AbdulSamad Rabiu is a name that readily comes when matters relating to manufacturing, agriculture and infrastructure development as well as humanity are at play. Lately, AbdulSamad, a scion of the late Khalifa Isyaku Rabiu, took his philanthropy a step further by making an unprecedented intervention in the battle against COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria. That benevolent act of Rabiu, the chairman/CEO of BUA Group, towards financing the COVID-19 cause is yet unparalleled. Kunle Aderinokun writes
COVID-19 continues to take the world by storm with its debilitating ravages, but efforts are being concerted by countries and the World Health Organisation to stem the tide of the scourge. In Nigeria, the federal government through the health authorities including the ministry of health and the NCDC with the active coordination of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 as well as the state governments are working round the clock to flatten the curve of infected people. As at Saturday night, the number of confirmed cases was 2388.
Apart from the government’s special funds dedicated to the fight against the pandemic, donations have been pouring in from the private sector including corporate bodies and individuals. Called the Coalition against COVID -19 Relief Fund (CACOVID Relief Fund), the Initiative, being coordinated by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), currently has in its kitty a total donation of N27.160 billion.
On top of the list of 123 donors, comprising individuals and organisation, to the CACOVID Relief Fund are Mr. Tony Elumelu, United Bank for Africa, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, Access Bank, Mr. Segun Agbaje, Guaranty Trust Bank, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Dangote Group, Mrs. Folorunsho Alakija, Alhaji Abdul Samad Rabiu and BUA Group, Mr. Femi Otedola and Chief Mike Adenuga.
Of all these donors, Abdul Samad Rabiu, the chairman/CEO of BUA Group and his company, stand out. The philanthropist and his group’s donation pledge of N1 billion was redeemed late March by way of a confirmed funds transfer to the COVID-19 relief fund account with CBN. The N1 billion cash contribution was followed by donation to nine states of medical and emergency kits and supplies including face masks, testing kits, safety goggles, gloves, personal protective gear in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak in Nigeria. Not done, the company announced additional donation of N300million to Sokoto, Edo and Ogun States. A statement noted that this was done to assist in galvanising a coordinated response and adequate preparedness in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in these states.
The donations to Sokoto and Edo States were on behalf of BUA Cement, the group’s cement subsidiary, which has its major operations in those states whilst Ogun was also selected as a beneficiary due to its proximity to Lagos, which had been the epicenter of the virus in Nigeria.
According to Rabiu, although these states had been identified for this intervention in the first instance, “BUA is monitoring the situation closely and is also looking at other states that may need additional help.”
“We will continue engaging with these states and relevant partners including the NCDC in the areas where they need support to win this fight against COVID-19,” he added.
The chief executive appealed to other well-meaning Nigerians and corporate bodies to join hands in supporting the efforts to put the virus in check in Nigeria, financially and otherwise. “Our country needs us now more than ever. This is the time to come together and support.”
True to his words, Rabiu led BUA Foundation to give additional N3.3 billion grant to the COVID-19 fight. With the contribution, the battle against the scourge received the fillip to perform the unimaginable. The belief is that it is only a matter of time, Nigeria will get a better handle of the highly contagious virus and set the land free of the scourge.
In a letter to the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, dated April 24, 2019 and signed by Rabiu, the industrialist expressed deep concern about the increased rate of spread of the coronavirus especially in Kano and Lagos, regardless of collective efforts to curb its spread and effects in Nigeria. While commending the leadership shown by the taskforce as well as the NCDC in this COVID-19 fight, he acknowledged more needed to be done.
Given this scenario and as a result of recent unfortunate happenings in Kano, which many believe is fast-becoming the epicenter of the virus, he said the foundation decided to commit N3.3 billion to the cause. According to him, the fund was to support a working group made of the Presidential Taskforce, NCDC, and other stakeholders in equipping two existing permanent facilities in Kano Lagos states- whilst collaborating with the teaching hospitals in those states.
“To this end, I am immediately committing and making available – through the BUA Foundation, two grants of N2 billion for the Kano-based intervention and N1 billion for Lagos State being the epicenter of this virus in Nigeria. A sum of N300 million will also be made available immediately in cash to the Presidential Taskforce to assist with logistical and operational activities of the taskforce. This grant is in addition to BUA’s earlier contributions to the private sector-led CACOVID coalition and donations to other states,” he noted.
Rabiu, who is the founder of BUA Foundation, tasked the working group to use resources at its disposal to ensure these facilities to be determined by the working group are fully equipped in the shortest possible time. “I believe this will effectively help to expand the scope of interventions, ongoing research as well as support already stretched medical facilities dedicated to this fight.”
BUA’s N3.3 billion donation is in addition to the N1 billion earlier contributed.
The philanthropic spirit in Rabiu and his kindness pushed him to donate more funds- to a number of the states earlier reached and even extended to additional states- totaling N600 million. From the fresh N600 billion, Lagos received N200million while Ogun, Kaduna, Rivers and Kwara got N100 million each. Besides, Sokoto, which earlier benefitted the sum of N100 million was granted additional N300million. The BUA Foundation has, during this period, also provided foodstuff for one million people in Kano. This is different from the provision of some foodstuff to the Noella Foundation/FoodClique’s COVID-19 emergency foodbox initiative in Lagos, which has been able to make available about 600,000 meals to people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
To date, Rabiu/BUA is the single largest contributor to the COVID-19 pandemic relief fund and Kano, where he hailed from, is infested with ‘unexplained’ disease, suspected to be coronavirus. This generous gesture, yet unparalleled, is a challenge to the sons and daughters of Kano and the North as well as the array of billionaires in the country to contribute their quotas and in some cases, do more, to save lives of Nigerians.
Rabiu’s philanthropy didn’t start with the COVID-19 pandemic fight; he is one of the largest private donors to the North-east, building of Schools, health facilities and water supply projects in Edo and Sokoto states. His benevolence dates back to the era before the establishment of BUA Foundation. Through his BUA Foundation, he has built a 7,000-square-meter paediatric ward at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital and commenced the ongoing development of N7.5billion 200-bed specialist hospital in Kano State. Besides, he constructed the Centre for Islamic Studies at Bayero University Kano amongst several others.
Ranking as the third most richest person in Nigeria with a networth of about $3 billion, Rabiu, who was born on August 4, 1960, is a seasoned businessman and industrialist. He sits atop BUA Group, a conglomerate with interests in manufacturing, infrastructure and agriculture.
The group, which started in 1988 as BUA International Limited, a relatively small company, established for the sole purpose of commodity trading, now boasts having in its fold, BUA Sugar Refinery Limited, BUA Oil Mills Limited, BUA Ports and Terminals Limited, BUA Cement and BUA Estates.
In 2001, BUA acquired Nigerian Oil Mills Limited, which was at the time, the largest edible oil processing company in Nigeria. In 2005 Rabiu, who was a two-time chairman of Bank of Industry, set up two flour milling plants in Lagos and Kano. By 2008, BUA, under his leadership, inaugurated the second largest sugar refinery in sub-Saharan Africa. Thereafter, in 2009, he acquired a controlling stake in the publicly listed Cement Company of Northern Nigeria (Sokoto Cement) and commenced the construction of the over $1billion cement manufacturing complex in Obu-Okpella, Edo State commissioned in 2015, which is currently the single largest non-oil investment in South-south Nigeria and has a current capacity of 6million metric tonnes per annum.
Other recent investments by the company include the $300million Lafiagi Sugar Estate project as part of the Nigerian Government’s Backward Integration Plan for the Sugar Industry; a $350million investment in a new cement plant in Sokoto, Northern Nigeria, the development of Nigeria’s first limestone granulation plant and a 1million tonnes fertiliser blending plant. In 2020, Rabiu merged his privately owned Obu Cement Company with the publicly listed Cement Company of Northern Nigeria, where he already held a controlling stake in a $3.3billion transaction. The resultant company from the merger, BUA Cement, is currently the third largest company on the Nigerian Stock Exchange by market capitalisation.