertilizer Plant. To whose benefit exactly?

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President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria was in Lagos on Tuesday, the commercial capital of Nigeria for the launch of what experts have called the largest fertilizer plant in Africa owned by Africa’s richest man, and President/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote.

According to the official website of the plant, Dangote Fertiliser Plant is Africa’s largest Granulated Urea Fertiliser complex. The plant occupies 500 hectares of land in Lekki Free Trade Zone, Lagos Nigeria. It was built at a cost of $2.5 Billion.

Also at the inauguration of the $2.5 billion project were dignitaries including Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-olu, Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Godwin Emefiele, and Nigeria’s Minister of Trade and Investment Niyi Adebayo.

With food being a basic necessity of life and growing food shortage across the world that has been further enhanced by the ongoing Ukraine/Russia war, the use of fertilizers is central to sustainable productivity in the agriculture sector as the shortage of fertilizers has contributed to the worsening food crisis with about 250 million people going to bed hungry and Africa spending more than $35 billion on food imports annually as it continues to grapple with low agricultural productivity.

The launch of the Dangote plant is timely as many African soils are unable to supply crops with the nutrients they need due to infertility and degradation that has stemmed from inappropriate land-use practices over several centuries.

Beyond serving the Nigeria and Africa fertilizer market, the plant is said to be established to produce 3 million metric tonnes per annum of urea fertilizer in phase 1 which is above Nigeria’s current level of fertilizer consumption in the country which is 1.5 million metric tonnes.

While delivering his speech shortly after the mega project was commissioned, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, said that the products from its newly commissioned fertilizer plant are already in the African market as well as the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico.

 

If things turned as they seem, the new fertilizer plant should mean a major leap in Nigeria’s agriculture sector with President Muhammadu Buhari’s many agric-based initiatives. However, the peculiarity of Nigeria informs that enthusiasm should be with caution. Amidst the many challenges of industrialization in Nigeria, fingers are crossed on the efficiency of the plant, hopefully, it does not go the way of the Dangote tomatoes processing factory that has repeatedly shut down operation.

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Nigeria: Court insists Binance executive can face trial on behalf of firm

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In an ongoing tax evasion case, a Nigerian court decided on Friday that Binance executive, Tigran Gambaryan, may go to trial on the cryptocurrency exchange’s behalf.

Binance and executives Gambaryan, a U.S. citizen and head of financial crimes compliance, and British-Kenyan national Nadeem Anjarwalla, a regional manager for Africa, face four counts of tax evasion. They are also accused of participating in specialized financial transactions without a license and laundering more than $35 million in another case.

All of them have entered not-guilty pleas on the allegations of money laundering. Following the court hearing on Friday, Binance’s attorney chose not to comment. The attorney for Gambaryan was similarly silent.

“We are deeply disappointed that Tigran Gambaryan, who has no decision-making power in the company, continues to be detained,” a Binance spokesperson said in a statement on Friday after the court hearing.

“These charges against him are completely meritless. He should be freed while discussions continue between Binance and Nigerian government officials.”

Gambaryan is still being held while Anjarwalla left the nation in March. The office of Nigeria’s security adviser has declared that it is collaborating with Interpol to pursue Anjarwalla’s detention.

After its executives were imprisoned as part of a crackdown on cryptocurrencies in February after being invited to the African nation for talks with officials, the CEO of Binance has warned Nigeria of establishing a dangerous precedent.

Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has announced that Gambaryan may face prosecution on behalf of the exchange; Binance has not been accused in the tax evasion case.

According to prior statements from Gambaryan’s attorney, Gambaryan was “neither a director, partner, nor company secretary” and did not have any formal authorization from Binance to take on the accusations on the firm’s behalf.

Judge Emeka Nwite decided on Friday that Gambaryan, who is Binance’s chief financial compliance officer and was lawfully designated to represent the company in a meeting in Nigeria, should be served with the charges against Binance.

On Wednesday, Gambaryan is scheduled to appear in court and enter a plea on Binance’s behalf. On Friday, Gambaryan’s request for bail in the money laundering case was turned down. As the nation struggled with ongoing dollar shortages, cryptocurrency websites became the go-to venues for trading the Nigerian naira. Nigeria has blamed Binance for its currency problems.

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Nigerian govt denies reports it plans to borrow pension fund for infrastructure

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The Nigerian government has denied reports that it plans to borrow the N20tn pension fund to finance infrastructural projects.

In a statement made in Abuja, Wale Edun, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, stated that the government would abide by the laws and guidelines in place pertaining to the pension fund.

Following a two-day Federal Executive Council meeting at the Presidential Villa on Tuesday, the minister reportedly informed reporters that the government would present a plan to use local funds, including the fund, to finance infrastructure development.

Edunstated that the government does not intend to exceed these legal boundaries, emphasising that the government was committed to protecting workers’ pensions.

“It has come to my notice that stories are making the round that the Federal Government plans to illegally access the hard-earned savings and pension contributions of workers. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

“The pension industry, like most the financial industries, is highly regulated. There are rules. There are limitations about what pension money can be invested in and what it cannot be invested in.

“The Federal Government has no intention whatsoever to go beyond those limitations and go outside those bounds which are there to safeguard the pensions of workers.

“What was announced to the Federal Executive Council was that there was an ongoing initiative drawing in all the major stakeholders in the long-term saving industry, those that handle funds that are available over a long period to see how, within the regulations and the laws; these funds could be used maximally to drive investment in key growth areas,” Edun clarified.

The plan to spend the pension fund was reported and was widely criticised. The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria and the Nigeria Labour Congress had earlier on Thursday urged the government to abstain from making any changes to the pension fund.

They stated, “Nigerian workers have entrusted their hard-earned savings for retirement security, not as a means for government projects. It is imperative to halt any further plans to tap into these funds, especially given the lack of transparency and accountability in past government borrowing practices.”

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