X-Ray Reforms in Nigeria’s Sugar Industry, by Abdullahi W. Yunusa
Even the most vocal critics of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government will no doubt hail his administration’s determination to take control, pursue, support and further fund very important projects and policies that he inherited from his predecessor in 2015. The move has been called a complete break from what used to be the norm where successive governments suspended or completely abandoned ongoing projects or policies initiated by their predecessors for primarily political reasons to launch something similar. A plethora of abandoned projects dot every corner of states across the country.
True to its mantra of change, the Buhari administration thought differently and acted differently in the interest of the nation.
One such well thought out policy which the Buhari administration inherited from its predecessor and adopted as one of the frontline programs of this government is the Nigerian Sugar Master Plan (NSMP), a 10 roadmap policy years that seeks to significantly revitalize the vibrant sugar sub-sector and establish Nigeria as one of the continent’s leading sugar producing countries. The sugar roadmap policy, the effective implementation of which began in 2013, is anchored on four major axes, which are; increase local sugar production to achieve self-sufficiency, stem the rising tide of unbridled importation of the commodity, create a large number of employment opportunities, and also contribute to ethanol production and the production of electricity.
Although the National Sugar Development Council is the main implementing agency of the policy, its implementation involves the allocation of responsibilities to engender maximum participation of all relevant stakeholders, such as the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, Standards Organization of Nigeria, Nigeria Customs Service. , Central Bank of Nigeria, Federal Ministry of Finance as well as other relevant MDAs.
Stakeholder institutions and facilitators such as millers, importers, sugar cane growers and banks also play a central role in the implementation of the master plan.
The journey to self-sufficiency in sugar production is not smooth, but the Federal Government, through the National Sugar Development Council (NSDC), under the kind leadership of Mr. Zacch Adedeji as Executive Secretary, is committed to meeting these particular challenges. frontally, as evidenced by the many innovative and pragmatic steps taken since her arrival on board in March 2021.
It is an open secret that Nigeria has since reached and surpassed its raw sugar refining capacity, which is a major component of the NSMP, a feat the government is doing its best to replicate in the aspect of the program. backward integration (BIP) of Nigerian sugar. Master Plan (NSMP).
The Board led by Mr. Zacch Adedeji has demonstrated in more ways than one its willingness to ensure that the BIP sugar project achieves the desired objectives. Mr. Adedeji had, in various engagements with the operators of the sector, reiterated the firm position of the Council on the implementation of the BIP. He said, “We are very pleased with the huge successes we have had in refining imported raw sugar. In fact, Nigeria has since reached its raw sugar refining capacity, which is very commendable. But as I have always said, the successes we have had in refining raw sugar must be replicated in our BIP project. We can only celebrate as a sector if we are able to grow cane and produce raw sugar locally. I know it is hard work, we are more than ready to achieve our target goals given our commitment and effort.
Since taking office as the 5th Substantive Executive Secretary of the Council in March 2021, Mr. Zacch Adedeji has taken profound action and spawned some very innovative ideas to address the challenges of the sugar sector. Topping the list of issues that received his immediate attention was the ongoing conflict between sugar farmers and members of host communities over land ownership.
To address this persistent problem, he established the Sugar Producing States Governors Forum ably chaired by Nasarawa State Governor, Engineer Abdullahi Alhaji Sule.
The initiative was a smart move considering that land is under the authority of state governors, they have the stamp of authority to allocate land without warning. In addition, the establishment of an investment office housed within the Council to handle investment matters, the zero duty incentive on the import of machinery and equipment for sugar plantations as well as the seizures by the Nigeria Customs Service. This initiative put an end to the recurring confrontations between sugar operators and regulatory bodies in the country’s ports.
Recently, to encourage investors in the sector, President Muhammadu Buhari launched a USD 73 million irrigation infrastructure fund to cushion the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on sugar operators implementing the BIP project. , namely Dangote Sugar Refinery, BUA Sugar Refinery, Golden Sugar Refinery and KIA Africa Group.
Speaking at the official unveiling of the intervention fund in Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari said: “The aim of this intervention is to significantly improve the country’s performance in cane yield as well as reduce the negative impact of COVID-19 on industry progress in achieving national self-sufficiency.
Therefore, this strategic intervention will enable the main sugar producers in the country; Dangote, BUA and Flour Mills Sugar to increase their capacity and take advantage of the import substitution opportunity in the sugar market, to further reduce the country’s import bill”.
In his address at the event, the Executive Secretary of the National Sugar Development Council (NSDC), Mr. Zacch Adedeji, said the intervention was part of the government’s determination to provide an enabling environment for prosperity and to the development of private investments in the country.
“Preliminary activities including identification of specific project sites for each operator which includes a framework for design and engineering services for field and bulk water supply systems, project management and maintenance specifications, adoption of a business model and costing, among others concluded long before the official commissioning of this laudable initiative”.
To clarify some misconceptions in some quarters about alleged patronage and deliberate distortion of the master plan by some operators, Mr. Zacch debunked these claims by saying, “NSMP is no longer a policy. It is now an Act of the National Assembly following its amendments in 2015. We will no longer condone or condone deliberate misrepresentation of the master plan by anyone. From our side as regulator, we will not hesitate to apply the full weight of the law against any person or group of people caught sabotaging government efforts in the sector.”
The Board has recently shown renewed vigor and commitment to the success of the NSMP by having the operators of the BIP sign re-engagement forms, pledging to abide by the provisions of the master plan and comply with all the policies defined in the sector. Mr Adedeji, who said that the future allocation of raw sugar quotas to refineries will depend on the performance of the BIP, said that the era of allocating quotas based on the size of the sugar factor or estate was good. gone.
Yunusa wrote from Garki 11, Abuja.