From Uche Usim, Awe, Nasarawa
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele on Thursday disclosed that wheat and sugar will soon be added to the foreign exchange import ban list in line with government’s efforts to conserve foreign exchange by promoting local production that will ultimately lead to massive job creation.
This was as he extolled the President of Dangote Group, Mr Aliko Dangote for his $500 million sugar plantation project, which sits atop a 60,000 hectares of land in Awe, Nasarawa State.
Speaking after visiting the plantation in company of the Nasarawa State Governor, Mr Abdullahi Sule and Dangote, Emefiele said the project was consistent with government’s backward integration blueprint in producing various consumables in-country.
According to him, the government can no longer spend about $1 billion annually on sugar importation, when the commodity can be grown in the country.
He said: “Visiting a site like this with 60,000 hectares of land, we can say it’s a very big project. It’s incomparable to anyone we’ve seen. This one is four to five times bigger than a sugar project in Sunti, Niger State commisioned about two years ago.
“It’s important we thank the state government for providing the land. By the time this factory kicks off, it’ll create jobs for the people of the state and increase their revenue. It’s going to improve the economic viability of the State.
“In line with the pronouncement of Mr President that we should produce what we eat, we are saying that Nigeria can produce sugar and be self sufficient in food production. This is something that we should support. That is the reason we’ve decided to give credence to the backward integration projects of the federal government.
“We’ve seen that this location is well suited for the project and some of the equipment are already here. We will provide not only the naira or some of the naira because Dangote is a big man and has equity he’s contributing to the project, we will provide the Forex because he needs the dollars to import some of the needed equipment.
“Hopefully, within the next two years, we will provide that support. That is our interest here to reduce reliance on importation. Let me this, we are looking at sugar and wheat. We started a programme on milk about two years ago, eventually, these products will go into our FX restriction list. We just want to see to what extent we see the traction that is coming from those who are currently importing these items.
“We are putting their feet on fire to say that we must all work together to produce these goods in Nigeria rather than import them”, the CBN Governor explained.
On how much CBN was funneling into the project, Emefiele said; “we’ve not made up our mind on how much we’ll put in but of course, as you heard from Dangote, the project is worth about $500 million. If you convert that to naira, you know how much that is. I know he’s going to commit some equities to it. From there, we will determine what is the shortfall and we will come in through intervention through the banks for whatever loan that is required for this”, he assured.
Also speaking at the event, the President of Dangote Group, Mr Aliko Dangote, said the target of his sugar factory was to grow up to one third of Nigeria’s sugar consumption, which is almost a million tonnes.
“What we have right now is the first investment, which is about $480-500 million.
“The CBN will provide us the support just as he has been providing us the support to make it a reality. We’ve a very good relationship with the community and stakeholders. This project, as you see it, will produce a lot of jobs and as a matter of fact, we have to bring a lot of people outside of these areas into the project to help in terms of employment.
“We’re talking about thousands of direct and indirect jobs, more than 150,000 jobs.
It has quite a lot of potential. We will also do power generation and ethanol from sugar. To the state, if this place is up and running, I do not think there will be a shortage of power in Nasarawa State. We will be having excess of 90mw of power. It’s quite substantial. We must also thank the Federal Government for the sugar masterplan, which is a very good policy that encourages us to do this kind of backward integration.
It’s not just for us to make money from the sugar refinery, but to also boost the economy”, he noted.
Dangote described Emefiele as not just a Governor of CBN, but also a developmental Governor that is looking beyond the monetary policy to aggressively buoy the naira using various initiatives.
“Emefiele has a problem today of meeting up with the demands of import. Supporting projects like this, going forward, the naira in your hands will be very strong. We have quite a lot that we’re doing here.
I’m sure when you come back Next year, you’d see massive transformation.
Expect production in two years’ time because the sugar project is in phases. By next year, we will have 60,000 hectares and with that we will be feeding the factory and it’ll be easier for us to double our capacity because we already have the base.
We’re targeting about half a million tonnes but right now, we’re talking about 250 million tonnes and that is worth about N450 billion.
The CBN Governor doesn’t only want to support the naira but ensure jobs are created.
You can only create 100 million jobs targeted by the federal government through this kind of project.
We have no reason not to succeed. The CBN Governor is here and he’s ready to provide us all the support”, Dangote added.
On the inspection tour were various stakeholders from the CBN, finance ministry, Nasarawa State Governor, Mr Abdullahi Sule, among others.