Amby Uneze in Owerri
A leading Chinese green industry company, Elion Resources Group, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Nigeria as part of its exploration of investment opportunities in the country in the areas desertification control, agriculture and development of new energy resources.
Elion President, Wang Wenbiao, who led the company’s delegation to Owerri weekend, signed the MoU with Imo State Government.
Imo State, with an estimated population of five million, is the fifth largest Nigerian state by gross domestic product and one of the states with high reserves of natural gas.
The two parties expressed their readiness to unlock and harness the potential of natural gas resources to increase domestic and industrial power supply, raise people’s standard of living and support sustainable economic growth and diversification.
Wang said the company and Imo State Government were considering “forest restoration, clean energy, electricity, and power based on clean energy as likely areas of cooperation within the shortest possible time.”
He expressed optimism that the company would help the country boost its economy, education and poverty alleviation.
On his part, Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha, while noting that the desire of the company to invest in the state would go a long way in solving its power generation challenges, said it would also shore up the economy of the state and create employment.
Okorocha said the company’s proposed projects, facilitated by Converge Business Limited, “will actually boost the economy of Imo State because all of our problems are power-related; we have the gas, so gas is power, and we have been waiting for this for so long to see who can move our gas into power so that the economy of the people can change.”
He added that “if Elion comes here and establish this power and create this industrial park, industries will drive employment at geometric progression, people will be happy for it.”
The governor disclosed that a technical committee had been set up to design a proper framework of cooperation between the two partners within a period of two months after which a commercial agreement would be signed.
Elion which recently signed an MOU on ecological projects with the government of Morocco before visiting Nigeria was founded in 1988 in Kubiqi, one of China’s deserts. The Elion Resources Group aims to restore eco-environment and broaden its business to other environmentally-related areas, as well as realise the aim of using 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.
Wang had earlier met President Muhammadu Buhari to discuss the Chinese firm’s interest in exploring investment opportunities in Nigeria on the sidelines of the FOCAC summit in Beijing last month. During the meeting, President Buhari welcomed Elion’s investment bid and said he expected the company to seek opportunities in Nigeria in desertification control and development of new energy resources.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, had also noted that the country was losing about 19.3 km2 of land every year to desert encroachment.
Elion has over 30 years track record in afforestation, which included the afforestation of over 6,000 km2 of degraded land in Kubuqi Desert in China, consequently improving the lives of more than 100,000 local residents. The Kubuqi Model created by Elion had received focused attention from countries and territories plagued by desertification.
Wang noted that under the guidance of China’s B&R Initiative, Elion was willing to work on combating desertification in Nigeria, drawing experience from the Kubuqi Model. As part of its effort to promote the progress of the Belt and Road Initiative, the company plans to partner with Nigeria to build an integrated industrial park featuring ecosystem restoration, photovoltaic (PV) projects for poverty alleviation, desert agriculture, and eco-tourism.
As a global leader in ecological protection, Elion has also developed a close connection with Africa. Wang was granted in 2013 by the United Nations Environment Programme the title of “World Dryland Champion” in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, and in December 2017 the Lifetime Achievement Award as a Champion of the Earth in Nairobi, Kenya.