Calls for FG’s intervention
By Our Reporter
Residents of Lafiagi community in Edu Local Government Area of Kwara State, have expressed concern over the lifeless state of BUA Sugar Refinery, formerly known as Lafiagi Sugar Company owned by the Federal Government.
For the company to survive, the residents appealed to the Federal Government to compel BUA to commence its operations with immediate effect or revoke their ownership.
It would be recalled that the BUA group changed the name of the company to BUA Sugar Refinery after successfully taking over the company and is already benefiting from the concessions the Federal Government has given to sugar importers to encourage them to produce locally.
They alleged that company liquidated and bought over by BUA group of companies was last operated 15 years ago, it used to be the only major company in which scores of members of Lafiagi community and its environs were offered gainful employments.
For the residents of the community and its environs however, the tale, since the take- over is that of anguish and pain as the company is yet to operate and impact significantly and positively in the lives of the people in the community. They alleged that the company is now a shadow of itself as most of the staff have been laid off.
A retiree of Edu Local Government and a native of the community, Mr Saliu Musa, in an interview with journalists recalled that during the days of the Lafiagi Sugar Company,no fewer than 500 residents were employed.
He said: ‘’When the company was operational, older and younger ones no fewer than 500 were employed. The company was working very well then. But since the take-over by the new management, they have sent the staff away and most of them have resorted to doing any menial jobs available’’ he said.
He further said ‘’When the company stopped working, all those working were sacked and had nowhere to go. Some went back to farm, others joined Okada riders and many went into petty trading among others’’.
Kayode Buraimah, a youth leader in the area expressed utter disappointment that BUA had not done anything to revive the company since it bought it over.
Said he: “we were happy when the company was sold to BUA thinking it will be brought back to life. It’s unfortunate that since then, the Company just abandoned the Sugar refinery which is contrary to terms and conditions upon which the federal government sold the company. We the youths are jobless and yet we have an avenue for job here wasting away.
“We all submitted out CV , even recently to the emir as instructed so that we can be employed but since then, it has been one story or the other”
He therefore urged the management to do everything within its means to ensure that Lafiagi Sugar Company is returned back to its glorious days so that it could offer more employment opportunities to the teaming youths of the area and thereby enhance the nation’s economic development.
A visit to the company however revealed that nothing much has been done in the company. A source, who works for the company and pleaded anonymity said with what is on ground, no serious activity can happen in the company until the next three years.
“As you can see, we have not really started anything here. The truth is that most of the equipment are yet to arrive. As soon as we have the equipment needed for the sugar plantation, we will employ more people and operation will start”
It will be recalled that the National Sugar Development Council (NSDC), recently accused BUA group of taking advantage of the federal government’s concessions designed to help sugar importers transform into integrated sugar producers, without actually making tangible effort to begin to produce locally.
The Executive Secretary of the council, NSDC, Dr. Abdullatif Demola Busari, also recently lamented that “By now, it supposed to have over 400 hectares of planted sugar cane in the site. It is supposed to have brought in its machineries by now. That is, by March 2015, it is supposed to have imported it’s machineries but nothing like that has happened,” Busari said.
All efforts to however speak to the General Manager of BUA sugar refinery in Lafiaji, Mr isiaku Samuel, proved abortive as he was said to have been attending meetings all through.=END=
Reacting to this, a press statement from BUA said that the Federal Government has commended the sugar company and that Emir of Lafiagi conferred traditional title on Abdulsamad Rabiu, chairman of BUA.
The inter-ministerial National Sugar Roadmap Implementation Committee (SURMIC) of the Federal Government has commended the management of BUA Group for its recent investments in its Lafiagi Sugar Company and encouraged the company to sustain the pace of ongoing work at the plantation.
According to the statement , this was revealed when the SURMIC paid amonitoring visit to the Lafiagi plantation on Monday, December 7, 2015.
The SURMIC visit, which had the Directors of Technical and Planning at the National Sugar Development Council, the Manufacturer’s Association of Nigeria, the Ministry of Agriculture, The Ministry of Power as well as other high-level stakeholders in the sugar industry included a tour of BUA Group’s Lafiagi Sugar Plantation as well as an inspection of equipment and ongoing work, was carried out to ensure compliance with the government’s backward implementation policy.
Speaking during the visit, Director Technical at the Sugar Council, Mr. Jika, commended the pace of ongoing work at the Lafiagi Sugar Company as well as the investments in infrastructure on ground. “We are satisfied with what we have seen on ground. Whilst the ongoing work is commendable, we expect BUA to sustain the current pace of work at Lafiagi into the future so that Nigerians can start to benefit fully from the backward implementation policy of the Federal Government.”
In his response, Isiaku Samuel, a General Manager atLafiagi Sugar Company, said that despite the challenges faced in taking full ownership of the site after BUA purchased the company through a privatization exercise, BUA has gone ahead to mobilise manpower and equipment to kick-start the once-moribund facility in addition to acquiring an additional 50,000hectares in Bassa Local Government of Kogi State for sugarcane farming. “We are happy with this visit by the National Sugar Roadmap Implementation Committee (SURMIC) to verify ongoing work at our facility.
The state also said that the Emir of Lafiagi, Alh. Sa’aduKawu Haliru commended the management of BUA Group for its sincere efforts in ensuring the resuscitation of the Lafiagi Sugar Company