• Saturday, June 15, 2024
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Gov Fubara lays new economic pathway for Rivers at Economic & Investment summit

Gov Fubara lays new economic pathway for Rivers at Economic & Investment summit

Anxiety from the past:

Anxiety was high when Siminalayi Fubara took over as the next governor and chief executive of Rivers State in May 2023. The anxiety stemmed most from the business community, which did not know the next direction of the state in terms of government readiness to promote trade and industry.

The previous government seemed to focus only on infrastructure, where many yearned for human capital development, investment blueprints, business promotion, partnerships with local and foreign businesses, scholarship awards, employment schemes, and wealth creation programmes.

Owing to the fact that the Fubara administration was labelled a continuity government, many investors and leaders of the organised private sector, such as Mike Elechi of the PH City Chamber and leader of the Organised Private Sector (OPS), Vincent Okuku of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), and Ibifiri Bobmanuel of the Rivers Entrepreneurs and Investors Forum (REIF), were known to have gone close to the corridors of power to sniff the coffee and find out the inner feelings of the new governor.

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They brought back messages of hope like Joshua in the Bible, but the problem seemed to be how what they sniffed out could come to pass because of the stranglehold they said they saw on the governor those days.

Rivers State was hardly found anywhere states gathered to discuss business and meet partners from home or abroad.

So, as events turned out and Fubara began to appear to liberate parts of his body, signs showed that he was always eager to come close to the OPS and restore the business competitiveness of the state. Signs were rife for good when he showed support to some business sector groups that played host to their national bodies. They saw it as signs of a business-friendly regime, at least.

Things seemed to come to a head when news came that Gov. Fubara had approved an economic summit. Things thus began to happen.

Clarity and a new pathway:

This must be why many thus waited for the lead address that was expected from the Chief Host, the governor. Hints came out a few days earlier that some important private sector leaders were sending in suggestions. Other top government officers were understood to be working with the governor to firm up what he would tell the business world because he knew he could not afford to overpromise. Demands would forever be made of him to fulfil whatever he publicly pledged to do.

The pathway:

Government handlers said what the governor was going to lay on the table was going to be the government thinking, but that the interaction with top private sector leaders around the country and beyond at the summit would help craft a workable economic blueprint or strategy.

The calibre of guests he invited alone seemed to speak volumes and seemed to give hope, according to some investors who spoke with newsmen after the event. The presence of the likes of the former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi; the former governor of Cross River, known for the Calabar Festival, Donald Duke, who acted as chairman of the summit; the professor, Kingsley Moghalu; another professor, Magnus Kpakor; and many others set the tone.

A new commitment to industrialisation:

Gov. Fubara announced a new commitment to industrialisation, but it would be in partnership with the informal and organised private sectors through necessary policy, legal, and other support measures and systems.

This thinking must be why the state government approved the summit, believing that the state would emerge from it to reposition itself as a premier investment destination. He said Rivers State is blessed with enormous human and natural resources, including oil and gas, fertile soil, solid minerals, and an extensive coastline with great water bodies. Also, the state is the centre of the oil and gas industry in West Africa, with over 40 percent of crude oil production onshore in the country and 100 percent of liquefied gas that the country exports.

 “With over 40 percent of fertile cultivable landmass, Rivers State has the potential to make a significant contribution to national food security with commercial investments in mechanised agriculture and the agro-processing industrial value chains.”

“The state also has the second largest economy in Nigeria, and with a nominal GDP of over $28.4 billion, the state’s economy ranks in the top 25 economies in Africa, comparable to countries like Botswana, Rwanda, and Gabon.

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He pointed at the robust infrastructure of the state, including good roads, two seaports, an international airport, and a free trade zone, with a population of over seven million indigenously diverse, educated, highly hospitable people and a business-friendly environment.

He said the two-day summit aimed to advance investment opportunities in Rivers State and provide an opportunity to hear from experts.

He traced the historical journey of the state and said Rivers State, especially Port Harcourt, was an established commercial centre in Nigeria. He mentioned the Trans-Amadi Industrial Layout, which hosted thriving commercial and industrial concerns that created wealth and jobs. He, however, regretted that this is now all history.

Investment opportunities:

Gov. Fubara said Rivers State provides several investment opportunities across diverse sectors, including oil and gas, agriculture and agro-processing, manufacturing, hospitality and tourism, education, ICT, and healthcare, infrastructure development, glass products and garment production, and power generation and transmission, to mention a few.

“With over 40 percent of fertile cultivable landmass, Rivers State has the potential to make a significant contribution to national food security with commercial investments in mechanised agriculture and the agro-processing industrial value chains.

“Several state-owned but moribund companies, farmlands, and business infrastructure, including oil palm estates, rubber plantations, poultry, and fish farms, are available for interested private investors to take over and revitalise.”

“Since assuming office, we have prioritised peace and security and focused on growing our economy through partnerships and collaborations in line with our belief that it is the private sector, not the state government, that grows the economy, creates jobs, and guarantees wealth and prosperity for our people.”

Target: Making Rivers the best investment destination:

The governor disclosed that his commitment was to make Rivers State the best place in the country to invest and do business by creating a vibrant, investor-friendly business environment and improving the ease of doing business to boost investors’ interest and confidence in the state.

Prompt CofO:

What seemed to discourage investors was the certificate of occupancy (CofO), but the governor said the situation is now different with the prompt issuance of a certificate of occupancy.

He further stated that his administration was also working on the harmonisation of state and local government taxes to eliminate double taxation and the imposition of multiple levies on investors.

He mentioned the N4bn matching fund loan scheme with the Bank of Industry for small, micro, and medium-scale businesses to drive financial inclusion and enhance growth.

“Furthermore, we have also approved the establishment of the Rivers State Investment Promotion Agency to provide one-stop-shop investment services and facilitation to investors in the state.

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“In the first year of our administration, we received an appreciable number of expressions of interest from local and foreign investors to invest in diverse sectors of our economy, including agriculture, real estate, power generation, and manufacturing.”

He said they have signed a development agreement with TAF Nigeria for the construction of 20,000 mixed houses in Greater Port Harcourt City. We signed another development with Gosh Nigeria Limited for the construction of an international spare parts market. The state government provided hundreds of parcels of land as its equity, and work has since started at both sites.

“Apache Aluminium LLC of America has started the acquisition of land to establish a multi-billion-naira aluminium rolling mill (plant) in the Ogoni axis of Rivers.”

Songhai hopes to be alive again.

He went on: “We have opened discussions with Imagine Adama Agricultural and Technology of Israel to support the state in developing our huge agricultural potential, including reviving abandoned agricultural projects and infrastructure such as the Rivers Songhai Farm, the school-to-land farms, fish farms, feed mills, oil palm estates, and poultry farms across the state.” We have earmarked about 10 million USD for this project this fiscal year.

“Last week, the State Executive Council approved the proposal by Rainbow Heritage Group to build the New Port City in the state on about 1000 hectares of land in collaboration with the Greater Port Harcourt City Authority.

“We have also concluded arrangements for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Planet One Holding Limited of Dubai for a $10 million Mangrove Forests Conservation and Carbon Capture Project under the Private Public Partnership arrangement.”

He admitted that Rivers State is the economic heartbeat of the region; thus, his focus is to grow the economy of the state so citizens can derive more tax revenues to deliver quality social services to our people.

“Our mantra is ‘Rivers First.’“ Our covenant and commitment are to serve our people to the best of our ability with compassion, honesty, and responsibility.

“I assure you all that our intentions are right; our commitment is unwavering, and with the collaboration and support of all, we will collectively harness the economic potential of Rivers State.

He quoted a saying: “When there is light, there is hope. When there is light, there is strength. When you can see into the future, you can muster up enough strength to hold on today.”

He appealed to everyone to join hands to invest in the economy of the state.