It gives me great pleasure to address you all today, and I must start by congratulating Board and Management of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), for building on the successes of their predecessors, to ensure that Nigeria continues to have an attractive stock market, where businesses can mobilize capital.
Since it was founded in 1960, then called the Lagos Stock Exchange, the NSE has continued to reinvent itself, and innovate, within a rapidly changing financial landscape. Today, despite the turbulent financial conditions of the last decade, the market capitalization of the NSE is over N13 trillion, with 169 listed companies. In addition to helping companies raise capital via public offers and rights issues, the exchange has also been a very active source of debt capital for both private enterprises and Government.
Ekiti State will always be grateful to the NSE, who have been a longstanding partner in our development journey. In 2001, the State successfully raised N4 billion from a bond issuance, that facilitated projects including the construction of Ekiti House in Abuja, the Oju Olobun commercial real estate project in Lagos, various road projects, as well as the construction of the Governor’s office. These assets are still in good condition, almost twenty years later, a testament to the responsible leadership of His Excellency, Otunba Niyi Adebayo.
On April 3, 2012, during my first term as Governor, I had the honour of ringing the closing bell at this Exchange, signifying the successful completion of a N20 billion bond issuance, part of a N25 billion multi note issuance programme. As with our first foray into the debt market, the capital raised was used for infrastructure projects including the development of Ikogosi Warm Spring Resort, waterworks rehabilitation, road construction and modernization of various markets.
I am pleased to report that both bonds have been fully redeemed, while the good people of Ekiti State continue to benefit from the projects, which supported economic growth, put our people in jobs, and increased access to public utilities. In our opinion, both programmes demonstrated how Governments can use markets to spur development. Like I said 7 years ago, I am not only here to ring the closing bell, but also to express the gratitude of the Government and people of Ekiti State to the Stock Exchange for believing and supporting our development story.
Today, Ekiti State, under the current Government is focused on reclaiming our land and restoring our values. In financial terms, this means making Ekiti an attractive destination for investors, delivering sustainable economic growth, putting people to work, and lifting our citizens out of poverty.
To ensure this happens, we have renewed our focus on peace and security, which is the foundation of any economic development; and started investing in developing the infrastructure required to make Ekiti State a competitive destination for business. We have also passed the Law establishing the Ekiti State Development and Investment Promotion Agency (EKDIPA). Once the agency commences full operations, it will drive our Ease of Doing Business reforms, and provide investors with a one-stop shop to deal with investment related matters.
Our focus on agriculture, especially a Special Agric Processing Zone, will not only improve the productivity of farmers, but also provide the infrastructure required for processing activities. Already, the market is responding to our approach, and we expect to close a partnership on the currently unutilized Ikun Dairy Farm, with a leading dairy company in Nigeria soon. Our belief is that Ekiti is ready for more of such investments, and we are available to answer questions on the investment opportunities that exist.
Apart from agriculture, we have also identified the development of Ekiti Knowledge Zone, designed to be Nigeria’s first service focused Special Economic Zone (SEZ), as a priority project of our Government. This 955 hectare zone will leverage Ekiti’s heritage of being Nigeria’s knowledge capital, and is located within the Education Quadrangle that includes Afe Babalola University, Ekiti State University, Federal University Oye, Federal Polytechnic Ado and College Of Education Ikere. When completed, it will house universities, schools, technology campuses, workspaces, and offices to service business process outsourcing and back office operations. It is being designed to ensure the supporting infrastructure for power, transport, housing, recreation and other services, are available round the clock.
Our tourism assets also provide significant investment opportunities. At the appropriate time, we will seek investors for some our existing assets, as well as several greenfield opportunities. This will be complemented by a clear strategy on attracting business, recreational and medical/wellness tourists to Ekiti State.
It is our belief that the Stock Exchange is now more strategically positioned to support Ekiti State in unlocking investment in our focus sectors, and also optimizing state owned enterprises. We therefore look forward to a continuation of the mutually beneficial relationship among the Exchange, investors and Ekiti State.
On this note, I thank the Management of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, for inviting me to ring the closing bell, and also giving us the opportunity to share some of our plans for developing Ekiti State.
Thank you and God bless.