By Henry Odeh
Oyo State Governor, Engineer Seyi Makinde, has told participants at the Nigerian-American Business Forum holding in Tampa, Florida, United States that huge investment opportunities readily await them if they make Oyo State their next investment destination.
The Governor, who spoke on the topic: “Improving Nigeria’s Economy: Challenges and opportunities…The Oyo State Journey,” called on investors to visit the state and take advantage of the arrays of opportunities in the agriculture, tourism, education and health sectors.
A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, quoted the Governor as saying that his administration would not waver in its determination to grow the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state, while offering incentives to investors in terms of easy access to land, among others.
The Governor also declared the readiness of his government to weather the storm against the implementation of the Park Management System (PMS), adding that he was ready to take tough decisions as far as they hold good benefits for the people.
He maintained that with the introduction of the PMS, which he said will ensure ease of commuting, the state would no longer have “Agbero” (touts).
He also disclosed that the state would soon launch metro buses to ease transportation within the state.
He said: “As a leader, you have to make tough decisions and be ready for the fallout of your decisions.
The PMS issue is still ongoing but we are up to the task. We shall not waver in our quest to grow the Internally Generated Revenue of Oyo State without burdening our people with unnecessary taxes.”
The Governor told the investors that Oyo State readily offers top of the range incentives through its special business packages for investors, as according to him, the unique benefits provided to investors are the best anywhere in the country.
He also took time out to invite investors to participate in the Oyo State Agribusiness Forum holding on the 30th of March in Ibadan, adding that the government was set to establish an Agribusiness Development Agency.
On why investors should choose Oyo State ahead of other locations, Governor Makinde stated that the state is strategically located standing at about 100 kilometres from the largest seaport in Nigeria.
He added that the state is also home to the nearly completed Ibadan Inland Dry Port and it stands to benefit from the new Standard gauge Lagos/Ibadan rail line, which he said gives investors some comparative advantage that further guarantees huge Return on Investment.
Makinde also said that the state, in collaboration with Federal Agencies, has started implementing and investing on the expansion and modernisation of the Ibadan Airport while also investing heavily on intra-city roads to ease transportation.
He also rolled out a number of ongoing projects aimed at enhancing traffic flow and business opportunities as including the ongoing construction of Moniya-Ijaye-Iseyin Road and the Agodi Gate-Old Ife Road-Airport, Adegbayi Ibadan road, among others, saying: “we have a road network that makes movement within towns and cities hassle-free.”
The Governor said: “Speaking of business packages with unique benefits, we are incentivising investors. For example, we offer you land at unbeatable rates.
I make bold to say if you get a better offer for the same value anywhere else in Nigeria, we will best it. We are proud of our investors both local and foreign and so we are determined to make life easier for them.
“The land size in Oyo State is 30,000 square kilometres and about 80-85 per cent of that can be utilised for farming.
The climate in the Northern part of Oyo State is derived savannah and down south is rain forest which means anything can grow in our environment. Presently, we grow cash crops like cashews, mangoes, cocoa, cassava and corn/maize.
Apart from cash crops, we have opportunity for livestock farming. We are planning our farm estates in nine locations scattered around Oyo State.
The first two are set to kick off soon at Akufo and Eruwa. This presents great opportunities for the manufacturing and processing industries.
“Our tourism sector offers opportunities for people in the hospitality business. You may know that Oyo State hosts one of two hanging lakes in the world at Oke Ado Mountain in Ado Awaye.
The other, which is in here in the United States is in Colarado and receives over 131,000 visitors yearly. In addition, Oyo State hosts, Bower’s Tower, Agodi Parks and Gardens and Eleyele Lake. A keen eye will see the possibilities and grab them with both hands.
“We also have opportunities in Health, Education and Security sectors.
We have gaps in these sectors that you can fill and we offer special incentives to encourage you. For instance, in the education sector we had almost half a million out of school children.
With our free basic education initiative, we witnessed an influx of students into schools. We know that some of these students will be better served by robust technical schools. As a government, we do not have all the money to set up these schools.
“So, we are ready to partner with you in setting up fully equipped technical colleges for our youths. As with the agriculture sector, we are willing to discuss incentives such as land and investment grants.
“Another sector open for investment is the power sector. As at the last count, we had over 1.2 million residences in Oyo State. This is a huge market for energy investment.
Our newly created Oyo State Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources is already looking into alternate sources of energy so we do not rely solely on the national grid. Waste to energy and Solar Energy, which I must say we have in abundance, are two areas we are exploring.
We have aspirations for energy sufficiency in the state. We have had a study conducted which shows that the state can generate about 200MW from solar energy alone.”
Governor Makinde, who told the audience about his journey into politics, noted that he had always looked forward to being part of a system that would bring about positive change in the society, adding that he was leveraging on his private sector experience to bring good results for the people of Oyo State.
He said: “I was not content with acts of philanthropy.
I wanted to touch more lives and I realised that to do that, I had to scale the success I had achieved in building my own company from scratch. I wanted to bring the methods and systems that make the private sector work into the public sector.”
The governor commended the crop of dedicated officials around him, whom he said have keyed into and belief in the goal of moving the state from poverty to prosperity.
He added: “I am proud to say I have a great team who offer sensible advice and who believe in my ability to make the best decisions given all the available alternatives.
“Presently, Oyo State has 115,000 civil servants and a wage bill of N11 Billion per month, which is just 1.4 per cent of the total population. We can’t employ all the strong and energetic people in the state.
Our job is to ensure we create opportunities that will be appealing to the private sector so they can come in and provide employment opportunities for 10 per cent of the population who are presently unemployed and create more opportunities to attract further investment.”
Speaking on the challenges the investors were likely to face, Governor Makinde told the audience that though the challenges of insecurity in the country could make intending investors jittery, Oyo State has invested in securing the lives and properties of all within the borders of the State through collaborations with the Federal Police.
He said: “At the outset of this administration, we donated one hundred state-of-the-art security patrol vehicles to facilitate the movement and response time of the police.
More recently, Oyo State has been at the forefront of the launch of the Western Nigeria Security Network code-named Amotekun.
We have no doubts that Oyo will join the ranks of the safest places in the world in no time.
“Another issue that entrepreneurs often face is ease of entry.
Nigeria has become infamous for corruption and it has become normal to bribe officials to get things done. In Oyo State, we favour openness and transparency.
We have an open-door policy and this makes for accountability. None of our officials are allowed to solicit or receive bribes and kickbacks.
Earlier in our administration, we signed the Oyo State Investment Promotion Act and the Oyo State Financial Crimes Commission Act.
“You will notice culture and attitudinal differences which may seem shocking.
Your proactiveness and focus may also be challenged. But with an open mind, you will soon overcome those.
Your attitude has to be that of a missionary ready to adopt and adapt. On our own part, we are working on making operations as seamless as possible.
We are using technology and automation where possible to reduce human contact.
“We are also providing training for civil servants directed at changing their orientation and mindset.
I must say that the Oyo State Civil Servants are on our side of the fence. They want these investments as much as we do and so they are doing their part.
“We all know that change is neither easy nor automatic but we have their buy-in.
Because we are making government more people-centred by listening to them, they, in turn, are more willing to work with our administration. We also have a very effective feedback mechanism that ensures that people working against the system are ousted and such situations dealt with. So have no fear.
“When it comes to acquiring permits, and this is an area where the usual bureaucracy and red tape leads to wasted man hours, we have taken steps to cut down the time that is usually spent acquiring documentation.
For instance, before now, it would take about three to four months to acquire your Certificate of Occupancy after purchasing land. We are keeping that process within two months. We know we can further simplify it, but this is just a start.
“Coming from the Diaspora, especially the United States where you do not even think about power supply, to Nigeria where you have to factor in the cost of energy supply can be a huge burden.
What we are doing in Oyo State is improving the power situation through investment in alternate sources of power. Presently, we are talking to Shell Nigeria Gas for gas supply and several other suppliers for independent power project.
“In all, I am happy to tell you that Oyo State is open for business. And that is why my team and I have come here.”