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Mbah: We’ll grow Enugu Economy from $4bn to $30bn in eights years

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Enugu State Governor, Dr Peter Mbah

On the sidelines of the maiden Enugu State Investment Roundtable, the state governor, Mr Peter Ndubuisi Mbah spoke on his plans to grow the economy from $4 billion to $30 billion, efforts to de-risk access to land completely and the multiple initiatives deployed in the area of ease of doing business in the state.

The Advocate presents the Excerpts:

Congratulations on your victory, its been 100 days since you assumed office as governor, what has been your experience?

It has been quite an exciting journey. So far, nothing has taken us unawares because we did an extensive study of the situation. We knew what we were coming into. And when we made promises to our people, we gave timelines. The reason we backed our promises up with timelines was because we were aware of the things that we needed to deal with, and we knew that the timelines we committed to were sacred and we were not going to deviate from it.

We did promise that we are going to have an investment forum within 100 days of our swearing in. That is what we are doing right now. It is not Just about the optics or symbolism of making a promise and keeping it, but it is essentially the substance, the fact that there are huge takeaways or success from what we have done today.

You would recall that we got the mandate of the Enugu people entrusted into our hands on the basis of all the promises that we made. One of them was to grow the economy from $4 billion to $30 billion. And we also said to them that that growth will be driven by private sector, it will be enabled by government, but driven by private sector.

We were deliberate because we knew that in order for us to tackle unemployment and generate wealth, we needed private sector investments. It is not going to come from the public sector. And for the private sector to invest, they also need the government to do certain things.

We hear a lot about de-risking investments. It is not even the emphasis about the ease of doing business, which is providing infrastructure security and the ease of obtaining your business permit and construction business property permits. It is about understanding how projects are structured how to make the program attractive for the private sector to come in. So, you have to identify the aspect of the project that you must de-risk. Whether it is the technical risk or the commercial risk. This is because businesses are more than happy to take financial risk, but they are not interested when it has to do with political risk, technical risk and go-to-market risk. Only a few businesses can undertake such risks.

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But because we want an inflow of businesses, we want this state to be a preferred destination for business, investments, tourism and living. That means that we have to go the extra mile, which is essentially what we are doing in today’s event.

During your speech at the investment roundtable, you enumerated a lot of sectors you want to drive, but there are concerns you may not be able to do everything at a go. Can you tell us your priority areas that you want to focus on? Secondly, you talked about private sector financing, are you considering the bond market like other states have done?

Certainly, our strategy is to have creative alternative financing models. This means that first of all, the current financing model, which focuses on revenue from the federation accounts is suboptimal. It is not going to work with this current model. Therefore, we all have agreed that this current model cannot serve us if we want to intervene across the critical sectors of our economy.

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What that means is that we need to ask, what are the other financing models we have to deploy? First, we have to look at what we have control over. We have control over mobilising our domestic revenue/resources. So, we need to identify how to optimize our internally generated revenue. ‘What are those impediments that are stopping me from optimally collecting revenue from the service or business enabling MDAs? Or just expanding the tax net?’ I am not saying increasing your tax rates, I mean expanding your tax net.

We have basically done all that within the last 90 days that we have been sworn in. What we have done in our revenue-enabling ministry is to first of all to elevate the service levels to mix the collection of payments and services. You can, from the comfort of your home, assess whatever service, particularly with the Land administration and management. We have automated the systems there so you can apply for your C of O within 72 hours and obtain them. You can access almost all the services you need within the land ministry. It has all been automated. That shifts up our revenue because we are now able to fast-track services and attract payments because they are no longer collected in cash, you have to assess and pay online and it goes directly to the state treasury single account. There are a lot of things that we’ve done to mobilize the domestic revenue.

The projects we have outlined are very deliberate though the time we had did not permit us to do some detailed analysis. One of the speakers talked about our area of comparative advantages, and that is the reality. Take a look at agriculture for instance, the areas we are focused on are areas we have almost four times factor productivity. Therefore, our rates of productivity in those areas are actually four times better than in any other state. If you take soybeans for example, which is one crop that we are interested in, our factor productivity in soybeans is almost four times. So, the yield you will get from planting soybeans in our land is four times more than what you get in any other state, even in the north.

We have identified those areas of comparative advantages and those are the things we are focusing on. The same thing will go for cassava, palm products and all that. Again, on the value chains, we must go beyond just scaling our production; we must get involved in processing. That is why we are talking about the special agro-processing zones, which we hope to do at least three across the three senatorial zones in the state.

In terms of the harmonisation of our land tenure, which one of the speakers raised, our plan is to de-risk access to land completely. As an investor, you have absolutely no business worrying about interfacing with the communities. This is because we have earmarked about 300,000 hectares of land for agriculture. And we are providing access roads to those lands. We have parcellated them to different sizes; 1,000, 10,000, 5,000 depending on the appetite of the investor and how big we have profiled them to be.

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Again, there are a number of multiple initiatives we have deployed in the area of ease of doing business. In infrastructure we are also doing a lot because we know that businesses have to make profits and we do not want to burden them with the provision of roads, water and all that. When we say Enugu is going to be the number one destination for business, we are not paying lip service to it. And as business owners and those with background of strong entrepreneurship, we understand what it takes to invest, hence, we make sure that the ground is well watered.

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Your plans look good on paper and we believe you will achieve your goals. However, what assurance can you give investors that when you have served your two terms the next governor will continue with your projects?

Out of the three-pronged approach we have taken at strategic objectives. One is the strengthening of our institutions. We are not just building these around us as individuals, we are also building institutions. These are policies that will outlive anyone. At the end of the day, if you have strengthened the institutions through a policy framework and also building systems, it should not be easy for one single person to come and verse that.

We are strengthening our public service sector by ensuring that a lot of these things that we are doing have regulatory and legal framework embedded. This makes it almost impossible for any one person to reverse. Just like in the education sector where we are doing 260 basic model schools across, and these schools are designed to provide world-class quality education to our people. Any child in this state from age 3 must have access to this quality education where you have an interactive board in the class, and even have access to ICT at that tender age. Could there be anybody who will come back after eight years to see he is going to shut down those schools? No, because it is already entrenched. And those people you are training would stand up to ask for the right thing, because you have already exposed them to what quality leadership should be.

You were a top player in the private sector but politics is a different mater entirely, how courageous can you be when there is pushback?

Do a peep into my background. You will discover that I came into a sector where we were regarded as late entrance and as ‘one other oil company’. Fast forward 14 years after, we became the market leader having 23 per cent market share with the next company having just 5 per cent. And the sector we are talking about is an already established sector; the oil and gas downstream sector. It is not like a nascent market where new players are struggling for market shares. It is a market that had already been dominated by the incumbents, so the market shares had been taken over. So, we came in as late entrance in 2008, and by 2021 where the market leaders, we were number one in the market. It can only take courageous execution of strategies to achieve that. When I was going around talking to the people of Enugu about my plans for the state. I use words like disruptive innovation, quantum leap, leap frogging and all that which is essentially what we are going to do. We are going to disrupt the sub optimization and do things differently.  If you look at the pattern of growth that we have had in the last 24 years, we were able to grow the economy marginally, but that is not what we have proposed. We have not paid attention to the pattern or the trends, because if we did, we would have used the same rate of growth to measure ourselves.

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What we have done is to say that we are going to grow sevenfold in the next 4 to 8 years. That indicates exponential growth. It means that you have to come with disruptive innovations; you have to do things that are radical. Things that are disruptive in a positive way. That is why we have talked about the creative alternative financing model.

There are structures that were put in place to make sure that our cash flow is not impeded yet being able to finance major projects. You know we need about two trillion in the next four years to achieve the sort of infrastructural development and cutting-edge social services we want to provide for our people. If you look at the revenue from the federation account and took everything to do capital projects, it is not up to 400 billion in the next four years. And even out of that money you are currently receiving, a huge chunk of it is dedicated to your recurrent exposure.

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How do you plan to mobilise the ordinary man on the streets to key into plans for the state and what are the verticals for your Diaspora project?

Our people are increasingly becoming interested in good governance. And you know that our young people, and indeed even our politicians, are no longer sitting on the fence. They are now all aware that they must demand good governance from their leaders. Good governance, essentially, is felt; If you walk into your house and turn on your switch and light come on, nobody will tell you what good governance is. If you turn on your tap and the water is flowing, nobody needs to tell you what good governance is. If you drive on a road and it is well paved and you will not have to take your vehicle to the mechanic every now and then because of bad roads, nobody needs to tell you what governance is.  You have to always know that there is a world of difference between politics and governance. And of course, the minute you are done with your electioneering processes, you need to focus on governance. And this governance must be inclusive. You have to be able to impact all Sections of the states.

You also do that believing that the people will see and feel it, that these things are happening and that there is a huge change. Our hope is that there will be a whole lot of interest. You notice that in the past what has happened is that the diaspora has been invested a lot in this economy, but it has largely been on consumption. Therefore, you see all the remittances that you see flowing in from the diaspora community into our states and other parts of the country being used for consumption.

Our view on that is clear and actually one of the reasons why we have this forum. So that we can actually set up a project that could attract the Diasporas to Invest. So, they can look beyond just sending remittances for consumption, but they can also identify some social impactful projects, which would also give them good returns on investments. That is why we talk about bankability. What we want to do at some point is also to have a diaspora bond that is tradable where once you have set up these funds and the money is coming in, which is used to execute projects. It would become a trade finance structure so that you create a platform for it that allows people to trade.

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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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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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