The Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, has explained why his people supported the revival of the Sunti Sugar Estate by Flour Mills of Nigeria in Mokwa Local Government Area of the state.
Daily Trust reports that about 17,000 hectares of irrigable land has been acquired from the host communities for the project
Our reporter learnt that youths in the communities had initially kicked against the project over fear of the land being taken away without the people benefitting from compensation.
Competent local sources in Mokwa, however, told Daily Trust that the land was initially acquired in the 1980s for the Sunti Sugar project jointly owned then by the federal and Niger State governments.
One of the sources said compensation on the land was paid then when most of the agitating youths were not even born.
But the Etsu Nupe, who spoke at the commissioning of the N50 billion Sunti Golden Sugar Estates (SGSE) by President Muhammadu Buhari last Thursday, said the project would provide jobs, improve trade and commerce and considerably uplift the standard of living of the people.
"There were some challenges at the beginning, but ultimately, our people have come to understand that an industrial-size project like this is not intended to disturb their traditions and means of livelihood but to increase the capacity of our farmers, and to generally benefit our communities," the traditional ruler said.
While congratulating the management of Flour Mills of Nigeria for its patience and magnanimity, the Etsu Nupe noted that the organisation has exhibited its interest in working with his people for the development of their communities, adding that was the main reason all the communities involved finally accepted the project.
"While we appreciate the effort and work done so far, I will like to use this medium to ask that you do even more in the aspects of infrastructural development. I know that you have plans to further invest in CSR projects for the host communities. This strengthens our faith and support for this project," the traditional ruler said.
But even before the call by the Etsu Nupe for assistance for the host communities in the area of infrastructural development, Flour Mills has already provided water in five surrounding villages and constructed three schools.
This was confirmed by some locals at Kusopa, Kede and Sunfla villages.
The company further supports schooling by providing teachers, school uniforms, desks and other educational equipment.
The Sugar Estate will also embark on a fish-rearing project to stock surrounding ponds and lakes with fish to sustain the communities fishing activities.
There are 28 communities from Mokwa, Rabba and Sunflag in the west and Ketso in the east impacted by the project, with 12 of them in the immediate surroundings of the SGSE.
President Muhammadu Buhari, while commissioning the project, noted that the nation's vision of attaining self-sufficiency in sugar was well within sight with the kind of investment by Four Mills of Nigeria.
"I am happy to mention also that projects like the Sunti Sugar Estate are in tandem with the vision and objectives that we set out to achieve when this administration instituted the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP," the president said.
The chairman of Flour Mills, Mr. John Coumantaros, said the estate was expected to produce one million tons of sugarcane, which roughly translates into 100,000 metric tons of sugar yearly.
This locally produced sugar, according to him, will save the country 100 million dollars in foreign exchange every year, apart from over 10,000 jobs it will create when fully operational.