Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) has disclosed that Ekiti State has economic potential and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that is five times higher than São Tomé and Principe, The Gambia and Seychelles, saying that the state is a land of limitless opportunities for investment in agribusiness, technology and knowledge economy.
Osinbajo also lauded various economic and investment initiatives of Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi, saying that the development has turned the state into a destination of choice for local and foreign investments.
The Vice President made the remarks in Ado-Ekiti on Thursday while delivering a keynote address at the first Ekiti Economic Development and Investment Summit (otherwise known as Fountain Summit) held as part of activities marking the third anniversary of the Fayemi Administration in office.
Osinbajo had, a few minutes before the commencement of the summit, inaugurated the Ekiti Civic and Convention Centre, a legacy project of the Fayemi Administration with the Summit making history as the first official event to be held in the imposing edifice located near the gate of the Government House, Ado Ekiti.
Osinbajo also stated that the Federal Government and most especially President Muhammadu Buhari has a special interest in Ekiti and commended Governor Fayemi for leveraging on investment from the private sector to grow the economy of the State most especially in sectors where the state has comparative advantage.
The Vice President showered encomiums on Governor Fayemi for reviving Ikun Dairy Farm after being abandoned for over 40 years and divesting 40 per cent of its shares to attract private investor, the Promasidor Group, in order to keep the business enterprise running and generating more jobs for the locals.
The Summit which had as its theme: Investment Attractiveness and Economic Development: Lessons for Sub-Nationals also featured a panel of discussion on key issues including fiscal federalism, revenue generation, security, infrastructure, governance, attracting investment, among others.
Panelists who featured in the discussion segment moderated by Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi include Vice President Osinbajo, Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo Olu; Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki; Kaduna State Governor Mallam Nasir El-Rufai and the host Governor, Dr. Fayemi.
Goodwill messages were delivered by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo; British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Ben Liewellyn-Jones; Executive Secretary, Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), Mr. Emeka Offor and Director General of Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN), Mr. Seye Oyeleye.
Osinbajo, who said the policy framework put in place by the Fayemi Administration is already yielding dividends, noted that, “ Ekiti has a GDP that is five times more than that of Sao Tome and Principe, The Gambia and Seychelles while it has the same GDP as Liberia.”
According to him, Ekiti under Fayemi’s watch, has been placed on a sound economic footing, which he said future administrations must build upon to the benefit of the people of the state “in more entrepreneurship, generation of more revenue, among other indicators of better economic growth.”
Osinbajo said: “Ekiti has a friendly business environment; it ranks 18th overall out of 36 States and FCT in the inaugural edition of the Nigerian Homegrown Sub-Nation Ease of Doing Business Baseline Survey.
“The survey was commissioned and serves as a situation report on current attractive ness of business environment of States in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
“Ekiti was the strongest in the skills, labour and infrastructure and security indicators. Also in the last World Bank Ease of Doing Business Survey, Ekiti excelled in the area of dealing with construction plan, ranking 4th in the entire federation.”
The Vice President said Governor Fayemi’s excellent relationship with donors and international agencies, his experience as a second term governor and one-time Minister of Mines and Steel and Chair of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, has helped in putting the state at a distinct advantage “and evidently, there is a commitment to private sector economy here.”, he added.
The Vice President also said that, “Government should as much as possible facilitate or at best collaborate with the private sector. An excellent example is what we have in formerly state owned Ikun Dairy Farm.
“After 40 years of inactivity, the state government has divested 76 per cent of shareholding to a private dairy company, Promasidor, now resulting in the company now producing over 10,000 litres from a herd of 500 cows.”
Osinbajo also lauded the concession of the famous Ikogosi Warm Spring Tourist Resort, affirming the principle of giving the private sector an opportunity to take the lead in bettering economic fortunes of States.
In his welcome address, Fayemi said the ongoing developmental strides of his administration resulted from the promise he made three years ago to restore the land and reclaim Ekiti values including completion of abandoned projects and lifting the state economy higher than he met it on assumption of office.
The Governor said he took the gauntlet in attracting private investment to breathe life into the local economy, make the state less dependent on the federal allocation and also shore up the Internally Generated Revenue which he said had grown from N400 million monthly to N800 million adding that the state had grossed over N1 billion twice this year.
He also disclosed that work is ongoing on the Ekiti Agro Cargo Airport which he pledged would be inaugurated by this time next year to stimulate more investment and provide an opportunity for marketing produce within and outside the country.
Fayemi said: “Our solution to reduce the dependence of Ekiti State on federally distributed revenues, is to enable private enterprise, by making the state an attractive destination for investors.
“Today, I am pleased to note that our weakest section, enforcement of contracts, has been addressed by the collaborative efforts of the Judiciary, Legislature, our Ministry of Justice, and EKDIPA.
“We have also made significant progress with our Ekiti Knowledge Zone, Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zone, and Cargo Airport projects, which are all designed to increase economic activity in the State.
“We have started construction of the airport, and expect it to be completed by this time next year. We have also received a grant of $250,000 from the African Development Bank to prepare a full feasibility study for Ekiti Knowledge Zone, and should announce an anchor investor and partner for the project before the end of this year. Our agro-industrial processing zone is already occupied, and we expect additional occupants over the next few months.”
During the panel discussion, Osinbajo said there is need for more peer review among the States to engender sustainable development which will rub off positively on the national economy.
Speaking during the panel session, Governors Sanwo-Olu, El-Rufai and Obaseki , were unanimous in their submission that a multi-level policing would help address insecurity issue in the country.
Governor Sanwo-Olu, who said Lagos State presently generates N45 billion internally every month, urged Ekiti State Government to block all loopholes of revenue leakage and consolidate its automated revenue platform to transit from low IGR to high IGR.
Governor Obaseki said investment in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and education remained a key to economic revival and growing the SMEs to place Ekiti on a higher economic pedestal as witnessed in Edo.
He said failure of many States to plan ahead of the economic downturn and beyond the oil driven economy has placed many of them at a tight corner, noting that the need to look inward has become imperative more than ever before.
Governor Fayemi, during the discussion, also harped on the need for successive administrations at federal and state levels to imbibe the culture of continuity of projects and policies that are beneficial to the people to stem the tide of waste in the country.
He noted that Ekiti Civic and Convention Centre commissioned earlier in the day was started during his first administration but abandoned by the administration that succeeded him, noting that it was Providence that brought him back to office to complete the iconic project.
Governor El-Rufai urged states to invest more in human capital development and “tame the monster of recurrent expenditure” which, according to him, is eating deep into their developmental strides.
He identified education, health and security as critical sectors that must witness quality investment to gradually turn the States into investment havens and make them depend less on the Federal Government for survival.
The event was attended by the Ekiti State Deputy Governor, Otunba Bisi Egbeyemi; Ekiti First Lady, Erelu Bisi Fayemi; members of the National Assembly, State House of Assembly, traditional rulers, clerics, senior civil servants, artisans, interest groups and members of the public.