Inaugural Nasarawa Investment Summit 2022

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I am really pleased to be here for this inaugural Nasarawa Investment Summit taking place in Lafia, this serene and historic capital city of Nasarawa State.


I bring you the very warm greetings of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari who extends his best wishes for the success of this event.


I must also express my sincere appreciation to our host Governor Abdullahi Sule and the Government and People of Nasarawa State for the excellent arrangements made for this Summit as well as the always warm reception accorded to me and members of my team and other participants at this event.


I must say that I find the theme of this Investment Summit – “Diamond in the Rough: The Making of a New Investment Frontier” – self-effacing, pragmatic, and forward-looking.


It shows at once the enormity of the promise and opportunities of this well-positioned and well-endowed State and at the same time, the enormity of the challenges,  as is the case with new frontiers. Any government positioning itself for investment, especially positioning itself to be the number one destination in Nigeria and our subregions, have to be pragmatic and somewhat humble which I think comes across in the theme.


The metaphor of refining also demonstrates a deep appreciation of what needs to be done even as we celebrate and affirm what has been done.


But really what I think is a crucial component of the success of this enterprise is the vision and unequivocal political will of the governor and his team; clarity of vision and a determination to get things done.  And it is evident that Nassarawa State, so ably led by Governor Sule has both in good supply.


The Governor had cast the vision early in the life of the administration in the following words and I quote “Re-Engineering Nasarawa State for rapid industrialization,”


He then went on to articulate and develop the Nasarawa Economic  Development  Strategy (NEDS).  NEDS set out a range of reforms covering a Central Billing System that has dramatically boosted IGR, by 66% from N12.48  billion in 2020 to N20.8 billion in 2021 despite the severe economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. When you consider that this is a state that started in 1996 with one million naira IGR, obviously that is a massive jump.


Ease of Doing business reforms and especially the establishment of the Nasarawa Investment and Development Agency (NASIDA), a one-stop-shop for the initiation, promotion and facilitation of investments in the State. Governance reforms including a new Public Procurement Act, and biometric registration of all public servants, (which has helped to block leakages). This is one of the few States that has thought it fit to enact its own Public Procurement Act and I am sure that it has taken into account a lot of the deficiencies in the Federal Public Procurement Act.


A recurrent problem in business environments in most States is the convoluted and stressful process of obtaining land. The land reform exercise undertaken here has yielded an online platform for land applications and a single database for linking LIS and GIS.


And of course, the substantial improvement in power supply to Lafia and surrounding areas will be a good pull for business once the Akurba Power Station is fully operational.


Just today, the Federal Executive Council approved the variation of a contract for the construction of a 2×60 MVA, 132/33 substation at Lafia with a 2×132 bays extension at Akwanga. This is an old contract but which when completed will further boost power supply for industry and domestic use. A rough diamond has potential value but only shines after polishing.


And just as there are many facets to a diamond, so are there many sides to the potential for investment in Nasarawa State.  As the “Home of Solid Minerals,” there is great scope for building a successful mining industry in Nasarawa State.


The range of available minerals is quite impressive (coal, clay, lead-zinc, gemstones, silica, granite, tantalite, marble, limestone, etc,) which is why it is rightly described as the home of solid minerals. But the effort required must involve a more deliberate collaboration with the Federal Government. That cooperation has started with the State working closely on the enforcement of regulations with the Ministry of Mines and Steel. But there is a long way to go especially with controlling illegal mining, and a sustainable plan with the Federal Government for the beneficiation of these minerals. This is a  crucial national project, the home of solid minerals must live up to its name.


Our national success in the cement industry based on the plentiful availability of limestone deposits is positive proof of the potential of value-adding activities in the mining sector in Nasarawa State.


Agriculture is another facet of the rough diamond. The potential is obvious from ongoing and incipient investment by Dangote’s 50,000 hectares rice farm, Azman Rice farm’s  14000 hectares, Flour Mills with mixed crop production in the order of  20,000 hectares, and Agrotech with a $56m investment in sesame seeds and maize production for processing into oil. And there are also Olam and notable SME agribusinesses like Rotimi Williams’ farm.


Nasarawa State is already a leading producer of sesame seeds in the country but given its vast arable lands and the investments that are being made in sugar, soybeans and rice, I expect that this State will soon become a leading producer of these and other crops like maize and cassava which all together can turn it into a national agro-processing hub. Now with the problem, we find with the importation of wheat and maize from Ukraine and Russia, we import something in the order of $670million worth of wheat and maize from these countries. I think there is a major advantage here in Nasarawa State to fill the gap created by the problems being experienced in those countries.


Already, the State has been selected by the African Development Bank for the Special Agro-Processing Zone Project and for the Agro-Processing, Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support (APPEALS) Project.


In addition to enabling potential investors to gain a better understanding of the economic prospects of Nasarawa State, I think that this Summit will help the Nasarawa State Government to showcase how it intends to benefit from its locational advantages.  Given its proximity to Abuja and shared urban areas like Karu, it is obvious that Nasarawa State can position itself to provide homes, goods and services to the residents of Abuja, somewhat like the relationship that Ogun State has with Lagos State.


But again, we must explore real and concrete areas of collaboration with the Federal Government. Nasarawa State by itself cannot realise that sort of opportunity we must work with the Federal Government to be able to create that “extended Abuja” as it were so that Nasarawa State is able to take the benefit of the Federal Capital Territory’s own investments.


One area of great potential for Nasarawa State is internally generated revenue as those who live in Nasarawa but work in Abuja are liable to pay their personal income tax to the Nasarawa State Government.


I recall that one of the things that Ogun State did was to insist (which is the law) that people working in Lagos State but resident in Ogun State must pay their personal income tax to Ogun State. Once that was effected, it boosted the IGR of Ogun State. I believe that should serve Nasarawa State as well in relation to the FCT.


In a similar vein, Nasarawa State shares its borders with six States and the FCT. One expects that this and future Investment Summits will showcase the potential of the State as a logistics hub for the movement of people and goods between its neighbours.


I must in this regard, commend the State Government for seeing to the completion and take-off of the Lafia Cargo Airport inaugurated by Mr President just this February.  Again, we must commend the construction of the mega-bus terminals in Lafia and Karu and the launch of the Nasarawa Transport Company.  I think all of these forward-looking investments and opportunities are not just worthy of commendation, but we must also see them as important building blocks in ensuring that this State is the sort of investment destination that we want it to be.


A clear mandate of NASIDA is to promote investments using various standard devices such as public-private partnerships, privatisation, concessions and commercialisation of State-owned assets.


But I think worthy of note is the strong public-private partnership models being promoted by NASIDA, so that the private sector is able to bring resources, expertise and motivation to the table, to fill in capacity and resource gaps on the part of the  State. This model must be pursued vigorously and of course, it is already the model that NASIDA is proposing.


Some ongoing projects and activities under the public-private partnership type models include the Nasarawa Infrastructure Fund, the Nasarawa Technology Village, the Karu Retail and Recreational Centre, the Nasarawa Agricultural and Commodity Company and the Ugya Mining Company. As Governor Sule said, the government has no business in business, the government’s business is to create an environment for the private sector to do business. The Federal Government should take care of, as much as possible,  the infrastructure issues and micro issues so that the private sector can function.


I think it is also quite clear that public sector reform, especially capacity enhancement,  is crucial to the delivery of public goods, especially health, education, potable water, sanitation and housing and the success of the other giant strides being taken by Governor Sule and his team.


Reform of the civil service is one of the reform areas indicated in the NEDS document  (Nasarawa   Economic Development Strategy). Current successes include the rationalization of ministries to 13 and the introduction of compulsory computer literacy training. These are fundamental and we must leverage whatever there is to support the training of civil servants and public officers, as well as introducing technology to governance.


As the Special Adviser on Ease of Doing Business, Dr Oduwole has said, the ongoing reforms must be institutionalised to ensure a lasting legacy.


One of the key things that this Summit must do is enable existing investors to share their experiences for the benefit of others but also to help point out areas in which they would like the Nasarawa State Government to assist them further.  This will certainly help to strengthen the model of partnering with the private sector which the state government has already chosen as its preferred approach.


The creation of “deal rooms” while this summit is on, through which concrete projects can be introduced and expressions of interest can be made is a wise and practical innovation. It shows that the Governor and his team are determined to get some definite results from this Summit.  I am sure that given the exciting potential of Nasarawa State, several deals will be announced in the course of this Summit.


In conclusion, let me once again congratulate Governor Abdullahi Sule and his team for hosting this very excellent Investment Summit.  It is proof of your great vision for the development of Nasarawa State and it certainly showcases all the hard work that you and your team have put into transforming Nasarawa State in the last three years.


I also commend the Nasarawa State Investment and Development Agency for their sterling efforts to attract and hand-hold investors in the State. One of the ways of making Nasarawa State a solid investment destination is that hand-holding. We certainly need to do a lot more in terms of cajoling investors, and as pointed out by Alhaji Aliko Dangote, the governor himself is the hand-holder in chief in sorting out the problems that arise when investors complain.


From what I have seen and heard, I am positive about the prospects of the State and they are great, and I certainly look forward to seeing Nasarawa as not just a “rough diamond” but ‘a diamond in the sun’.


Thank you very much, God bless you.