Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote says his petroleum refinery on the outskirts of Lagos owes $2.7 billion in loans taken out to help build the 650,000 barrels per day plant.

The refinery, which started production in January and cost $20 billion, will be the largest in Africa and Europe when it reaches full capacity.

Dangote has previously said most of the financing for the refinery came from his Dangote Group, a conglomerate involved in cement, sugar and fertiliser production, among other things.

Africa's richest man, Dangote told an Afreximbank summit in the Bahamas on Wednesday that construction of the refinery only started in 2018 due to several years of delays, and some $2.4 billion in principal and interest on the more than $5 billion debt had been repaid.

"We now have only about $2.7 billion left to be paid. So we have done very well for a project of that magnitude," he said in remarks seen by Reuters on Thursday.

He did not say if the amount included interest.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, some international banks "really were looking forward to making sure that they push us into default of our loans so that the project will just be dead," Dangote alleged without naming the banks.

The refinery aims to reverse Nigeria's reliance on imports for fuel and other refined products even though the country is Africa's biggest oil producer.

Dangote is currently importing around 10 crude oil cargoes a month, traders have told Reuters, roughly half the facility's total capacity. (Writing by MacDonald Dzirutwe Editing by Mark Potter)