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‘Our goal is to end importation of bitumen into Nigeria’

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Boye Oyewumi is the Special Adviser to Ondo State Governor

Boye Oyewumi is the Special Adviser to Ondo State Governor on Development and Investment. He is also Chief Executive Officer of the newly established Ondo State Development and Investment Promotion Agency (ONDIPA). In this interview with The Guardian, Oyewumi speaks on some of the efforts of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu’s administration through his agency towards the economic development and industrialization of the state.

What informed the decision of the state government to establish ONDIPA?
Well, ONDIPA stands for Ondo State Development and Investment Promotion Agency, this is meant to be one stop shop that makes sure that ease of doing business is domesticated in Ondo state. It will help investors in terms of attracting them and actually mid-whiffing the process of setting up investment in Ondo State, as you understand, we have structural deficiency, we have job opportunities deficiency, and our teeming youths are unemployed. The whole idea around ONDIPA is to be able to attract investment drive into the state, to provide opportunities for our teeming youth and also help the state have a stake in some of those companies thereby increasing the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) so that the state could have another means of generating revenues.

How do you tend to facilitate investors to the state?
Once investors see people who speak their languages, they are comfortable; once investors have access to people in government, they are comfortable; once investors see credible faces, they are comfortable. They know that whatever memorandum of understanding (MoU) they sign with you, it’s reliable. Once investors see people who are driven by the sole aim of rapidly industrialising the state, they are comfortable; once they know you will be honourable to the terms and condition you have agreed to on paper, they are very comfortable; once you are able to sell the virtue of the state not just in raw materials but in human capital, because we are actually an educationally advantage state so we have the human resources, we have highly skilled workforce. Thankfully, we are heavenly blessed with different natural resources, we have bitumen, limestone, kaolin, silica sand, granite, kolanut, pine apple, plantain, cocoa, rubber, oil palm, the list is endless. There is nothing that can grow anywhere that is not here, we also have major deposit of oil and gas. They are very few minerals that are not domiciled in Ondo State.

What has been the response of investors thus far?
Everything has been so impressive, for the first time, a particular agency is dedicated to attract investors to the state. And one of the first things we did, thankfully, we have a governor that has a foresight and allow you to express yourself according to his economic plan, is to open opportunities to new investors. We trying to open up access of different infrastructural development to investors, now investors have access by air to come in 35 minutes from Lagos through Air Peace daily passenger flight; do their business and go.

Olokola Free Trade Zone seems to have gone moribund like other moribund industries in the state. Does your agency have anything in the offing to resuscitate these industries such as Arigidi Tomatoe Paste, Oluwa Glass, Okitipupa Oil Palm mill?
Olokola Free Trade Zone still remains a viable project of the Akeredolu’s government. We believe that very soon, a major decision will be taken by the relevant stakeholders. All I can tell you is that there are two Free Trade Zones in Ondo State, the Ondo Free Trade Zone and Olokola, the Ondo Free Trade Zone is owned solely by the Ondo state government and the need to develop all these is of paramount important to this government. Am not aware that Olokola is dead probably you attended the burial, but I didn’t (laugh). What you have to understand is even the NLNG project in Bonny Island in Rivers State took so many years before it became realistic, go do your research. When you have a gigantic project like Olokola Free Trade Zone, so many issues will come up. Let me tell you that the Olokola is still on the front burner and won’t be abandoned. And i am glad you talk about the moribund industries in the state, there is a presidential initiative for Niger Delta states which we are one; so we are actually we working together to reactivate where possible, to rebuild where necessary all the moribund industries. To make sure all those factories come back to life again.

Nigerian government spends over N300bn on bitumen importation annually whereas Ondo State has the largest deposit of bitumen in Africa, what do you have to say to this?
I don’t know of past promises but I want to use this opportunity to say expressly without mincing words that the era of Nigeria importing Bitumen will soon be a thing of the past. One of the cardinal goals of ONDIPA is to end importation of bitumen in Nigeria soon. I don’t think it’s the business of any government to run a business; what they are meant to do and which this government is doing is to provide an enabling environment, so we have serious investors partnering with the state to make sure that bitumen importation in the country becomes a thing of the past. This government is not in the habit of conducting business on the pages of newspaper, take it from me, with the Akeredolu’s government and support of the federal government, be sure that importation of bitumen will soon be a thing of the past in Nigeria.

What is the state of the MoU Ondo State Government recently signed with Niger/Delta Development Commission for the construction of 50km Araromo to Epe road in Lagos?
Yes, the design process is on; that project is speedily going on and nothing is stopping it. NDDC and the state are partnering, the whole idea is for Ondo to be 35minutes away from Lagos by air, 35 minutes by road and 30 minutes by marine. Very soon, we would soon be linked through marine to Lagos.

Ondo State has the largest and deepest coastline in West Africa, is the Akeredolu’s administration thinking in line of having a seaport?
Yes, we have the longest coastline and luckily the deepest, there is a lot of work going on to make sure we have form of presence of seaport in Ondo state so that the minerals from northern part of the country, those from the southern part of the country and agricultural produce from the whole of Nigeria will use Ondo as an export terminal. All of these are part of the economic plan of the government, we working on it and people will soon hear from us. So we understand that there is a need for an export terminal for our Agricultural produce and minerals round the country.

Air peace now flies Lagos to Akure every day, how do you people get this done and is it true that government is subsidising the air ticket?
If you are single minded about what you want to do, you have a governor that has a vision and allow you to express yourself. Everybody in the regime are very clear, we all working towards an economic blueprint and working for the development of the state so I don’t think we have much problem to get this done. All i can tell you, the issue is not about subsidising the charges, the issue is that government is doing everything to ease method of doing business, people count the cost and nobody wants to count the benefits. You can’t just count the cost.

Are you looking into developing the economy of the state through tourism since the state is richly blessed with much tourism sites?
When we are talking of development and investment, every sectors of the economy will be touched. It is not just about factories alone, the tourism sector is a critical area, one of the first things the Akeredolu government did was to tar the road that lead to Smoking Hills and Golf resort in Ilara Mokin, so you will understand that this government is fully ready to ease doing of business in the state, there is a proposal on the table to develop the Araromi seaport. There are lot of investment opportunities that are being discussed; there is also opportunities from marine economy but people have to be patient with this administration. I understand we are all in a hurry because of the stagnation of the last 40 years, but i am sorry, it takes more than 40 days to fix issues of 40 years except you want to approach things in a cosmetic way.



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