Opening up Economic

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Vistas in Nasarawa

Igbawase Ukumba writes that Governor Abdullahi Sule is opening up a vista of economic activities between Nasarawa State, Nigeria and the outside world

When President Muhammadu Buhari landed at the Lafia Airport during his two-day working visit to Nasarawa State on February 24, 2022, he had reassured himself that he has a personality (Governor Sule) who is working in line with his philosophy. This was borne out of the privilege the president had had during the visit to inaugurate the Lafia Airport and other facilities in the state to open up a vista of economic activities between the state, Nigeria and the outside world.

The magnificent Lafia Bus Terminal, as well as the Vocation and Skills Acquisition Centre and the network of roads, which President Buhari also inaugurated, would no doubt, go a long way to uplift the state to its economic status and thereby reduce poverty among its people. The commitment of the Nasarawa State government to the provision of these infrastructures was indeed a compliment to the Buhari led federal government’s efforts in that direction.

 However, aside from the state projects inaugurated in the state capital by the president, there were also the Keffi Neighbourhood Market and Karu Bus Terminal he inaugurated on his way out of the state. Therefore, Buhari sincerely commended the Nasarawa State governor for his foresight in ensuring economic growth through diversification.

 “I urge you to continue to support and work towards the success of our administration as I assure you that we will not rest on our achievements, but we will continue in our drive to secure, safeguard and develop Nigeria,” President Buhari concluded.

 There is no doubt that the Keffi market has been very dear to Governor Sule’s heart. The market had got burnt at least five times when there were fire incidents in it. However, Sule told Buhari that he had a dream that he was going to do something to save the people from their losses and that he had done it, and named the remodelled edifice after one of the founding fathers of the state, the late Mohammadu Chindo Yamusa.

 Governor Sule told President Buhari that his administration’s biggest project was in Karu Local Government Area and it was another bus terminal. He added that the bus terminal the president saw in Lafia was only going to take about 240 vehicles. However, according to him, the terminal in Karu was going to take 900 vehicles.

 “It is also coming with the latest technology. And one gentleman that has helped us so much in the creation of Nasarawa State read the message of the creation of Nasarawa State, the late General Sani Abacha. We named that edifice after him,” Sule disclosed to Buhari. 

On his part, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said Governor Sule as seen today was taking steps right behind President Buhari by receiving very good tutelage in the areas where he (Sirika) superintends as a minister in civil aviation.

 “So, Mr. President, in Nasarawa, the governor in his wisdom, has queued to the aviation industry to improve the economy of the state with your inauguration of the Lafia Cargo Airport built by the Nasarawa State governor” The aviation minister maintained.

 Nevertheless, despite attracting over $500 million in investment, both domestic and foreign, into key sectors of Nasarawa State over the past three years of coming office of Governor Abdullahi Sule’s administration, the state is projecting yet another fresh $300m investment into the state with the planned maiden Nasarawa State Investment Summit taking place next month.

 During the period, the state had closed significantly at 13 Public-Private partnerships (PPP) and as well implemented eight business environment initiatives. It, therefore, welcomed a pictorial of investors and investments in the state. Notably, Flour Mills of Nigeria had signed an agreement to acquire and do the development of 20,000 hectares sugarcane plantation and sugar industrial estate in Nasarawa around Toto. That has an investment initially at a minimum of $300 million.

In the same vein, the state also had a pipeline of different investors coming to invest generally in the agriculture sector from rice production to sugar production and cassava production. It had signed a Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) agreement for the Nasarawa State Transport Company and the concession of the bus terminus constructed in Lafia and Karu.

Consequently, NASIDA had also recently signed an agreement with Beacon Energy to concession the Auta Balefi Recycling Plant. Thereafter, in the second phase of the Auta Balefi Recycling Plant project, the state hoped to create waste for energy projects. That is a project that has attracted about $33 million in funding, both from domestic and foreign investment.

Also, NASIDA signed the Peninsula Joint Venture agreement with the private sector which is the government’s effort to build sustainable housing clusters in the corridors of Abuja. The agency equally signed an agreement to develop the Nasarawa Technology Village to help build and position the state as an emerging centre for the digital economy, as well as signing a joint development agreement to develop the Karu Recreational Centre to have a retail giant in Africa to anchor tenants for Karu Retailer and Development Centre.

 At a briefing to unveil the Nasarawa State maiden investment summit slated for May 11 – May 12, 2022, with the theme: “Diamond in The Rough – The Making of A New Investment Frontier,” where Governor Sule addressed newsmen in Lagos virtually explained that the summit was aimed at selling the endowments of the state to local and international investors while boosting the economic development of the state. 

He disclosed further that the state’s economic development strategy was already yielding results in terms of increasing the internally generated revenue of the state from N7.8billion in 2019 when he took over to 16billion.

According to him, “the summit would be different from other economic summits as the government would concentrate on its areas of the state in agriculture and mining in addition to leveraging on its proximity to the federal capital and other regions of the country. He stated that the summit is part of the implementation of the Nasarawa Economic Development Strategy (NEDS 2019-2023), which his administration commissioned on the assumption of office.”

The MD/CEO of NASIDA, Ibrahim Abdullahi, had disclosed that the state was eyeing fresh $300million investments from the summit in addition to the opportunities the state has already created through its economic blueprint. He noted that over 13 public-private partnership projects had been attracted through its robust PPP arrangement, adding, “the government has increased the IGR by over 200 per cent, which is contributing to the funding of projects.”

 The Chairman of the Nasarawa State Investment and Economic Advisory Council, Prof. Konyinsola Ajayi, said the administration of Governor Sule believes greatly in partnering the public and private sectors to promote economic development and social justice, saying the summit would go a long way in laying a solid foundation for the economic growth by building infrastructure that would impact on the lives of the people.

However, when featuring live on TVC’s ‘Business Nigeria’ programme ahead of the Nasarawa State Investment Summit as part of the build-up to the event, Governor Sule cautioned investors hoping to attend the state’s maiden investment summit that the state was not going to sign an open-ended Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with any investor during the summit.

Sule said: “We are not going to sign an open-ended MoU. We are signing MoU for a specific time that if you come in and go into this MoU and you are not able to perform within this period, therefore you become null and void. So, this is why this particular Summit is different from the other ones I have attended.”

The governor, therefore, expressed dismay at so many summits he attended as according to him “the whole thing begins and ends at the end of the summits.” He explained that MoUs were been signed during such investment summits without any follow up to actualise the ideas, a situation he said: “We don’t need that kind of MoU in Nasarawa State. So we are very careful about where we are going to spend our money.”

The governor, however, disclosed that people who probably had the interest have started contacting organisers of the Nasarawa Investment Summit in those areas. He continued that the state’s expectations from the summit were to explore the great potential in mining and its proximity to the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja).

Nevertheless, the Nasarawa State Investment and Economic Advisory Council chairman, members of his council and the MD of the NASIDA and his team are setting the tone for the summit to ensure that the state achieves the goal of becoming a top investment destination.

Whereas, Ghana’s 13th president, John Dramani Mahama, will deliver the summit keynote address and will be attended by captains of industry, renowned members of the business community, investors, international and domestic partners, members of the diplomatic corps and the political class.