The commissioning of this project, Sunti Golden Sugar Estates, in Niger State, could not have come at a better time. As Nigeria makes her journey out of recession and the economy continues to show considerable progress, we are reminded of one of the cardinal objectives of this administration which is to look inwards as we focus on our natural endowments in agriculture, and other non-oil sectors for inclusive growth and development. The level of work and magnitude of investment here is a clear demonstration that our policies on economic diversification are on the right path.
I trust that you will agree with me that Flour Mills of Nigeria, has an unmistakable footprint in the history of our Nation. For over 57 years, the company has repeatedly shown her unwavering commitment to doing business in Nigeria and contributing to the socio-economic development of our dear country.
The Sunti Golden Sugar Estate was built at a cost of over N50 billion, making it one of the largest Agro-allied investments in Nigeria, today, with a capacity to produce 100,000 metric tons of sugar annually. While we have had some challenges in the implementation of the National Sugar Master Plan (NSMP) in the past, I believe that our vision of attaining self-sufficiency in sugar in Nigeria is well within sight with the kind of investment that has been made here. I am told that the Estate will engage up to 10,000 people directly once developed, including a network of over 3,000 small-scale out growers of Sugarcane. This, to my mind, is central to this administration’s determination to create jobs and gainfully engage our people.
I am happy to mention also, that projects like the Sunti Sugar Estate are in tandem with the vision and objectives that we set out to achieve when this administration instituted the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP). While, our focus is steadfast on delivering on our policy goals of tackling corruption, improving security and rebuilding the economy; more than ever, government will work in close partnership with businesses to strengthen investments in Agriculture, Power, Manufacturing, Solid Minerals, and the Service sectors.
It is worth mentioning at this point that the location of the Sunti Sugar Estates on the banks of the River Niger is as notable as it is commendable. The enormous economic possibilities inherent here have perhaps been overlooked for far too long. It is indeed on record that the Niger River Basin has played an essential role in the lives of the people who have had to depend on it for sustenance. And when we take into cognizance the tributaries of the river and the proximity to the Kainji dam, I must say that it is time that we take a closer look at the full spectrum of the River Niger’s ecosystem and explore how this massive body of resources can be converted to a hub for industry and commerce. To that end, I hereby call on other businesses and investors to take a cue from what is happening here in the Sunti community.
To ensure that we do not lose momentum in our strategic roadmap of developing the Sugar sub-sector, and achieving the target of attaining self-sufficiency in Sugar, it is perhaps time to revive also our sugar industries of old – this of course brings to mind the once flourishing sugar industry in Bacita, Kwara state which was established in 1964. This administration will welcome the opportunity to work with investors like Flour Mills to restore the glory of what was once a reputable industrial hub for sugar and pride for Nigeria.
At this juncture, I would like to assure Nigerians, that this administration is fully committed to the transformation and diversification of the economy. We will continue to support businesses by creating an enabling business environment. As you would recall, I inaugurated the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) in July 2016, to spearhead business climate reforms and improve the general business environment in Nigeria.
During my presentation of the 2018 budget to the National Assembly, I mentioned that one of the targets we set out for gauging our progress in creating an enabling environment for business was to achieve a positive movement in the World Ease of Doing Business Index.
I am delighted to mention that, a recently released World Bank business ranking report, announced that Nigeria had moved 24 places to 145th position in 2017, and for the first time recognized as one of the top 10 most improved economies in the world; a clear indication that we are making remarkable progress in this regard.
In May 2017, this administration institutionalized an executive order #1 on the promotion of transparency and efficiency in the business environment as part of reforms to encourage private sector participation and attracting new investments. The order contained measures that ease the process of business registration, approval of permits, granting visas and streamlining port operations.
I wish to assure Nigerians that this government will continue to focus on the improvement of critical infrastructure, like roads, construction of rails and power generation across the country.
Furthermore, we have also developed Road Trust Fund (RTF) that empowers private investors to contribute to the development of roads of significant national importance. We expect that the company would seize this opportunity to further develop the Sunti-Mokwa Road to support the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts it has already undertaken in rebuilding the critical Apapa-Wharf Road in conjunction with other private and public-sector stakeholders.
The world over, Sugar has been identified as a key commodity that is critical to national food security. Other than the development of local content, an investment of this size in the sugar value chain will not only stem the tide of importation of sugar and save foreign exchange, but enhance rural industrialization, create wealth and alleviate poverty. For this, I must commend Flour Mills of Nigeria –Your mantra, “Feeding the Nation, Every day,” is truly an inspiration to us all.
– Being an abridged address by President Muhammadu Buhari during the official commissioning ceremony of the Sunti Golden Sugar Estates (SGSE) In Niger State.