Many Nigerians have expressed shocks over the ongoing squabble between two of the country’s biggest industrialists Aliko Dangote and Abdul Samad Rabiu over compliance concerns relating to the backward integration policy of the Nigerian sugar industry, compounding an already messy dispute over the ownership of a cement site. Mr Dangote, chairman of Dangote Sugar Refinery Plc, told the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo, in a letter which has gone viral that the establishment of a sugar plant by BUA International Limited, owned by Mr Rabiu in the Port Harcourt free trade zone was out of tune with export laws.
“The mid-term review conducted by the NSDC (National Sugar Development Council) was clear in its conclusions – BUA has failed to invest substantively in local production or comply with its undertakings under its BIP,” Mr Dangote said in a letter jointly signed with John Coumantaros, chair of Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc, a fellow maker of the product.
“BUA intend only on importing and refining raw sugar whilst claiming to be investing in developing sugar plantations in order to qualify for quotas to import raw sugar.”
Relations between both men became frosty in June 2020 when BUA Cement, majority owned by Mr Samad, got a restraining order against Dangote Cement after the police invaded its three sites in Obu Okpella, Edo State. BUA Group said Dangote Cement initiated the action.
“BUA takes serious exception to the ludicrous claims by its two major competitors that it aims to circumvent the BIP of the sugar industry – an initiative in which it has invested billions of Naira and is almost nearing completion,” it said in a rejoinder to the sugar policy contravention indictment.
“To thus claim that the BUA PH export focused refinery in an Export Zone will amount to an undermining of the NSMP (National Sugar Master Plan) is false.”
President Muhammadu Buhari gave the go-ahead for developing the Port Harcourt plant, according to Mr Rabiu. BUA entered a pact with France’s hydrocarbons group, Axens, in September 2020 for the development of a 200,000 barrels per day refinery and petrochemical plant Akwa Ibom State, a little more than a year to the start of Mr Dangote’s own 650,000 bpd refinery in Lagos.