Ore Industrial Park, first of its kind in Nigeria – Ajipe
Chief Alex Ajipe, is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Klick Konnect Network International Limited, a top PR, investor relationship, Venture Capitalism, Infrastructural Development and Business Consultant to Ondo State Government. He spoke with BISI OLOMINU on the ndustrialization efforts of the state government.
Ore industrial hub is a flagship project of the current administration in Ondo State, what informed the concept?
Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu have five cardinal programmes, and one of them is industrialization and empowerment of the youth through agriculture and industrialisation. Of course you know and you can bear me witness that when this administration came on board, you hardly see any public company functioning. Ondo State used to be known as home to a lot of industries like Oluwa Glass, Ifon Ceramic and others. But unfortunately, all of them have gone moribund. Even today it is affecting the private sector as well. So, even those things that we are known for like our forest reserve, cocoa and other natural endowments are also being threatened by continuous neglect by previous administrations.
We being in the private sector also see the sincerity of purpose of the government of Ondo State, and we started to key into it. We know that the state should be developed, we know what the investors long to see and we are happy to find a governor that is determined to work at those areas. We have a governor that has integrity and that we can take his integrity even to the bank. That one has helped us a lot and he is a man that is focused as well and has strategically chose his partners. We have a lot of deficits in the area of employment generation, development of capital and in the area of economic activities in Ondo State. When you are bringing in people now, you must be able to bring companies that will be able to bridge the gap in time. And that is exactly what this government is doing. We are very proud to shoulder this with Arakunrin to actually get investors of his choice. We have the brief from the governor and we have actually gone out to get these people on line. So we facilitated first; We-Wood Afforestation Project to Ondo State. Before this project, Ondo State wood based industries were leaving the state, revenue were dwindling, because those forests were degraded. It has been taken over by encroachers and illegal occupants. So, we know that if the trend should continue, by now we will not see wood based factory or company in Ondo State any longer. If we look at the raw materials that we have, our raw materials are very good for forestry, out wood is very good, our lands are very good for the wood we are known for. So, it is better to look at that area first to bridge the deficit that we have in the employment of Ondo State, and that is what Ondo State government has done.
Ondo State government in partnership with We-Wood Limited gave out 10,000 hectares of land for afforestation programme. As I am talking to you now, over six million trees have been planted. It is a conjoined venture between Ondo State government and We-Wood Limited. This project has given birth to a lot of factories coming to the state, now that we have a lot of plantations that they can use. That factory has given birth to what I will call the first MDF (Medium Density Fibers). You know all these boards, particle boards where you have them in various colours, red, yellow, blue, green and others. So, we are able to get a partnership that is taking care of the raw materials. So it will also generate revenue to the state. Through this people are empowered, either you are clearing for them or doing other things; our people have been employed. Moving away from here, we also facilitated for the government to sign the first Bi–City agreement with Linyi City, Province of Shandong in China. Whenever I have the opportunity to talk about this, I want people to know what it entails. Linyi City is a population of about 12 million people and in Ondo State we are not even up to that. People will say just a city. But if you look at Linyi City environment and their economy, Linyi city is responsible for over 60 percent of export logistic of the entire People’s Republic of China. So, we are choosing our partners very strategically and wisely. By the grace of God, it was a successful one and Bi-City agreement was signed by Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu and the officials of Linyi City. It was a large ceremony, well publicised and very important occasion in China. And there we were able to sign an MoUs with about six different companies. I can tell you today that those six companies are in Ondo State. We signed an agreement with a textile company to come and establish in the state, we signed with Cassava Ethanol. Signed with an agro-chemical industry, we signed with Paper Mills and others. All of them are already in Ondo State and by the time the governor came back that was what led to the establishment of Ondo Linyi Industrial Hub. It was a particular hub to take care of the Bi-City agreement between Ondo State and Linyi City. The people we have there now are strictly investors from Linyi City.
I can tell you that our Cassava to Ethanol factory is working; we have the plywood industry and others in Ore. And because of the way Ondo State government has treated them, reason the investors have commenced business in Ore. Because we have even gone beyond what we promised them as regards serene atmosphere, security conducive environment and all that, we have gone to make sure that raw materials they need provided. We make sure that our people also key into those value chain and all that. So, these ones have also enticed them. We are happy to announce that we now have a DunFirm Trust, an auto-mobile assembly plant now in Ondo-Linyi industrial hub. The assembly plant is going to manufacture different types of trucks, SUV, different kinds of vehicles. As I am talking to you, they are clearing. We have also been able to bring Chinese Mall with over 100 Chinese factories subsumed in the mall. It is not going to be a trading mall, but a kind of an industrial mall where you have different type of industries, manufacturers that are going to form the clusters, so, as I am talking to you now, the land is being cleared. We witnessed the Bi-City agreement between Ondo State and the Linyi City and we will continue to monitor the value clearing. What Klick Konnect has done is to make sure that Ondo State provides what we promised these investors and to make sure that the investors are able to see what Ondo state is doing and for continuous and persistent participation of these people at the industrial hub. Number one is to go by the rules and to make sure that Ondo State people and indigenes form the primary and integral beneficiaries of all the industries at the industrial hub, and that is exactly what we are doing. To see to it that Ondo State people are employed in drove and empowered.
Again, we have the cement factory at the research stage. They have gone to Okeluse, taken the sample and I believe that before the end of the year, once they get their license, definitely they will start production at Okeluse Cement Factory.
What is the size of the park’s facilities and how many factories can it accommodate?
Yes, we have two phases. The first phase is 150 hectares of land and at the moment it has taken seven different companies. That’s Ondo/Linyi Industrial phase 1. Now, we are having phase II, which is going to be about 350 hectares. So, all together it is going to be about 500 hectares. At the moment, we have the first phase having about seven different factories, we have one producing fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides and others. We have cassava to Ethanol factory, as I am talking to you now people are working there. We have the Paper Mill, doing paper purp. The value chain is what you have to look at. We are talking about textile mill that produces thread. We are going to encourage our people to go into cotton farming, and the people that used to go to Gbagi in Ibadan to buy clothes and others, in the next three to four months, the section will start. People that are trading in clothes, from Onitsha or anywhere in Nigeria will soon be coming to Ondo State. Also, there is the conversion of Cassava to Ethanol factory, that one is so fantastic because we try on our own to create what I call cassava revolution, we have employed many people as our station services workers and we have a lot of people that we have registered, these people will continuously supply them with cassava. We have some people for commercial purposes, partnering schools, government agencies, women cooperative societies and several others to go into cassava farming, so as, to be suppliers to the Cassava Ethanol factory. What we are doing is to create employment in the state, give them the input and empower them to make sure that our responsibilities to the companies that are on ground are met. When you produce, you also give them the raw materials that will make them stay around.
In the area of paper mill also, the fantastic thing about it is that Ondo State has equity on ODSG We Wood Afforestation, which of cause the paper mill is going to use the raw materials from we wood.
So, it is a sort of backward integration. In all these, we don’t want Ondo State to be a place whereby you will bring your technology and go at anytime. What we have negotiated is that the companies should key into their social and corporate responsibilities to the community Ondo State and do technology transfer to us. That one has led to the establishment to Africa College of Agriculture, Vocational and Technical Study. It is more like an institute for training people. When talking of auto-mobile assembly plant for example, it is not everybody that can work there. Assembly plant deals majorly with robot. It is not just what everybody can go into, they need this kind of special training, so, the reason for the establishment of the college. The assembly plant has its head office along Oba-Ile road in Akure.
They are using the head office for all their practicals. You have your special training on mechatronics, car assembly, welding and all that. Those are the things that we have done, our people are not just only going to get employed, they are going to be trained. If they even decide tomorrow that they are not going to work but be on their own, so that the government can now use the skills they have acquired to empower them. We have done it as a kind of complete cycle in Ondo State industrial revolution.
What is the level of investment that the government has committed to the park?
I may not be at liberty to tell you the whole thing. I will tell you that at the movement, we have about 300million dollars Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) at Ondo Linyi Industrial Hub. Quite a number of them, Ondo State is having equity with interest. Some of the companies are there and are 100 percent private business owned.
What are the investment opportunities that abound now or in the nearest future?
When you are looking at the investment opportunities, I have said almost everything here. Let us take it one after the other. I have told you that we are going to encourage farmers to go into farming and people that are going to be trading on fabric, threads, this is an investment opportunity. What about the logistic? We are going to have a lot of trucks that are going to be going there. What about foods, medicals, so, people are going to go there to establish their clinics. When you have about 10,000 to 15,000 people working in an environment, you are going to have a lot of demands from them. So, people are going to work there. There are lots of investment opportunities. We are going to see people building a lot of accommodation, people migrating to that area definitely, we are going to have a lot of things happening there. There’s also a lot of investments in accommodation. There will be trading in hotels, some people coming from Onitsha to come and pick fabrics, will lodge in hostels and recreation centres. Investment opportunities in the hub abound. It is first of its kind in Nigeria, and you can imagine how many people will come to do business there. Every other MDF that you have in Nigeria, it is either from Germany or China or Singapore, but the one that we have now in Ondo State, our own is more quality because we have better option. Secondly, take for instance the sawdust that is normally burnt by the sawmillers, it is going to be money making now. Every wood that they have is grinded to powder. So, when you take sawdust there, they will buy it. All you just need to do is go to the sawmill, pack the sawdust, there, they measure and you will be given your money. This is another investment opportunity. Not only investment opportunity, it is also going to reduce air pollution.
If you go to any sawmill now, you will see that they put fire, thereby causing pollution here and there.
How many private investors have shown interest or already investing in the industrial park.
Of course a lot of people have shown interest. What I want to tell you is that we have seen serious investors that have shown not only interest but signed MoUs and they are already in the state constructing their facilities one way or the other. So, if I should count I think I will tell you that we have over 20 blue-chip manufacturing companies in Ondo State right now. If this is not first of its kind in Ondo State, it is first of its kind in Nigeria. From Klick Connect archive, I think we have almost 120 of different factories that have shown interest. Don’t forget that I told you that there are going to be Chinese Mall. In that Mall, we already have over 100 different companies that have subscribed. So, I don’t want to scare people by my figures, I just have to be moderate. But 20 blue-chips companies have started to invest in Ondo State while over 120 have shown interest. It is worthy to mention that in this administration we have gotten over 80 percent of the MOUs signed and sealed, unlike the previous governments where you have over 90 per cent MOUs not implemented. So, this is not the era of signing MOUs which will not be implemented. Because before Arakunrin Akeredolu will even allow an MOU to be signed with anybody, he would have done credit check just to make sure that these people are not jesters.
Ore Industrial Park, Free Trade Zone and Ore Linyi Company , what is the relationship or synergy among them?
The Ore Industrial Park is a bigger industrial park which is under the management of a concessioner. The Ondo/Linyi Industrial Hub is specifically for investors from Linyi City alone, because the Ondo /Linyi Industrial Hub is as a result of bi-agreement signed between the two in Linyi City, China. I know that the Free Trade Zone is taking shape as we have some investors coming for that. They have an MoU signed and ONDIPA is in charge of that.
It is a common knowledge that power is the backbone of any industrial sector of any given state. How does government intend to solve this challenge?
I want to say this and I think it’s another opportunity to commend Governor Akeredolu over what he has done to make sure that the investments that have been attracted to the state stand on good footing. Power project has been put in place at the industrial hub and I think that there’s Omotosho power plant. You know that power issue is about Federal Government, but to be able to supply Ondo people, make investors stay in the state, the state government has invested in power, so also the investors too, and it has yielded through the effort of Mr Governor. Power was initially an issue but now we thank God.
If you take a look at the Ore Industrial Park, Bitumen deposit, Olokola projects. What is the place of Ondo State in the overall development of the nation if these projects come to fruition?
Ondo State is becoming the commercial hub of Nigeria, and I know what I am taking about. I am very close to the industrialization and revolution of industries being embarked on by the Governor, Arakunrin Akeredolu. We know what he wants to do and we have strategically key ourselves to them.
You will know that the Federal Government is already looking at Ondo State direction for seaport. The one it wanted to do in Badagry, Lagos has been cancelled, Lagos/Apapa one is congested, so, the Federal government is looking towards the seaport in Ondo State. What I want to say is that Ondo State has the deepest sea in Nigeria. Some ships that would not be able to berth in Lagos, would be able to berth in Ondo State, and also, Ondo State has the longest coast line as far as Africa is concerned.
So, that one will give room for tourism, hospitality business and some other things in the area. Many industries are springing up there, we have the blue ship factories and others in the hub. Don’t forget too that we have been able to get the rail line coming from Lagos passing through Ibadan and to Ondo State. Don’t forget that the state is now constructing a road between Araromi in Ilaje area to Ibeju-Lekki in Lagos State. What we missed by the last administration not citing the refinery in the state, that we have gained with the road which is just about 45minutes drive to Lagos.
Do you think Ondo. State is viable economically?
Yes, with the type of the location of the state, in terms of focused leadership and political will, the state is viable. In terms of what we are doing now, the state is viable. In terms of the integrity of the leader, Governor of the state, the state is viable. When you therefore look at all I have mentioned, the localization of the industries, landmass, the state is viable. When you are looking at the security aspect, you will know that the state is viable 100percent. I will say that the state is viable and well positioned.
What other challenges are you facing now or that can hamper the success of these projects?
The only thing that can hamper the success of these projects is if the people of the state does not vote for Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu the second term. But God forbid this. This is the only thing that can hamper the projects, but I know that Ondo State people are very appreciative. The people know the one that has turned the state into construction sites, know the one paying salary regularly, know the one that has integrity and does not belief in cosmetic projects. Ondo State people know the man who will not blow his trumpet at the roof top, they are appreciative and I know that such calamity will not happen in the state.