Edo people have applauded Governor Godwin Obaseki for sealing deals with Chinese companies for the development of the Benin River Port, Benin Industrial Park and a modular refinery, all of which will transform the state to an industrial hub.

The investment agreements for the projects were completed by the Edo State government on the sidelines of the 2018 the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Beijing. The agreement further consolidates the existing relationship between China and Edo State and deepens trade and investment relations between both parties.

A cross-section of residents in Benin City, the state capital, in separate interviews, described the big-ticket projects as crucial to the state’s development and a major milestone in the quest to steer the state away from reliance on unsustainable accruals from crude oil proceeds.

Mr. John Ogieva, a benin resident, said that with the agreements, the governor has demonstrated that he means business and has inched closer to fulfilling his promise to transform the state into an industrial hub.

“Before now, I dismissed promises made by the governor to build a modular refinery, Benin River Port and the Industrial Park, as remarks to score political points. But, as it has become Governor Obaseki’s trademark since assuming office, he doesn’t disappoint. He has demonstrated to us that he means business.”

A businessman, Mr. Uyi Osabo, said, “The deal with the Chinese companies is a quantum leap and is sure to set the state on the path to more prosperity.

According to Osabo, “With the port, industrial park and modular refinery in place, I see more businesses springing up, wealth and more prosperity for us all. I see Edo becoming bigger than Lagos in Nigeria. To be sincere, I can’t wait to see all these happen.”

Speaking to journalists at the Nigerian Embassy in Beijing, China, after signing the investment agreement on the development of the Benin River Port, Governor Obaseki said the agreement includes the building of a port on the Benin River, dredging of the river which is a channel of about 40 kilometres and the construction of a link road to the Benin bye-pass.

He explained that the Benin River, when completed, will link the Lekki Deep Seaport, help decongest the ports in Lagos State, open up Edo State to the international market by serving as a platform for import and export trade.

He added that the construction of the Benin River Port would also provide opportunities to export agricultural and manufactured products being produced in the state.

“We are investing massively in agriculture particularly in areas like oil palm, rubber, cassava, fruits and all range of agricultural produce which need to be processed and exported outside the country.

“There are companies operating in the state and are seeking to export their products. The port will provide opportunity not only to export agricultural produce but also some of the products that are now being manufactured in our area,” Obaseki added.

The Benin Industrial Park is expected to create over 170,000 direct and indirect jobs on completion, and will be home to over 1000 companies and will generate an excess of over $3 billion annually.

Before departing Benin City for China, Obaseki approved the release of N700 million for the Benin Refinery project, as part of her contribution to the project.