Infrastructural and industrial deficits, as said by many experts, have been the bane of under-development in most African countries, without leaving Nigeria out of the quagmire. It has caused several losses of jobs and unemployment among the teeming youths.
But the official visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to Ondo State on Tuesday February 25 was apt and in no way by accident as it was specifically slated to coincide with the third-year anniversary of the administration of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu.
The visit was designed to showcase the achievements of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the last three years. It was also the visit the official visit of the President to the state in his five years at the helms of affairs.
Akeredolu explained that the efforts of his administration to industrialise the state was designed to ensure rapid transformation in the state, noting that his efforts led to investors coming on board and culminating in what was being celebrated in the state as the first of its kind.
According to the governor, the investors noted that the state has a huge potential, which they could put their money into and derive bountiful returns. He said this was achieved due to diverse resources ranging from agriculture to mineral deposits that the investors would explore.
It was on this potential that they went into a collaboration with the state, which has led to the establishment of about seven industries at the Ore Industrial Park, which houses Nigerians and other foreign investors across the globe.
The Ore Industrial Park (OIP) has the Hessmac Industry Limited, Cintelli Group, which is owned by Turkish investors; the Linyi Group that is fashioned after the Linyi Municipal Government of Shandong Province in China, which is operating on only 70 hectares of land.
Others are the Panther Group from USA, the Indian consort, several Nigerian companies like Denki Cables and Wire, ASB Ceramics.Investors under the massive industrial revolution in Ore have made good their promises to make Ondo State a model for a one-stop industrial park in the country with a unique structure and administration to contain all nationalities.
To some analysts, the action taken by the Akeredolu-led government is one of the best business decisions the state ever took, as it has changed the narrative of the state from being a civil service-driven economy to an industry-based economy.
This is how Akeredolu underscored the paradigm shift, revealing that “What is on ground today is a result of painstaking planning, serious determination, collective efforts and a proof that great developments can happen if all stakeholders come together.
“This project has the collaborative efforts and input of Mr. President’s administration and your dedication to power sector reforms, agricultural funding, and investments incentivisation. It also has the indelible inputs of the Ondo State government in several areas.
“Part of the strategic planning we put in place was to ensure that the industrial revolution is sustainable through a process of backward integration.”
The Ore Industrial Hub houses the first ever Medium Density Fibre (MDF) Factory in Nigeria and also rated to be Nigeria’s highest volume cassava to ethanol factories, producing 300 metric tonnes of ethanol every day.
The hub, which is located in Ore, the headquarters of Odigbo LGA of the state, also has the nation’s first MDF factory through Wewood; a High-Density Fibreboard (HDF) and Plywood production line.
Within the industrial park is the first locally produced lace fabrics in the state, which are certified by the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON).
To adequately cushion the effects of unemployment in the state, the OIP management declared that the business empire will employ the service of 120,000 workforce and project to create 40,000 jobs in five years.
The Chief Executive Officer of Ore Industrial Park, Femi Akinkuebi, while speaking with journalists in Akure, added that the park currently has over 6,000 workers and projects for 120,000 workforce in 12 years.
Akinkuebi noted that the park, which is a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) between Ondo State government and Hessmac Industry Limited, was established on a massive 1000 hectares of eco-friendly, economic and industrially zoned land.
He added that the industrial hub, which has six different factories working on site out of 15 companies, is running on already completed 30MW trio-fuel Independent Power Plant dedicated to providing power within the park.
The OIP boss lamented that many youths graduated from university without hope of gaining employment, assuring that the park is an industrial training school where youths and interested people would be adequately empowered.
“OIP is made accessible to all because the government is more interested in giving opportunities to its people and also business-minded thereby gaining more for the state.
“As much as we are interested in foreign investors, we can’t forget our people, this necessitate our approach to encourage both local and international companies”, he said.
According to him: “OIP provides world class infrastructure and ultra-fast operational efficiency, proximity to raw materials and target markets, uninterrupted power supply, easy access to gas with EPL gas pipeline and adequate security.
“Hessmac also concentrates on SME clusters which drive micro-economy and make the youths self-dependent as studies shows. It will initiate more than 40,000 jobs in the next five years, rendering services reaching out to a large percentage of people at a time and business can strive conveniently without struggling.”
He iterated that OIP would create employment through industrialization in order to eradicate poverty, improving the standard of living, boost wealth creation, unleash the nation’s industrial potential, build a reputation for Nigeria in technology and industrialization.
Aside providing employment, he said the park would empower the people through its production hub. He explained that people would have no need to bring their equipment, there is enough space for production in order to encourage local people.
“We have put in place industrial training school, SMEs section, product hub that caters for micro level of manufacturing at minimal cost and maximum profit for the people,” he said.
Akinbuebi, who is also oversees the training school, stressed that the park was professionally run by professionals that know what it takes to industrialize the state; and necessary link internationally.
He encouraged people of the state, particularly youths, to take advantages of all the opportunities available in the Ore Industrial Park, pledging to give back to the society at large through its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
“One of the things we are considering in the areas of CSR is to give direct employment to the people of Odigbo local government area because we don’t believe in giving any money to individuals or group of people. What we are looking at is to empower them.”
Governor Akeredolu disclosed that aside creating employment opportunities for the people, the investors also embarked on the transfer knowledge, with the first batch of 100 trainees currently undergoing knowledge transfer through intensive training in various areas of their interest.
The beneficiaries are to be given priority of employment at the Ondo Industrial Park with tremendous benefits for economic growth and development.
“Already, our youths are being directly employed in their thousands. The employment ratio of Nigerians to expatriates here is in the range of 40:1 in favour of Nigerians. Our farmers benefit directly from supply of raw materials, and the multiplier effects have stimulated logistics, hospitality, construction, banking and other service sectors of our economy in Ondo State and Nigeria in general,” he stated.
Akeredolu said the plans of his administration was to turn the southern part of the state to a commercial hub, while the northern district would be used for large scale agriculture to ensure food security, just as the central part houses technology and innovation centres.
Projecting into the near future, he affirmed that a high volume vehicle assembly and production plant, wine distillery, dairy factory, clothing production company and metal production firm would be established in the industrial hub.
According to him, “With the Free Trade Zone of Ondo State situated nearby, and the progress we are making on the deep seaport, our industrial revolution is near fruition, and the future which is very nearby, fills us with hope.”
And if the experience of the Linyi’s economy, which is based around its wholesale markets and an annual trade volume of 40 billion RMB ($5 billion) is anything to go by, the Ondo State government has set a standard by which governance would be measured in the country.
The commissioning of the Ore Interchange (flyover) was another impactful project inaugurated by the President Buhari to put an end to the constant huge loss of lives and goods often experienced on the road intersection. And to serve the transportation need of the park optimally.
Akeredolu, however, requested for the refund of state funds spent on federal roads in the state. He specifically appealed to the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, to facilitate the approval of the President, for the funds expended on all Federal Government projects in Ondo State, including the interchange totaling about N10.89billion.
He listed the projects as Aboto-Olokola road; Ore-Okitipupa Road; construction of the interchange flyover across Lagos-Benin highway at Ore, among others.
While commissioning the projects, the President described all the projects executed by Akeredolu within the last three years in office as remarkable, affirming that the hub would bring a positive impact on the people of the state.
He called on manufacturers in the country to increase local raw materials inputs in their production to help to increase and improve local content capacity in the country.
While appraising the OIP and the flyover, President Buhari said: “Let me start by congratulating the governor and people of Ondo State for this remarkable achievement. I am impressed with what is on the ground here and I anticipate the positive impact it will have on people of this state.
“I still recalled the initial brief from Governor Rotimi Akeredolu on this project at its conception. Back then, it was an idea. Today, due to hard work, dedication, and commitment to delivering inclusive growth, that idea has now become a reality.
“I take this opportunity to commend investors who saw Nigeria and Ondo State in particular as a viable investment destination. I want to assure you of our continued support both at federal and state level as we move forward to the next phase of this project’s lifecycle.”
He expressed hope on the massive employment opportunities that abound, saying: “I am confident that this project based here will utilise locally available raw materials to create jobs for young men and women in this locality, increase knowledge and capacity, and support our import substitution policy.”
He lauded Akeredolu for his foresight and promised that the Federal Government would fulfill its obligations to the state on the construction of the Interchange Flyover soon.
While justifying the construction of the bridge, the President recounted his experience on the road, saying: ‘’During the civil war and during my campaigns since 2002, I have become familiar with the terrain of Ore which is a connecting city between the South-West and the eastern parts of our country.
“As a result of this, the city has a cosmopolitan population that is in the neighbourhood of 300,000. This is a city that can be described as a mini-Nigeria as almost all the ethnic groups of our country are happily represented here.
“Let me commend Governor Akeredolu and his team for their great efforts and professionalism in putting this project in place. This project is executed in line with the spirit and drive of the Federal Government which puts great emphasis on infrastructural development across our country, especially in the area of transportation.”