The Executive Secretary, National Sugar Development Council (NSDC), Mr. Zacch Adedeji, yesterday said the Backward Integration Programme (BIP) designed for the sugar industry can tackle unemployment and socio-economic issues bedeviling the country.
Adedeji, who spoke during a visit to sugar refineries in Lagos linked violent crimes and insecurity across the country with rising joblessness among the youth.
A statement by Deputy Director, Public Affairs, NSDC, by Ahmed Waziriin in Abuja described the BIP roadmap as a major component of the Nigeria Sugar Master Plan (NSMP).
He noted that the sugar sector could provide jobs for millions of skilled and unskilled workers.
“The sugar sector is a goldmine that holds numerous potential and opportunities for Nigeria and Nigerians.
“It is a sector that has provided direct and indirect jobs for thousands of our citizens across disciplines and professions.
“We are all concerned about the need to provide job opportunities for our people, especially our youths.
“Unemployment is a major contributor to the various social crises facing us today as a country.
“This is why President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is committed to revamping the sugar industry to enable it to absorb citizens and contribute meaningful to the economy and the country in general,” he said.
Adedeji, who assured investors in the sector of government’s support, in terms of policy and technical assistance, said Nigeria had done well in the refining of raw sugar.
He called for concerted efforts toward full implementation of the Backward Integration Programme for the sugar industry which was crucial to Nigeria’s quest to attain self-sufficiency in sugar production.
“The Federal Government is serious and determined to realise it’s objectives as far as the sugar sector is concerned. We hope to be the largest exporter of sugar in Africa in the nearest future.
“To achieve this lofty goal, we must all roll up our sleeves and accord priority to our backward integration programme which is the bedrock of our mission as an agency of government.”
“Recently, the Central Bank of Nigeria said it would soon begin to restrict access to foreign exchange to producers of some commodities in the country, including sugar.
“This is clearly an indication that government cannot continue to expend its scarce forex on things that we have all it takes to produce locally.
“Let us take this as a challenge and work toward ensuring that the BIP policy succeeds for the benefit of our dear country,” he said.
The NSDC boss restated that it must take actions that would make Nigeria a net exporter of sugar thereby saving scarce forex for other purposes.
“Let us integrate all that we are doing to a workable and implementable agenda for the smooth operation of the sector,” he added.
The familiarisation visit by the new Executive Secretary of NSDC to sugar refineries in Lagos is to enable him to assess the level of compliance with regard to the implementation of the Nigeria Sugar Master Plan.
This is especially as it pertains to the Backward Integration Programme (BIP) undertaken by the trio of Dangote Sugar Refinery, BUA Sugar Refinery and Golden Sugar.