They call it regional integration
A few days before he was killed, the then Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, (1909-1966), Sardauna of Sokoto incorporated a company called the New Nigeria Development Company. The company, formed in 1946, was designed to be a Conglomerate with interests in Agriculture, Mining, Capital Market, Telecommunications and Education. The last we heard about the company was on August 26, 2013 when the Chairman of the Northern state governor’s forum at that time, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, the former governor of Niger state advised the company to sell 49% of its equity to members of the public.
Dr. Aliyu explained that the poor performance of the company has necessitated the need for some of its investment such as the Arewa Hotels to be sold to the public. In his words “we should be concerned that after 56 years of operations, the NNDC is performing epileptically”.
It is sad that those who have managed the NNDC have not been fair to the legacy of Sir Ahmadu Bello. On May 27 1967, by virtue of states creation and transitional provision decree 14 of 1967, General Yakubu Dan Yumma Gowon created 12 states in the country—six from the old Northern region, three from the old Eastern region and three from the old Western region. By decree 39 of June 24 1967, he created the interim common Services Agency to take over the assets of the old Northern region and the Eastern States Interim Assets And Liabilities Agencies (ESIALA) to take over the assets of the three states of Rivers, East Central State and South Eastern state.
On assuming power in July 1975, General Murtala Muhammed (1938-1976) disbanded the two agencies.What of the assets of the two agencies, especially that of ESIALA with financially endowed institutions like the Eastern Region Marketing Board once headed by Sir Loius Odumegwu-Ojukwu Eastern Nigeria Finance Corporation, Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation, African Continental Bank, etc.
Even till today questions are being asked on what happened to the abandoned properties implementation committee headed by then Major David Alechenu Bonaventure Mark set up by decree No 90 of 1978 following the abrogation of several edicts including that of South Eastern state edict No 10 of May 1970.
There is another story elsewhere. On Tuesday January19 this year at Cocoa House, Ibadan, the governors of the owner-states of O’dua Investment Company met in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital. The current Chairman of the O’dua Investment Company, Dr. Olusegun Rahman Mimiko, the governor of Ondo State announced that the Odua Investment Company has invited Lagos state to join the company as the sixth shareholder of the conglomerate. At present, the company is owned by the governments of Oyo, Osun, Ogun, Ekiti and Ondo states. Twenty four hours after the announcement, the governor of Lagos state, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode accepted the invitation and declared his support for the growth of the company.
The Company recorded a revenue growth of 4.2 billion naira last year as against 4.5 billion in 2013. The spokesman for Dr. Mimiko disclosed that the company targets 20billion naira asset base by 2019. He disclosed further that the proposed payment of gross dividend of 167 million naira at its yearly general meeting was approved and paid to all the owner states.
Odua Investment Company was incorporated in 1976 to take over the business interests of the former Western State following the creation of Oyo, Ogun and Ondo states out of the old Western State by General Murtala Ramat Muhammed on February 3, 1976, who was assassinated ten days after. The company held its first meeting on March 3, 1976 with Chief Christopher Sunday Olutunde Akande from Arigidi in Akoko Local Government in the present Ondo State as the pioneer managing director. Chief Akande who was Secretary to the Military Government of Oyo State later became the President of the Nigeria Society of Engineers between 1974-1975. I covered the first sitting of the company as the state Editor of the Kwara State owned newspaper, THE NIGERIA HERALD. I remember with nostalgia when Colonel David Medayeshe-Jemibewon, Governor of Oyo State, Lt. Colonel Seidu Ayodele Balogun, governor of Ogun State and Wing Commander David Ita Ikpeme governor of Ondo State addressed the press on that day.
No doubt, Odua Investment Company has been a huge success and kudos must be given for those who have kept the flag flying for that company from 1976 till date, including Premiers, Sole Administrators, Governors both civilian and military, in spite of their ideological and political differences It has not been too rosy for the company though, for most of its subsidiaries are no more. A case in point is the National Bank, which was acquired by the Western Region on April 1 1961 and liquidated in 1992 due to mismanagement and corruption.
A long time ago, the National Bank was the envy of all Banks in Nigeria with assets in London and in most parts of Nigeria. Acclaim must be given also to the man who established most of the companies and subsidiaries that are now grouped together as Odua Investment Company including free education, free health services, farm settlements, and so on. I am referring to Chief Jeremiah Oyeniyi Obafemi Awolowo who ruled the Western Region as Premier from October 1 1954 to December 15 1959. Chief Awolowo formed the Action Group on March 21 1951. The Motto of the party was “Freedom For All, Life More Abundant”. The Action group was formed by Chief Awolowo and seven others at a meeting in his house at Okebola in Ibadan.
The seven others were S.O. Shonibare, then manger, UAC (Technical) Ltd, Lagos, later managing Director of the Amalgamated Press of Nigeria Ltd and federal publicity secretary of the AG; Chief AbiodunAkerele, a lawyer; S.T. Oredein, secretary of the British-American Tobacco Company (BATC) Workers Union, later principal organizing secretary of the AG in the Western Region; Olatunji Dosunmu a journalist, later administrative secretary of the AG in the Western Region; J. Ola Adigun,a journalist; Adeniga Akinsanya, manager of the African Press Ltd, Ibadan, and Ayo Akinsanya, a Chemist
Sadly, unlike the era of Chief Awolowo, state governments of the old western region cannot pay salaries of workers now not to talk of establishing industries and factories. The invitation to Lagos to join Odua Investment Company is well understood, for Lagos has been part of Western Region until October 1, 1954 when the adoption of the Oliver Lyttelton Constitution detached it from Western Region making it a federal territory. It was the same constitution that detached Southern Cameroons from Eastern Region.
Lagos has always been the centre of commerce from the days of Mr. T.F. Barker who first administered the city between 1956-1957 to Alhaji Muhammadu Ribadu, (1910-1965) who became Minister for Lagos affairs between 1957-1960 followed by the Mutawallin Katsina, Alhaji Musa Yar’Adua who also served as Minister of Lagos between 1960-1966.
Lagos State now generates 24.5billion naira monthly from internal revenue although some of us who live in Lagos are over- taxed with businesses dying on a daily basis and nothing much to show for the over taxation. Lagos state government is getting richer per day through over taxation while the people of the state are getting poorer, an urgent issue, which must be addressed. Ogun State is not doing badly too with 6billion naira every month. On May 25 this year the Lagos state government signed a memorandum of understanding to start the construction of the 38 kilometer fourth Mainland Bridge.
The bridge, which is expected to cost N844 billion will be constructed under the Build, Own and Transfer concession of 40 years under the Public-Private-Partnership initiative of the Lagos State Government. At present, Lagos is the sixth largest city in the world and has the smallest land mass in Africa. It is projected to be the third biggest conurbation in the world next year. At present, Lagos is West African’s most resourceful single trading market with a population of about 22 million vibrant people.
What the Odua governors are presently doing is, in the words of Governor Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola of Osun State, the “intercooperation, friendship and interdependence”. Regional integration does not offend the spirit of the constitution and the spirit of Federalism. If each of the regions should be allowed to develop on its own, this will enhance unity, stability and better understanding.Regional integration enhances unity even as diverse as we are. And I don’t think it negates the demand for restructuring which has become inevitable. It should be encouraged.
• Eric Teniola, lives in Lagos.