By James Emejo
The National Sugar Development Council (NSDC) has raised the alarm that the N60 billion sugar investment project in Sunti Golden Sugar Estate (SGSE) in Niger State is reportedly threatened by floods occasioned by the sudden release of water from the Kainji Hydro Power Dam in the state.
The sugar project, which is owned by the Flour Mills Nigeria Limited, is one of the three major players currently implementing the backward integration programme component of the Nigeria Sugar Master Plan (NSMP).
The floods which reportedly swept through the sugar estate, destroyed flood protection dykes, factory equipment and submerged cane fields, pulling down office and residential buildings as well as halted activities on the estate.
The Executive Secretary of NSDC, Dr. Latif Busari, said the incident had become a recurring event since the project began over five years ago.
He said the situation was worrisome, adding that “this is a huge setback for the Flour Mills of Nigeria, the sugar sector and Nigeria as a country, as it will impede the realisation of the 4,500 metric tons of sugarcane daily processing by the company and the one million tons of sugar production projection recently agreed with major sugar producers.”
In a statement issued by the Deputy Director, Public Affairs, NSDC, Ahmed Waziri, Busari, said the massive flood, which affected the farm, was not a natural flood, but most likely a man-made one instigated by the overflow of water from the Jebba and/or Kainji Dams.
He said the operators of the Jebba and Kainji Dams possibly opened up their spill gates to enable the water go down the river in a bid not to submerge the turbines that are being used to generate power in the country.
The NSDC boss said series of meetings had been held by relevant officials of all stakeholders, to think through the flood problem at Sunti because of its economic potential to the country’s national sugar development plan, but regrettably, little progress had so far been achieved as the company, except for 2019, kept recording losses yearly as a result of floods thereby frustrating the implementation of the sugar master plan.
He said: “The situation in Sunti is both disturbing and very discouraging to us as a forward-thinking agency. We aren’t new to the entire problem, given our position as the regulator of the sugar industry, but it is one loss too many that could reverse some modest gains recorded in the sugar sector.
“We have shown serious and genuine interest in their case, particularly as it relates to the issue of constant flooding, which has cost them a fortune. But as intractable as it appears, we won’t resign to fate or distance ourselves from the issue in Sunti.”
He added that the council had tabled the flooding issue before relevant ministries, departments and agencies of the government (MDAs) with a view to finding lasting solution to the problem, adding that this had not yielded the desired outcome as the issue still persisted.
Busari, who described the Sunti sugar project as one with huge economic potential, but currently challenged by floods, said an inter-ministerial committee involving Ministers of Power, Industry, Trade and Investment; officials of the National Sugar Development Council, Transmission Company of Nigeria, Mainstream Energy Solutions and Flour Mills of Nigeria was set up to look into the matter in the past.