• Monday, June 17, 2024
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Mega Mall project will stimulate urban renewal of Aba

Mega Mall project will stimulate urban renewal of Aba

Aba Mega Mall is going to be the biggest mall in Africa; it is going to have a hundred-thousand square meter shopping space. It will be the first mall with a dry port in the South-East region of Nigeria and the entire Africa.

The dry port would be a 30,000 square meter bonded warehouse. This will afford the South-East people, the opportunity of getting their goods in on time – thereby mitigating against delays due to port congestion at our various sea ports. The mall will also offer good storage facilities – automated climate controlled warehousing facility, thereby, making it a one-stop-shop; as it will also boast of a 100-room hotel coming up in the second phase of this project.

A business resort will evolve out of this facility, to be known as “Aba Business Resort”. Another aspect of this project is that people can shop online. What that means is that if you cannot physically come down to the mall to shop, you can shop online from wherever you are in the country. Even if you are in Lagos or Abuja, you can shop from any shop in the mall and it will be delivered to you at your location. Thus, the e-commerce enablement and other intelligent technologies will make the mall the first purpose- built smart mall in the world.

Are people buying into the project?

Yes, we have people from Aba, Onitsha, Port Harcourt, Owerri, Enugu, Lagos, Abuja, Kano, buying into this project and the price has increased almost two folds, because of pressure. When is the first phase of the project going to be commissioned? The first phase of this project will be commissioned in a few weeks and the whole facility will be operational immediately. The facility is already fenced and the place is well secured, we have surveillance cameras all over the place and armed patrol, making it one of the safest places in Nigeria. We also have 10 megawatts power supply and the excess capacity will be given to the neighbouring community. We are looking at reviving night life in the city, through this place and hopefully, we will be constructing the 1.5 kilometer Umueze road to enable the city fully enjoy this facility.

Our mission as a company is to renew sub-Saharan African cities, to regenerate our communities and empower lives. That is why we always look at the social benefits of our projects to the people, hence, our committing to do the Umueze road with a view to stimulate urban renewal of this city of Aba.

What’s the State Government’s contribution towards the project?

The Government of Abia State made this possible. First, they have provided security. Somebody like me can’t go to Somalia to invest, no matter how juicy the transaction may be. I can’t even fly into Somalia, and I wouldn’t have been in Aba, some years back, when you had all the issues of criminal activities. But Governor Theodore Orji, restored peace and security in the State and that was how we were able to venture into this State and when we got into the State, we discovered that it was an investment haven, in that the political goodwill to invest was there, starting from Sampson Orji, who was then the commissioner for Commerce and Industry, now commissioner for special duties in the State.

Sampson Orji was our first landing port. He received us and made us believe that this place is an investment haven. Initially we were skeptical, but he assured us of the Governor’s willingness to support us and eventually that was what we got. And since we met the Governor, we’ve never had a better yesterday. I encourage other people to invest in Abia, In fact, I have been inviting all my friends and when they come in here, they ask, what can we do in Abia? And I tell them to start by buying shops from my mall (laughs). By God’s grace, this project has largely laundered the image of Aba and so people now know that Aba is safe. I tell them in Lagos that Aba is safer than Lagos.

We close here sometimes at 3.00am and go to our hotels without security escort. To God be the Glory, we’ve never had any incident or accident-no form of attack, no form of molestation. I can tell you peace and security is one of the greatest achievements of this administration. We had been to other States before we came to Aba, none has been as receptive as Abia State, though most have been very keen lately to have us develop some form of infrastructure, but not like Abia. We are also in other states, but our warmest reception is in Abia. In fact, we are Abians now, Greenfield has an ‘‘Abian” foothold now and maybe we might relocate our families to Aba.

When is the second phase of the project commencing?

The second phase has started already. It is a non-stop project, until we realize 100,000 sq meter rentable space plus hotel, we will not stop. The first phase has dovetailed into the second phase. You can see the project is ongoing. We will commission the first phase and continue rolling out the other shopping spaces, the hotel, the automated bonded warehouse, which will serve as the dry port and first in the South-East and so many other projects, which we can’t talk about now, but will emerge as we build.

The idea of this is to stimulate urban renewal. We believe other people will take a cue from here and do some other projects around the city, around the State and around the country, in line with our mission statement. Ours is to renew sub-Saharan African cities and actually stimulate others to run with it. People will copy everything good, just the way some bad people will copy everything bad. But most people will copy everything good and we hope other people will follow suit and copy what we are doing and do some other projects around the city, the State and the country. The truth is that government alone cannot fund the infrastructure development of Africa.

The budget is not even sufficient. The best approach is the Public Private Partnership (PPP) and we are encouraging other State Governments to toe this line, because that is the only way they would fulfil their campaign promises to their electorates. By doing the PPP the right way, creating enabling investment environment for would be investors, giving them land, where they need land, giving them the political support, where it’s needed for them to invest their money, thereby creating a symbiotic relationship with the community, the Government and the private sector. That is how we all can develop Nigeria and Africa at large. A $30 billion dollar Federal Budget cannot develop Nigeria; It cannot even do 60 percent of Federal roads. Do you know that 2014 budget of New York City Council was $74bn. That is just a city of 5 million people. That is more than double our national budget, which is about $30bn for 167 million people. So, we must embrace Public Private Partnership.

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All the Government requires to do is to provide an enabling environment, just like Governor Theodore Orji-led Government in Abia has provided for all genuine investors. The Federal Government is toeing that line. You can see several privatizations taking place here and there. With the Federal Government’s investment in power, in another one year or two years, we’ll start having more power, because power generation, transmission and distribution is not what you buy off the shelf it takes a while, it is a process. We encourage all the State Governments to engage in PPP especially now that crude oil has gone down from $105 per barrel to less than $50 per barrel, what that literally means is that you have half of your revenue. Governments will struggle to pay salaries, not to talk of capital expenditures, because of over 50 percent drop in revenue.

What other projects are in the offing from Greenfield?

After this, there are some other investments that we are going to have in Abia State, which include Aba as well. We are coming up with Special Economic Zone, which will be an integrated city of business parks that will consist of manufacturing concerns, like automotive manufacturing, steel fabrication, leather works, petrochemical industries, Agri-business and ICT Park. It will be a complete city that will be self sustaining, because it will have economic life of its own. That is coming with 300 megawatts power supply and the excess will be transmitted to the national grid. Where will this project be sited and how viable is the project? There are few locations that we are looking at, but it is left to the State Government to decide on the location for the project. It will be viable, because as an economic city, it is designed to be sustainable. We are going to have manufacturing concerns- automobile, leather, garment, a petrochemical industry and an ICT park. And remember that Aba is already known to have a pool of artisans involved in the leather and garment cottage industries. We will tap into the local expertise by building and equipping the park to enable them produce in the cluster to a global standard. Consequently, they would lever- age on the equipment and foreign expertise that will be available to enhance the quality of their products and branding. One of our intentions is to enhance the existing local capacity to meet international standards.

What else has Greenfield done, outside Aba?

Greenfield Assets as a public infrastructure development organization has built roads, provided power backups at our airports, embarked on land shore-protection, land reclamation and many others. But we have metamorphosed into a wholly Public Private Partnership focused company, covering major areas of infrastructure development, especially retail and transport infrastructure, which includes ports. We also have interests in the power sector. The projects we are undertaking are comprised of the necessary infrastructure with a view to making them sustainable communities. We are not just looking at Abia State, but also Nigeria and across Africa. We are led and directed by our mission statement, which says to renew Sub-Saharan Africa cities, to regenerate our communities and empower lives. You don’t want to imagine the number of employment these things will generate. The city planning of our Special Economic Zone is going to be done by Surbana. Surbana is the town planning agency that designed and still designing Singapore. It used to be a Government parastatal, but has been privatized now. They are into city planning, free trade zone design and planning. We are accustomed to this place now; we feel very comfortable and at home in Abia State and that is why we want to start our SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONE scheme with Abia State.

How long will it take to power the facility?

The turbines are already in the country, what is left is installation. We won’t have problem with gas supply, as we are going to use compressed natural gas, which is readily available in Aba.

After Abia, where are you headed?

We will be anywhere and everywhere we would be welcomed the way we are welcomed in Abia, because our financial partners within and outside the country are willing to tag along, because of the level of progress we have made here. We are being wooed by several international development funds and even local financiers and investors.
What is your advice to Government and other investors, following the fall in the price of crude oil? I think the moment has come for us to go back to the drawing board, to look at what is sustainable. The word here is SUSTAINABILITY.

What is sustainable is human capital, because it takes the human capital to develop every other capital or resource that is available on earth- call it oil, solid mineral, even manufacturing. Hence, we should focus on human capital development and how to channel the human capital into developing other forms of resources. I encourage Government to start looking inwards to start developing the solid minerals, wooing investors to come and invest in solid minerals. Nigeria is blessed with so much mineral resources. So we should woo local investors. Let us drop this idea that it is only foreign investors that can develop our economy. We have local investors and we should encourage them to in- vest in other minerals outside hydrocarbon.

Shell offloaded so many of their onshore fields on Nigerians and they realized over $3billion. So, if Nigerian indigenous oil operators were able to cough out over $3 billion in buying onshore fields from Shell and other IOCs, the same Nigerian local entrepreneurs could invest in mining coal, iron ore, limestone, just like Dangote. It is time not for only Government to look inwards, but for the private sector to also look inwards to see where we can invest in the development of infrastructure and solid minerals development – processing from raw state to refined state.

The drop in oil prices can be seen as a blessing in disguise, because we must be forced to look inwards. It will bring in efficiencies in our governance as well. State Governments must drive and realize internally generated revenue to fund their budgets. We have to look inwards, we have to create enabling environment for local and international investors to invest in our domain so we can generate taxes, employment and other economic activities.

If a desert State like Dubai could go from a desert to a global hub, who says it cannot happen elsewhere. But we have to begin with the right thinking and the right attitude; thus, I will encourage my fellow entrepreneurs to drop this rent seeking mentality. Everybody is blaming Government, but it is not all Government’s fault. The private sector should stop the rent seeking mentality, as this remains a limiting factor.