Lee Group Sugar in Jigawa State: Anatomy of a Deal

Pile of sugar cubes against a black backdrop.

Deals in Nigeria take an extraordinarily long time to complete.

Yesterday’s announcement by CBN Governor Mr. Godwin Emefiele lauding the take off of a venture between Lee Group and Jigawa state to producer sugar was first announced in 2015.

How has  it taken 2 years to get to the point of mobilisation?

Having been active in agricultural investment in Nigeria, I will give 3 likely reasons;

  1. The government officials have been jockeying for position to get their piece of the pie. This always delays deal implementation as commissioners from different departments and relatives of the governor block progress until they are sufficiently lubricated. Once they feel they have something commensurate with the size of the deal, they release authority to get detailed paperwork completed and it then the turn of the minor officials to hold the process to ransom.
  2. Land has been difficult for Jigawa state commissioners to source. Despite positive noise and statements by the commissioners that they”hold the land in trust for the people”, it is always problematic for the state government to procure land in such a way that does not anger local communities. The relationships are generally poor and rightly distrustful. If there is any leak of information to the communities about how much of the land purchase/lease price is being “chopped” by commissioners before the scraps reach the communities, then there is often outright rejection of the deal.
  3. Guarantee of investor funds and ability to input and extract currency from Nigeria with ease. This is no doubt why the CBN has an opportunity to further chop some money from the deal. The Lee group is Chinese and will need to understand how it can easily conduct its financial transactions across borders. Due to the opaque and corruption ridden foreign exchange processes, the CBN is required.

So the handshakes were done and the photos taken.

As the stories are placed in the mainstream media we, the more questioning media outlets are left wondering…

When will the neo-colonialism of the Chinese halt?

When will this project fail so that the Governor and the rest can walk away with full pockets?

What is the real size of the investment and deal structure?

And perhaps most importantly, why is it only the Chinese who are able to conduct business in our country currently?

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