Nigeria Police Raid Head Office Of MMS Plus Newspaper, Harass Workers Over Report On Dangote Refinery’s Indebtedness
The Nigeria police have raided the headquarters of Kings Communications Limited, publisher of Money Management Series (MMS) Plus newspaper in Lagos.
SaharaReporters gathered that the incident came a few days after the newspaper turned down Dangote Group’s demand to pull down a story about a possible take over of the Dangote Refinery by the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) owing to increasing debts.
Dangote Refinery is an oil refinery owned by the Dangote Group that is under construction in Lekki, Nigeria.
Dangote Group is a Nigerian multinational industrial conglomerate, founded by Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man.
Editor-in-Chief of MMS Plus, Kingsley Anaroke in a statement sent to SaharaReporters condemned the raid.
The statement, “Four armed policemen early today have invaded the headquarters of Kings Communications Limited, publishers of MMS Plus newspaper in an attempt to accost the Editor-in-Chief of MMS Plus, Kingsley Anaroke and the Editor of MMS Plus, Kenneth Jukpor over a story published on possible takeover of Dangote refinery by AMCON owing to increasing debts.
“It would be recalled that the seige by the police is a follow-up on earlier threats made by the Chief Corporate Communications Officer, Dangote Group, Mr. Anthony Chiejina at the weekend.
“Chiejina had threatened to deal with the editorial leadership of the news outfit via legal action following the news story; “AMCON May Take Over Dangote Refinery As Liabilities Swell” written by our Reporter and published by our media organisation.
“After several failed attempts to get the Editor to pull down the story, the Dangote spokesman instead of issuing a rejoinder or the legal action which he threatened against our media house resorted to bullying by sending four policemen to beseige the headquarters of Kings Communications Limited in Festac, Lagos since 7am.
“The policemen asked for keys to the personal office of the Editor -in-Chief.
It should also be on record that Chiejina had searched for the photos of the news editor, Jukpor and Publisher, Anaroke on Sunday and sent them to the editor as a subtle threat which was ignored.
“This press statement has become necessary to draw the attention of the global press to the plight of journalists who refused to be gagged.”
According to the report, the oil refinery, which is reputed to be Africa’s biggest, may soon run into a deep financial crisis as a result of a $7 billion debt burden – a situation which indicates a possible takeover of the project by AMCON.
According to an analysis by the Money Management Series, Dangote Oil Refinery, a 650,000-barrel per day (BPD) integrated refinery project under construction in the Lekki Free Zone, Lagos, Nigeria, was expected to commence production in 2016 with $3.3 billion financing secured in 2013.
With the refinery now projected to commence operations in 2025, Dangote Group’s indebtedness to financial institutions is estimated to hit $8.4 billion by 2025.
It noted that presently, the debt burden has risen to $7 billion with debt servicing of almost $700 million per annum.
The completion date of the refinery has been moved eight times.
Whilst some might say this is not in the character for Dangote Industries and their numerous projects across different sectors, the problem is deeply rooted, it added.
A contractor at the delayed refinery project, speaking under the condition of anonymity, said poor planning, underpayment of contractors, and a lack of proper project management with over 40 contractors on site have led to most of the delays. He also added that of the 40, none is willing to commission as there is no clear delegation of duty and over-decentralisation leading to absolute chaos.
With these incessant delays, it added, some financing banks are already calling in their loans amid fears of liquidity crisis, while others are elated by the guarantee of huge interests to be recouped as soon as the refinery comes on stream.