Abdul Samad Rabiu – “We have de-risked the Nigeria/France relationship”

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: Nigeria/France: Le Nouveau Chapitre

By Nicholas Norbrook, in Lagos

Posted on Monday, 28 June 2021 14:29
Abdul Samad Rabiu, Chairman and CEO of BUA Group
Abdul Samad Rabiu, Chairman and CEO of BUA Group, at the signing ceremony of a new refinery, in Paris (photo: Bruno Levy)

Abdul Samad Rabiu, the CEO and Chairman of BUA Group, has signed several major deals with French companies in recent times, from Axens as technical partner to his new refinery, to a 300tn plasterboard factory deal with French construction giant St Gobain. He intends to list a segment of his business empire on the Lagos Stock Exchange later this year.

After the announcement in October 2020 that BUA Group had signed up French company Axens to deliver the technological heart of a new 200 barrel-per-day oil refinery, attention turns to the next phases of the project. The site location, in the southern coastal state of Akwa Ibom, has been picked for “its proximity to feedstock, and the deepwater draft of 14-16m”, says BUA’s founder and CEO Abdul Samad Rabiu.

With the US firm KBR working on the front-end engineering and design phases since 2018, Rabiu says groundbreaking on the site will begin by the end of 2021.

Axens is not the only French company Rabiu is working with. He is also partnering with St-Gobain to deliver a plasterboard factory in Ogun State, where there is a plentiful supply of silica (quartz). “Currently, we import all our plasterboard – around 350,000 tonnes, so this is a real opportunity,” says Rabiu.

A new partnership with Italy’s Fava will result in an integrated wheat-milling and pasta-­making project, which Rabiu says will be the biggest in the country.

The new venture, which will cost in the tens of millions of dollars, will have a capacity of around 250,000 to 300,000tn.“I have to commend President [Emmanuel] Macron for the engagement he is paying to Nigeria,” says Rabiu.

It appears the feeling is mutual: Rabiu is the chairman of the France Nigeria Investment Club. The refinery and subsequent industrial ventures BUA Group has undertaken have in some sense ‘de-risked’ the France-Nigeria relationship, argues Rabiu. “Now the most important thing is to keep up communication.”

BUA Cement, meanwhile, has signed a deal with China’s Sinoma to build three cement plants in Sokoto, Edo and Adamawa states. This should bring total cement production for the group to 20m tonnes per year.

Sweet success

BUA Group is also accelerating its agribusiness division. A 20,000ha integrated sugar plantation and refinery is being built in Lafiagi. It will use Israeli dripfeed technology to irrigate the cane – “a first in Nigeria”, says Rabiu.

Another sugar refinery is under construction in the Port Harcourt free zone, “and the beauty of this is that it is a destination refinery”, says Rabiu. He wants to take advantage of tariff harmonisations and exemption within the African Continental Free Trade Area to compete with refined sugar imports from Brazil and India.

A new partnership with Italy’s Fava will result in an integrated wheat-milling and pasta-­making project, which Rabiu says will be the biggest in the country – although his rivals, like Singapore’s Olam may not agree. Together with his edible oil business, Rabiu is rebranding all these agro-processing initiatives as BUA Foods, and hopes to list the entity on the Nigerian Stock Exchange by the end of the year. “We will put up 20%-25% of the company for sale,” says Rabiu.

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