Nigeria Will Be Largest Exporter Of Sugar To African Countries Within The Next 10 Years- FG

By Bukar Bolori

The federal government has revealed its plan to be the biggest producer of sugar on the African continent in the next ten year and generate power from ethanol.

Addressing a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday, the Executive Secretary of the National Sugar Development Council, Mr. Zach Adedeji said the country is rolling out a-10 year Masterplan aimed at massive increment in sugar production that would make Nigeria satisfy the sugar need of Africa continent.

Adedeji said: “The Nigerian Sugar Master Plan (NSMP), a 10-year road map policy that seeks to meaningfully revitalise the once vibrant sugar sub-sector and make Nigeria one of the leading sugar-producing nations within the continent, was first initiated in 2012. It is an ambitious and well-thought-out policy framework for the sector, which seeks to bring about a complete overhaul to enable Nigeria to become self-sufficient in sugar production, create direct and indirect jobs, generate electricity, become a notable global sugar producer, and produce ethanol for industrial use.”

He added that: “I must say that we are quite pleased with the tremendous successes we’ve recorded with regard to the refining of imported raw sugar. In fact, Nigeria has since met its raw sugar refining capacity, which is commendable. But like I’ve always stated, the successes we’ve achieved in the area of raw sugar refining must be replicated in our BIP project, which is a major component of the NSMP and has the capacity to tackle rising unemployment and also address other socio-economic challenges facing the country.”

He admitted that: “We can only celebrate as a sector if we are able to grow cane and produce raw sugar locally. I know it’s a tough job, but we are more than ready to achieve our target objectives given our commitment and efforts. Also, within the first 10 years of the NSMP, we’ve been able commission a multi-billion dollar sugar factory and estate in Sunti, Niger state, creation of over one million direct and indirect jobs, the takeoff of the moribund Nigeria’s foremost sugar company Bacita, Kwara state, and several other landmark feats recorded in the last 10 years in the sugar sector.

“It is a known fact that the nation’s sugar sector has witnessed some significant reforms in the last 10 years. The sector is now well regulated, roles of stakeholders are clearly defined, formulation of enabling laws and policies to aid growth and heavy reliance on modern technology to drive the process.”

He said going forward all the activities of council would solely be driven by research, data, innovation and modern technology, adding that the Nigeria Sugar Institute located in Ilorin, Kwara state would assist in the sugar revolution.

He noted that with the federal government’s approval of the commencement of Phase two of the NSMP, with actual implementation to begin this year through 2033, there is going to be turnaround in the fortune of the country which would lead it to the summit of sugar production on the continent and creating massive employment for the citizens and generating electricity through sugar for the populace.

Adedeji said “this is an ambitious and well-thought-out move that will drive and revamp the sector in order to restore Nigeria’s lost glory as far as sugar production in the continent is concerned. Raw sugar quota allocation would be given based on the performance of BIP operators and not based on the size of their refineries. We’ve communicated this to our stakeholders, especially the operators. In fact, we even made them to sign recommitment forms for the BIP, indicating that they are ready to act in line with the new order put in place by the Council. It is not a witch-hunt, but a deliberate and well thought-out measure to accelerate our drive to self sufficiency in sugar production.”

Sugar industry to sugarcane based industry. Focusing on producing ethanol from sugar for power.
The new Masterplan for ten years start now.
The industry is open for new investors.

In the next ten years we should be able to fill the African market with sugar. Satisfy our local consumption and export to the rest of Africa.

“We hope to be the largest exporter of sugar in Africa soon”

In the next ten years, we would ensure that people are able to grow the cane.

It is not for infrastructure development and economic development.

Agricultural stage is the next stage since we have the mills.
We have surpassed our capacity for sugar needs.
Irrigation of 10,000 hectares of land is been prepared.
Sugarcane production state forum under the governor of Nasarawa state. Sugar industry is one of the way to take people out of poverty. We have to take a lesson from India.
Sugar industry to sugarcane based industry. Focusing on producing ethanol from sugar for power.
The new Masterplan for ten years start now.
The industry is open for new investors.

In the next ten years we should be able to fill the African market with sugar. Satisfy our local consumption and export to the rest of Africa.

“We hope to be the largest exporter of sugar in Africa soon”
 
In this interview, the Executive Secretary of the National Sugar Development Council, Mr. Zach Adedeji, says that with the approval of the second phase of the Nigerian Sugar Master Plan commencing this year, Nigeria is on the path of becoming one of the leading sugar producing nations in Africa.
 
You have been at the helm of affairs at the National Sugar Development Council for about two years; how has the journey been so far?

Well, it has been both challenging and rewarding, considering Nigeria’s quest to attain self-sufficiency in sugar production in the shortest possible time. We are keen about realizing our goals in the sector. It is also an important learning curve for me and members of my team, given the peculiar nature of the sector. I’ve learnt a whole lot and I’m quite pleased with the modest gains we’ve so far recorded in the sugar sector. I came in with a mindset to build on what my predecessors had done in the past with regards to all the necessary groundwork relating to policies and programmes towards repositioning the sector. Though we’ve had some adjustments here and there to help accelerate this quest which was why one of the things I did upon assumption of office was to meet with relevant stakeholders and visit our zonal offices, sugar refineries and sugar estates across the country. I assured every stakeholder and interest group that I was ready to work with them and carry everybody along because the task before the Council, which is to revitalise the sector, requires the contributions and commitments of everybody.

In my engagements with operators who are key players in the sector, and other stakeholders, I was able to make them pledge their commitments to the implementation of the Nigerian Sugar Master Plan (NSMP) and get serious with their individual Backward Integration Programme, which is the heart of the NSMP, or stand the risk of being sanctioned. Given the seriousness government attaches to the sector, and in line with its resolve to meaningfully implement the master plan the allocation of sugar quota to companies implementing the BIP would be based on their BIP performance, and not based on their refining capacity. Going forward, especially as we role out plans for the phase two of our sugar master plan, sugar quota allocation would be strictly based on performance in the outgoing year. The era where we allocate quotas based on the size of refineries is over. The idea is to ensure that these companies get serious with regards to the development of their respective BIP sites.
 
What other reforms have you introduced?

One of the key reforms we have introduced is to bring in external resources to support our monitoring. We see monitoring as the key to attaining the objectives of the master plan. It will allow us to truly measure progress and take corrective actions if any player is not meeting their commitments. So, each operator has to submit a quarterly plan and we monitor progress against each milestone. But the wider vision is to deepen the industry and this will involve attracting investments and overcoming some of the constraints. Already, we are interfacing with the state governments on areas that have been identified as suitable for sugar cultivation to ensure the release of land and provision of infrastructure. These states are Nasarawa, Kwara, Adamawa, Oyo, Niger, Taraba, Ondo, Sokoto and Bauchi. Also, in our drive to ensure that disputes over lands are resolved amicably, we came up with the idea of a forum know as the Forum of Governors of Sugar Producing States which is headed by his Excellency, the Executive Governor of Nasarawa state, Engr. Abdullahi Sule. By law, state governors are the landlords across states, hence our resolve to carry them along in our resolve to ensure that disputes over lands between host communities and sugar companies are nipped in the bud. We are also working with the Nigeria Ports Authority and the Customs to try and ensure that equipment needed by our operators gets out of the ports in time, avoiding congestion. This is because sugar cultivation is time-sensitive and delays in harvesting can result in losses to our farmers, which can discourage them. Finally, we are working with the CBN to arrange single-digit funding that will support investment in the sector. So, in all, we have put in place all necessary measures in our quest to revamp the nation’s sugar sector.
 
After rice and wheat, the Federal Government considers sugar as the third most important commodity, which prompted the drafting and approval of the National Sugar Master Plan to ensure self-sufficiency in the local production of sugar, ethanol, animal feeds, and an increased capacity in electricity generation, and employment, etc. How will you rate the first phase of the master plan?

The Nigerian Sugar Master Plan (NSMP), a 10-year road map policy that seeks to meaningfully revitalise the once vibrant sugar sub-sector and make Nigeria one of the leading sugar-producing nations within the continent, was first initiated in 2012. It is an ambitious and well-thought-out policy framework for the sector, which seeks to bring about a complete overhaul to enable Nigeria to become self-sufficient in sugar production, create direct and indirect jobs, generate electricity, become a notable global sugar producer, and produce ethanol for industrial use. I must say that we are quite pleased with the tremendous successes we’ve recorded with regard to the refining of imported raw sugar. In fact, Nigeria has since met its raw sugar refining capacity, which is commendable. But like I’ve always stated, the successes we’ve achieved in the area of raw sugar refining must be replicated in our BIP project, which is a major component of the NSMP and has the capacity to tackle rising unemployment and also address other socio-economic challenges facing the country. We can only celebrate as a sector if we are able to grow cane and produce raw sugar locally. I know it’s a tough job, but we are more than ready to achieve our target objectives given our commitment and efforts. Also, within the first 10 years of the NSMP, we’ve been able commission a multi-billion dollar sugar factory and estate in Sunti, Niger state, creation of over one million direct and indirect jobs, the takeoff of the moribund Nigeria’s foremost sugar company Bacita, Kwara state, and several other landmark feats recorded in the last 10 years in the sugar sector. It is a known fact that the nation’s sugar sector has witnessed some significant reforms in the last 10 years. The sector is now well regulated, roles of stakeholders are clearly defined, formulation of enabling laws and policies to aid growth and heavy reliance on modern technology to drive the process. Like I earlier stated, research, data and technology are very useful to us as an agency of government. Going forward, all our activities will be solely driven by research, data, innovation and modern technology. Also, the icing on the cake for us is the eventual takeoff of the Nigeria Sugar Institute located in Ilorin, Kwara state. Principally, the institute is the research arm of the National Sugar Development Council which is saddled with the responsibility of designing training modules and programmes for practitioners and staff of sugar companies in the country. With the NSI in place, sugar companies will have no compelling reason sending their staff abroad on training or refresher courses. As I speak to you, activities have commenced fully at the institute.
 
What would you highlight as the singular greatest challenge bedevilling the implementation of the master plan?

Insecurity is a major problem. Also, business activities are sometimes halted due to hitches such as perennial disagreements over land ownership between host communities and operators, communal hostilities, and other associated challenges like financing and infrastructure. But we are doing our best to ensure that operators enjoy a harmonious working relationship with their host communities. As a means of addressing insecurity in sugar-producing communities, no less than 20 percent of the sugarcane grown in any area must be done by the locals to create inclusion and reduce insecurity.
 
How badly would you say insecurity affected the growth of the sugar industry, especially in the first phase of the sugar master plan?
You would agree with me that Nigeria’s jobless rate almost spiralled out of control between 2016 and 2020 because the economy went through two recessions. Unemployment is a global problem. It is not peculiar to us alone, but we must take serious measures to address it before it becomes an unmanageable issue on our hands. There is a nexus between unemployment and crime because once people are busy in their workplaces, there is hardly any time for them to plan and execute evil agendas. Insecurity reduces productivity but the good thing is that the Backward Integration Programme, BIP, component of the NSMP has the capacity to tackle rising unemployment and also address other socio-economic challenges facing the country. BIP sites provide season and off-season jobs for hundreds of Nigerians within and outside their locations. In terms of direct jobs, these sugar estates depend on independent sugarcane out-growers for canes for their factory operations. A number of out-growers are on the payroll of these companies thereby improving the economic well-being of members of the host communities and those from beyond. The sugar sector remains one of the many untapped goldmines in Nigeria, and the sector is now well-positioned to provide direct and indirect jobs for millions of our countrymen and women.
 
A few weeks back, the NSDC authorised two new investors for the sector – Nasarawa and Oyo States; what’s your advice to other states that have not joined the sugar train given its viability and the federal government’s plethora of incentives?

Let me firstly commend state governors in the sugar-producing states because as landlords of sugar projects in their respective domains, they have contributed to the modest success so far recorded in the industry. The guidelines for the implementation of Phase 2 of the Nigeria Sugar Master Plan require the input of critical stakeholders like state governors for it to succeed. The NSMP isn’t about sugar production alone, we count largely on its ability to take millions of our people out of poverty, develop infrastructure and improve the economic status of communities hosting sugar projects. We are quite optimistic about our projections in the sugar industry. We shall rely heavily on the use of verifiable data and modern technology to drive phase 2 of the master plan. The sugar sector holds tremendous opportunities for Nigeria and Nigerians in terms of job creation for our youths, increased revenue, and general economic prosperity for the nation. To really develop the industry as we desire, it is not only the state governors that have their work cut out for them, many stakeholders across the three tiers of government and the private sector have roles to play.
 
What new policies and programmes should Nigerians expect from the NSDC to drive the growth and development of the sugar industry?
We hope to be the largest exporter of sugar in Africa in the nearest future. To achieve this lofty goal, we must all roll up our sleeves and accord priority to our backward integration programme which is the bedrock of our mission as an agency of government.
For instance, to address the lingering issue of the skill gap and the dearth of skilled indigenous professionals in the sector, the federal government, and major sugar operators came together to establish what is today known as the Nigeria Sugar Institute in Kwara state. The NSI exists to train and meet the professional needs of both factory and field operators in the industry; provide jobs for skilled and unskilled workers, and also boost the economy of the host community and its environs. Also, the federal government’s approval of the commencement of Phase two of the NSMP, with actual implementation to begin this year through 2033, is an ambitious and well-thought-out move that will drive and revamp the sector in order to restore Nigeria’s lost glory as far as sugar production in the continent is concerned. Like I did say earlier, raw sugar quota allocation would be given based on the performance of BIP operators and not based on the size of their refineries. We’ve communicated this to our stakeholders, especially the operators. In fact, we even made them to sign recommitment forms for the BIP, indicating that they are ready to act in line with the new order put in place by the Council. It is not a witch-hunt, but a deliberate and well thought-out measure to accelerate our drive to self sufficiency in sugar production.
 
You marked your 45th Birthday some days back; how does it feel being one of the youngest regulators under the Buhari administration?

Well, it’s humbling and I thank God for the privilege to contribute to President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. I consider this a rare privilege and honour I’ll never take for granted. My bosses, that is the Ministers incharge of our parent Ministry have made my job a lot easier for me. I see them as exemplary role models who go every step of the way to ensure that their subordinates succeed in their assigned tasks. I’ve enjoyed good and harmonious working relationship with them, including members of my management team at the National Sugar Development Council. Indeed, it’s been very rewarding contributing to efforts aimed at revamping the nation’s sugar sector.

But age has never really been a limiting factor for me. I started taking on adult responsibilities when I was a kid growing up in a village called Iwo-Ate, in Ogbomoso, Oyo State, following my father to the farm, working from dawn to dusk so as to make ends meet. I was fresh out of school (the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife), just in my early 20s, when I started working at Procter and Gamble. Before I turned 30, I was operating at very senior levels, negotiating with, and advising multinationals, and managing multi-million-dollar projects. By 33, I was made the Commissioner of Finance in Oyo State. In 2017, when I was 39 years old, I was appointed chairman of the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, ATBU, Teaching Hospital, Bauchi. So, I will attribute wherever I am today to God and hard work. To the glory of God, I’ve had the privilege of serving and offering myself for service right from my teenage years. I was the Senior Prefect in primary school, Senior prefect in my secondary and I also became a Chartered Accountant during my undergraduate days in Obafemi Awolowo University. So, I’m not new to public office so to say. By God’s mercy and divine arrangements, I’ve always topped my class right from my primary school days. So, graduating with a First Class degree in Accounting from the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife perhaps the icing on the cake for me. Like I mentioned earlier, it is only God alone who made these feats possible. By strength shall no man prevail. I give God all the glory for where He brought me from, where I am today and where He’s taking me to in the future.

I want to use this medium to appeal to our youths, especially as we approach the election season to shun practices that are capable of destroying them. Politicians across party lines would approach you guys with very tempting offers which at best won’t fetch you anything good than momentary satisfaction. Learn to say no to their offers. Never allow any selfish politician to use you to achieve their inordinate ambition. See yourself as a key player in the quest to build the Nigeria of our collective dreams and aspirations. Violence and civil disorder won’t fetch you anything, rather it will expose you do more dangers.

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