$800m SAPZ: Abiodun laying foundation for Ogun as nation’s industrial hub

With the Gateway Cargo Airport in Ogun State nearing completion, another milestone was reached on November 4, 2022, when the State played host to the who-is-who in the business world in and outside the shores of Nigeria with the groundbreaking ceremony of the Special Agro-Processing Zone Project (SAPZ), performed by Governor Dapo Abiodun.

With the Gateway Cargo Airport in Ogun State nearing completion, another milestone was reached on November 4, 2022, when the State played host to the who-is-who in the business world in and outside the shores of Nigeria with the groundbreaking ceremony of the Special Agro-Processing Zone Project (SAPZ), performed by Governor Dapo Abiodun.
The $800million project would be the biggest investment in Nigeria, with the first phase said to be worth $400million. The project is an integrated development initiative designed to physically concentrate agro-processing activities at scale in order to leverage and harness the high agricultural potentials of the State.

The SAPZ will fast track the ongoing industrialisation of the state by boosting productivity and by integrating the production, processing and marketing of carefully selected commodity value chains that will enable agricultural producers, processors, aggregators and distributors to operate in the same environment.

Speaking at the ground breaking, Governor Abiodun said the project is a collaboration between Arise Integrated Industrial Platforms and Ogun State and would be completed in the record time of 18 months. He is of the opinion that the special industrial park is the first of its kind in the country and would generate over 20,000 direct jobs and individual prosperity.

The governor expressed delight that the location of the airport, which was till March 202, a forest and dump site, has now become the airport city which would probably be the fastest constructed international airport in Africa.

Abiodun disclosed that apart from the SAPZ, the Nigeria Customs Service has decided to locate one of its biggest facilities in the country to its 100 hectares of land at the airport, while the Nigerian Air Force, local and international investors in the transportation, hospitality and agriculture, have also indicated interest in the airport
The governor noted that the ground breaking was a further testament to the re-established of trust between government and the private sector and assured that his administration would continue to work assiduously to earn more trust of the private investors. He assured that the present administration in the state would continue to engender policies and programmes that would remain people-oriented and enable the private sector to thrive.

Abiodun thanked Gangan Gupta, President of the Arise Group, for keying into the vision of making Ogun State the industrial hub in the country and equally acknowledged the President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, for his support and encouragement to pursue the realization of the project.

“I must then acknowledge and thank the President of the AFREXIM, Dr. Ben ORAMA, who I called to discuss further the PPP/SAPZ model with and who arranged the physical meeting ARISE and myself. Without the trust and confidence Dr. ORAMA had in me, which was the basis of the reference in the first place we definitely won’t be here today.

“Of course all these had to be backed up by financing and I must thank the support of African Finance Corporation led by my brother, Zuberu Samaila, which ensured that the project was significantly derisked and AFREXIM bank for trusting us,” the governor stated.

He explained that the decision by his administration to turn the push factor from Lagos to the pull factor to Ogun, made it to introduce various policies and reforms, and also deploy technology to improve the efficiency of government and increase the state ranking on the ease of doing business index.

“Today, we are adjudged one of the safest if not the safest state in the country. We have constructed over 400km of both interstate roads in three years and six months and worth mentioning that we have at least one road in every one of our 20 local government areas and we have built over 1,200 affordable homes across the state creating jobs for artisans.

“We will be back here very soon to commission our international agro cargo airport in another few months and our deep sea port is also loading,” Abiodun submitted.

Gangan Gupta, President of the ARISE Integrated Industrial Platforms, said the company has invested in several African countries, including Togo, Benin, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Gabon, Rwanda, Republic of Congo, amongst others, saying his company was happy to be in Ogun State and ready to build an industrial platforms capable of transforming the economy and contributing to industrial development of the state.

Minister of Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo, who was physically present at the occasion, described the project as a landmark and a step forward in the economic revolution of Nigeria. He added that SAPZ would help in agri-industrialization and create jobs for the people, noting “this is going to be a regional trading hub.”
The minister acknowledged that Ogun State has a rich history in agriculture and agro processing in the country and commended the governor for his visionary leadership and brokering of the partnership which has attracted a multi-million-dollar project to the state in particular and Nigeria as a whole.

Chairman, the Senate Committee on Industries, Adetokunbo Abiru, also described the project as an example of how the private sector could be harnessed for the economic development of Nigeria, expressing confidence that the SAPZ would boost the agricultural value chain, raise revenue, create jobs and boost export.

Chairman of the African Finance Corporation, Sumaila Zubairu, said that the project sitting on 5,100 hectares of land, will change the landscape of Ogun State in 18 months.

“Through value-addition like this, we can create jobs and wealth. We will continue to play our role in enhancing the industrial development in Nigeria and Ogun,” Zubairu added.

Also, AFREXIM Bank President, Benedict Oramah, attributed the peace and security in Ogun State as key factors that attracted Arise Consortium to it, and commended the governor for creating enabling environment for both local and foreign investments in the state.

Commissioner for Finance and Chief Economic Adviser to the Governor, Dapo Okubadejo, noted that the SAPZ signified a major milestone in the economic revolution of Ogun State.

He disclosed that no fewer than 30 laws had been enacted to simplify business operations and reduce administrative bottlenecks in the state, adding that six business clusters were also established across the state, to enhance investment drive.
Giving his royal blessing to the project sited in his domain, the Akarigbo of Remoland, Oba Babatunde Ajayi, who was represented at the ceremony, said he and his people have been praying and looking forward to the take-off of the project, which stands to benefit the entire community. He assured that all the traditional rulers and the people are in full support of the project.

Mrs. Arike Adesanya, a petty trader in Ilisan expressed joy that the project is finally taking shape.

“This airport is something we have been waiting for, for a long time now. I was in junior secondary when we were told that an airport would be built in this town. Since then, nothing was done till the tenure of Governor Abiodun. I am happy that very soon, Ilisan and all the towns here will be like Lagos where business will thrive.

Ayinde Adebanjo, a farmer, expressed delight with the coming of the project. “I am happy because my farm produce will no longer get spoilt. I will just package it and take it to the airport for sale,” he said.

From the activities that have begun to unfold at the site, one can say that it is not just a stand-alone airport, but one that incorporate other mode of transportation like road and water as encapsulated in the state transportation system.

With the coming of Arise Integrated Industrial Platforms to invest $400m in the first instance at the airport, the Special Agro-Processing Zone will improve production cost efficiencies through shared infrastructure and facilities, which in turn increase the productivity competitiveness of agricultural value chains

The SAPZ will contribute to realizing Governor Abiodun’s vision of making the state the fastest growing economy in the country and the industrial hub of the West African sub-region.

Having a dream is one thing and making the dream become a reality is a different ball game altogether. Like the founder of Walt Disney company once said: “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
The SAPZ would not have come on board if not for the resilience and determination of Governor Abiodun, who saw to the take-off of the agro cargo airport.

In 2007 the government of the then governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel decided on a cargo airport for Ogun State. The Ilisan Remo site for the cargo airport was chosen due to its proximity to Lagos, the fifth largest economy in Africa, as well as access to the ever busy Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the Lagos- Ijebu-Ode-Ore-Benin Expressway. Though the administration got the necessary approvals from relevant government agencies and carried out the needed surveys, the project did not get off the ground before the expiration of the Daniel’s administration.

The lot fell on the government of Prince Abiodun, who took over from Ibikunle Amosun. Although, Amosun succeeded Daniel as governor and was in charge for eight years, nothing was done to continue with the project. Instead, Amosun made attempt to abandon the project, a move that smelt politics. He secured another large expanse of land at Wasinmi on the Abeokuta-Lagos Expressway for a commercial airport project which also didn’t get off the ground.

For a man who has on several occasions said his coming to governance is to make Ogun State more prosperous for every indigene and residents, moving the airport from mere paper work to reality is a plus for the Gateway State.

• Joseph wrote through koredejoseph@aol.com

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