ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, SENATOR, DR IFEANYI OKOWA, GOVERNOR OF DELTA STATE, AT THE DELTA STATE ECONOMIC AND INVESTMENT SUMMIT, ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 26, 2016, AT THE EVENT CENTRE, ASABA, ON THE OCCASION OF THE STATE’S SILVER JUBILEE CELEBRATION
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His Excellency, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria,

His Excellencies, Governors of other States,

His Excellency, Barrister Kingsley Burutu Otuaro,
the Deputy Governor,

Chairman of the Occasion, Mr. Jim Ovia,
Keynote Speaker, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo,
Members of the National Assembly,
Hon. Ministers of the Federal Republic,
Governor of the CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele,
Hon. Speaker, Delta State House of Assembly,
My Lord, the Chief Judge of Delta State,
Hon. Members, Delta State House of Assembly,
Captains of Industry,
Lead Speakers/Panellists,
Top Government functionaries,
Your Royal Highnesses,
My Lords, Spiritual and Temporal,
Gentlemen of the Press,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is my honour and pleasure to welcome all of you to this two-day Economic and Investment Summit, being the highlight of the 25th anniversary celebration of the creation of Delta State. The completion of twenty five years is a major milestone in the life of any organization, institution or government. It is one worthy of celebration. Hence, in the course of this week, we have had a cultural parade to celebrate the diversity of the State, while our children were feted by the government.

2. A Silver Jubilee is also a time to cast our minds back and appreciate all those who made contributions to the growth, peace, security and development of the State. Consequently, the week-long celebration will climax tomorrow evening with a Grand Gala and Awards Night to be held in this venue. Fittingly, we shall round up the anniversary celebrations with an interdenominational Thanksgiving Service on Sunday, August 28.

3. It is a thing of great pride to give birth to a child, nurture him/her and watch that child grow up to become a responsible adult. Delta State is one such child. In its relatively short history, it has grown to be a strong, vibrant and strategic component of the Nigerian federation; the State has carved a niche for itself as a pioneer in many respects.

4. A few examples will suffice. With the size of its economy standing at approximately $24.6b, Delta is the fourth largest economy in the country. Delta State is perhaps the only State in the federation with multiple urban centres, numbering as many as twelve. As a coastal State, it has four sea ports in Warri, Koko, Burutu and Sapele.

5. But by far the greatest asset of Delta State is its people – vibrant, ingenious and ambitious. Both in the local and international diaspora, our people are renowned for their entrepreneurial drive, passion and creativity. Gathered here today to celebrate this occasion with us are corporate titans, professionals and industry leaders in banking and finance, education, health, academia, ICT, media and entertainment. Indeed, it is fair to say that the Nigerian business and corporate arena would not be the same without the solid contributions of illustrious Deltans who are excelling in all facets of human endeavour.

6. On a personal level, it feels great to be part of the Silver Jubilee. Somehow, my political career and life in public service have been interwoven with the evolution of Delta State. Since 1991 when the State was created, and having served as Local Government Council Chairman, Commissioner, Secretary to the State Government, Senator representing Delta North Senatorial District, and now Governor, I can say with a sense of fulfilment that I am a witness to history. I have witnessed first-hand the giant strides that have transformed the State from its humble beginnings to its current status as a front liner. It has been an uplifting and rewarding journey, even if arduous sometimes.

7. Fellow Deltans, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, beyond the pomp and pageantry of the Silver Jubilee celebration, it is also an occasion for sober reflection; a time to pause, think deep and chart a new growth trajectory for the future of our great State. It will be superfluous for me to belabour you with the facts of the current national economic crisis. The evidence is all around us. And I am sure that almost everyone here knows someone, a family or company that is going through a rough time as a result of the downturn in the economy.

8. The need for foresight, careful planning, innovation and creativity has never been as pressing as it is today. With the ever-growing complexity, disruption and global competition of the 21st century, it is incumbent on us to build a strong, robust and resilient economy that is adaptable to the physical, social and technological changes that are a growing part of the age we live in. We must rise to the challenge now, or we lose out.

9. As an administration, we are responding to this challenge through policy thrusts and programme priorities conceptualised in our S.M.A.R.T agenda. The S.M.A.R.T agenda embodies policies, programmes and initiatives to aggressively develop the non-oil sector, create wealth, raise entrepreneurial leaders, reduce the worrisome level of youth unemployment, drive rapid infrastructural development, and ensure and sustain inclusive economic growth and sustainable development. Ultimately, our goal is to vigorously develop the non-oil sectors of the economy such that they will overtake oil and gas as growth drivers.

10. The framework and executional guidelines of the agenda have been articulated in our Delta State Medium Term Development Plan (2016-2019), which is being formally presented at this Summit. The Plan details our policy directions and programmes in the following priority areas:
– Improved, effective and efficient resource mobilization and better fiscal management;
– Economic diversification through stimulating and boosting agricultural production and developing agro-businesses;
– Reposition Delta State as preferred investors’ destination;
– Develop PPP models to accelerate infrastructural development, actualise critical investments and sustainable economic growth; and
– Build a knowledge-based economy and a critical mass of skills for entrepreneurship and business competitiveness.
I will now briefly touch on five key areas of the Delta State Medium Term Development Plan as they relate to today’s discourse.

Investment Climate
11. To create an investor friendly climate and healthy business environment, we have sponsored an Executive Bill for the establishment of the Delta State Investment Development Agency.

12. The Bill, which is at advanced stage in the State House of Assembly, sets out the institutional framework for public-private partnership, establishes guidelines to enable easy access to land for private investors, and envisions the creation of working committees/teams that proactively engage with the private sector to actualise their investment and business plans. Our objective is to remove the opaqueness usually associated with government business. The provisions of the bill will help facilitate business decisions for the private sector and, because every prospective investor knows what to expect, outcomes can be predicted.

13. Our partnership with the private sector is of utmost priority to us and we are pursuing it with relentless vigour. Our approach is to adopt robust and flexible PPP models that guarantee a win-win for all. At the moment, we have signed several Memoranda of Understanding with domestic and foreign private sector groups in energy, housing, infrastructure, water resources and agriculture sectors.

14. Among others, notable projects for which MoUs have been signed are the Delta Commercial City, Asaba Integrated Power Project, Umunede Rest Park, Warri-Effurun Water Scheme and Foreshore Estate Housing Project. We have also reached advanced design and planning for the development of agro-industrial parks in the State.

15. From the preliminary analysis, the total private investment to be realized over the next two to three years from the various PPP projects is $500m.In developing these PPP models, we are very mindful of the need for transparency, value for money, equity, respect for sanctity of contracts, and project outcomes.

16. Using the Delta Commercial City as a typical model, we started by conceptualising a Smart City, a mix-use development occupying 366 hectares of prime land with outstanding geographical and commercial advantage. The Delta Commercial City is planned to be a district within the Delta State Capital Territory with its infrastructure and public amenities. Based on the approved concept, expressions of interest were received from several companies. We subsequently conducted an Open Industry Bid that led to the selection of two companies that displayed the financial muscle and technical ability to undertake the project on their own, but were also willing to work in a consortium.

17. The Master Plan for the mega city is currently in the works. The incorporation of the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), with the State Government having a stake not exceeding 30% is also in process. The same model is being replicated in the Umunede Rest Park along the Lagos-Asaba expressway.

18. Our approach in residential housing development is to acquire the land on behalf of the developers and, thereby, shield them from the challenges usually associated with the deveoromonile syndrome. The developers are expected to drive equity participation from their host communities to ensure buy-in, and guarantee safety and security of their investment. It is solely the decision of the investor as to who to build for and where to site the development. This administration will not interfere with that process because it is purely a commercial affair.

20. In summary, we have created PPP models that are tailored to protect and satisfy the business interest of the investor, while taking cognizance of our growth aspirations.

Ease of Doing Business
21. We have taken steps to eliminate some institutional encumbrances that frustrate the ease of doing business in Delta State. Notably, we have introduced an electronic-based system, known as Fasttrack 90, for obtaining Certificates of Occupancy to landed property within a maximum period of ninety days. It may be far from the ideal, but it is a remarkable improvement from the long delays, sometimes stretching as far as five years, previously associated with this process.

22. We are in the concluding stages of harmonizing the various taxes in the State in line with the Consolidated Revenue Law 2009 of Delta State (as amended).The law provides for the Assessment, Harmonization and Consolidation of Internally Generated Revenue chargeable and collectable by the State Government and Local Government Councils in the State.

23. This harmonization is necessaryto mitigate the negative impact on the tax payer/business, and correct the wrong impression among business owners of multiplicity of taxes. At the end of the day, we want to see a situation where only the Delta State Board of Internal Revenue is required to issue a single “Demand Notice” on taxes and levies collectable by the State.

Agriculture and Agribusiness
24. From the onset of this administration, we were determined to diversify the economy and make it more resilient to external shocks. We have set a target of 10% annual growth rate in our agricultural sector, especially in commodities where we have comparative advantage, particularly cassava, oil palm and aquaculture. Through our Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP) and Production and Processing Support Programme (PPSP), we are building capacity for our farmers and agro-processors by resourcing them with improved technologies, efficient inputs and marketing support to trigger high yields, ensure profitability and create jobs. In particular, through YAGEP we are raising a generation of young, dynamic agricultural entrepreneurs as evidenced by the array of youth-based farm clusters throughout the State.

25. As the central part of our S.M.A.R.T agenda, we are creating private sector jobs through our youth empowerment programmes, including YAGEP, Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP) and Graduate Employment Enhancement Programme (GEEP). In the first year of this administration, we created a total of seventeen thousand, one hundred and seventeen direct and indirect private sector jobs (17,173) through various policies, programmes and initiatives. Our job creation achievements will leap in the ensuing period as we begin implementation of several PPP initiatives that have already been agreed.

Agro-Industrialisation
26. We are desirous of attracting high-impact private sector investments along the agricultural value chain through various forms of public-private partnership. Our State’s agro-industrialization plan is structured into three major cluster development areas namely;
• Uzere agro-industrial area
• Abraka-Umutu agro-industrial area
• Ogwashi-Uku agro-industrial area

27. Our approach is to use agro-processing and agribusiness epicentres to drive the commodity value chain for sustainable inclusive economic growth, job and wealth creation. Each agro-industrial epicentre will be driven by an anchor private sector investor devoted to agricultural value chain development activities including agro-processing, commercial farming, out-grower schemes, market linkages and farm support services. This agro-industrialisation plan provides ample opportunities for profitable private sector investments in commercial agriculture and agribusiness.

Peace and Security
28. Peace, security and public safety are imperatives for healthy business environment. The economy of the State has, in the past, bled profusely from inter-ethnic clashes and violent agitations in the oil producing communities. We have established the Delta State Peace Building and Advisory Council, which has adopted a proactive, people-centred and community-based approach to dealing with the issue of security and public safety. Also, the Delta State Government Advocacy Committee against Oil Facilities Vandalism is working to contain the resurgence of pipeline bombings in the State.

29. Essentially, our approach is to maintain peace and security through peace building initiatives that rely on effective engagement with grassroots organisations, local government structures and traditional institutions to prevent relapse into conflict. Additionally, our Job and Wealth Creation Scheme, targeted at unemployed youths, is helping to curb youth restiveness by engaging them in productive enterprises.

Conclusion
30. Fellow Deltans, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I conclude by reiterating that with a population of 5.2m people, mineral-rich vegetation, fertile soil for agriculture, multiple urban centres, enlightened populace, improving infrastructure, and an investor friendly climate as has been canvassed in this presentation, Delta State is an investor’s haven waiting to be explored and harnessed.

31. I invite you to see things for yourself at the Exhibition Stand where the enormous resources and immense investment opportunities in Delta State are in full display. I make bold to say that you can never go wrong when you invest in Delta State.

32. I thank you for your time and attention.

33. God bless us all.

34. God bless Delta State.

35. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Office of the Governor
Government House
Asaba.

25, August 2016.

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