The N50 billion Sunti Golden Sugar Estate (SGSE) built by giant food and agro-allied company, Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc, in Mokwa, Niger State, has been ravaged by massive flood, leading to suspension of the sugar crushing exercise originally billed to commence production this month.
In fact, the massive flood threatening the coming on-stream of the FMN multi-billion sugar project will impede the realisation of the proposed one million tonnes of sugarcane production projection and the 4,500 metric tonnes of sugarcane daily production.
The project was commissioned early this year by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Executive Secretary, National Sugar Development Council (NSDC), Dr. Latif Demola Busari, confirmed this development to New Telegraph in Abuja.
He said the massive flood, which affected the farm, was not a natural flood, but man-made instigated by operators of the Jebba and Kainji Dams because of overflow of water.
Busari said the operators of the Jebba and Kainji Dams had opened up their gates to enable the water go down the river in a bid not to submerge the dams that are being used to generate power in the country.
The NSDC boss said series of meetings had been held by relevant officials in government, including management of FMN, to think through the flood problem at Sunti because of its economic potential to the country’s national sugar development.
Busari described the Sunti sugar project as one with huge economic potential, but currently challenged by flood.
“The Sunti sugar company we have been talking about is experiencing a couple of challenges, particularly flooding. We would be meeting today in the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing over the flood matter because they are not really natural floods, but floods that came about as a result of the operators of the Jebba and Kainji dam opening up their gates to allow the water go down the river. That one is producing about 25,000 metric tonnes.
“The other small challenge we may say they have, but they have found a way around it is the dearth of manpower to man the factory and some of the field installations. They brought in some expatriates and hopefully employ some Nigerians to understudy them so that after some time, they can take over. But the real critical challenge is the cane and that is why they have pleaded that if it is possible, they should be allowed to take over the Nigerian Sugar Company, Bacita, which is just across the river,” he said.
Meanwhile, the management of FMN Plc has admitted that the release of water at the two dams affected the progress of work at the Sunti Golden Sugar Estate in Niger State.
A senior official in FMN told New Telegraph that the company was engaging relevant key stakeholders, including operators of Jebba and Kainji dams, the National Sugar Council, Federal Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment, Federal Ministry of Power and Niger State government on the impact of floods on its operations and surrounding communities.
He said that despite the havoc caused by the flood, the management is committed to recommence works at the Sunti sugar cane farm to realise the national objective set-aside for sugar by government.
“FMN, which is the parent company of SGSE, has engaged the key stakeholders, including the operators of the Jebba and Kainji Dams, the National Sugar Council, Federal Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment, Federal Ministry of Power and Niger State government on the impact that the floods will have on not just our operations, but also on the livelihoods of the surrounding communities.
“We are aware of the efforts of the Federal Government to intervene through NEMA and the Niger State government through the state emergency management agency to provide immediate relief to the affected communities.
“Ultimately, this unfortunate situation can be better managed through better coordination on optimal water management along the Niger River Basin with the active input of all key stakeholders. We are working with the relevant authorities to see how this can be put in place. Despite this significant setback, we will be recommencing works to restore SGSE on its National Sugar Plan Development trajectory, once the floods have subsided,” the official said.
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