…Hopes high on Rivers investment policy document
The Rivers State government under Governor Similayi Fubara may have concluded plans with the Manufacturers and other business groups to create an investment hub in the state.
BusinessDay gathered that excitement is high that an investment blueprint and policy handbook is in the making that would help attract investments to the oil/gas state.
The objective, it was further gathered, is to restore the status of Rivers State as an industrial hub other than being an oil/gas state.
For a start, the governor and his team has played host to the Rivers/Bayelsa chapter of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) led by an elder, Vincent Okuku, on October 26, 2023.
At the visit, Fubara was said to have disclosed that he has already made a plan to create an investment committee in Rivers State for an Investment policy document for ease of doing business in Rivers State. The manufacturers said they were thrilled by the possibility of the investment blueprint. Okuku told BusinessDay: “We are pressing for the state government to help make Rivers State an investors haven and encourage investors to come and have confidence in the state. By this, we are going to create jobs for the youths and they will have less time for criminality.
“We wonder how anybody wants to create jobs without promoting manufacturing. It cannot be by doling money out as palliative but by boosting industries so youths can work based on skills.
“By this, they will attract respect and their social value will change. When you work and earn, you have dignity, instead of hoping to hit jackpot. In the past, if you left secondary school and wanted a job, you would go to Trans-Amadi. We want to go back to that era.”
He said manufacturers were happy that the governor wants to work with them. “Together, we will create jobs for the youths in Rivers State. We employ skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labour; young or old, men and women. We are happy with his plans. That was our mission.”
Another major fallout of the interaction with the new governor is economic policy revelations especially taxation and problems confronting businesses in the state. “The number one demand is tax harmonization. This is very important for businesses because without knowing what the taxes were, businesses cannot plan and provision it in the annual budgets. The state government should collect all taxes and share to local councils and any other arm or agency that has share of the taxes. There should be no need to use task force to collect taxes. On our part, we are ready to do voluntary compliance.
“The second one is that government should improve security so that businesses can thrive. We admit that mush has been done but it should be better. The third is power supply. Rivers State has gas, so the state government can work with private sector partners to create a gas-based energy system that would make the state the cheapest in Nigeria in power supply and this make goods produced in this state the cheapest.
“The fourth is rail system to help move our products to other areas, though this is FG duty. The fifth is need for an industrial park to create a manufacturing hub with water, light, roads, land, absence of tax harassment, etc. We demand the revival of the Trans-Amadi Industrial Zone. There are empty plots that can be used for factories and many moribund factories like WAGI, NEW, Fierst Aluminum, etc. We hope to go down to details in subsequent visits. The good thing is that he has assured MAN of closer contacts in the coming months and years.”
Giving an overview on the visit, Okuku said it was to bring the state government closer to manufacturers through MAN, the umbrella body of all manufacturing facilities in Rivers State and Bayelsa State. “It is to bring him close to us so together we can return Rivers State to the status of an industrial hub. For now, many see the state as an oil/gas city, but we want to project the industrial side of this great state.”
On whether the governor was impressed by MAN’s position and whether he showed any signs that he would want to push Rivers State with MAN to an industrial hub, Okuku, said the governor made it clear it is groups like MAN that he wants to interact with. “He even said he is eager to be part of manufacturing body. Yes, we can say we have found a friend and a backbone in our midst. We invite him to be part of us. We use this opportunity to initiate him as a part of MAN.”
MAN had congratulated Fubara on his emergence as governor. “We remarked that he is the type the state needs at this time because he is a career worker with huge working experience. He is not a street fellow. Let him continue with his method.
“We commended him for the numerous projects he commissioned across the state in 100 days; we commended him on security architecture, on withdrawing touts from the roads and ending the era of tormenting business people on the roads. With his pragmatic approach, we expect good performance from where the former governor stopped.”
The MAN boss revealed that MAN Rivers/Bayelsa would be playing host to a strategic annual general meeting with conference to hold on October 31 and November 1, 2023.
He went on: “This edition is very strategic because it is focused on what Rivers State and Bayelsa have to offer in terms of manufacturing, beyond oil and gas. We want to bring stakeholders and investors to come and see what we have in the state at the moment.
“We are bringing in top speakers in the industry from within and outside to throw much light on investments and businesses. They will also see our exhibition of industries in the state. Its opposite Bori Camp. We are bringing the national president of MAN with his entourage to come and see that Rivers State is an industrial hub. It will show that Rivers State is safe for investments. We expect the State Governor and other dignitaries to be there. It’s a big event.”