Boye Oyewumi, a former APC Governorship Aspirant is the Special Adviser to Ondo State Governor on Development and Investment/ Chief Executive Officer of the newly established Ondo State Development and Investment Promotion Agency (ONDIPA). In this interview, 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.
Tell us about the newly formed ONDIPA that you are coordinating for Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu
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, a lot of our teeming youth 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. You cannot grow without industrialising the state, so ONDIPA is meant to be one structure to bring an investment friendly face to investors, to make sure they don’t get turned down by the bureaucracy of government and that they have access to land. All the issues about land acquisition are resolved speedily, so that they can have the kind of support they need. It is an organisation that is managed almost like a private sector, so the inefficiency of the public sector are taken out; the efficiency of the private sector are integrated.
How do you tend to facilitate investors to the state?
Well, 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. This government is creating access, to make sure when they get here, they understand this is an investment area; they are freshen up to understand what we have to offer. The states that have done well attracting foreign direct investment are those that have sole agency to drive their investment projects. That specialise a unit that is investor friendly and does everything humanly possible to make investors comfortable; a unit that will make a good deal for the State.
We have heard of so many MOU in the past and nothing happened, hope your new innovation would not end as usual?
I don’t know if you have heard from somewhere else, I can only speak of Ondo state, the MoUs we signed of late are working perfectly well as planned and envisaged. You just wait and see thing for yourself. Akeredolu means business. We mean business. ONDIPA means business.
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, the major announcement of it by therelevant stakeholders will be made. 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.
Who is coordinating license recently awarded to by Federal Government to Ondo State to mine bitumen?
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 become 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 be35minutes 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 sea port in the state?
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.
Since no business can survive without a good power supply, what is the government doing to improve the electricity supply in the state?
The government is already having discussion with people who will provide embedded power in the three senatorial districts of the state, we are in negotiation table with relevant stake holders, each of the senatorial district in Ondo State will have an industrial park to be powered so that investors will not come here to run on generator. The fact that we have ONDIPA is enough for investors to come in into the state. Now you don’t need to move from ministry to ministry to pursue licences and permits etc for your business, the issue of getting land easily by investors is also being looked into.
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.
Where do you see the economy of the state in the next five years?
The economy of Ondo state in the next five years will grow rapidly, it’s very obvious, the fact that we are sitting here alone tells you, you see a lot of hospitality outfits growing up. If you were at the last presidential summit in Akure, am sure you have that what happened has never happen before in the history of this state; another one is ONDIPA to attract investors to the state, for the first time in 9 years, we have air traffic from Akure to Lagos, they have just increased the frequency to Abuja, a road that is coming up from Ayetoro to Ijebu Lekki, we also opening up the marine corridor again. So investors are coming in with bankable proposals, so in the next five years, a lot of business outfits would have sprang up. Agriculture is very important to this government and this has informed our Farm to Market initiative in all the local government areas of the state. We are also opening up the rural roads because access creates market, pure and simple.