Home Business Governor Abiodun’s reinvention of Olokola free trade zone

Governor Abiodun’s reinvention of Olokola free trade zone

If job creation is a sine qua non for economic growth and social development, the Ogun State government’s recent signing of a $400m Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a foreign firm, Arise Integrated Industrial Platform, on the development of the Olokola Free Trade Zone (FTZ) and Remo Agro Processing Zone deserves critical attention.

The Olokola Free Trade Zone (OKFTZ) founded in the year 2004 and located on 10,500 hectares of land along Ondo and Ogun states, was expected to serve as a multipurpose deep seaport complex and free trade zone, as well as an exporting processing zone, with operations in oil and gas manufacturing, gas supply, among others. Located right in front of offshore oil and gas discoveries, it was expected to include a refinery and petrochemical park, warehouse and storage buildings, heavy industries, as well as housing and recreational areas.

Indeed, speaking in Abuja at the formal signing of an MOU on the Olokola Liquefied Natural Gas (OKLNG) project between Ogun and Ondo State governments, the joint owners of the Olokola FTZ, and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Chevron, Shell and British Gas in March 2007, the then Ogun State governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, had described it as a step to boost export business in Nigeria. The project did not however go according to plan and was stalled throughout the succeeding eight-year tenure of Governor Ibikunle Amosun, although a silver lining was offered by the chairman of the Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, who wanted a $16bn refinery sited in the Ogun waterside area.

Incidentally, the state’s present helmsman, Prince Dapo Abiodun, was chairman of the Olokola FTZ board when Dangote approached the Ogun State government with his plan. However, following the inability of the business man to meet Governor Amosun’s terms, the state lost the proposed $16bn refinery to Lagos.
All of that, happily, is history. As destiny would have it, Abiodun became the fifth democratically elected governor of the state. And as someone in full grasp of what transpired during the Olokola case, he is apparently in pole position to avert the drawbacks of the past and make an informed economic choice on behalf of the Ogun people, which is why the Olokola FTZ is now being revived with maximal economic possibilities for Ogun State and, by extension, Nigeria as a whole.

On assumption of office, the Abiodun administration had identified the state’s profile in comparative advantage, and had set out to bring in investors to enhance the socio-economic well-being of the people and retain the state’s position as Nigeria’s industrial capital. It is no surprise then that with the MoU between his government and the Arise Integrated Industrial Platforms (IIP), about 25,000 jobs are already in the offing. As a matter of fact, the signing of the MoU is one of the dividends of the road shows Governor Abiodun undertook around the world.

The company is widely recognized for its activities in identifying industrial gaps in African countries to unlock value and create new industries, with an objective to industrialize key sectors by creating local transformation, maximizing production, efficiency, and cost, which in turn generates local value addition. It seeks to boost exports, enable local transformation of raw materials and promote trade by tailor-made special economic zones, as its activities in Gabon, Benin and Togo demonstrate convincingly. And given Ogun State’s economic potentiality and the infrastructure and business-friendly policies put in place by the Abiodun administration, under whom the Gateway State has become Nigeria’s largest investment destination, its intervention in Ogun promises to be the largest and most profoundly successful in Africa.

Speaking shortly after the signing ceremony held at the Governor’s Office, Abeokuta, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Arise IIP, Gagan Gupta, disclosed that his organisation would focus on the Olokola FTZ and the Remo Agro-Processing zone, adding that the $400m would be for the completion of phase one of the projects in the area of agro-processing, with higher investments envisaged by July 2023. Noting that his company would bring equity to the floor by leaving 35 per cent share open for national players and the state, Gupta commended the depth of information made available by the state government to his team when it came on an assessment of potential investment zones.

In his own response, Governor Abiodun noted that the project would not only create employment opportunities, but would be a training hub as the company would set up a technical training centre to train artisans for the sustenance of the project.
His words: “We are happy to find a partner that is afrocentric; that understands the sub-region and all the issues that pertain to the people and is ready to spend over $400m. We are indeed very excited that you are in Ogun State. I am glad you are setting up two Economic Zones, one in Olokola which will deal with mobility and automobiles and the other one, the Remo Cluster which will take care of agro- processing. We will support you and we will leave no stone unturned. Our support to you will be total. The infrastructure you will bring will lead to more investors coming to our state.”

When the fact is borne in mind that the present project will not only open up Ogun State for further investments but also provide quality jobs for its teeming youth, the vision behind the revitalization of the Olokola FTZ will be more fully appreciated. It will literally turn the corridor into an industrial hub, especially given the existence of a power plant through which gas can be accessed.
With gas transported from Escravos straight to Olokola, the activities in renewable energy, automobile manufacturing, among others, promise to radically transform the Ogun economy and take it to phenomenal heights. Quite apart from the present investment focus on renewable energy, the Olokola FTZ has different strata of investments and is expected to be linked to the agro-airport currently being built in Ilishan Remo. Manufactured goods will move effortlessly from the FTZ to the agro airport for export.

The Olokola FTZ is, for all practical purposes, a gateway to prosperity. The renewable energy aspect will be ready in July this year and the multiplier effects in the next two years, including job prospects in the region of 150,000-200,000, can only be imagined. A free trade zone hosting property, automobile, agriculture and manufacturing industries and complemented by an agro-allied airport is an unbeatable economic prospect for Ogun State. It is an evident fruit of Governor Abiodun’s strategic thinking. Great things indeed lie ahead for the Gateway State.

Written by Apagbo through japagbo@aol.com

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