• Passes litmus test with Edo Azura Power Plant
• Gelegele Seaport, Benin Industrial Park, Refinery lead as legacy projects
When Governor Godwin Obaseki said during his electioneering that his mission was to achieve prosperity for the people of Edo State, many who heard him might have thought it was one of the empty promises often made by politicians to garner support from the people and be voted into office, with little or no intention of fulfilling them.
However, for the governor, this was not an empty promise. He had every intention of fulfilling it. Building upon his campaign promises, Obaseki, during his inauguration on November, 12, 2016 identified agriculture and industrialisation as strong pillars on which the state’s economic revolution would stand.
These were the governor’s exact words: “Agriculture is a major focus in our socio-economic programme because of its strategic importance in many areas, from rural development, economic development and job creation to revenue generation. Many Edo people will generate wealth by keying into our value chain development for oil palm, cassava, cocoa, grains, rubber, fruits and vegetables.
“We will create over 150,000 jobs within the next four years under a farm ownership and management model built around our out-growers’ scheme. We will support the growth of over 20,000 micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) with the further creation of over 50,000 associated jobs in the next four years through access to low interest financing.”
In order to support agriculture in the wealth creation drive, Obaseki had promised to develop industries and create a value chain around agricultural activities.
He had said: “We will utilise the advantage which we have in generating electricity and our location as the heartbeat of the nation to attract industries to Edo State. We will help local businesses particularly SMEs by creating the enabling environment for them to thrive; the Edo State Government will establish a one-stop-shop to provide incentives and support to make it easier for our people to produce goods and services; We will focus on improving the ease of doing business and provide credit enhancements for businesses operating within the state with special attention on the productive industries.”
The Azura Edo Litmus Test
Much as the governor might have made promises to prosecute his ambition to govern Edo State, a fact that many may have overlooked is his acumen as a businessman.
As a point man in the immediate past administration, he midwifed one of the most ambitious business deals in this part of the world with the Azura Edo Independent Power Project (IPP).
The project has been hailed by many, including the World Bank as one of the most innovative development finance projects and one that might transform the face of investments in developing countries. It was a milestone arrangement that saw the state provide guarantees for investors and ensured that other necessary supports were provided to ensure there was no disruption.
Hence, all eyes were set on the project to see if it would live up to expectations or if it will go the way of many projects that dot Nigeria’s landscape. Most often, projects in the class of the Azura Edo IPP go under, either due to lack of will by the state to enforce contract agreements or as a result of sheer corruption by officials.
So, when in December 2017, the Azura Edo IPP came on stream and got connected to the national grid seven months ahead of schedule, it was not only a testament to Obaseki’s knack for result-oriented initiatives, but a showcase of what is to come.
For many, the success of the Azura Edo IPP was the result of his government’s commitment to disentangle bottlenecks, institutional bureaucracy and other lapses and administrative barriers that have hindered public-private partnership (PPP) projects in the country.
“There is no denying that the Edo State government has undertaken reforms to see that it attracts and keeps investors. A number of reforms have been undertaken and the Azura Edo Power Project, which is being financed by a number of development finance institutions shows that we mean business. But what we must not lose sight of in this case is the pace of the construction, which has not suffered any setbacks since its commencement.
In fact, the project is even being delivered ahead of schedule,” Mr Crusoe Osagie, the governor’s Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy said of the success of Azura Edo IPP.
“In recent times, stakeholders have watched the impressive handling of the project with the support of the state government, we have held a number of meetings from interested investors from all over the world, who have all expressed their intentions to set up factories in Edo State,” he added.
A commitment to attracting private investors
To demonstrate that he had every intention of fulfilling these promises, Obaseki upon assumption of office wasted no time to get to work and secured strategic partnerships with key players in the private sector.
He started discussions with investors across the world and at the end Mahindra Engineering, India, showed interest in investing in the Benin Industrial Park.
This partnership culminated in the groundbreaking ceremony of the N200 billion Benin Industrial Park at Iyanomo in Ikpoba Okha Local Government Area of Edo State on November 11, 2017 barely one year in office.
The foundation was laid by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. Speaking at the event, Osinbajo said the industrial park would create 170, 000 direct and indirect jobs and would contribute significantly to the country’s manufacturing sector.
He commended the Edo governor, for the huge public-private investment initiative saying: “This is what the country has been waiting for to take us to the height that we desire. Several other countries have embarked on this line of industry and succeeded. If we put in the same effort as them, we will also excel.”
The industrial park strategy has been adopted in some Asian countries and they have achieved economic growth, diversified their economies and are now exporters of consumer goods.
The Benin Industrial Park at Iyanomo is the first in the series of parks that the Governor Obaseki’s administration intends to establish in the state to make Edo an Industrial hub to drive economic growth.
Industrial Parks: Edo’s magnet for investors
All over the world, cluster or park development is now seen as the most effective industrial strategy to foster SME growth, regional/state development, employment and wealth creation.
The Benin Industrial Park is planned to expand the industrial base of the state to include agricultural processing, data services and manufacturing.
One key factor in favour of the project is that it would maximise the location of Benin City, from where all parts of the country can be accessed, coupled with the abundance of natural gas, the low cost of production, access to water and availability of affordable labour.
Edo State is endowed with abundant natural resources. The principal mineral resources include crude oil, natural gas, clay chalk, marbles and limestone, amongst others.
Agriculture is the predominant occupation of people in this state. The major cash crops produced are rubber, cocoa and palm produce. All of these natural resources in the state would be put to effective use with the industrial park thus translating them to economic benefits for the state and its people.
As Obaseki noted, Edo State has a master plan to utilise gas explored in the state to power the Benin Industrial Park. The siting of the Industrial Park, which is few kilometres to the gas field was strategic. This is to enable the multi-purpose Industrial Park utilise gas from the fields for its industrial activities.
The industrial park is expected to create over 170,000 direct and indirect jobs and would contribute significantly to Nigeria’s manufacturing sector.
To achieve this, the governor is setting up job incubation centres to be located within the industrial parks/estates in the state.
“We want to create several job incubation centres/hubs, where job seekers will be trained and employed by the companies that will be located in the several industrial parks being established in the state. The ground-breaking of the first major industrial park in Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area will be done on Saturday and on completion, will house over 200 companies on a 600-hectare land,” he governor said.
“We have also commenced the design of an industrial park and incubation centre on the premises of the Benin Technical College, which will house technology and data companies. The third industrial centre will be located at Ikpoba Hill area of the state and we have concluded plans to partner with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) to build a 2MW hydro plant that will produce electricity from Ikpoba River dam to power the industrial estate to be located in the area,” he explained.
Obaseki said that his administration would not relent in formulating the necessary policies and programmes that would empower youths to fit into the emerging economy that his administration is creating.
Gelegele Seaport: The Ambitious Gateway Project
Governor Obaseki recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China Harbour Engineering Company Limited (CHEC), for the development of the Gelegele Seaport and other transport infrastructure in the state
The landmark event, which held in China, will see China Harbour Engineering Company, the biggest infrastructure company in China, with a robust portfolio covering the broad infrastructure spectrum, lead the development of the seaport that will serve as the gateway for exporting manufactured goods from the Benin Industrial Park under construction and other manufacturing companies in the region.
The initial technical report on the Gelegele Seaport project is being reviewed after a high-powered committee comprising of eminent lawyers and maritime experts conducted a feasibility study of the Seaport.
The MoU signing was the result of series of engagements between Governor Obaseki and the Chairman of China Harbor Engineering Company (CHEC), Mr Lin Yichong, which started last year.
Some of the projects the Chinese company is handling include the construction-dredging/ excavation for waterfront development in Yanbu, southwest Saudi Arabia and on the northern shore of the Red Sea as well as the Lagos moles repair project, being executed by the Nigeria Port Authority.
The signing of the MoU signals a milestone in the construction of the seaport, as it is intended to be a part of a wholistic plan to not only industrialise Edo state, but also to make it a key trade post in Nigeria.
Edo 5,500bpd modular refinery project
Another outcome of Obaseki’s recent trip to China, is the signing of an MoU with a Chinese consortium for a 5,500 barrel-per-day modular refinery.
The modular refinery will be built by the Chinese consortium which is made up of Peiyang Chemical Equipment Company of China, PCC, a world leading modular refinery company; Sinopec International Petroleum Service Corporation, SIPS, which is a subsidiary of Sinopec, the top Chemical giant in the world and African Infrastructure Partners, AIP, a Nigerian Infrastructural company.
Completion of the first phase is expected within 12 months after all the necessary approvals are granted by the regulatory authorities.
SIPS Nigeria, a major local fabrication company, which is involved with the project already has a branch in Benin City.
The governor expressed delight at the local content component of the deal, as it will be instrumental in training Edo citizens in welding, refinery operation and fabrication work.
Obaseki assured that the refinery construction will provide jobs for several unemployed Edo youths, including the Libya returnees who are being evacuated from the crisis-ridden North African country.
The modular refinery, he believes, will solve the problem of inadequate petroleum products in the country and will turn the state to the preferred source of petroleum products considering the gateway status of Edo State to other parts of the country.
“With the Federal Government of Nigeria’s commitment to support communities in the Niger Delta states to set up modular refineries, the SIPS fabrication yard in Benin City is expected to be busy handling the fabrication jobs of modular refineries in the Niger Delta region,” Obaseki said.