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Enugu takes bold step to $30bn economy with investment roundtable

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…as UK Govt, World Bank, Afreximbank, AfDB, others pledge support

The Enugu State Government on Friday took a bold step towards the actualisation of a $30 billion economy in the next four to eight years, as the state successfully hosted an inaugural Enugu State Investment and Economic Growth Stakeholders Roundtable.

This was even as the administration of the state governor, Dr Peter Mbah used the occasion to unveil 30 investment opportunities worth over $2.1 billion, which it said were projects that would directly impact the lives of the people and change the economic fortunes of the state.

The event saw a large turn out of community of investors, development bankers, international development agencies, and other critical stakeholders, including the Government of the United Kingdom (UK), the World Bank, African Export-Import Bank (AfriExim), African Development Bank (AfDB), United Kingdom Department for Business and Trade, and the Infrastructure Credit Guarantee Company.

Speaking at the event, which was attended by prospective local and international investors, development financiers, and members of the diplomatic community, Mbah said that the theme of the event, “Leveraging Public-Private Partnerships”, underscored the administration’s vision to accelerate sustainable economic transformation powered by the private sector.

He urged investors to look towards Enugu as a preferred investment destination, saying the state was taking deliberate steps to create a friendly and de-risked business environment that would guarantee impressive returns on investment.

“The roundtable marks a new beginning for long-term partnerships and cooperation for shared prosperity, which will catalyse a sustainable, resilient, and prosperous Enugu,” he stated, assuring that Enugu would regain its lost glory in no time.

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“Enugu State will become Nigeria/South East’s most remarkable success story driven by industrialisation and structural economic transformation, responsible public financial management, robust growth in trade and investment, and sustainable and inclusive infrastructural development.

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“The magnitude of the efforts required to achieve our transformation goal calls for a shift away from the current dominant public sector model and towards policies and business environment reforms that will attract increased private sector and African diaspora participation in financing and delivering infrastructure and services in critical economic areas.

“We are no longer satisfied with the status quo, and so, we are presenting a pipeline of 30 potential project opportunities with an estimated investment value of more than 2.1 billion dollars.

“My vision is to transition the state from public to private investment-led growth, which will eventually close our physical and social infrastructure gap, create hundreds of thousands of jobs for the people, and expand our economy towards the 30-billion-dollar growth trajectory that we know is achievable”, he stated.

While laying out the State’s Integrated Sector-Based Productivity Growth Strategy, which charts a clear path to achieving the $30 billion GDP growth target, Mbah said: “We know that our goals for economic transformation are challenging, but they are attainable, and my government is resolute in its commitment to deliver on the promise we made to Ndi Enugu”.

Meanwhile, the strategic sector opportunities and indicative projects presented by the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Chidiebere Onyia, span transport and logistics, agriculture, energy and minerals, healthcare, eco-tourism and hospitality, aviation, as well as information and communication technology (ICT) sectors.

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Speaking at the event, the Deputy British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Jonny Baxter, commended the Dr. Mbah administration for putting together the roundtable.

“This round table discussion is for us to understand and engage in the state’s transformation agendas and to also position the state into one of Africa’s hubs by accessing the investment opportunities that are existing.

“It should also be known that cashew, coconut and plantain are products being planted in Enugu and other South Eastern States are among the top priority products which are under the scheme. I will be delighted to ask people in the UK to look out for the cashew nuts produced in Enugu when they buy it in the UK. Cocoyam, which is also produced in the state, is also a priority product.

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“We are all working together so that we can transform the enormous economic potentials in the state into a prosperous reality. I look forward to fostering a mutual investment and trading relationships between the UK and Enugu State,” he said.

Commending the roundtable, which he described as a demonstration of Mbah’s vision to transform Enugu’s economy, the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, said there could not be job creation and sustainable economic growth and development without private-sector investments.

On his part, the Regional Chief Operating Officer, Afrexim Bank, Eric Intong, said the financial institution was ready to support the Enugu State government in project preparation to ensure their realisation, adding that Afrexim Bank was poised to trade with Enugu.

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North Central Development Commission establishment bill passes 2nd reading in Senate

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JUST IN: Nigerian senators donate one month salaries to survivors of Kaduna bombing
The Nigerian senate

The bill seeking the establishment of North Central Development Commission (NCDC), being sponsored by the Senator representing Benue South Senatorial District and Senate Minority Leader, Comrade Abba Moro and co-sponsored by all the senators from North Central, on Wednesday, passed Second Reading on the floor of the senate.

The bill, which passed First Reading on the 5th of October, 2023, was first sponsored in the 9th Senate by Senator Moro where it passed First and Second Readings but could not get presidential assent before the expiration of the 9th Senate.

In his lead debate, the Senate Minority Leader said the Commission, when established would be saddled with the responsibility of receiving and managing funds from the federal government and donors for the resettlement, rehabilitation, integration and reconstruction of roads, houses and business premises of victims of flood and farmers/herders clashes, communal clashes, construction of large format drainage systems, dredging of rivers Niger and Benue to control flood and incidental matters, as well as tackling the menace of poverty, illiteracy and other related environmental or developmental challenges facing the North Central Nigeria.

The Lead debate reads;

“Mr. President, Distinguished colleagues.

“May I humbly seek your leave to lead the debate on this very important Bill.

“Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, the North Central Zone of Nigeria, in no particular order, comprises the following geopolitical States of the Federation; Kogi, Niger, Benue, Kwara, Plateau, Nasarawa and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

“Over the past years, Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, the North Central Zone of Nigeria has been devastated and left in bollix by the noxious antics of terrorists, incidents of flood and erosion, insurgency, kidnapping, herder/farmer clashes, poverty, high rate of illiteracy, to mention but a few.

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“The Zone is blessed with several mineral resources that can boost the economy of Nigeria if properly harnessed. However, because of the breeding aforementioned, the North Central Zone is handicapped and cannot do much in this regard.

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“May I mention here, Mr. President, that the North Central Zone of Nigeria hosts two of West Africa’s great rivers;(a) The River Niger and (b) The River Benue, which flows into Nigeria from The Republic of Cameroon. The two rivers meet in North central Nigeria and flow as one river on to the Atlantic Ocean. However, the presence of these two rivers has made flood a perennial challenge in the region with increasing intensity every year, leaving not just the North Central Zone but the entire Country with great losses and trauma.

“Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, according to statistics from the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, In 2012 and very recently, devastating flooding forced two million Nigerians from their homes and over 363 people died in Plateau, Benue, Niger, Nasarawa and Kogi states.

“Between 2016 and 2023, more than 92,000 people were displaced and over 578 died from incidents of flood in Benue, Kogi, Niger and Nasarawa States, and other parts of Nigeria.

“Annually, Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, hundreds of thousands of acres of farmlands are damaged in the North Central Zone of Nigeria where the people are largely agrarian as a result of flood, and this happens, Mr. President, whenever there is a heavy precipitation upstream on the Benue and Niger Rivers. On the Benue River, the main problem is Lagdo Dam in Cameroon, which usually causes the river to swell when water is released. Flood has caused a lot of damage to the North Central Zone. In Agatu, Benue state, farmers continue to lose their crops and farmland to flood and erosion. This is applicable to states like Niger, Nasarawa and Plateau, which have suffered loses and trauma because of flood and erosion.

“Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, it is no longer news that over the years, herder/farmer clashes in North Central Nigeria, especially in Benue State, have continuously made headlines. Consequently, infrastructure ranging from places of worship, roads, hospitals, schools, houses, recreational centres, etc, have been left tattered, shattered and pierced by bullets. Women, children, pregnant women and in fact the entire population is a victim of the atrocities perpetrated by suspected herders and bandits in the North Central Zone of Nigeria. Even animals and the environment are not spared the chaos and conundrum imparted on the Zone by the perpetrators of these unwholesome acts.

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“Mr President, Distinguished Colleagues, between February 24, 2016 and January 2024, rural dwellers in 45 villages of Agatu LGA were awakened by sound of gunshots and flicks of matchets as suspected militias swept into the area unleashing an orgy of violence. The unfortunate incident left, in its wake, more than 800 persons dead, among which were children and women, with more than 59,000 persons displaced from their ancestral homes. The displaced communities have been scattered with many seeking refuge in various Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps scattered across Benue and Nasarawa states.

“Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, this Bill seeks, therefore, to; establish the North Central Development Commission (NCDC) saddled with the responsibility of receiving and managing funds allocated by the Federal Government and Donors (International and Local Donors) for the resettlement, rehabilitation, integration and reconstruction of roads, houses, farmlands and business premises affected by flood, erosion and farmer/herder clashes, terrorist activities, construction of large format drainage systems, dredging of rivers Benue and Niger to control flood, erosion and other incidental matters, as well as tackling the menace of poverty, illiteracy and other related environmental and developmental challenges in the North Central Nigeria.

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“Mr President, Distinguished Colleagues, we all know the bond and attachment a man has with his ancestral home, and the psychological effects of being displaced from same. The funds allocated by the Federal Government and Donors (Local and International) will be used to rehabilitate displaced persons, and to indeminify them to their former economic status.

“Recent advocacy has centered on the need to make Nigeria’s geopolitical zones centers of development, as intervening centers of development between the states and the Federal government. It is our hope that the aggregate of developments via the instrument of Zonal Development commissions will make Nigeria stronger and greater again. Mr President, unbundling the federal government now has become an imperative need given the development inertia of most states and the near emasculation of local government councils in Nigeria.

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“Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, may I mention that this Bill was actually initiated by my humble self in the 9th Senate , passed all necessary legislative processes and got a resounding support from every quarter of the nation. However, the Bill was unable to get to the presidency for further necessary action before the end of the 9th Senate.

“Today, Mr President, Distinguished Colleagues, in the 10th Senate this Bill is co-sponsored by all senators from North Central Zone across party lines.

“Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, I humbly urge you all to support this Bill for the Establishment of the North Central Development Commission (NCDC) and pass it appropriately for a second reading for equity, fairness and the development of our country.

“Thank you all for your kind audience.”

In his remarks,the Senate President, Senator Godswill Akpabio thanked Sen Abba Moro and all the co-sponsors of the bill for sponsoring the all-important bill. He said development in any part of the country was development for all Nigerians.

He agreed with the sponsors of the bill that North Central deserved a development commission to address the myriads of challenges confronting the region.

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The bill was refered to the committee on Special Duties to report back to the Senate within four weeks.

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Cement price hike: FG threatens to open borders

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Cement price hike: FG threatens to open borders

The Federal Government says it might open the borders for cement importation, if manufacturers of the product fail to bring down the cost.

The Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Mr Ahmed Dangiwa issued the threat on Tuesday in Abuja at a meeting with Cement and Building Materials Manufacturers.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports the meeting was summoned to address the astronomical increase in the cost of cement nationwide.

The minister expressed concerns that in the past couple of months, the country had witnessed a recurring alarming increase in the prices of cement and other building materials.

“Clearly, this is a crisis for housing delivery. An increase in essential building materials means an increase in the prices of houses.

“We are not the only country facing this challenges, many countries are facing the same type of challenges that we’re facing, some even worse than that.

“But, as patriotic citizens, we have to rally round the country when there is crisis, to ensure that we do our best to save the situation,” he said.

The minister added: “Honestly speaking, we have to sit down and look at this critically and know how you should go back and think of it.

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“The government stopped importation of cement in other to empower you to produce more and sell cheaper.

“Otherwise the government can open the borders for mass importation of cement, the price will crash, but you will have no business to do”.

Dangiwa said the reasons given by cement manufacturers for the price increase – high cost of gas and manufacturing equipment – were not enough for such astronomical pricing.

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He expressed his displeasure at the position of Cement Manufacturer Association of Nigeria (CEMAN) that the association “does not interfer with the pricing of cement”.

He said the association should not just fold its arms when things were going wrong.

“One person cannot be selling at N3500 per bag and another selling at N7000 per bag and you cannot call them to order.

“The association is expected to monitor price control, otherwise the association has no need to exist,” he said.

Earlier, Mr Salako James , Executive Secretary, CEMAN, said the housing policy of the administration of President Bola Tinubu was laudable and every responsible Nigerian has to key into it.

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He, however, identified some areas of concerns and appealed to the government to look into them in order to tackle the issue of cement pricing.

Salako identified the challenges of gas supply to heavy users like the cement industry and urged the government to create a window whereby gas will be bought with Naira instead of dollar.

He also complained about the distribution channel, stressing tha there was a great difference between the price from the manufacturers and the market price.

He, therefore called for government intervention to help stabilise the situation and bring sanity to the economy.

NAN reports that at the end of the meeting, the minister directed that a committee should be constituted to review the situation and come out with implementable resolutions that would benefit the common Nigerian.

NAN also reports that the three major cement producers, Dangote Plc, BUA Plc and Lafarge Plc were represented as well as other industry stakeholders.

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NAN

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Goods worth millions lost  as fire razes shops in Anambra

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Goods worth millions lost  as fire razes shops in Anambra

Goods worth millions were destroyed when an early morning fire razed four shops in Anambra market.

The incident occurred on Wednesday morning at Nkwo Market, Umunze in Orumba South Local Government Area of Anambra State.

The inferno, which occurred around 1.20am, was reportedly caused by power surge.

Two days ago, Anambra Commissioner for Spécial Duties, Hon Beverly Ikpeazu -Nkemdiche, had raised the alarm over incessant fire outbreaks in the State in récent time.

She lamented that 24 of such incidents occurred within one month, advising the public to take proactive measures on how to prevent them

Nkemdiche said nine of such incidents happened in January, while eight took place in February already.

According to eyewitnesses, goods worth millions, including household items and plastic materials were destroyed by the fire.

State Fire Chief, Dr. Martin Agbili, who confirmed the incident, said no life was lost in the inferno,

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He said his men who arrived the scene shortly after they were alerted controlled the fire from spreading the entire market.

According to Agbili: “At about 0120hrs (1.20am) of Wednesday 21-02-2024, Anambra State Fire Service, received a distress call of fire outbreak at Nkwo Market, Umunze.

“Immediately, we deployed our fire truck and gallant firefighters to the fire scene. We fought, controlled and extinguished with the assistance of some traders and the public who came out at that incident time.

“The cause of the fire was unknown but suspected power surge. There was no casualty or lost of life during the fire incident but about four (4) shops were affected, mainly provision shops, plastic shop and attachments shop.

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“Always remember to switch off your electrical and electronics appliances when they are not in use to avoid power surge.”

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