By OLUSHOLA BELLO, Lagos
Nigeria’s quest towards self-sufficiency in sugar production received has received a boost following the signing of a memorandum of understating (MOU) between Dangote Sugar Refinery and Nasarawa State to establish an integrated sugar complex comprising plantation and refinery in Tunga, Nasarawa State.
Africa’s foremost entrepreneur and chairman of Dangote Sugar Refinery, Aliko Dangote in his speech at the MOU signing ceremony, in Abuja said that the Tunga Sugar project was borne out of the desire to help in diversifying the Nigerian economy and create thousands of jobs in the rural areas.
He said, “We have aligned ourselves with the present government’s policy of diversifying the economy, by a renewed focus on the non-oil sectors like manufacturing, agriculture and solid minerals. We are today well-positioned, and leaders in each of these three sectors. Our interest in agriculture is driven by our desire to generate thousands of jobs especially in the rural and deprived areas of the country. In agriculture, we have launched mega projects in sugar, rice and dairy farming. In manufacturing, we are building one of the world’s largest fertilizer, refinery and petrochemical complex.”
Dangote disclosed that the integrated sugar complex at Tunga Nasarawa State which is in phases comprises 60,000ha sugar plantation and two sugar factories with a capacity to produce 430,000tpa of refined white sugar which represents about 30 per cent of national consumption, will be the largest sugar plant in Nigeria, adding that in Phase II, the plantation will be extended to 100,000ha making it the largest sugar plant in Africa.
Describing Agriculture as a key sector in the industrialization of any nation, he said that Dangote Group is in support of Government’s efforts in to transform the sector, developed a sugar backward integration project plan targeted at the production of 1.5MT/PA from various sites across Nigeria, in the next 10 years.
According to him, Dangote Sugar is acquiring about 150,000 hectares for sugar plantation in Adamawa, Taraba, Nasarawa, Kwara, Kogi and Niger States, however is concentrating on Adamawa, Taraba and Nasarawa states in the Phase I of the sugar project, with a target to produce about 1.08 million tons of white sugar in the next five years.
These sugar plantations, he noted will generate over 100,000 employment opportunities, help the nation achieve sugar sufficiency and extend the values chain through establishing integrated sugar mills within these locations, generate power, which has been a major challenge in the country, produce molasses, ethanol (fuel) and biomass.
Dangote stated that Nigeria’s dream of becoming self-sufficient in sugar production as captured in the national sugar master plan is possible if the plan is religiously implemented and there is a level playing field and transparency in imposing sanctions and reward for the players when required.
He commended the Governor of Nasarawa State, Alhaji Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, who singlehandedly mobilized all the necessary stakeholders in the state to create the remarkably enabling environment that attracted this huge investment at very short notice.
He said, “The Governor removed all the traditional hurdles and road blocks usually experienced in the conception and take off of such large scale agriculture projects. As a result, we were able to conclude and commit the investment in this project in record time. What we succeeded in doing in less than three (3) months has taken us a year to two years in other states.”
In his response, the Governor lauded Dangote for the decision to invest in the state adding that investor-friendly policies put in place by his administration is yielding the desired results. He said that the Tunga Sugar project is the biggest investment ever made in the State.
Executive secretary, National Sugar Development Council, Dr. Latif Busari in his goodwill message charged all parties to the MOU to adhere strictly to the terms of the agreement. He said the agreement should be binding on all parties in order to be of benefit to stakeholders. Specifically, he urged incoming administrations to respect agreements signed by their predecessors as to make for continuity and completion of projects.
He maintained that the project is a positive development for Nigeria, the host state and the investing company.
The acting group managing director, Dangote Sugar, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, said the project improve the livelihood of the local communities and generate more income for farmers and revenue to the state.
According to him, our interest in agriculture is driven by our desire to generate thousands of jobs especially in the rural and deprived areas of the country. In agriculture, we have launched mega projects in sugar, rice and dairy farming. In manufacturing, we are building one of the world’s largest fertilizer, refinery and petrochemical complex. The 650,000 barrels per day refinery will be the world’s largest single line refinery.
“Agriculture is a key sector in the industrialization of any nation, therefore, Dangote Group in support of the Federal Government Transformation Agenda in Agriculture, developed a sugar backward integration project plan targeted at the production of 1.5MT/PA from various sites across Nigeria, in the next 10 years. We are acquiring about 150,000 hectares for sugar plantation in Adamawa, Taraba, Nasarawa, Kwara, Kogi and Niger States.
“However, we intend only to concentrate on Adamawa, Taraba and Nasarawa states in the Phase I of the sugar project, with a target to produce about 1.08 million tons of white sugar in the next five years.
“Over 100,000 employment opportunities will be generated from these sugar plantations. In addition to job creation, sugar sufficiency and the extended values chain, these projects will bring to the fore; and we will establish integrated sugar mills within these locations; generate Power, which has been a major challenge in the country; produce Molasses, Ethanol (fuel) and Biomass; produce Animal feeds from bagasse and molasses, this will support and encourage more investments in the agricultural sector.
Sule disclosed that “Dangote Sugar had concluded plans for an integrated sugar complex at Tunga, for which we are here to sign the MOU. The project comprises of a 60,000ha sugar plantation and two sugar factories with a capacity to produce 430,000tpa of refined white sugar representing about 30 per cent of our national consumption today and will be the largest sugar plant in Nigeria. When in Phase II and the plantation is extended to 100,000ha, it will become the largest sugar plant in Africa.”
It would be recalled that the Dangote Group commenced sugarcane plantation with the acquisition of Savannah Sugar Company Limited, in Numan, Adamawa State from the Federal Government in 2003. The Group has invested over N38billion in the company, and is still making huge investments in expanding the size of the plantation and the factory. Savannah is the only company that is a local producer of sugar on a commercial scale, in Nigeria today.