Why businesses are attracted to Port Harcourt – The Promise CEO
... Toyin Alabi reveals why Rivers remains an investment destination
It has been revealed why businesses still prefer Rivers State especially Port Harcourt despite the image of insecurity and harsh business environment.
Oluwatoyin Alabi, founder, president, and chief executive officer (CEO) of Integrated Catering Company Limited, owners of the brand name, ‘The Promise Fast Food’ chain, told BusinessDay in an exclusive interview in his office in Trans-Amadi that the harshness of the business environment is due to high inflationary rate in the economy and the galloping rate of the Dollar to Naira.
The pastor however said, Rivers State remains an investment destination because the state boasts of purchasing power higher than it is in any other state. “That is the attraction here.”
To be sincere, he stated, the administration been able to attract investments especially through infrastructural development. He said the urban renewal scheme of the administration has been huge as never before. “It’s kudos to the governor (Barr Nyesom Wike) for taking the bull by the horn to transform Port Harcourt into a very modern garden city.”
He mentioned good infrastructural facilities such as road network, power, and water supply. “These things indirectly affect cost of doing business. By the time these projects are completed, moving around the state capital will become a lot easier and we say bye-bye to perennial traffic jam (gridlock)”, instead of the era of being trapped in traffic and miss important business meetings and appointments.
Give Rivers an agric revolution
The CEO said what the state needs as much as infrastructural revolution is food or agric revolution. For now, Alabi said, most of what is needed comes from outside the state.
He said most time, foodstuff needed by fast food chains would not be found in PH foodstuff markets because they are not grown locally even as the state is blessed enough to produce.
“The Ogoni axis is another treasure in agriculture that has been under-utilized, as well as the Etche and Emohua axes, etc. These are good agricultural and farm zones that can feed Rivers State and beyond in yam and cassava without looking for any other state. Elele axis can feed the state in palm oil, vegetables, butter and margarine requirements of the state and the nation.”
On how to achieve this, the CEO said its about political will, the same way the governor took action against traffic gridlock in the garden city. “If the same government decides that foodstuff will not come from outside Rivers State and that if we can’t produce, we won’t eat. If it is only beans Rivers State can produce, that is what we will eat, then, you discover that everybody wakes up. Even the back of your house, you can grow your tomato, pepper, lettuce, etc. You can even grow your yam. It’s all about political will and the direction the government is taking.” He did not say how such embargo would be enforced without infringing on rights of citizens.
On insecurity, the business mogul said his experience as a CEO managing many outlets around Rivers, Bayelsa, Lagos, etc, he must commend the Rivers State Government for the security in the state, saying it is far better than in any other state, despite what he called pockets of kidnapping and robbery in a city as sophisticated and metropolitan as Port Harcourt.
“I will still give it to the governor who has managed security so well that there is no immediate threat to life and property as in other states and as we had it in the past.
“People now go about as late as 3am. The city is safe. Where one or two incidents happen, the security response has been swift.
“Take the case of Bonny Island with a lot of incidents on the waterways, the security agencies are rising up to nip it in the bud. The Governor and Commissioner of Police are not sleeping on it. I can say, it is better than in most other states. This has helped businesses. Before, we could only remain open up to 7pm but now, we operate till about 10pm in high density areas. Now, people stay outside till late to patronize some of our outlets. So far, it has been so good.”