*Community hostilities threaten industry projects
By Franklin Alli & Demola Akinyemi
WITH a mid-term review, there are indications that the National Sugar Master Plan, NSMP, is failing with performance rate at about 15 per cent of targets. This is coming against threats to the nation’s hope of attaining self sufficiency in sugar production by communal hostilities. This was revealed by the National Sugar Development Council, NSDC, in its mid-term review of the National Sugar Master Plan (NSMP) which targeted domestic production of 1.7 million metric tons of the commodity by 2020.
This, according to the NSDC, is one of the reasons for the under-performance of the three sugar producers with regards to meeting their sugar production targets. The Council disclosed that the sugar producers namely, Dangote Sugar Refinery, BUA Sugar Refinery and Golden Sugar, a subsidiary of Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc, have only been able to achieve 40.3 per cent of the target set in the NSMP.
Confirming this to Vanguard, Managing Director of BUA Sugar Refinery, Alhaji Ibrahim Yaro, said the federal government should curtail host community hostilities to encourage investments in the sector to thrive. Speaking during a mid-term review meeting in Abuja, Executive Secretary of NSDC, Dr. Latif Busari, said: “The sugar producers have lost billions of naira as a result of community hostility over land, incessant flooding of sugar estates and smuggling of St Louis Cube Sugar. Many projects that would have raised the implementation profile of the NSMP were stalled by host communities’ unwillingness to give out land.
“DSR’s proposal to establish a sugar estate in Zaria Kalakala, Kebbi State was stalled by political elite interference and demands after the company had undertaken preliminary perimeter surveys and initiated action for topographical and soil surveys.
Physical attacks against contractors
Golden Sugar Estate, Sunti, has witnessed so many disruptions during its development and even as recent as March 22, 2017, requiring the intervention of the Police and local chiefs.
“BUA Group has also reported community hostilities against its operations at its project site in Lafiagi Sugar Estate. Four such incidents of physical attacks against contractors working on estate roads and irrigation canals were recorded within the period. Flood protection dykes constructed at very huge costs were breached and cane fields washed away. Farm infrastructures – irrigation systems were damaged.”
The NSDC mid-term review further stated that BUA recorded zero against the 15, 600 metric tonnes of sugar the company promised to produce during the period under review, while Dangote produced 20, 200 metric tonnes, being 28 per cent of the 72, 000 metric tonnes it promised to produce, and Golden Sugar produced 800 metric tonnes, being one per cent of the 57, 750 metric tonnes the company ought to have produced during the period.”
According to Yaro, federal government’s intervention has become imperative because the hostility his company has suffered from the host community is severe and it substantially undermined their project in the community. He stated: “For the refineries to relentlessly implement their respective backward integration projects, intervention by the federal government is needed to curtail the excesses of host community’s hostilities. Host communities should be made to understand that investors of our magnitude are coming to bring development to their areas and empower them economically. They should be prepared to cooperate with us and protect the investments, not to use their youths to destroy them.
“We are focused, determined and vigorously matching forward to meet our set targets. ASUCO is targeting the production of two million tons of sugar cane annually and this segment alone could produce over 4,000 jobs, while thousands of employment would be generated at plant and at an indirect level.”