Security, friendly policies boosting investments in Nasarawa

Security and business-friendly policies have been highlighted as key attractions for investors at the inaugural Nasarawa State investment summit which kicked off on Wednesday.

However, stability in policymaking, some of which require coordination with the Federal Government and prioritising infrastructural investments were identified as crucial to Nasarawa’s plan to become a preferred destination for investments in Nigeria.

BusinessDay had reported the state was betting on opportunities it says are widely spread across five strategic investment clusters which include agriculture, oil and gas, solid minerals, agro-allied industry, information communication technology and logistics as well as the service sector. In addition to these, it was noted in a briefing document that its proximity to Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria, is a real estate opportunity, with Karu and Keffi said to have the potential to tap from the economic and social opportunities in neighbouring Abuja.

Themed ‘#DiamondintheRough – The making of a new investment frontier’, Yemi Osinbajo, vice president of Nigeria in a keynote, said he found the theme to be self-effacing as it speaks to the opportunities of “a well-endowed state, but also highlights challenges”.

“What I think is crucial to the success is vision and unequivocal political will of the governor and his team,” said Osinbajo, noting these have, however, been demonstrated so far as part of the governor’s vision “to re-engineer Nasarawa state for rapid industrialisation”.

Ease of business reforms that have been put in place by the state, he said, have put it on the right trajectory for investments it is trying to attract. Osinbajo noted a recurring problem in the business environment in most states is the process of acquiring land but the land reform exercise in Nasarawa, which is driven by technology, is making it easier to set up and take off even faster.

Abdullahi Sule, Nasarawa State governor, had also said the theme was deliberately coined in line with the vision and philosophy of his administration, geared towards driving the State’s economy for socio-economic development.

The summit, he reiterated, is aimed at positioning Nasarawa among the top three most competitive states in Nigeria by 2023 in terms of accelerated growth, increased economic opportunities, social inclusion and improved quality of life of citizenry. It is also aimed at promoting investment opportunities and fostering synergy, as well as partnerships between government institutions and private sector actors, who are critical players in the socio-economic development of society.

“It is pertinent to state that, as a State, we have been very deliberate in stimulating our economy, building human capacities, creating wealth and generating employment in the state,” said Governor Sule, further explaining that deliberate policies have been put in place to make the state attractive.

Highlighting the Nasarawa Economic Development Strategy (NEDS) and the subsequent establishment of the Nasarawa State Investment Development Agency (NASIDA), which organised the summit, he credited it with outcomes, including “the significant increase in our internally generated revenue by 49 percent in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic and we are already on track to surpass that of 2021.”

For Aliko Dangote, president, Dangote Group, which is investing $500 million in a sugar project in the state, “what brought us to Nasarawa State is the easy access to arable land. The whole process was much better and I think there is much better security here in Nasarawa state than (some) others”.

Dangote further said what is needed is stability of policies especially by the federal government, because once people start investing there is a need to ensure continuity and consistency in those policies so that other investors are encouraged to come in. After all, even with the best business environment in place at the state levels, the federal government also has a role to play.

“An investment summit which aims to expose potential investors to the broad spectrum of investment opportunities in the state is clearly an important and necessary requirement for a state that is committed to promoting, facilitating and enabling socio-economic development,” said Dangote, who added that his company would be making new investments in the state for rice processing.

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John Mahama, a former president of Ghana who also delivered a keynote address, said it was important for nations or federal states like Nasarawa, to have a carefully drawn-up infrastructure investment plan.

“This must be drawn after intensive consultation to capture the felt needs of your people. The needs identification will lead to the most rapid transformation of your society,” said Mahama. “The benefits from investing in infrastructure cannot be over-emphasised. I should know this because as President, I was involved in taking decisions about which infrastructure projects were included in our Priority Investment Programme (PIP),” he said.

Mahama also said that “Infrastructure does stimulate economic growth. And while the private sector will drive the Nasarawa Economic Development Strategy it is the state government’s responsibility to position the sector by implementing the strategy, build and ensure that the needed infrastructure is in place.”

As he explained, it is a combination of these factors that will ensure the attainment of the objective to position Nasarawa State among the top three Nigerian states as an investment destination by 2023.

While there are deal rooms at the venue of the summit, where investors were signing off on doing business in 10 articulated areas, beyond big ticket transactions the state also hopes to attract attention to SMEs.

Ibrahim Abdullahi, MD/CEO, NASIDA said the summit would be ushering in an MSMEs challenge to underscore the importance of small businesses to the economy of Nasarawa state. “This summit is not just about big investments, we also care very deeply about small businesses that occupy the heart of our state’s economy,” he said.

Highlighting one of the thoughts behind the summit, he said, “It is also our belief that government has no business in doing business. Our primary responsibility is to continue to create the necessary legal and regulatory framework to drive the investments that will change the fortunes of our people.”

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