The Executive Secretary, National Sugar Development Council (NSDC), Mr. Zacch Adedeji, has said the nation’s sugar sub-sector has in the last 10 years attracted investments worth $3bn through the faithful implementation of the Nigeria Sugar Master Plan (NSMP).
The NSDC boss stated this on Thursday during the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Saro Africa Group and the Nasarawa state government for a sugar project to be domiciled in Doma and Nasarawa Local Government Areas of the state.
The Saro Africa Group which is the 5th investor in the sector has announced that the project would seat on 15,000 hectares of land for the first phase and other phases would follow in due course.
The NSDC boss added that the sector has five investors who have signed into the Backward Integration Programme component of the master plan.
Adedeji while underscoring the strategic role the sugar sector plays in the economic diversification agenda of the Federal Government with agriculture as its key driver, stated that the sector through the BIP operators has provided job opportunities for thousands as factory engineers, irrigation experts, plant operators and technicians, laboratory technologists among other professionals offering direct or indirect labour.
Adedeji in a statement signed by Abdullahi W. Yunusa, Head, Public Affairs Unit, NSDC was quoted to have said, “The sugar sector as today has five operators who have signed unto the Backward Integration Programme of the Nigeria Sugar Master Plan.
“The companies are Dangote Sugar Refinery, BUA Sugar Refinery, Golden Sugar Refinery, KIA Africa Group and the latest being the Saro Africa Group.”
Speaking at the event, Adedeji said the MOU signing ceremony between Saro and Nasarawa state has further underscored the confidence President Muhammadu Buhari has in the sector which led to the extension of the master plan by another 10 years, beginning from 2023 to 2033 known as the NSMP Phase 2.
“Today’s event is both historic and memorable for us both as regulators and operators of the sugar sector. This clearly demonstrates the confidence both government and the organised private sector have in the sector.
“We are talking about an investment that would take thousands of our people in the two local government areas in Nasarawa state off the labour market as well as change the economic fortunes of communities, towns and villages hosting the multi-million dollar project.
“This is in line with our aspiration as the regulator and developer of the sugar sector. It is largely about taking real development to our people, especially those who are in the village.
“Having a company like Saro Africa on board as one of our major operators is a huge a breakthrough for us, and an indication that the sector is on the right path. The sugar industry is open for more investments.
“We are always on ground to offer all the necessary assistance in terms of policy and technical guidelines for would-be investors. Nigeria is ready to fully harness all potentials in the sugar sector. The land is here, the manpower is also available, so investors are welcome,” he said.
In his remarks, Nasarawa state Governor, Engr. Abdullahi Sule, said the company was coming onboard at a time the state is committing its resources into putting the provision of infrastructure across the rural communities that will attract investors, thereby placing the state on the path of economic development and prosperity.
On the economic benefit of the new investment to the state, Governor Sule said, “If you are talking about 15, 000 hectares of land, there is no way that land won’t take more than 3,000 0r 4,000 people as workmen and women as irrigators, drivers, technicians and other workers.
“So, it is going to be a win-win situation for all the parties involved. We are glad that this is happening now. It is line with my plan and vision for a state that has made me who I am today. It is not about me, but about our children and even generations yet unborn.
“Nasarawa under my watch is steadily on the rise as attested to by indigenes and visitors alike. What is evolving today is the Nasarawa of our dream.”
On his part, the Group Managing Director, Saro Africa Group, Mr. Rasheed Sarumi, who hinted that his company is desirous of contributing to the economic development of the state through the citing of it’s sugar and ethanol businesses in the state, thanked the governor for creating the enabling environment for private sector players to come in.
“The governor has provided the vision, and our business as investors is to turn this vision to action. And this is the commitment I’ve made today. Saro Africa has been in Nasarawa state for years.
“We started the Saro transformation in 2017, which is to move from trading to heavy agro-industrial value chain to be able to see the future. This will be our third project. The first we did was the sweetner value which cost us 45 million dollars which will be ready for commissioning in the first quarter of 2023.
“This investment in Nasarawa state is dear to us. We know by the history of the two projects I mentioned earlier there are long gestation period and we are ready for the journey. Our readiness for the journey means that we will be totally embedded in the community,” he added.