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By ‘Gboyega ISIAKA

I try as muchas possible to read Newspapers from all divides on daily basis in order to takereadings from all angles even whenam outside the country through a click on the net. However having been intransit for most of 30th August and 1st September, 2012 Imissed out on the newspapers for these days. Fortunately, on a visit to afriend some days later, I stumbled on a copy of The Nigerian Punch newspaper of1st September. Amongst other things that caught my attention was anews report on page 10 of the newspaper titled ‘’Ex-govs, Obi fight overAnambra Oil’. On seeing this, I was really not surprised knowing the war goingon ‘’right under my nose’’.  Nonetheless,I took time to read the news if only to compare notes.

The storywritten by one Emmanuel Obey stated that the fight occurred at the officialinauguration of exploitation of crude oil by the Orient Petroleum Resources Ltdeffectively making Anambra State to join the league of oil producing States.One of the former governors, Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju (PDP, 1999-2003) had toldthe gathering that he set up the committee that established Orient Petroleum,appointed its first board and secured oil license for it to exploit oil in2002. He demanded that he should be given the credit for conceiving the vision.Dr Chris Ngige (PDP (now ACN)2003-March, 2006) demanded to be given the credit for converting Orient to a publiccompany, inviting investors from far and wide to invest in the Company andinvested an initial amount of N100million with promise to make available morefunds. Mrs. Virgy Etiaba (APGA, 3rd Nov. 2006-9 Feb. 2007)   demandedrecognition for not   relenting in her efforts to sustain theproject during her three –month tenure. Although the story did not report thecomments of Governor Peter Obi (APGA, 9 Feb. 2007 till now) but I imagined hewould have supported the project and perhaps provided additional investment inline with the promises of Governor Chris Ngige.

Also, formerCBN Governor, Prof Chukmuma Soludo who indeed contested an election against theincumbent commented that Orient will ‘’jump start aggressive and strategicsocio-economic development’’ of Anambra State.

After readingthe details of the fight, not only did I hail the fight and the fighters, Iprayed to God to cause this kind of fight to repeat itself in every nooks and cranniesof Nigeria. It is always said that when two elephants fight, the grass suffers butin this case the fight is happening after the elephants have sufficientlyprovided water for the grass to continue to grow and blossom. The elephantshave done well. They have put political fight or war aside to provideopportunity to create employment, enhance revenue generation and generally improvethe socio economic development of Anambra State. It is a people-centered fight.A fight that benefits the common man. Again, may God bless the fight and bless thefighters.

I left myfriend’s house leaving the newspaper behind. Throughout that evening, I keptimagining how the kind of Anambra fight can accelerate the strategicsocio-economic development of my dear State; the Gateway State.  I begin to imagine what will happen to thelife of the common man if Anambra fight is repeated over some major lifechanging projects that I am privileged to know  about by virtue of the position I held in OgunState between 2004 and 2010.   I thoughtof so many of such vision or project a few of which are highlighted below:

The immediate past administration in Ogun State securedan approval to set up an Agro-Cargo Airport at the Ogere/Iperu axis of thisState with the objective of transforming the State into a major cargo hub givenits strategic geographical location as the Gateway to Nigeria and West Africa. Thisinitiative was  pursued by the then Officeof the Economic Adviser’s office and several preliminary steps have been takenincluding preparation of technical studies and discussions with the privatesector investors under the Public Private Partnership model of thatadministration. To underscore the need for such airport in Nigeria; just a fewweeks ago the Federal Minister of Aviation stated that ‘’as part of efforts toharness the agricultural potentials in the country, the Federal Government ofNigeria has designated seven airports as agro-perishable airports’’.  I am wondering what is the thinking of thepresent administration on this project, and what can be the fundamental, non-politicalreasons for the possible discontinuation of the project?

A park comprising of retail shopping malls wasmeant to be constructed at the Isheri end of our dear State. Several pre-constructionsteps have been taken leading to interest in writing by  Vectis Nigeria Ltd and FBN Capital to invest$10million each as equity in the project and  Standard Bank/Standard IBTC Bank  indicative term sheet of August 2010 toprovide  $30.5million  debt finance for the project.  In addition, Shoprite and Games have not onlyindicated interest in writing to be anchor tenants for the mall, they haveopted to finance the construction of their ‘boxes’ and  indeed at some point Shoprite commented thatthis may be their biggest site in Africa.

This is a straight forward project that iscapable of opening up the entire axis of Isheri. In my sincere opinion,politics aside, there is nothing wrong with this project that cannot be correctedwith the things that are right in it and how I wish the State Government will  encourage, support and facilitate theexecution of this project in the interest of the State.

The Ogun Guandong Free Trade Zone was practically“snatched’’ away from Imo State in 2007. Given the countenances of the then governorof Imo State, I wouldn’t know if he has now forgiven the immediate pastgovernor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel for this act. I was at the FTZ sometime in 2010 during the visit of Mr. President, DrGoodluck Jonathan and the work that had been done was marvelous. Curiously, whatI am hearing about the present state of the place does not appear encouraging.The fact of a disagreement by the present administration on the composition ofthe a board  in line with the request ofthe investors, a board that has not even been constituted, is not enough   to killsuch a  major life changing  initiative. There are of course several waysto resolve such issues if the motive is not political. In my view, the StateGovernment should actually lead the initiative to encourage investors into theFTZ for generation of employment and boost economic development. This should bethe spirit.

The Industrial Park, off Lagos- Ibadan expresswas co-sponsored by private investors from Shandong and Zhenjiang Provinces ofChina with the support of the governments of both provinces. With a combinedGDP of $1.2trillion, the economy of the two provinces is about four times the economyof Nigeria. In 2009, the Deputy Governor and Governor of Shandong and Zhenjiangprovinces respectively visited three countries in Africa at different times.One of the countries visited was Nigeria and the only place visited in Nigeriawas Ogun State including the site of the Industrial park. The park was meant toattract investments in excess of $1billion from the two provinces into severalventures including manufacturing and truck assembling and to employ thousandsof Nigerians especially from the State. I understand the fence of the projectsite was pulled down at odd hours and as we speak cases are in courts and theproject is on hold. I am also aware that while this lasts, the investors havemoved to a neighbouring South West State. I do not intend to comment more onthis as it will be prejudicial. Suffice to say, the loss of the State isalready the gain of other locations. Should this happen in  the Gateway State?

Gateway Savings and Loans was established by thelast administration to support the housing programme of the State Government.The bank needs to be recapitalized and of course all routes are available tothe State Government to achieve this. The only route that will be anti-peopleis to allow the bank lose its license following the deadline forrecapitalization to mortgage banks which is coming up soon. The now popular AsoSavings & Loans Plc which was hitherto fully owned by Federal CapitalTerritory Administration passed through the same route. Today, it is one of thehighly capitalized and successful mortgage banks in the country.

With support and strict nonpolitical decisionfrom the State Government, Gateway Savings and Loans can has equal potentials;thus further supporting people to own their houses.

Within theOlokola Free Trade Zone which the last administration in conjunction with OndoState Government promoted is the OK deep sea port. With its natural and Godendowed advantage of having the deepest point on the proposed site for the portin Ogun State, the State has a natural comparative advantage in siting anddevelopment of the port. The proposed port has the capacity to serve the wholeContinent of Africa. Initial pre-feasibility have been done and privateinvestors and developers were being sought after. The business mogul; AlhajiAliko Dangote recently commented thus in relation to the port: “Ogun state haswhat it takes to become the giant of Africa. As you know, the state has a placewhere it shared boundary with Ondo state and that is the place we call Olokola.
The Olokola free trade zone is a place where we can build the biggest seaportin Africa. If Ogun is able to get the right, genuine investors to put upmassive infrastructure, we’ll have more businesses than what we have puttogether in the whole ports in Nigeria because today, as we are talking, wedon’t have any deep sea port in the western part of Africa and by setting upone, it means that much of the businesses will come down here’’
Itis my opinion that the present administration should take a real lesson out ofthis?  Will it not be good for the Stateto see an “Anambra fight’’ between the initiator of this project  Otunba Gbenga Daniel, his successor,  Senator Ibikunle Amosun and perhaps otherseach drawing attention to their contribution to a project that is capable ofchanging the course of history for the better for Ogun State by making theState the   hub of port activities in theAfrican continent. Shouldn’t this be the motivation?

The Kajola specialized railway Industrial  Zone was initiated and designated tointegrate the railway modernization program of the federal government and theplan of the last administration  tocreate a railway industrial village along the Kajola axis , as a means ofattracting specialized industries as well as businesses offering logistics and ancillaryservices to this zone. Preliminary plans and applications were made on thisproject and I think approval obtained. How does this fit into the overalldevelopmental programme of the present administration? What are the fundamentalnonpolitical reasons for possible discontinuation and loss of the approvalobtained?

The Laogo Paradise Island is a serene Islandlocated on the South Coast of Ogun State, on the Lekki Lagoon next to the birthof Benin on the Atlantic coast line and also close to the Olokola Free Trade Zone.The development of this Island was initiated by the last administration andpursued from the office of the Economic Adviser. Put simply, the project wascreated to give opportunity for the wealthy and rich to spend their moneywithin the State thereby generating revenue, enhancing economic activities andcreating opportunities for our people to tap into . I can recollect that  amaster plan has been prepared and investors were being sought for infrastructuraldevelopment etc.  What is the possiblefate of this project?

Ogun State has a large deposit of bitumen.However, because of the kind of federalism that we run in this country whereall natural resources are vested in the federal government, no State candevelop resources without the licensing from the federal government.Nonetheless, the last administration set up Gateway Bitumen Company Limitedwhich sought for technical partners from Canada and they jointly bided for abitumen block from the Bureau of Public in 2007/2008.  That bidding process was later cancelled bythe BPE/Federal Ministry of Mines on the ground that the bitumen blocks aregoing to be restructured and re-advertised. Nonetheless, the lastadministration through Gateway Bitumen and other relevant agencies kept pushingto get a license over the bitumen block.

We are indeed hopeful that either through thisbitumen exploration  or through otherinitiatives that  the Office of the Governorwas directly pursuing, we shall be able to prove that Ogun State as a littoral State has oil in commercial  quantities and should be designated an oilproducing State. I think if we put politics aside and we take this fight fromwhere the last administration take it to, we should be able to  get the oil producing status sooner than wethink?

Having attracted so much comments in the recentpast, the case of the concessioned assets while not new projects as above alsodeserve some mention especially since it also bothers on decisions thatinfluence the economic development of the State and ultimately impact the lifeof our people.  I do not intend to borewith the facts that have been mentioned many times on these. I will onlyhighlight as follows:

i.           Up to the time of the concessioning, the GatewayHotel in Abeokuta has operated for 27years while those in Ota and Ijebu Odehave operated for 16years each.

ii.           It cost about $41.63million to construct Abeokuta(at 1979-1981 rates) and $41.9million to construct Ota. The cost of Ijebu Odecannot be immediately determined.

iii.           All successive administration in Ogun State haveexpended resources running into millions of Naira to maintain the assets of thehotels and in some instances support their overheads.

iv.           The total dividend payment to the StateGovernments from the three hotels for all the years of operation wasN24.25million

v.           Unfunded accumulated retirementbenefit/gratuities for the three hotels up to the time of the concession(before negotiation with workers) was N1.59billion.

vi.           Signature bonus from the concession utilized forsettlement of gratuities and other liabilities was N520million while estimatedrevenue to the State Government derivable from percentage of turnover of thehotels as contained in the concession agreement is over N300million.

vii.           The State government was  not to contribute any amount to thedevelopment of the hotel during the concession and the hotels remain theproperty of the State Government during the Concession period and managementrevert to the government after the concession period.

viii.           The Concessions were done in line with all knowndue process

I once appeared before a committee of the Houseof Assembly on this matter and also with the commission of enquiry set up bythe State Government. I chose to stay with the Commission for five days duringits (open) deliberations, anxious to hear from the stakeholders present whichinclude Captains of Industry, Stalwarts of the ruling political party in theState, Hoteliers, Public Servants, legal practitioners, Union leaders,Students’ leaders and Journalists the exact allegations against the Concessionof the Hotels or what went wrong with the process. I left the Commission moreconvinced that what we did on the assets was in the best interest of our dearState and I told the commission so.

My final comment on this matter still remain thatI am proud of the determination of the past administration to find a solutionto assets that have become drain pipes to the State Government. I also remainproud with the process taken and the outcome. Of course, in spite of this theState Government is still at liberty to take its decisions but my position willonly change when I see a “superior solution” that will enhance the developmentof our state and our people.

The lessons outof these is that  life changing projects thatcan jump start aggressive and strategicsocio-economic development can hardly be commenced and completed by asingle administration even if it serves the maximum time allowed by theconstitution. In Lagos State a good number of the projects Governor Fashola hasbeen executing to my personal admiration have been in the news since the daysof the immediate past administration in that State. Much as he has tried, the incumbent(Fashola) cannot even fully execute all of them within the remaining of his administration.

Of course, therewill always be provision for sincere and non-political appraisal andre-appraisal of projects especially in the light of additional information orchanges in economic parameters but to subject all projects and decisions on themto political considerations and/or settlement of political scores can only beat the detriment of one stakeholder:


May God blessthe Gateway State


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