The Executive Secretary/CEO of the National Sugar Development Council (NSDC), Mr. Kamar Bakrin, has assured that the ongoing reforms by the Council and expansion plans by operators will generate thousands of jobs for Nigerians very soon.

Speaking in an interview with “Industry Tracker,” a publication of the Commerce and Industry Correspondents Association of Nigeria (CICAN), the Executive Secretary said following the mandate and new targets given to the major sugar operators in the sector have commenced aggressive expansionary measure to create hugh-paying jobs for Nigerians in the coming months.

“You are going to see a lot of employment because each of the sugar operators have very aggressive expansion plans which we have seen and we have also engaged them on what they need to do.

“You will see a lot more economic activity. You know, both in terms of logistics and so on and so forth, a lot is going on in the sugar producing estates, and it will translate into jobs for the local communities, for suppliers, for contractors and all of that, because everybody is now scrambling to move. They are laying irrigation pipes, they are completing other infrastructure, they are expanding their factories and rehabilitating them and so on and so forth. So, you see a lot of that. Of course, we will still continue to import sugar for some time. I told you it has quite a significant gestation period, but at least we will see those benefits very soon. And you know, there is nothing better than employment. I can sit down and promise you we will crash the price of sugar and all that. But jobs are the real things.

“I am talking about thousands of jobs. These are good quality jobs. Some of them are factory jobs. Yes, some of them are farm jobs, some of them are seasonal. But there are quite a number of factory jobs that will be created that are sustainable. And the economic impact of that is going to be very significant,” he said.

Mr. Bakrin emphasised the need for a comprehensive approach to addressing community hostility, a long-standing challenge in the sugar industry. He highlighted key strategies incorporated into the Nigeria Sugar Master Plan (NSMP) II to ensure community acceptance. These include educating communities about the economic benefits of sugar production, allocating a portion of capital for community development projects, and mandating sugar companies to recruit local residents for various positions, thereby fostering greater community involvement and engagement.

“We are mandating a specified amount of capital that must be dedicated to community development, roads, schools, clinics, whatever makes sense for that community.

“We are also mandating a certain amount of recruitment that must come from the host communities, as well as the catchment areas for both field operatives, junior staff and workers, and so on, as well as for managerial staff.

“And we have already engaged the operators around this and we have gotten their buy-in.

“We are also insisting that a certain quantity of the sugar produced must be by outgrowers sourced from the local communities.

“On top of all of these, we are also creating within the council, essentially a directorate level stakeholder management department that is going to be directly responsible for stakeholder management. So, this is both in terms of host communities as well as inter-governmental engagements. I mean, other government agencies and departments, ensuring that we are able to bring them on board and provide a one-stop shop solution to the challenges sugar operators are facing. Engaging state governments is also part of it.

“This we have already started, by the way, where we have gotten a lot of very good engagement with the governors of the host states. I think we have met with all governors of states in which we are active. We have met with all the governors like Nasarawa State, Adamawa State, Kwara State and Niger State. We have had very fruitful discussions. We have gotten their commitments. Not only are they giving verbal commitments, they have actually delivered. So, for example, one of the operators had an issue with 2,000 hectare piece of land, which the host community was denying them access to develop and plant cane there. We met with the governor, we explained to him what we are doing and so on and so forth, and he set up a committee and that has been resolved. That land has now been handed over to the operator to develop,” the NSDC boss explained.

In addition to the expansion plans of existing sugar producers, he said the NSDC had identified 14 new “greenfield” sites with high viability for sugar production.

“To these existing sites, the NSDC has identified 14 greenfield sites, ranging in size from 6,000 to 18,000 hectares, across the sugarcane belt. These sites have not been previously cultivated and require further evaluation to determine their full viability,” he noted.

He however reminded the journalists that the pursuit of self-sufficiency in sugar production, as the most important element of NSMP II, remains the priority of the Council, adding that 2 million metric tonnes by 2032 is the utmost destination.