By Eric Elezuo
The end may not have been heard about the constant altercation between the Dangote Group and Bua Group, two of Nigeria’s biggest conglomerates in commodity trading and manufacturing.
The duo’s rivalry was rekindled following alleged letter written to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Niyi Adebayo, by Messrs Aliko Dangote of the Dangote Industries Limited and John Coumatarous of Floor Mills of Nigeria Plc, according to Chairman, Bua Group, Abdulsamad Rabiu.
The letter, which was co-signed by Dangote and Coumatarous, was alleged to claim that Bua aimed to ‘circumvent the BIP of the sugar industry’ – an initiative in which it claimed it has invested billions of naira and is nearing completion.
The whole crisis came to light following a response dated February 11, 2021, and titled Re: Request for Information on Bua Sugar Refinery, Port Harcourt, and signed by Mr Rabiu himself, Bua sent to the Mr Adebayo, and made available to The Boss, where it attempted to clarify issues in response to another letter written to it by the Trade and Investment Ministry for more information and clarification.
“I received your letter dated February 10, 2021 requesting for information on the status and operations of our Bua Sugar Refinery at the Bundu Free Trade Zone in Rivers State. I am also aware your letter to us was in response to another jointly signed by two competitors – Messrs Aliko Dangote of Dangote Industries Limited and John Coumatarous of Floor Mills of Nigeria Plc – who incidentally are also interested parties and major players within the sugar industries in Nigeria,” the letter opened.
While describing Bua’s three sugar holdings in Nigeria including 720, 000mt sugar refinery in Apapa, Lagos (since 2008 and covered by the Backward Implementation Programme of the National Sugar Master Plan), as a watershed in sugar production in Nigeria, Rabiu, on behalf of Bua frowned at what he called ‘ludicrous claims by the two competitors’.
Bua maintained that considering its peer reviews with the other competitors in question in line with the dictates of the Nigerian Sugar Master Plan, it is tantamount to falsehood to claim that the Bua PH export focused refinery in an Export Zone will amount to an undermining of the NSMP.
Insisting that the project they are involve in Port Harcourt is governed under the NEPZA act and the free zone approved by Mr President, who is duly empowered by the constitution to do so, Bua said that its actions are legal and within the confines of the law, and that going against it by anyone will amount to undermining the powers of the President, who had given his approval.
“We have not done, are we doing anything wrong,” Bua said.
Still on its defence, Bua noted that “as far as the Backward Integration Programme is concerned, Bua is doing everything possible to ensure that its BIP project is on course through our 20, 000 hectares Lafiagi Sugar Project encompassing a 10, 000tpd Sugar Mill, 20, 000tpa Sugar Refinery, 20million litres Ethanol Plant and a 35MW Power Plant from Bagasse.”
The company also prides itself as ‘the only one with a plantation, a sugar mill for crushing canes, a refinery to produce white sugar, and an ethanol plant’ while indicting its competitors (Dangote and Floor Mills) ‘as having only sugar mills thus producing only brown sugar’.
It further accused Dangote and Floor Mills of paying lip service to the National Sugar Plan as a means to simply keep importing sugar, maintaining that the other two companies’ hypocrisy needs to be examined more critically.
“In the 20 years since Dangote Sugar took over this plantation, they have not added any value whatsoever to it, instead Savannah Sugar produces even less than it was producing when they took it over,” Bua added accusing Dangote of incompetency and double standard.
It further accused Dangote of trying to muscle any competitor out of business wherever they are found operating, either in Nigeria, or anywhere in the globe, saying what is playing out at the moment is one of such moments. The company wondered why Floor Mills, which Dangote had set up its chairman and his aged father leading to their arrest by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Bua concluded that “We have our relevant approvals from Mr President which grants BUA Sugar PH the permission to export and sell locally in line with extant laws and regulations. Our Lafiagi BIP Project is also not only the most advanced of the three but also the only with sugar refinery and ethanol plant. The other two cannot produce sugar fit for human consumption and is only an avenue to keep importing whilst doing the ‘barest’ minimum. Not only that, the cost and scale of our projects is almost three times theirs.”
Bua finally assured the honorable minister, and by extension Nigerians, among many other things that the company’s “PH Export Focused Project will not affect in anyway the backward integration programme. The only way it will affect Nigerians is that Nigerians will pay lower prices for sugar.”
Below are the detailed letter and other supporting documents in PDF that backs up BUA’s claims:
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