Thursday, August 14, 2014 5:09 pm
Bimbo Ashiru, Ogun State Commissioner for Commerce and Industries, in this interview with ABIODUN ONAFUYE, explains why Ogun is now a preferred destination for industrialists.
The Amosun administration is just three years now and several companies have been springing up in the state. What are the factors responsible for this?
If you notice, one of the five cardinal points of the present administration under Governor Ibikunle Amosun is the fact that apart from social services like education, health and agriculture that lead to salvation, affordable housing and rural development, and finally education, what we are talking about now is the fact that we have been able to create an enabling environment for business to thrive.
How did we do that? It is by making industrialists and investors feel at home. Let me even tell you this: it took a person that has the vision and the mission to know that the only way for industries to grow is by putting the necessary infrastructure in place. Now, if you look round Ogun State, it is like an infrastructure yard, because the road network is physically seen everywhere and it is part of what these companies need to survive.
Even, if we have all these industries, how do they move the goods and services from one place to another?
Ogun State is blessed with a lot of mineral and natural resources and the largest concentration of industries in the country. President Goodluck Jonathan has attested to it and everybody has attested to it too. What has happened is that in the last 36 months, 46 industries have opened shop in Ogun State and there are still many more on ground, perfecting their papers while some are under completion. They have seen the state as their home, as an industrial hub; the state is industrial friendly. All the bottlenecks and the barriers have been removed and now it takes you less than two months to get your Certificate of Occupancy, C of O.
Also, there is the issue of security. When we came to government, we found out that a lot of banks were not opening across the state. They were scared and the governor was running about, promising them that he was going to solve this problem and he brought in 13 Armoured Personnel Carriers, APC, vehicles, the best so far in this country. I stand to be corrected. And now Ogun State is the safest place in Nigeria today. Not only that, we got more than 300 Hilux vehicles with pilot communication equipment that will enable the law enforcement agencies, like the policemen, the soldiers and others, to work effectively so that businesses can thrive in Ogun.
Governor Amosun also encourages industries and industrialists to come and establish in the state. Another thing is that you don’t need to know the governor or the commissioner before you get things done in the state. We have the Ministry of Commerce and Industry that is investor-friendly, we have an open-door policy and we have a one-stop shop that deals with ownership. These are the things we are doing that help the industries.
Look at the last Investors’ Forum; the first one we did was in 2012. We are happy to tell you that over 500 companies have requested and are ready to establish industries in Ogun State, but what we want are genuine investors.
Everybody has been attesting to this. You can hear what the former Mexican President, Mr. Fox, said during the last investors’ forum about investing in the state. What I’m saying is that it has shown that investors are ready to come into the state to do business with us. Let me tell you this: two days after this year’s investors’ forum, 18 companies had shown interest to establish industries in the state; and not shown interest alone, they are set to commence work.
We have been relating with various industrial bodies for collaborations. We have been invited to the London Chamber of Commerce, British Chamber of Commerce, Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce and American Chamber of Commerce, all because of the enabling environment the government has created for business to thrive. So, what is going on here is what we can describe as a friendly environment; robust atmosphere for investors. We do things together. Even from the stage of ground-breaking to the commissioning, we are involved. They have seen an industrial-friendly environment, so they are happy to say that this is a state that has welcomed them home. You can even see the other infrastructures that are going on now, the housing scheme that is going on to meet the level of employment and the employees, so that they can get affordable houses… You can see the road network and the infrastructures; these are the things that will encourage investors.
A typical businessman would be interested in choices of investments and the employees and we need to create that. These businesses want a friendly environment, uniform taxation, they want a government that will be doing these for them, a government that they can have access to like ours, where they can get information. We give them information as and when needed. Those are the things that have encouraged and helped industries to thrive.
How has the emergence of all these industries reduced the rate of unemployment, vis-a-vis creating jobs for the teeming youths in the state?
Well, I’m happy to tell you that the numbers of unemployed youths have reduced in the state and, as you know, we can’t compel industries to admit all our youths because each company has its policy. But what we have been able to do is to ensure that every community that houses this company should, as a government policy, employ some sizeable number of our youths in their company and this has helped us a lot.
Dangote Cement in Ibese, Lafarge Cement in Ewekoro, Procter & Gamble in Imeko and others have been so helpful. Also, informally, most of our artisans have been the ones being used during the construction stages and through this, job creation opportunity gets headway. Government alone cannot do it and our youths as well should not always be looking for white-collar jobs. Whatever they can do legally with their hands and brains, they, too, must do it to support the government.
On a final note, what is your message to other investors who are yet to be part of the success story?
Well, what I used to tell people initially was that Ogun State is a volcano that will soon erupt, but now, I want to confirm to you that we have erupted economically. This is a state where it is important for you to be part of the success story because you will see that there is no multi-national in this country that doesn’t have it presence in the state; there is none. I stand to be corrected and I doubt if there is any. Ogun State has the largest industries and I am telling our financial investors that Ogun State is peaceful, and we are sure that we have a minimum of about 40 million industrial customers. Why don’t you be part of the success story because Ogun State is their own and the industrial hub of Nigeria, the gateway to Nigeria. I want to assure you that before the end of the present administration’s first term in office next year, more companies would have come in and the state would by then boast of a robust and interesting Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, which will enable the government to continue to do more infrastructures that will be beneficial, not for only this generation but the generations yet unborn in the state. People’s support is what the government needs and with that, our set goals will be collectively achieved.