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Friday, December 9, 2022

We are on the threshold of industrial revolution – Boye Oyewunmi

Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu some months ago inaugurated Ondo State Development and Investment Promotion Agency (ONDIPA) headed by a technocrat, Mr Boye Oyewunmi to drive the state’s industrialisation agenda towards the economic development of the state. In this interview, Oyewunmi speaks on the journey so far. Excerpts:

What was the state of the industrial sector in Ondo State before you came on board and what level is it now?

 Before we came on board, there was virtually nothing on ground. I think maybe you could point to Shoprite, and a little investment in the rubber plantation in Irele.

 Outside these, I don’t think there was another industrial activity in the state. Basically when you see the potentials of the state and you juxtapose it with what we met, it was comatose. And you know the employment opportunities in a place like Shoprite are not that huge, but at least it was functioning properly. So that was the state of what we met.

 What informed the decision of the government to form ONDIPA?

 I want to say that we have a forward looking government, led by the Governor. Even before he became governor, he had arranged a group of people whom he had a feeling would be able to help him shape the direction of government.

 Worldwide, it’s been noticed that if you want to drive investment, there must be a special vehicle for driving investment, because investors don’t like to go to different offices and get caught up in bureaucracy. That is not their style.

 The only way out of that as it’s been proven in many developing and developed institutions and countries is to have a specialised agency which operates with a private sector mindset. It is the mindset that is important. It does not matter whether from the civil service or the private sector, but the mindset; to drive the investment potentials of the state.

 Because if you don’t have a focal agency, you don’t have any direction. Hitherto, you go to Commerce, you go to Lands, and others. Investors could be here for weeks, no traction and each of those spots are collection centres. Things were not happening. For a state that is over forty years old to have a new government who finds out that only two or three industries were working, that tells you that there’s been a state of decay.

 Hence, the Ondo State Development and Investment Promotion Agency was formed to drive the development and investment potentials of the state.  And that is what is responsible for the upsurge that we are seeing. It’s not the agency per say, because the agency is just a body, but when you populate a place with the right set of people, you get the synergy that you need, putting the right people in the right position.

 Nigeria has the second largest bitumen deposit in the world, unfortunately we have not tapped into it. Again the drive of the federal government is to stop the importation of bitumen, how are we keying into actualising this in Ondo State?

 We are actually bailing out the federal government, because for the first time since 1900 that bitumen was discovered in Nigeria, the pilot equipment for the bitumen exploration are as I am speaking with you, they are already in the country.

 So that has taken the bitumen thing from talk to walk. That is the first time since 1900. What the federal government has been unable to do, this government has been able to do it in roughly 18 months.

 But not without the cooperation of the Federal Government, with everyone in the value chain doing what he knows how to do best, speaking the same language.

 The former Minister of Solid Minerals who is now the Governor of Ekiti State, has been very instrumental to assisting us. That was why our bitumen company was re-issued a licence and we knew from the beginning that these are not talkers, these are walkers.

The only thing remaining now is the perfection of the CofO. When that is perfected in the next couple of weeks, we will move to site. There will be a launch by the presidency. We will have to look at the best timing for that in their calender, because we are now in the season of politics, to flag off the pilot project for the bitumen.

 In addition to that, you know that Ondo State has some blocks, as we speak, Expression of Interest is out for us to trade some of those blocks, so that we can actually know the amount of reserve that is there because it’s okay to give figures but investors don’t deal with ideas, they deal with facts. So when you have something to gauge the amount of reserve that is there, then you get the right set of investors, not window shoppers. When they know the quantity of the bitumen, the right set of people will come.

 What about the Environmental Impact Assessment?

 It has been done. It is one of the pre-conditions to the issuing of licence. The Solid Minerals Ministry is on top of their game. All of that has been done. The state is satisfied with that. The state will continuously ensure that their activities are not injurious to the environment. That is our own duty.

 Can we know how many investors Ondo State government have been able to attract to the state and what is the level of their investments?

 Investments come from different aspects. Those that we have committed to MoUs may be about 20.

It is not the MoUs that are important. The MoU is the beginning of the steps to going to the field. An MoU is signed when we have pre-qualified you and we are sure that these are the kinds of people we are looking for and they also find us as suitable investment partners.

But please, be mindful that we are talking of long term investments, we are not talking of building of markets, or lock-up shops. I think there is a bit of misconception, people misconstrue MoU for takeoff.

There is a process until you have an MoU, why would investors spend money on feasibility?

He has to go and get the land that you have promised him, all the necessary surveys, the topography, the perimeter survey, there are processes that needed to be carried out  after the MoU.

Specifically can we have an insight into the nature of the investments that involve those 20 MoUs and how much in naira and kobo is it going to bring to Ondo State?

 One of the first things we did was to open up the air traffic. That was a very easy huddle to cross, because if you don’t have access you cannot create market.

 We increased the number of flights from Abuja to Akure to six times a week, instead of two that we met. We introduced daily flights to Lagos.

 I asked the previous government, those that I know among them who were doing this job, “You were here for eight years, why is it that you did not put anything on ground?”

 It was not for lack of effort. When they get to Lagos, at the airport, stress, they get to “redeem,” stress, if you get to Shagamu, stress, they go to Ilesha road, ‘wahala’, they see the madness on our roads, I am talking of foreign investors who are used to things working.

By the time they are going back they swear that there are not coming back.

So what do we do? Fly them over that problem, let them land in Akure airport.

So when you drop them in Akure Airport, they say this place is very peaceful, tranquil, we can do business here.

Investors are not those who have time to waste. They cannot fly six hours from the nearest port in Europe and maybe fourteen or eighteen if it’s China and America, and come and spent almost the same time between Lagos and Ondo. And this is where they will be coming to regularly.

So that is one of the first things we did, we got that out of the way. Investors started coming.

Then we looked at the easy picks. Something like the Dome, we have given that to a facility management company so that that investment does not go into waste, because the place was already decaying. In the next couple of years it would have been the same Nigerian story.

But if you go there now, they have started work and we have not put a single penny in it.

When we came on board, all industries were comatose. The Oluwa Glass, comatose. What did we do? We’ve engaged a company to be a transaction adviser to bring back Oluwa Glass. Last week they finished their report on valuation so that Ondo State can reacquire the land, not the machines, and the proprietorial rights of Oluwa Glass. Because, you can’t sell off what you don’t own. It went into receivership and we lost it.

That is the first step to bringing that particular one back.

Ifon Ceramic is in a fairly better situation, that we never lost it but it is comatose, that is also going out for Expression of Interest.

Owena Hotels as we speak now is already out for Expression of Interest, calling for investors to come and invest in it. We provide the enabling environment. Our land would be our equity.

You know we have the powderised egg project, we did the ground breaking in February.

That project has been slow to take off, but it’s not dead. There are some issues with funding, which we have been able to sort out between the investors, ourselves and the Central Bank and the Central Bank has agreed to fund the project.

 In fact, the foreign technical partners, the Germans, French and the Belgians came into the country to try and fine tune the project to the size of funds that are available. We have scaled it down so that at least the project can start, because between the processes leading to the signing of the MoU and starting of the project, there would always be issues.

 The project is not dead, but delayed, but now the Central Bank has written that they are willing to give the first N2billion for it. We are trying to scale the project down to what is available.

 What would be the production capacity?

 What they were going for is one million eggs. That would be the biggest powderised egg factory in sub-Sahara Africa, including the Middle East.

 We have said that we should hold on concerning the poultry part of it which is the very expensive part of it.

 Presently, all the powderised eggs in this country are imported so the market is already there. The Nestles, the PZs, the Cadburys, they are waiting, the people who do biscuits, they are all waiting. So there is no issue of uptake. That project thankfully is coming back on stream soon. The funding has been secured awaiting disbursement. It is with the Central Bank.

 What are the economic potentials, in terms of job creation and in terms of IGR?

In terms of IGR, everyone that works there will pay tax. The company by the grace of God will declare profit, IGR will grow. Ondo State is a stakeholder in that project, so we will also get dividends.

There would be contractors, farmers whose businesses will boom, and everyone will pay tax.

Eggs do not last, but when you powderised it, it can last for as long as nine months. Most of our poultry farmers after some time, they have glut of eggs. That will lead to losses or sub-optimal utilisation of their effort, they don’t get enough profit. And eggs do not travel far.

 You will find out that even in the neighbouring south-west, people will be bringing their eggs to the factory.

Another one, Okitipupa Oil Palm Plc was completely dead and buried. We came and we have resolved the issues. At least for seven, eight months now, Okitipupa Oil Palm Plc has been working.

 The present owners are selling off 51percent of the company to foreign investors. That one is already out for Expression of Interest. Majority will go to the investors, we need a few billions. That way, government’s influence would also be reduced, because government ordinarily should have no business in business.

 The reason we are having stakes in some of these companies is so that we can also get something for IGR.

 For the Okitipupa Oil Palm, we have about 2000 workers there now,  because not all the plantations are active. But they are lowly paid jobs, so the IGR there would be low, but this is a business that has about 85 to 90 percent profitability. So the dividends will be good, in addition to the PAYE.

 The investors are supposed to put up new mills there. The real business is the value creation. When you process the raw materials into palm oil, Soya, into groundnut oil, that is where the money is.

 Olokola has been with us for a very long time. Some people thought that it should be flying by now, but today it is still on paper. What is the state of things?

 Olokola is an investment among Ondo, Ogun, the federal government and investors. Truth be told, a sub-national cannot answer questions why a national project did not take off. We are a sub-national. We have focused our own attention on the Port of Ondo because that is what the Deep Sea Port will be called.

When we came in, the Deep Sea Port was just on paper. Like anything else, if you don’t energise it, it will be just on paper. The topography, all the graphics studies have been completed, we are now at the state of port feasibility being done by an Holland firm.

 They have submitted their first draft, and the final report will be out next week (this week). At that point, once the Port feasibility is completed, we can have the port declaration. It’s after you have the port declaration then you can say that you have a deep sea port project.

 If everything goes according to plan, by next quarter, we should have a proper port declaration by the federal government. Once the place has been declared as a suitable location for a port, investors will be invited because we are inundated with requests from a lot of companies that want to invest in it, because you can see the mess going on in Lagos.

 We have the deepest port, averaging 19meters, nobody else can brag about that. We have one of the longest coastlines, contiguous, straight line, not going into creeks and coming out.

So that is another project that we are working on. We are not too interested in Olokola, because that is driven by the Federal Government. We just have a small stake in it, and it has spent so long on the shelf that cob webs have overtaken the ambition.

The port of Ondo is a new project that in 18 months has travelled further than Olokola ever travelled. Where the deep sea port is, we met a free trade zone there. We have activated it. The deep sea and the Free Trade Zone are in the same area.

 That means whatever they produce they can export, and that Free Trade Zone seats on a larger land called Ondo Industrial City, the proposed site for it is 30,000 hectares.

 You have a new Lekki in the axis coming up in that area. It is when you create opportunities like this that people can find their own levels. That is part of the master plan.

 You are aware of the road from Ibeju-Lekki, the NDDC road. From that road we have a new road that we just flagged off being constructed by CRCC, the Chinese company. That means from Ibeju-Lekki to that road is 25km, 12km between Ondo and the NDDC road. From where that one ends to Akure, we have 131kms. That is a game-changer.

It means from Lagos to Akure will be under two hours. We are going to toll it because that is the only way we can return the money back to the investors. This is a government that is thinking.

 What about Ore Industrial hub and Tomato Paste Factory in Ikare?

On the tomato paste factory, we have not done much on that because we strategise on which one we have a competitive advantage in. We know it’s there. We know what the issues are, but it’s not on the front burner for now.

You cannot have industries everywhere without a gas plant. Nobody runs on diesel successfully. So, there is a gasification plan presently. And we are bringing gas to the Free Trade Zone and the Industrial City. If you know where the industrial park is and our power plant, at the other side of the road there is a pipeline. Through the help of the presidency we are talking to Nigeria Gas Company, a subsidiary of NNPC, to give us gas because even if you like, put a thousand megawatts there, without gas, it’s just a monumental waste because we have a culture of putting the first thing last (laughs).

There is gas in Omotoso but there is no gas in our own area. The ideal thing should have been to secure the field before you build. So we are not going back to correct what was not done, because once we have gas… that power plant, by the way, is almost completed. By next month they should hand it over  back to us completed, and we did not pay for it, we issued a performance bond, that ‘go and complete it, on completion we will pay you.’

This government doesn’t issue advance payment bond to anybody. We don’t go to the field with our money and we will be chasing you. You go and raise money, this is our bond, when you finish, go and catch the bond. That is how we have been able to get things done. Even the road construction work you are seeing, nobody is getting advance, since you say you are good at it go and take the risk, go and do the job.

Oluwa Glass for example, and Ifon Ceramic, there are many reasons why they went down, some of the machines should never be switched off, yet we have no electricity.

Now, Ore Industrial Park, last year we gave Hessman a thousand hectares we had a meeting with them to see their work plan and see where they are. There are few issues here and there. I know that we need time, a frustration of 40 years cannot be cleared in 18 months. We are willing to be pushed back, but we will tell you the truth, instead of telling you that in one day a sky-scrapper would be built. That would be a sky-scrapper built with cards.

Now, the  Ondo industrial hub, when we went to China, the WEWOOD group had started three different industries and if you go there, there are lots of activities going on there. So we have allowed them to have some space within that industrial park, because they already had something there anyway and Hessman is fully aware of what is happening. So we then gave Hessman another 65 hectares outside the park to compensate them, but all of them are waiting for electricity or gas. So all of these things would have to come together to have an industrial revolution. But if you don’t have clarity on what you are doing, you will just be biting away at the edges.

 Is Ore Industrial Park part of the Free Trade Zone?

No, the Free Trade Zone is in the Ilaje area, Ore is a dry land. They are completely different. So we are creating hubs. Ore is a transit point, that place by now ought to be busy.

For example, China now has over-capacity problem, they are producing too much goods that they cannot consume themselves, so they are very expansionist in their tendencies, they are looking outward; but even they find out that the cost of logistics is very expensive and cumbersome especially coming to the biggest market in Africa. So it is cheaper for them to produce at source, because there are two reasons for where you site industries. You site industries either close to the raw materials or close to the market. In their own case, it makes sense for them to site industry close to the market, so they can get away from this issue of taking four-five months to ship goods in and at high cost and in many cases the raw materials are also within the country so they are all at close proximity. Even if they are bringing it as CKD, that is Completely Knocked Down, that is semi-assembled, our people will be there to couple, they will rent spaces, activities will go on.

What kind of assistance is government giving to small scale industries?

A lot of that is being done by the Ministry of Commerce, not by ONDIPA, but I also know that a lot of that is also done by the initiative of the Federal Government. It has been a long time since we had a kind of support we are getting from Bank of Industry, Bank of Agriculture and all the social interventions by the Federal Government putting money in the hands of people, the solar project in markets, my fear is how long will it take? Because until a plane reaches cruising height it has not really taken off.

What choice do you want people to make in 2019?

They have to think of long time. If they are to think about bag of rice, it would last maybe for six months. It is their choice. They are the greatest beneficiaries and the greatest losers because in a depressed economy, if you look at the length of road being tarred, if you look at the investment coming in, if you look at the changes today, you cannot compare that to what we had previously, where you just knew that you were just coming to work to earn a pay and go. But the funny part of it..I’m a private sector guy ..I have always known, and with respect to people in the paid employment, that your pay slip is just a testament of what is going to last 30 days, not something you can give your children. That’s why nation grows

If you look at a place like Lagos, if you look at their cabinet since Tinubu was there, we have different politicians there, but the cabinet are not really politicians, they are technocrats. Fashola was not a politician, because you must have that hunger and the passion for the common man, but unfortunately in my political work, I have never seen a place where the elites sit down and say let us see how we can lighten the load of a common man. But this government is completely different. Federal roads are bad we are tarring them, with no or little money.

Your projections for ONDIPA?

The fact that you can even pronounce ONDIPA in just a couple of months of existence, it means it has become a byword for industrialisation, because it’s probably the most pronounced agency of government now. It is being driven by passion. In four years time, ONDIPA’s feats would have been cemented. ONDIPA is just a reflection of the government because a part cannot be greater than the whole.

Curtailing the menace of rape

Rape has become one of the frequently committed criminal act, not only in Nigeria, but across the globe.

Despite attracting severe punishments, the dastardly act is still on the prowl.

The Hope Classics speaks with severe concerned citizens on what punitive measures can be put in place to stem the menace. Excerpts:

– Barrister Paul Attah,

an Akure-based legal practitioner

The review of our laws, the current Criminal Procedure Law was last modified about four decades ago. As it stands today, the laws do not meet up with our present realities of life.

I want to suggest that stringent laws should be put in place by the government to prevent the crime.

In Nigeria, the rapist takes a maximum of eight years imprisonment. Such sentence should be increased to capital offence with longer sentence.

Apart from increasing the sentence, stiffer measures should be put in place, like castrating the rapist as obtainable in Germany, India and other jurisdictions.

The offence of rape in Nigeria is still bailable, making it a minor offence.

But the laws can declare the offence of rape non bailable and all its forms.

Since the offence of rape takes the dignity of the victim, institutions should be established to undergo anti-rape counselling. So the rapist should be kept in  reformation centre for at least 15 years and be released upon a medically and psychologically certification.

There should be a sensitisation of the girl-child that nothing is shameful, but that it is a shame on the rapist and he must be punished.

The solutions to curbing the menace include; encouraging research to find facts and date to determine what approach will best curtail the menace.

Also, the society should encourage campaign against rape and also instill cultural values and norms that are against rape.

Parents too should give their children/wards early education about sex education.

We should teach our boys and men not to rape. While our legal system should not blame women for rape.

The Hope Owena Press
The Hope Owena Presshttp://www.thehopenewspaper.com
Owena Press Limited (Publisher of The Hope Newspaper), Akure


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