By Amechi Ogbonna
Barring any unforeseen developments in the Nigerian economy, the $300million refinery and ethanol plant being constructed at Lafiagi, Kwara State by BUA Group, would commence commercial production in the first quarter of next year.
This was disclosed by the plant’s Senior General Manager, Mr AbdulRasheed Olayiwola, during a facility tour of the project site on Monday.
Described as a VIP flagship project of the BUA Group, the 220metric tonne capacity sugar refinery which is sitting on 20,000 hectares of land bordering the River Niger has attained 67 percent completion with all critical machineries already on ground and awaiting installation. This was even as one of its anxcilliary project with installed capacity of 20million liters of ethanol has already been completed and set for commissioning.
According to Mr Olayiwola, the remaining 33 percent consisting of civil engineering works and machinery installations would be completed before the end 2021 to enable the takeoff of a pilot test run.
The integrated 4 in 1 project includes a 10000tcd (tonnes of canes per day) capacity sugar processing facility, a -20 million -liter ethanol plant, a sugar refinery and 35 MW power plant to guarantee uninterupted power supply. He explained that about 15,000 hectares of sugarcane farm has already been planted, as work on the 20 kilometers of irrigation facilities from both ends of the River Niger is in progress to ensure healthy growth of the canes.
“We’re developing a new sugar city in Lafiagi just as you have a fully built Sugar City in Zambia” Olayiwola said. On why Lafiagi was chosen to host the projects, the Senior General Manger said “It is better to refine where you have a plantation because sugar importation is a foreign exchange guzzler and whoever is not investing in refinery has no intention of stopping sugar importation”
Other infrastructures already up and running to facilitate the realisation of the sugar city include, an airstrip that can host Boeing aircraft, a fully functional Research and Development laboratory, a 7.5kilometer bypass to take cargo and vehicular movements off Ilorin, the state capital and adjoining towns.
Also under construction are a 235 -kilometers of road network to enhance free movement of traffic in and out of the facility, 200 housing units for all categories of staff, healthcare facility, as well as educational institutions for children of staff members and the host community.
Meanwhile, BUA’s in -house engineer said over 7000 hectares of land has been cleared even as the Nigerian Airforce is in talks with the management to use the airstrip for the training of its pilots.
Only last year, Netafim of Israel, global leaders in irrigation and hydro technology entered into an agreement with BUA to construct a drip and sprinkler irrigation scheme with water sourced from the River Niger. This irrigation facility and about 20MW of its 35 MW of captive power would be put into the national grid to also support the host community with uninterrupted power assist the over 5000 sugar cane out-growers being prepared for the eventual commencementof production in 2022 to make a living.
Also speaking, Mr Labaran Saidu, Head of Projects at Lasuco said the sugar factory on completion would employ 5000 direct workers and over 10000 indirectly largely from the host community.
According to him, the integrated sugar factory and mill could hold over 3000 trucks per day is one of the few sites rated by the National Sugar Council to drive Nigeria’s Sugar Masterplan.