Invest in Areas of Economic Strength, Osinbajo Advises Govs

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Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has appealed to the 36 state governors to start investing in the areas of their comparative advantages in order to shore up their internally generated revenues (IGRs) and stop relying solely on federal allocations for survival.

Osinbajo made the appeal in Ado Ekiti yesterday at the Ekiti State Economic and Investment Summit tagged: ‘Fountain Summit 2021’, which was organised by the state Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi-led government to proffer solutions to some socio-economic issues rattling the state.

The vice president’s suggestion came to the fore as some state governors- Kayode Fayemi , Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Godwin Obaseki and Nasir El-Rufai of Ekiti, Lagos Edo and Kaduna States respectively-canvassed robust multi-layers policing system in the country to protect the citizens and investments that can drive development.

The quartet insisted that preventing governors of respective states to take charge of security is affecting investments, development and wellbeing of the people adversely.

The summit titled: ‘Investment attractiveness, and Economic Development: Lesson for the Sub-nationals’, was attended by the Governors El-Rufai, Obaseki, Sanwolu and their counterpart from Ondo, Rotimi Akeredolu, who was represented by his Deputy, Lucky Ayedatiwa, where they were also panelists.

Osinbajo, who was one of the panelists, stated that the time has come for the state chief executives to start thinking about how to grow the economy like a nation, by investing in most appropriate ways in areas of their economic strength.

He said: “The attractiveness of investments to any state should be radical, because that is the revenue hub and determinant of how happy the people of any state would be in terms of economic development in relation to their standard of living.

“But while trying to grow investments, we must be cautious of multiple taxation, because it weighs down businesses. Ekiti State is a business-friendly environment. It has also excelled in the aspect of ease of doing business. You have vast arable lands for agriculture. Also, recently, the state government divested 76 percent of shares in the Ikun Dairy Farm for Promasidor for the production of 80,000 litres of milk daily.

“Let me say that Ekiti State has a bigger economy than many Africa nations. The question we should ask ourselves is that if I were the landlord of this country, how do we survive? During my time as a Commissioner in Lagos State, we started with N600 million monthly IGR in 1999. The seizure of Lagos State funds by President Olusegun Obasanjo made us to think like a sovereign state. Today, Lagos is making over N45 billion monthly.

“The surest way forward is to deepen investments in the areas where Ekiti State has comparative advantage. We should also make good investments in technology to grow the knowledge economy, which is education.

“Let me commend the foresightedness of the state Governor, Kayode Fayemi, to know that technology is the best way to go. I am even happy that the low in charges of the broadband airwave has already started attracting investments to Ekiti State. What is in vogue now is that well trained people in technology are the game changers.

“I urge Ekiti State to leverage on its value in education which it has acquired to develop its investments. I believe the state has not lost this value. It has to be the fountain of the knowledge economy, not just the fountain of knowledge.

“The Afe Babalola University multisystem hospital in Ado Ekiti is now being mentioned internationally. It has made breakthroughs in neurosurgical, surgical, plastic surgery and many other areas of medicine. Many countries don’t have such facility.”

On the lingering security crisis that is gradually crippling the economy, Fayemi insisted that multi-level policing system remains the best way out of the present conundrum.

According to the Ekiti State governor, “This request does not mean abrogation of the central police. If you have problem of security in Kaduna State, Governor el-Rufai can easily take charge. My recent experience and many of our governors were not even palatable, where we wanted to procure drones, and the president was with us on the issue, but the National Security Agency (NSA) refused us the End User Certificate, though we got it one year after.

“As of now, security is on the exclusive list. Even if the federal government is ready to allow us procure some arms, we have to sign MoU with the Nigerian Airforce. We have to work together collaboratively, because investors consider security as number one in any state.”

Fayemi stated that his government has signed a bill into law establishing Ekiti

Economic Council, to plan and implement the summit to ensure that the outcome outlives his administration.

On how to cut cost of governance, Fayemi was of the opinion that the COVID-19 pandemic has helped in no small measures, saying the dwindling revenues to states has taught a lesson that governors must block leakages in revenue collection and leverage on areas where they can get support from the federal government, especially the social intervention programmes.

He said he had completed many of the projects left behind by Governor Ayodele Fayose, saying abandonment on the basis of lack of interest and change of party are constituting great impediment to growth and development.

Backing the call for a state police, Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, said police should be removed from the exclusive list for state governors to be in firm control.

He said: “If you have a business, you have to protect them and you must have the apparatuses to do so. Security is in the exclusive list, and we are looking up to the federal government to remove it for states to take charge of security.

“We must provide facilities for the police to be able to train our local vigilantes, because in Edo State, that was what we did. We raised a vigilance group to police our villages from kidnappers and other criminals.”

Speaking about the role of ICT to drive economy at the subnational level, Obaseki advised that states to use ICT to recast primary education by making the children at that age to perceive computer as part of their lives.

Lending his voice to the creation of state police, the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said: “When you have investments, you would have to protect them and also take responsibility for whatever happens. The investors will rely on the governors for protection, and it is sad that we are not in charge. This is the area where the federal government.”

Suggesting how Ekiti State can transform its IGR and break the challenge of sole reliance on federal allocation, Sanwo-Olu said Lagos State is now making between N45 and N48 billion monthly from the paltry N600 million being realised in 1999.

He suggested that the state should digitalise its revenue collection process and give staff in the state Internal Revenue Service incentives to do their jobs without perpetrating corruption.

The Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, described security as a big problem that every Nigerian should be concerned about.

Laying foundation for why the policing system should be decentralised, the Kaduna State governor said: “We have 150,000 personnel in the Nigerian Army. Police was 400,000 by the time this government came on board, but has presently gone down to 300,000. We need multi-level police. Policing is local just like in a unitary environment like Britain.

“Kaduna State is about 46,000sqkms in size. Boko Haram has been chased from Northeast by ISWAP and now occupying the Northwest. But if they are dislodged here, where would they go? This is why we should all be concerned.”

He added that the country must decentralise the power of National Judicial Council to determine the number of Judges a state can have.

“No country can develop beyond the level of its civil service, you must appoint the right civil servants, and we just give way for younger people to take Nigeria to the next level.

“I have just appointed the youngest chief executive of any agency in Nigeria, a 28 -year old, to be in charge of Kaduna State Investment Promotion Agency.”