Faced with growing youth population and rising unemployment especially in the oil rich Niger Delta region, the Federal Government is pursuing a novel idea that targets the rehabilitation of state governments’ owned moribund industries to create jobs.
The industries most which were set up in the 1980s and 1990s by state governments have been out of operation for a long time.
The programme which is being implemented by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs rests on collaboration between the federal government, finance institutions and state governments.
Speaking at a Presidential Economic Diversification Mission to Imo State, last week, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Uguru Usani, explained that the intention of government with the initiative is to drive job creation for the people of the region.
Usani disclosed that the federal government through Public Private Partnership (PPP) intends to make about N15 billion available in the next one year for the rehabilitation of the moribund companies most of which are agro-based.
This, he said, will boost government effort aimed at diversifying the economy.
According to him, “The intention is to drive the policy of the administration whose cardinal point is to create jobs and doing this there has to be a linkage of the private sector and segments of the economy intended to propel the rejuvenation of the economy through productivity in agriculture and manufacturing sector to engage people in job creation”.
He explained because of this, state governments were asked to put up a paper on the state of agriculture and the status of moribund industries in their domain.
He said the intention was to “get the development banks in Agriculture, BOI, NEXIM, NEPAD and other agencies that are available to create a basket of funding for credits to be able to get these sectors active.
“The intention of government is in this year alone, it is possible for private sector investors to tap into this, there should be a provision of a minimum of N15 billion so that the government at the federal level facilitates, the state governments enable the environment while the private sector are on hand to carry on their businesses”, he added.
He further explained that the reason for the arrangement is to “ensure that there is no government interference in the management of the segment of investments that the private sector will be carrying on.
“The private sector is expected to show all amount of serious conduct in this business”.
He told the investors who had the previous day inspected some of the industries scattered around Imo State that “we are not asking you to come take government’s money and write it off as bad loan. You know that with administration you will go to the EFCC.
“We expect that as you are coming, you are serious minded enough and we give the privilege or prerogative on the choice of investors to the state government. So if the state government has the necessary skills to access you and you are deemed a serious investor, they will enlist you to which ever sector you have chosen”.
The Minister explained that the investors would be chosen based on their capacity to carry out rehabilitation of the industries and make them operational again.
He stressed that the policy is being tried in the region to see how successful it is before it can be extended to other parts of the country.
He therefore urged to investors to be serious because job creation across the country is a priority for the federal government.
Also speaking, the Governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha commended the Federal Government for the initiative and assured the investors that the state was open for business.
Okorocha noted that government bureaucracy remains a big challenge for businesses, but stated that as someone with business background he was determined to improve on the ease of doing business in the state.
He stated that for long past governments have talked about diversification of the economy but only in the Buhari’s administration that concrete steps are being taken to that effect.
He said: “We still have a challenge, the challenge we have as a nation and as a people is that most of the time, the bureaucracy of getting things done has been the major problem coming from government or banking institutions. And I think that is what the Presidency is trying to do to bridge the gap and the bureaucratic bottle neck that will allow investors to access funds where necessary”.
He said Imo State is ready to fast track the process of getting the investors started.
He stated that there is abundance natural gas for power in the state, which is not riverine.
Speaking earlier, the Adviser to the Imo State Governor on Trade and Investment/ Director General of Imo State College of Advance Professional Studies (ICAPS), Barr. Rex Anunobi said there is available market in and around Imo State.
“Imo State is the heart and centre of our region anything that happens here extends and represents the region. In realisation of the strategic role Imo plays in the region, His Excellency the Governor of Imo State had made it his mission to build an Imo State that will stand the next 100 years”, he declared.
While encouraging investors to bring their money to the state, he said Imo has a structured infrastructure development project ongoing, and also a world class state ICT policy that will help new media technologies and build the next generation of technology millionaires.
One of the moribund industries showcased to the team was the Imo Modern Poultry, Avutu. The farm which was established by the second republic administration of Sam Mbakwe in the early 1980s was initially managed by the Israelis but they kicked out after the military took over.
Moribund and over grown with weeds, the poultry farm sits on 200 hectares of land with decaying feed mill, poultry pens and cold room.
Other industries include the Imo Palm Plantation, Ohaji; Imo Rubber Plantation, Obitti; Imo Cashew Farms, Emekuku; Imo Tiles, Ehime Mbano; Imo Clay Products Limited, Okigwe; Imo Standard Shoe Company Limited, Owerri; Imo Paper Packaging Industry Limited, Owerri-Ebeiri and Imo Industrial Park, Egbema.
The financial institutions that attended the forum include the Bank of Industry (BOI), the Bank of Agriculture (BOA), NEXIM Bank and NEPAD.