Africa’s richest man and Chairman Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, has said he is not interested in purchasing any of Nigeria’s national assets, as widely suggested following his recommendations for the sale of the national assets.
Speculations had been going round saying Dangote was interested in acquiring the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas NLNG, thus his reason for recommending the sale of the country’s national assets.
Dangote denied these claims on Tuesday during an Interview with THISDAY, where he stressed that his advocacy for the government to sell down some of its interest in some of the national assets was to help boost the economy as well as to stabilise the naira exchange rate, which has been under attack lately.
He said, if the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Company or any other national asset was offered to him, even on credit, he would not be interested in acquiring them.
“We all know that the exchange rate of almost N500 to the dollar is not a true reflection of the value of the currency – the naira cannot be almost N500 to the dollar!
“But you see, if this thing is not handled properly, it can get out of hand. It can get to N600 to the dollar, or even N700 to the dollar.”
“I know the touchy one is the NLNG. I want to make it categorically clear that even if the government is selling NLNG on credit, I am not interested in buying.”
Stating that NLNG is not a business he would want to invest in, Dangote said the Brass LNG, Olokola LNG, etc, would have been more successful if the country had invested in them earlier, during the time of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
While critising the idea of borrowing, Dangote maintained that if the Nigerian government sold some of its shares in the NLNG, and the company is professionally managed, more funds would accrue from it and the country will be pulled out of recession.
He said for a country to borrow, it needs to have substantive collateral, which according to him, Nigeria lacks.
The head of the Dangote group also said that the sale of the national assets like the NLNG would boost the country’s foreign exchange reserves, and this would in return attract foreign investors.
“People are just saying it is better to go and borrow, but I don’t know where they are coming from. You see, with borrowing, if I have issues with my business today, the bankers who would lend me the money would want to see me doing something first to see how the business can survive. There would be conditionalities.
“But if you are not shedding weight, how do you expect somebody to help you with funding? You have to start first by trying to shed weight and showing the person (lender) who wants to help you with the assets you want to sell,” he explained.
“I can assure you that if our forex reserves get to $40 billion, you will be shocked at how people will reject even buying dollars. So, is it worth it for us to keep assets that we are not using? Even the oil assets that I am suggesting for sale, they are not the producing assets. We have a lot of non-producing assets.
“So we are not advising government to just sell its assets. For example, we have the joint ventures where government owns an average of 57 per cent stake in the oil blocs and what we are saying is that government should go below 49 per cent. When they go below 49 per cent, they would be able to raise $5 billion to $8 billion.
“And if they go below 49 per cent, they can go and borrow money because with that they can borrow money cheaper. Today, to go and borrow money abroad, for the likes of Shell, it would not exceed two and a half per cent. But today, Nigeria cannot borrow money at a single-digit interest rate,” he said.