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Ore Industrial Park, first of its kind in Nigeria – Ajipe

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.    

Excerpts:

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.

Owena Press Limited (Publisher of The Hope Newspaper), Akure

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