Muhammadu Buhari, then-Nigerian president, left, and Dangote during the commissioning ceremony for the Dangote oil refinery on May 22, 2023. Photographer: Benson Ibeabuchi/Bloomberg
A raid this month on a company controlled by Africa’s richest person appeared designed to send a clear message: No one is untouchable when its comes to President Bola Tinubu’s drive to fix the nation’s ailing economy.
The storming of the offices of Aliko Dangote’s holding company by the anti-graft agency was designed to cause “unwarranted embarrassment,” the billionaire’s firm said. Indeed, photos of the red-jacketed officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, with a bald eagle as its logo, were splashed across Nigerian media.
The action is being touted as evidence of Tinubu’s crackdown on foreign-exchange abuses and is part of an investigation of former central bank governor Godwin Emefiele. The agency is yet to publicly comment, while Dangote says the company has faced no accusation of wrongdoing.
Like many of Tinubu’s bold steps since taking office in May — including loosening exchange controls and abolishing a fuel subsidy — the initial costs of the raid may be high.
It’s causing panic in boardrooms at a time when corporate heavyweights GSK and Procter & Gamble are among those reducing their exposure to the country. Others may hesitate to invest.
“Manufacturers are concerned that if this can happen to Dangote, it can happen to any one of them,” said Segun Ajayi-Kadir, director-general of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria. “They are worried.”
Foreign currency allocations to 50 companies are being probed, the producers’ group said.
In a nation’s that’s already struggling to arrest a slump in its currency and contain rampant inflation, uncertainty among businesses that drive the economy may be felt for some time.