The belief that Nigerian Sugar Master Plan (NSMP) is a well-conceived document to transform Nigeria’s promising sugar industry into an export driven sector and major revenue earner may be crystallizing already. With a massive private sector investment of over 3.1 billion US dollars (about N496 billion) required in the next seven years, National Sugar Development Council (NSDC) is self-assured that the NSMP presents the catalyst for Nigeria’s vision of self-sufficiency in sugar production and exportation. COBHAM NSA reports on the brewing partnership between the Benue State government and NSDC aimed at repositioning the sector for effective mandate delivery to Nigerians

In pursuit of its focused and tenacious implementation of the 10-year Road map towards Nigeria’s self-sufficiency in sugar production, the National Sugar Development Council {NSDC} should be all smiles that promises have come from the Governor of Benue State, Mr Samuel Ortom that the State government is ready to engage the Council’s management on practicable and flourishing enterprise that will grow the sugar sector sustainably. Coming on the heels of NSDC’s sites visitation to spread the Nigerian Sugar Master Plan [NSMP]’s gospel in Benue State, Acting Executive Secretary of NSDC, Mr Samuel Ali Kwabe confidently flaunts the NSMP as a comprehensive package whose steadfast implementation as government’s strategic roadmap will engender the required productive development in Nigeria’s sugar sub-sector. This is against the backdrop of some industry experts’ view that the ‘NSMP contains fiscal and investment specific incentives designed to stimulate as well as attract new investors to the industry as part of measures to increase domestic sugar production and reduce the nation’s precarious dependence on imports.’ Indeed, it was an excited Governor Ortom that expressed the commitment and resoluteness of the Benue government and its people to partner with the NSDC towards promoting Nigeria’s competitive and comparative advantages in the sugar industry. Dropping hints the NSMP was envisioned during his tenure as Minister of State for Industries, Mr Ortom praised NSDC for its milestone achievement of discernible growth in the sector, noting that going round the country to identify sites for proposed sugar plantations is quite laudable. For him, Benue State is endowed with huge potential which his administration will effectively harness to promote productive partnership with the NSDC towards faithful implementation of the Master Plan. To ensure the assurances made the desired impact, Governor Ortom said, “We have great potentials; we have the land here and we will work with you for the overall benefits of our people and the country. With availability of River Benue and Katsina Ala, the water is here, so our communities will be willing to work with you as a body to achieve sugar development in Nigeria. As we await the coming of your technical people, we will engage and talk to the communities to fully prepare their minds for the guaranteed partnership.” Ortom lauded the NSDC for adopting a proactive posture to drive the NSMP, noting that their stopover in Benue has effectively opened up new opportunities for productive engagement with State governments and local communities on the imperative of growing the sugar industry nationwide. Interestingly, drawing strength from the Governor’s declaration, Acting Executive Secretary of NSDC, Mr Samuel Ali Kwabe was optimistic presenting NSMP as the vehicle for ‘Revolutionalising the Nigerian Sugar Sector’, pledging that the Council will execute various fiscal and industrial specific incentives to attract and sustain private sector investments in a competitive and profitable manner. Kwabe said the Master Plan, unveiled on January 1, 2013, has enabled NSDC to bolster the Sugar sector, maintaining that with the Brazilian experience throwing them up as world leaders, Nigeria’s huge potential in human and material resources are enough to create waves as a self-sufficient sugar producing nation. The Executive Secretary said the master plan has brought out the best in Sunti Golden Sugar Estate Limited (SGSEL) with its pilot project expected to commence production on a large scale soon. Sunti Golden Sugar Estate Limited (SGSEL), a Backward Integration Project (BIP) site of Golden Sugar Refinery, Apapa, Lagos, is an offshoot of Flour Mills Nigeria Limited. He further said other notable strides witnessed in the sector include resumption of production by Savannah Sugar Company Limited [SSCL] in Numan; and resolution of all outstanding issues by BUA in Lafiagi to set the stage for its planting of sugar cane to commence. According to Kwabe, the NSDC has identified new sites nationwide and is already undertaking pre-feasibility studies to prove their appropriateness for various sugar projects proposed by the Council, adding that the visit to Benue State has yielded positive results with the discovery of about five new sites located in Agashe, Atashe, Gboko, Katsina Ala and surrounding areas to Agashe Kwabe said with government’s priority on agriculture, the NSDC would continuously offer desired support and helping hands to state governments, groups, companies and individuals that are ready to drive sustainable growth in the industry, even as he said the Council, as the focal agency for regulating the sector, will within the limit of its available resources, support active partnership between stakeholders and governments at all levels to make the sector viable in Nigeria’s economic growth and development agenda. The NSDC Scribe, who condoled the government and people of Benue over the frequent clashes between herdsmen and farmers leading to loss of lives and property in the State, regretted that such wanton destruction and dastardly acts was inimical to the development of agriculture as alternative revenue source for the country, stressing that the time has come for stakeholders to take advantage of available resources and ensure their business ideas are shaped up for productive gains.

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