• Sunday, June 16, 2024
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Rivers opens for business as economic summit begins

Rivers: Fubara consolidates power, cancels Wike’s 10,000 jobs

The much-expected Rivers State Investment and Economic Summit has opened at the Obi Wali Cultural Centre in Port Harcourt.

Most citizens have, however, been eager to know how the summit would transform their lives or the state.

Officials of the state government as well as communication and financial experts working on the summit have been explaining how it will help the government streamline their economic policies.

They have explained the government would have the opportunity to listen to investors directly and know exactly where to tweak and adjust policies.

It will also help harmonise tax policy and create incentives to encourage voluntary tax compliance and boost internally generated revenue (IGR), which is already beginning to do better.

It will also create a pack between the public and private sectors in the task of building an economic base that will push Rivers State to the next level and play better catch-up with Lagos, Nigeria’s economic nerve centre.

The summit will be an opportunity to showcase the businesses and corporations where partnerships are needed to revive some public sector investments and hear from the organised private sector (OPS) how such places could be revived.

The summit is expected to address the much-vexed issue of Ease of Doing Business which is a global tool for measuring various economies and show investors where to go.

Many have been lamenting how one major oil corporation in Nigeria diverted a whopping $6 billion new investment to Angola instead of Nigeria when the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) was delayed and the International Oil Corporations (IOCs) could not understand Nigeria’s hydrocarbon policy thrust.

Such is what the absence of an economic agenda and policy direction which often comes from economic summits can do to a state.

Ordinary business people seem to hate taskforces, especially on revenue, but at the same time, they hardly want to fulfil such a civic obligation by paying their taxes.

So, it will be an opportunity to know what to do, who they can engage with, and the policies that guide tax collection and other revenues.

The issue of digitisation and systemisation of the tax and revenue system in the State will be discussed and resolved.

Land matters and certificate of occupancy also cause anxiety in most states. The Rivers State government will use the opportunity of the economic summit to make statements clear.

The people are worried about the new menace in a town called land-grabbing. This is where nobody is sure of his or her parcel of land or even certificate of occupancy anymore because one bigshot can emerge and annex all lands in one location and procure armed men and thugs to force everyone out and demolish the buildings there. The government is, therefore, expected to make strong policy statements in that direction and on the menace.

The summit has been imbedded in the first anniversary of Governor Siminalayi’s administration, a sign that the governor views the summit with all seriousness.

This seriousness has been described by many members of the organised private sector that have met with him so far.

They communicate the impression that Governor Fubara is keen on encouraging business and growing the economy of the oil-rich state. The governor will have an open field to demonstrate it.

Some of the names involved in media and publicity in the summit include Joseph Johnson, the present commissioner of information and communications, who incidentally is a seasoned publisher and consummate media man.

Emma Okay, the publicity sub-committee chairman, a lawyer and an academic, has been deeply involved in managing the information system of the Rivers State government from the office of chief press secretary under Peter Odili to commissioner of information under Celestine Omehia to the Nyesom Wike years.

There is the powerhouse of media and information strategy in Nigeria, Ibim Semenitari, who is also in the mix. There is the mass communication expert and lecturer, Ibituru Pepple (PhD) on the media committee. The former commissioner of finance, Chamberlain Peterside (PhD), has been doing his best to explain the financials and show why he was important behind some of the reforms that now bear fruits in the State economy, especially the IGR sector.

Many others are working behind the scenes to ensure that the summit is properly put in the right perspective.

Their task is to confront the negative narratives coming out of Rivers State from violent crimes, violent politics, and other negatives.

The state now seems to be drowned in positive and economic news which comes from the 20 days of the anniversary dominated with project commissioning and flag off. These have proved that beyond political crisis, work has been going on.

The major mark of the summit is the calibre of personalities billed to grace it and give insights through speeches.

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi II, the Emir of Kano, will deliver the keynote address, a sign that the State is healthy and safe enough to deal with.

The chief host, the governor, will provide the graceful cover that such calibre of people desire to feel at home and command their influence across the nation.

The summit which will run for two days has been divided into seven thematic areas; Inclusive Education and Technology.

This will look at Empowering the Future: Leveraging Education and Technology for Youth and Women Empowerment. Key speakers in this category will include Jake Epelle and many others.

The next is Manufacturing and Industrialisation. It will look at ‘Attracting Investment in Manufacturing, Strategies for Collaboration and Partnership’.

Speakers include Ibifiri Bobmanuel who is a sound investor in many areas and manufacturer of the best tractors in Africa.

He is also the president of the Rivers Entrepreneurs and Investors Forum (REIF). Others will be Innocent Iyalla Harry who was the second managing director of the Rivers Microfinance Agency (RIMA), and Godfrey Ohuabunwa, a tested entrepreneur and one-time president of the Port Harcourt City Chamber (PHCCIMA).

A critical thematic area is the much-talked-about ‘Ease of Doing Business’ where the state had lagged for years.

The theme will look at ‘Impact of Government Regulations: Enhancing the EoDB in Rivers State’.

The speakers include Igaere Gogo-Ogan, Ogho Okiti (former managing director of BusinessDay, who was once a resource person in the presidency), and many more.

The other thrust is Infrastructure Development and Renewable Energy. It will look at ‘Rivers State as Investment Destination for Development Initiatives’. Speakers include Rumundaka Wonodi, Utchay Okorji, and some more.

There is the fast-emerging Blue Economy which looks at ‘Harnessing the Blue Economy: Investment Opportunities for Sustainable Coastal and Marine Sector Growth.’ Speakers include experts such as Greg Ogbeifun, Shedrack Akolokwu, Ibifiri Bobmanuel, and Maxwell Harry.

The sixth area is Economic Growth and Development. It will examine ‘Catalysing Economic Growth and Development: Strategies for Security, Sustainability and Inclusive Prosperity.’

Speakers will be Mike Elechi (president of PHCCIMA), the commissioner of Police in the state, the Nigeria Economic Summit group representative, the State Director of DSS, the Fidelity Bank Representative, and Fidel Ibeabuchi.

The last thematic thrust is Rural Development and Agriculture. It will focus on ‘Innovative Financing Mechanisms for Rural and Agric Projects in Rivers State.’

Speakers will be Isaiah Ndukwe, Danny Kika Pollyn, Maurice Ogolo, and Opayemi Moses Olutayo.

The new administration seems to have prepared the ground to plant a new economy. The government has promoted civil servants for once in about 10 years.