RE-INVESTORS DUMP LAGOS AS OGUN BECOMES INDUSTRIAL HUB

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The above story, published in a national daily, purportedly based on a study done in the last five years, made certain allusions that need prompt clarifications.

It was alleged in the report, though with no empirical rationalisation, that local governments touts terrorise corporate organisations to collect multiple taxes and levies in Lagos State.

Since the above allegation is rather weighty, one would have anticipated the writers to come up with factual cases of such harassment, stating where, when and how it happened. Until such issues are properly addressed, the claim would remain nothing but a spurious and baseless assumption.

Not only that, it is equally pejorative because it gives potential investors the false impression that the state is a lawless jungle where touting reigns supreme. Is this really the true picture of Lagos? No! Lagos is run on law and order. Any study giving the impression that Lagos is a place where corporate organisations are attacked at will is at best spurious and at most dubious.

In the last 12 years, through the Lagos State Security Trust Fund, the Organized Private Sector (OPS) and the state government have been battling to put in place a seamless security plan with the aim of creating a conducive environment for economic undertakings. The success of this novel model has made other states replicate the same. Now, how could such a model state suddenly become a pariah for investors?

The imbalance in the said story is quite obvious in many other perspectives. For instance, the writers stated that Lagos and Kano are responsible for Nigeria’s jump to 131 from 146 in the 2020 World Bank Ease of Doing Business Report. True, Lagos was presented with the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) Award on Ease of Doing Business (EODB) in recognition of the state’s performance at the 2018 EODB Sub-National Ranking, in Abuja by the Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. The question, however, is how a state with such a prospect could abruptly become unsuitable for business?

Another issue raised in the write-up is that of traffic and Apapa port congestion. But then, this did not just start five years ago. The port question has always been recurring, since the days of military rule. Trucks come from across the country to the port for obvious reasons. Though the port is the sole responsibility of the federal government, the Lagos State government has always been working closely with the federal authorities to ensure business interests are protected.

The report leaves no room for all the measures taken to address the congestion. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu recently spent over five hours on a working tour of the Apapa axis, inspecting projects being developed by both the federal and state governments to improve traffic around Costain, Iganmu, Apapa and Mile-2 areas.

The state government has also donated 30 hectares of land in Ijora for a trailer park as part of the enduring solution initiated to address the traffic situation.

These, no doubt, are clear indications that the government is creatively and passionately working to enhance business opportunities. To further underscore this, it recently signed the $629 million financing facility aimed at completing the Lekki Deep Sea Port with China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC). This is a reflection of the state government’s plan to explore investments and partnerships that would accelerate growth and benefit residents of the state.

It is also a reflection of the state government’s resolute commitment to a private sector driven economy where the OPS sets the agenda, makes things happen and probably drives the public sector. It is this strong belief in the private sector that propels the government’s collaboration with the OPS in various vital areas of the THEMES Agenda of the Sanwo-Olu Administration’s development strategy.

It is this same firm conviction that informed the regular meetings with the business community to discuss issues of mutual interest. The meetings, which began about 18 years ago, have provided an avenue for the public and private sectors to discuss quite a number of issues.

The latest in the edition was held last month. This clearly shows that there is never a communication breakdown between the state and the OPS, as being insinuated in the report. Hence, saying that investors are unhappy with Lagos could only, at best, be in the imagination of the writers.

With regard to multiple taxation and levies, the government has always affirmed that there is nothing of such in the state. Indeed, the government has commenced the implementation of additional reliefs and measures to further ease the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on taxpayers and businesses.

These additional measures and incentives are sequel to the initial three-month extension of the deadline for filing of annual returns (from March 31 to June 30, 2020).

Tayo Ogunbiyi, Deputy Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Ikeja