2. It’s my pleasure to join you at this forum organized to share thoughts and generate concepts required to explore and harness non-oil export potentials in the South-South geo-political region. I congratulate the organizers, Nigeria Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) for this initiative. I also acknowledge and salute the collaborating States and the NDDC, the co-hosts of this event, for their commitment towards making it a reality.
3. I think we all agree that any time the South South, also known as the Niger Delta region, crops up in any conversation, oil and gas readily come to mind. As with the national economy, the economies of these States have been largely dependent on the oil and gas sector. Evidently, this distorted mono product economy does not bode well for inclusive economic growth and sustainable development. Oil is a depleting resource and, even more importantly, the advent of electric cars is a clear and present danger to the future of this industry. Hence, the urgent need for the Governments in the Niger Delta region to expeditiously diversify the economy and maximize our non-oil export potentials for accelerated economic development.
4. To achieve this, it is exigent that we first take full advantage of our unique location. In business, it is axiomatic that being in the right location is critical for success. Our natural location in the coastal region puts us in a prime position to engage in export-import trade. Take Delta State, for instance. It has four seaports in Warri, Burutu, Sapele and Koko, which combined capacity, exceeds that of all the other ports in Nigeria put together. You can, therefore, imagine the quantum of trade and commerce, as well as the limitless possibilities that exist for investment and employment opportunities when just two of the ports are fully functional.
5. While the Federal Government has commenced the dredging of Escravos Bar for this purpose, the Delta State Government is taking steps to bring the Burutu Port back to life. Located in Burutu Local Government, it was the first modern port in Nigeria and served as the hub for the movement of goods to and from Nigeria as well as distribution through the inland waterways to and from the hinterland of the North, Central and Eastern Parts of the country. As a result, it was a strategic port of importance to the Nigerian economy during the colonial era until its abandonment and eventual sale in 2006 to Akewa Colmar Terminal Limited. Our administration is now forging strategic partnership with the company to develop the Port.
6. Meanwhile, we are in the process of executing the LNG Export Terminal Project in partnership with LNG Technology Pty Limited of South Africa for the production and export of LNG from Delta State to South Africa. The Pre-feasibility study of the project has been concluded and the production of the Bankable feasibility study is on-going.
7. The next big challenge for us in the South-South is to diversify the economy into the non-oil sector. Huge potentials exist in the agriculture sector for export business. Again, using Delta State as an example, the State is blessed with mineral-rich vegetation, good ecology and fertile soil, in addition to having comparative advantage in aquaculture, cassava, rice and oil palm farming.
8. Hence, in the first term of this administration, we set out to make agriculture a growth driver and reduce dependence on fluctuating oil earnings. In addition to other interventions in the sector, we embarked on a Pilot Scheme of producing high quality, internationally certified Yellow Garri, which was successfully exported to the United Kingdom. The success story of this export initiative will not only deepen the agricultural value chain, we also believe that with strategic thinking, careful planning, focus and determination, we can change the current narrative. We are now prospecting for willing investors to come in and partner with the Government to enhance the job and wealth creation impact of the Garri export initiative.
9. This brings me to my next point. We need strong, dynamic and effective Public Private Partnership models to not only accelerate infrastructural development but also actualise critical investments in the non-oil sectors that will aid diversification of the economies of the South-South States and stimulate export. This we are doing in Delta with the Ogwashi-Uku Agro-Industrial Park, a partnership between the Delta State Government on one hand, and Mirai Technologies and Norsworthy Limited on the other.
10. I make bold to say that any prospective investor to Delta State will be sowing on good and fertile ground. Since 2015, we have put in place policies and structures to make the State very investor friendly. One of my first actions as Governor was to facilitate easy access to land by introducing an electronic-based system, known as Fasttrack 90, for obtaining Certificates of Occupancy to landed property within a maximum period of ninety days.
11. I followed this up with the promulgation of the “Delta State Public and Private Properties Protection Bill, 2018,” which prohibits forceful entry and illegal occupation of public and private landed properties, violent and fraudulent conducts in relation to public and private landed properties. The law came into force in June 2018, and prescribes various terms of imprisonment and fines for any person who forcefully and unlawfully trespasses or invades another person’s property. Through this law, we are tackling the Deve (omonile) syndrome that has been an impediment to land acquisition development and a disincentive to prospective investors.
12. Finally, Governments must demonstrate the political will necessary to reposition the South-South States for economic growth and sustainable development. By that I mean the Governments in the region need to lead by example. Good policies are not just enough. Without the necessary commensurate action, they are nothing but empty rhetoric.
13. Our State has commenced the process of establishing an Industrial Park in Kwale located along Ughelli Asaba expressway. Expected to drive this administration’s industrialization agenda, the Kwale Industrial Park has the potential to be Nigeria’s biggest location for gas and energy intensive manufacturing such as ceramics, rubber, methanol, pulp and paper.
14. As a demonstration of our faith in the viability of the project and as an incentive to prospective investors, Government approved a seed fund of ten million dollars for partnership with interested investors in the Park. In the same token, we have earmarked the sum of five million dollars seed capital for the establishment of a Transmission Tower Manufacturing Plant being promoted by ENFRASCO Limited. The project, to be sited at Issele-Uku, comprises the establishment of a state-of-the-art Transmission Tower Manufacturing plant for power transmission, telecommunication masts, Hot Dip Galvanizing Plant, Tower Testing and Certification facility, and Research facility training school with focus on Fabrication, Power Transmission and distribution know-how. This sort of commitment on the part of the State Government serves to de-risk investments and give assurance to prospective investors.
15. In concluding this address, I wish to reiterate that the Niger Delta region has continued to enjoy peace and better security owing to the collaborative efforts of the various South-South States, of course with the active support of the Federal Government. As we all know, no meaningful development can take place in the absence of peace and security. We are not relenting in our efforts to sustain the current peace in the region for security of critical investments and public safety.
16. I assure you, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, that the South-South is open – and safe – for business.
17. It is on this note that I now declare this meeting open.
18. Thank you for your time and attention.
19. God bless us all.
Office of the GovernorGovernment House