Following the criticisms that have trailed his recent suggestion that the federal government sell some national assets, Alhaji Aliko Dangote has dismissed speculations that he was eyeing the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) company.
In an interview with This Day newspaper, the business mogul and Africa’s richest man opined that he would not even buy the NLNG if government offered it to him on credit.
Dangote maintained that he had only advised the government to sell some of its stake in NLNG to shore up the foreign reserves, as a true Nigerian concerned about the state of the economy and the continued depreciation in the value of the Naira.
Dangote said: “You know the issue, once your reserves are low, the banks, entrepreneurs, including external forces, would definitely attack your currency. They would speculate on your currency.
“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.
“But the issue is, why did I suggest that we should sell some of the assets? 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.”
Dangote however maintained that even if the NLNG was bringing in $1.5 billion into the federal government’s coffers, once the government reduces its stake in the company and it is run more professionally, Nigeria would generate more funds from it.
“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,” he said.
The billionaire reiterated that Nigeria needed about $15 billion to jumpstart its economy, saying that if the amount was added to Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves of about $25 billion, this would help attract foreign investors.
“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.”