Friday MAY 07,2021
Many days after the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo sent an earlier letter to the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed and heads of government agencies prohibiting the importation of sugar from free trade zones, in Nigeria, Adebayo has since backtracked.
Adebayo, acting on a controversial petition written to him by the Chairman Dangote Industries Limited, Aliko Dangote and Chairman, Flour Mills of Nigeria PLC, Mr John Coumantaros .
In the joint letter to Niyi Adebayo, Dangote Industries Limited and Flour Mills of Nigeria had claimed that BUA’s sugar refinery poses a threat to the local sugar industry and undermines the Nigerian sugar master plan (NSMP).
However, BUA chairman had refuted the claim, saying Aliko Dangote and John Coumantaros, chairman of Flour Mills of Nigeria, are calling to question the “authority of the president’s power and the diligence of the trade ministry.
The minister issued the ban in order to protect national interest and achieve the goals of the NSMP, a policy road map for sugar production.
This was made known in a letter by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to one of the terminal operators at the Lagos Ports Complex (LPC), Apapa, Lagos.
The letter, dated April 8, was signed by Buba Jubril on behalf of the port manager, Lagos Ports Complex.
“It has recently come to our notice that due to the recent location of a sugar refinery in a free trade zone, refined sugar is being imported into the Nigerian Customs territory under the concession granted to enterprises in the free trade zones to export 100 percent of their output to the Nigerian Customs territory, and this is real potential threat to the goals of the Nigerian Sugar Master Plan (NSMP),” the letter read.
“The Nigeria sugar industry is governed by the Nigerian Sugar Master Plan (NSMP). The NSMP provides a framework for motivating investment in the local production of refined sugar by securing the Nigerian sugar market for investors in the backward integration program (BIP).
“Your terminal is hereby informed by this letter that, in order to protect our national interest and ensure the returns in the federal government’s investment in the NSMP are realised, and in line with extant laws and regulations of the federal government of Nigeria, importation of refined sugar and all other sugar derivatives from the free trade zones into the Nigerian Customs territory are here prohibited by the honourable minister, ministry of industry, trade and investment.
“In view of the above, your terminals are by this letter directed to ensure strict compliance with this directive. Please accept as always the assurances of our esteemed regards.”
The directives were also sent to Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service as well as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
This move was said to target BUA Sugar Refinery. It would be recalled that BUA Group Chairman, Samad Rabiu had reacted to the petition by revealing that his investments in sugar, especially the Port Harcourt project did not pose any threat to the country’s sugar master plan policy.
According to Samad Rabiu, his project was indeed meant to checkmate arbitrary increase in prices which will ultimately benefit the ordinary Nigerians on the street.
Curiously, some agencies of the Federal Government especially the NPA, had acted on the Minister’s directive to all Terminal operators to ensure strict compliance with the Minister’s order, despite a court injunction refraining not only the Ministry but all government agencies from disturbing its operations pending the determination of a suit filed by BUA Group.
The move to disrupt BUA’s activities despite the injunction clearly embarrassed the government, hence Adebayo’s quick reversal of his earlier stance and letter to the Finance Minister directing that the action be stopped.
There is speculation that Hadiza Bala Usman’s suspension may have been as a result of the the directive from the minister’s office which according to a source ignored the court order. Usman has been replaced by an Acting CEO, in person of Mohammed Koko, the erstwhile Executive Director, Finance and Administration pending the outcome of a panel of investigation under the purview of the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.
There have been disputes and counter accusations between BUA Group, Dangote Industries Limited and Flour Mills of Nigeria following federal government’s prohibition of the importation of refined sugar and its derivatives from Nigeria’s free trade zones (FTZs).
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