Industrialisation may restart in the South-South states if the resolutions and suggestions hinging on industrial parks and investment promotion centres are pursued with vigour as outlined by experts.
The way to go about establishing the industrial parks has been agreed upon as tabled by various stakeholders that came to the 2023 annual general meeting, conference and exhibition of the Rivers/Bayelsa chapter the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) which ended in Port Harcourt on Wednesday, November 1, 2023.
The strongest support to getting this done came from the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) which revealed that it has plan to set up eight industrial parks across the Niger Delta, and that two have already been completed, awaiting commissioning; one in Yenagoa (Bayelsa State) and the other in Odukpan (Cross River State).
This much was revealed by the Executive Secretary, Simbi Wabote, who was represented by a General Manager, Ama Ikuru, who spoke on ‘Utilising Sectoral Value Chain Development to promote Entrepreneurship and Reduce Unemployment’.
The Board has asked MAN to come for dialogue to determine their needs and training needs so they can train those suitable in manufacturing.
NCDMB says it has already trained 16,000 skilled persons and would want to know what suits MAN members.
Ikuru stated how they help Nigerian companies by creating offtake mechanism to encourage production: “We support with offtake for products that are efficient and competitive. Helps you get access to equipment. We want to work with MAN to attract more manufacturers.”
Ikuru, who said NCDMB has so far moved Nigerian content from five percent in 2010 to 54 percent at the moment, harped on need to produce quality and competitive goods, for both at home and for export. He also mentioned a $50m fund to support those that would move into the industrial parks.
The MAN national president, Francis Meshioye, who sat through the two days of brainstorming, reached an agreement to lead a delegation to meet with the NCDMB.
Apparently excited about the prospect of industrial zones, an ex-TotalEnergies engineer, Anthony Akpan, his group which had been advocating for industrial parks in Nigeria without any positive attention from the government asked for partnership with the NCDMB in managing the parks. “How do you market your industrial parks; any concessioning? How can we partner with you? Parks should have all facilities so the investor will just come with briefcase and could also lift his machines when leaving.”
The NNPC gas group led by Hauwa Ali added pep to the industrial park quest, urging the south-south states not to create the parks in silos. She advised those setting up parks to obtain NNPC’s gas map so they can site the parks near gas pipelines for sustainability.
She said gas crashes down cost of production and would make products to be made in the South-South cheapest in West Africa.
She said: “Many parks are springing up but in silos. The future is collaboration. Making park work with diesel kills industries. Lagos industries are closer to gas pipelines.”
She reminded the business people that international companies like to partner with gas powered companies. “Let’s bend closer to pipelines.”
A resource person, Pacqueens Irabor of the Bank of Industry (BoI), seemed to start the fire when he admonished the manufacturers to stop asking governments to set up industrial parks. He said they could come together, do a feasibility study, take shares in the project, and offer shares to other entities such as BoI. He gave examples industrial parks wound the world where manufacturers and businesses own majority of the equity.
Speaking as a panelist, Jossy Nkwocha of Indorama Nigeria stated that industrial parks are good, and said MAN in the chapter was talking with the Rivers State Government about it. He was excited that SMEDAN, NNPC, NCDMB and others were beginning to come take it as top priority. “Let the govts n Rivers and Bayelsa establish industrial parks to boost industrialization.”
Another component foreseen for industrial revolution is the need for all states in the South-South to set up investment promotion units. Some states that already have such centres such as Edo, Cross River and Akwa Ibom tended to showcase them as very crucial in tackling Ease of Doing Business. Rivers State looked embarrassed for not having such a centre except the little effort made by the Port Harcourt City Chamber some years ago to create one office where businesses can meet regulators in one place.
A prominent promoter of the idea of one office for all was the CEO of Akwa Ibom Investment Corporation, Imo-Abasi Jacob, who spoke on ‘Strategic and Economic Advantages of Investing in South-South’.
He urged all South-South states to take the issue of industrialization serious by setting up investment promotion offices. He said the zone was critically important and would attract investors from many countries if they make themselves ready.
He described the region as hub of Nigeria economic power with hydrocarbon drive despite the challenges. “It is well positioned to do business with the rest of the world. Striving to develop oil has dented others. It’s now safest region.
“The Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) is here and there are many opportunities for peace and fallouts of products from the oil sector.”
He mentioned agriculture, fish, tourism as key areas and low hanging fruits to be exploited speedily. Apart from agric that he said was backbone of any economy, the board chairman said the south-south could be a landing zone and make money by it.
He said: “Resolve the issue of insecurity in your states, sell your story. The world is looking where to rest. There is going to be global reverse tourism flow. The way to start is to think and ask; what does the visitor need? Position for it.”
A panelist, Jossy Nkwocha of Indorama Nigeria admonished thus: “Let every state create an investment promotion agency to promote investments. I am impressed with the continuity political stability in Akwa Ibom.
Ekama Emilia Akpan, CEO of Showers group, said everything boils down to women and youths being reconnected to industry through appropriate government policies in the south-south.
Charles Opuala of the Port Harcourt Business School reminded the groups to think about what he called Techparks system, saying the place can be equipped to serve as hubs where IT savvy youths could come together and do something for themselves.
For energy and power supply at the industrial parks, an expert, Ubani Nkanginieme, CEO of Total Support Energy Group, showed how the company can deliver low cost gas systems to factories and industrial parks.
Chukwukeluo Chukwuogo of Boskel showed how his team could make most products if encouraged, though he warned against touts that make goods travelling along the highways more expensive. Others he mentioned were many checkpoints on south-south roads, many touts without govt intervention, cost of legal system, etc.
In his goodwill message, the Rivers State governor, Sim Fubara, who was represented by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry officials said the state has done much in infrastructure around the state to boost industrialization. “MAN has done well to enhance businesses in Rivers State especially the presentations during the conference days. Last administration focused on Ease of Doing Business and soon, it will be a law.
“While promising to sanitise the business environment, the government representative urged businesses to come out clearly and not operate at the back of the gallery. Issues of task force are being tackled. Comply with your own obligations so you do your business without embarrassment.”
He said Trans-Amadi is being made to return to its old status as an industrial hub and that boys would be moved from the streets to the industry.”
The opening day of the two-day summit and AGM had witnessed robust speeches starting from the MAN national president, Francis Meshioye, and the chapter chairman, Vincent Okuku. Both called on the government to look into the need to set up industrial parks, investment promotion centres, eliminate tax touting, reduce high energy cost, and stop policy summersaults as well as add manufacturers in boards and policy level activities of governments.