The National Sugar Development Council (NSDC) has said that the newly commissioned Nigeria Sugar Institute (NSI) in Ilorin, Kwara State would aid the ongoing drive towards achieving a virile and competitive sugar industry for the country.
NSDC added that the institute would also fill the current void in critical areas of Nigeria’s sugar industry such as research, development and innovation as well as technical manpower development to sustain the industry development.
The Executive Secretary of NSDC, Dr. Latif Busari, gave the assurance yesterday at the commissioning of the institute that was also witnessed by Kwara State Governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, and the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo.
Busari stressed that the institute would further assist in the provision of clean and pure seed cane for growers, all based on the most advanced technologies available.
To actualise these for the country, the secretary explained that the institution would provide training for the core faculties of the Nigerian institution, adding that, NSI has begun to train 18 trainee instructors before the official commissioning to ensure that the ongoing plan to boost sugar industry achieve desired purpose.
He noted that six of the 18 trainees were currently taking courses in agriculture and field operations while the 12 others were gaining required knowledge on factory related operations.
Busari argued that the commissioning and training would have commenced earlier but was delayed due to COVID-19 lock-down and international travel restrictions imposed to prevent the virus transmission.
The secretary described the institute as a partnership effort between the public and private sector, and also collaboration with world-class sugar institutes in India and Mauritius.
“The Sugar Council, working closely with our operators had collated the various technical manpower needs covering the plan period between 2017 and 2023, identified the training programmes and developed curriculum for the courses that would be offered at the Institute.
The NSDC executive secretary explained that the institute, as a partnership project, between the public and the private sector, will be funded and managed by the operators in the industry.
“Going forward however, this institute is to be largely funded and managed by the sugar operators. It is a unique experiment in public-private sector collaboration to advance research and capacity development for an industrial sector in Nigeria and all stakeholders owe it to Nigerians to ensure its success.
“Therefore, all the Research and Development as well as capacity development functions which Council used to carry out, in collaboration with other partners are now to be handled directly by the institute, with Council’s support”, he added.
While explaining reasons for NSI establishment, Busari stated that the dearth of critical and competent technical manpower for both field and factory operations was identified as a major constraint to the attainment of the goals of the Nigeria Sugar Master Plan (NSMP) in June, 2017.
He spoke further: “ The problem had of course been with us long before that; in fact, it had been with us since the collapse of the old sugar mills at Bacita and Numan and the dispersal of their core technical staff to other industrial sectors of the economy. But the MTR poignantly reminded all stakeholders of the need to find workable solutions to the problem if we were not going to repeat the errors of the past.
Earlier, Adebayo, while stating that the Federal Government was ready to partner with private investors in sugar production in the country, said that investment already made by the apex government and the private sector in the industry was capable of creating thousands of jobs in agriculture and manufacturing sectors.
His words: “The government, therefore, recognises the need to deepen the partnership with the private sector to drive access to skills development, research and development in a manner that promotes competition, productivity, profitability and sustainability in the sugar industry,” Adebayo said.
The minister, who commended the Kwara State Government and other stakeholders in the partnership for the support given to the ministry in actualising the project, pledged to meet expectations of the country in sugar development through sugar master plan.
Also speaking, Kwara State Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq pledged that his government will continue to create an environment for industrial growth, in partnership with both the Federal Government and the private sector for the benefit of residents of the state. The governor said the state has the potential of providing enough sugarcane for sugar industries in the country.