MY ADDRESS AT THE SOUTH EAST REGIONAL ENGAGEMENT OF THE PRESIDENTIAL ENABLING BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT COUNCIL, ON EASE OF DOING BUSINESS, HELD AT IMO CONCORDE HOTEL, OWERRI.
On behalf of the good people of Imo State, I am highly delighted to welcome you all to our beloved State and indeed, the Eastern Heartland, on this occasion of the South East Regional Engagement of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council. We are immensely grateful to the Council for the choice of Imo State as host to this very important meeting centring on Ease of Doing Business. We are very hopeful for a very fruitful outing.
2. Owerri, the Imo State capital, as you can see is an emerging commercial and tourism hub. We have a well-developed hospitality infrastructure and culture. Just look around, you would see a rich collection of hotels that compete with the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja and an array of shopping malls. Our people are friendly and enlightened and we sincerely hope you would enjoy your stay.
3. This meeting is very timely for us in the South East region. We all know that Nigeria was once the world’s largest producer of palm oil. This activity, was largely centred on the Niger Delta Region, hence, the area was named the “Oil Rivers”, long before the advent of crude oil. It emphasized that “Oil Palm remains one of the most important cash crops in the region, and could serve again as a major driver for the economic development of the region.”
4. Ladies and gentlemen, I make bold to declare that the years of the oil palm are not over. In light of this, our State is poised to regain its leadership place in the subsector, by planting one million oil palm seedlings every year in the next three years. We have in view both the multiplier and accelerator effects derivable from the oil palm. Our other agricultural produce consists of cassava, cashew, yam tubers and maize among others. Other sources of high economic potentials include our huge oil and natural gas resources, as well as large deposits of mineral resources such as calcium carbonate, gypsum, white clay, limestone, lead and zinc.
5. Imo State also boasts of a high inflow of diaspora remittances. Consequently, we have set up an Office on Diaspora Matters under the Governor’s Office. As you are aware, Diaspora remittances recently was estimated at $25bn nationally. It is a known fact that South East immigrants contribute over 50 percent of this amount and we estimate that Imo State constitutes over 40 percent of this number with its nearly 1.2 million Diaspora population. Many are already reaching out to the Governor’s Office on Diaspora Matters with investment proposals in response to our “Rebuild Imo” Agenda.
6. With a committed government, certainly these are great assets that propels us to embark on Ease of Doing Business initiatives. Consequently, we have rolled out one of the most ambitious infrastructural reconstruction projects ever witnessed since after the civil war. Works have commenced on 14 critical roads across the State Capital and the three Federal roads that leads to Orlu, Okigwe and Obowu. All are with completion targets ranging from three to eighteen months. We have also flagged off a massive rural roads construction projects totalling a distance of 380.7 kilometers across the 27 local governments of the State. The projects valued at a total of N13.5 billion and are being financed in partnership with the World Bank under its Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP).
7. The need for Ease of Doing Business, indeed cannot be overemphasized. In an era when government alone cannot provide all the jobs for its citizens, the least it can do is to provide the necessary enabling environments for our youths to create their own businesses and thrive. In the same vein, mutual cooperation is the order of the day, and no nation or region is an island on itself. In the past, economic nationalism and isolationism made sense. Today the rule is “connect or perish.” Prosperity of nation-states are now intertwined. You cannot, therefore, walk alone.
8. Just last week, I was part of the delegation of Nigerian Governors’ Forum to a summit on Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) organized by the Turkish Ministry of Trade and its Foreign Economic Relations Board. The Summit which was attended by World Bank officials, centred on how to boost PPP as a means of attracting Foreign Direct Investment. In our discussions, I made it known to them that Imo State is open for business. We cannot, therefore, give such global assurances and return to create bottlenecks to the same investments we very much desire.
9. At the inception of this administration, we put in place policies to provide sustainable enabling environment to attract and protect Foreign Direct Investments. We created an Imo State Investment Promotion Agency, IMSEPA, with the mandate for investment promotion and entrepreneurship development. In addition, we have an Ease of Doing Business Desk in the Governor’s Office.
10. We have designed a PPP comprehensive strategy to partner with interested investors under various models which include: Equity Participation, Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) and Build Operate, Own and Transfer (BOOT) models. In this direction, a law is being enacted to make the Imo investment environment more responsive to businesses. This also includes an Infrastructure Regulatory Agency to protect investors in this sector.
11. Currently, we are working with a global consulting firm – the CSPS Transcom to put together an integrated investment plan designed to transform the State into one of the top three most developed state economies in Nigeria by 2025.
12. Our efforts are already yielding results. We are delighted to note that The AfrExim Bank, is currently working to establish its Investment Centre for the South East and South-South Zones in Owerri. The regional financial institution is set to invest $50 million (N18 Billion) in Imo State in its proposed Quality Assurance Facility. Upon completion, it would provide certification and inspection services for various export products from the catchment area. It would also provide capacity building to industrialists, generate employments and bolster economic activities in the regions.
13. On the strength of the foregoing, I am sincerely delighted to welcome you all to Owerri, once again. I use this opportunity to again reiterate that Imo State is open for business and therefore, urge all willing investors to take advantage of the enabling environment we are creating. You have to strike when the iron is hot.
14. Distinguished members of the Enabling Business Environment Council, participants, ladies and gentlemen, we are ready to Listen, Implement and Track, as the theme for this engagement entails.
15. I wish you a very successful exercise. Thank you all and God bless.
Imo Bu Nke Anyi