By Muhammad Hamisu Abdullahi
With a national annual import of over $337 million, the management of Dangote Sugar Refinery Plc has declared its irrevocable commitment to the Backward Integration Policy (BIP) of the Federal Government to reverse the trend and make the country self-sufficient in sugar production.
The company, which is committing over $700 million to its sugar projects, told visiting members of the Nasarawa House of Assembly at the weekend that its investments in sugar would revolutionalize the economy of the state and lift its people as other people-oriented infrastructures would come with the sugar projects.
The state lawmakers, who were obviously excited at the sugar projects, commended the Dangote Group for choice of the state for the project and the accelerated pace with which the project was being executed despite occasional delays arising from communal disagreements.
Nigeria is one of the sub-Saharan Africa’s largest importers of sugar second only to South Africa, but the Dangote Sugar management assured the lawmakers that, by the time the company fully completes its sugar projects in the state and Adamawa under the BIP, the nation would be saved of more than half of the forex expended on sugar imports annually.
General Manager for the Backward Integration Project, Dangote Sugar, Mr. John Beverley said when the factory is fully operational, it would have the capacity to crush 12,000 tons cane per day, while 90MW power would be generated for both the company’s use and host communities.
He disclosed also that some 500km roads in all would be constructed to ease transportation within the vicinity, even as he solicited the support of the lawmakers in controlling the menace of land encroachment by settlers and itinerant farmers.
Mr. Beverley said the company has been carrying out Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects in the communities pointing out that so far the company has constructed boreholes, schools, clinic and awarded scholarship among other CSR services.
In his response, Speaker, Hon. Ibrahim Balarabe Abdullah, who led the team, said that the $500 million so far expended on the investments by Dangote Sugar Refinery Plc in Nasarawa State is not only a blessing to Nigeria but the pride of Africa.
The Speaker and his team members, who were conducted round the company’s 78,000 hectares BIP in Tunga Awe Local Government Area of the stated commended Ahaji Aliko Dangote for the gigantic project saying “seeing is believing.”
He said he was taken aback by the huge nature of the investment, noting that it would not only open up opportunities in the state but in Africa as a whole.
Aside the Speaker, other Principal Officers in his entourage are: House Majority Leader, Hon. Umar Tanko Tunga (Awe North), Deputy Majority Leader, Daniel Ogah Ogazi, the Chief Whip, Hon. Muhammad Muluku(Nasarawa Eggon East), Hon. Suleiman Yakubu Azara(Awe South) and Hon Muhammad Alkali(Lafiya North).
The Speaker said the lawmakers were ready to partner and support the company towards the realization of the sugar project through relevant legislations.
According to him, the news that the project would create about 150,000 jobs is a welcome one, more so when it is no secret that the project site was once a forest harbouring criminals before its acquisition by the Dangote Sugar Refinery.
Shedding light on the project, the General Manager, Government and Stakeholders Relations, Mr. Bello Dan Musa said the President of Dangote Group is passionate about lifting Nigeria’s economy through strategic investment and job creation.
He added that the huge project does not only fit into the BIP and National Sugar Master Plan (NSMP), but the diversification agenda of the government.
The Dangote Group is the biggest private sector investor in the BIP of the Federal Government.
The policy seeks to gradually halt the importation of sugar into the country.
It would be recalled that in 2017 the Dangote Industries Limited signed a landmark $700 million Memorandum of Understanding with the Nasarawa State Government.
The integrated sugar complex to be located in Tunga, Awe Local Government Area of Nasarawa State, comprises of an initial 60,000ha sugar plantation and two sugar factories with capacity to produce 430,000tpa of refined white sugar representing about 30 percent of the country’s consumption and would be the largest plant in Nigeria.
When the phase II of the project is completed, according to the company, it would make it the largest sugar refining plant in Africa.