From November 19-21, 2019, the State of Osun will be hosting its maiden Economic and Investment Summit. In this interview, Governor Adegboyega Oyetola explains the rationale behind the Summit and also gave some more insight into other topical national economic issues.
Why Osun is organising economic and investment summit
The summit is being organised for the fact that we are trying to expose the State of Osun and its people to the entire community of investors. This is because unless you have the opportunity of knowing what goes on, you will not know how much investment opportunities that are available in the state.
For instance, in the area of agriculture, Osun is the place to be. In the past, our State was the leading producer of cocoa, which used to be the major revenue earner for the Western Region and even Nigeria at that time. We are still the third largest producer of cocoa in the country today. We are blessed with abundant mineral resources. We have a lot of them in Osun. Although there has been a lot of illegal mining, what we are trying to do now is to regulate it and ensure that we provide the enabling environment required for investors to come around and invest their money to create wealth for themselves and the state as well as open job opportunities for the youth.
There are also other opportunities in the environmental sector, for example, waste to wealth. There are opportunities ready for investors in information communication technology since we have about the largest number of tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
In terms of culture and tourism, it is on record that we have the UNESCO-designated Osun Groove through which we host people from virtually every part of the world who come to look at what we have there. We also have other interesting tourist sites such as the Olumirin water fall, Ayinkunugba and many others.
My attitude to investment is that it is better to have partners to develop the potential of these sectors particularly as still I believe that government does not have any business doing business. The best concept is to drive all these investments through Private Public Partnerships. This is why we are creating the enabling environment for people to come and invest. We have a much secured environment considering that our state is adjudged to be the most peaceful in Nigeria and we still maintain that rating.
In addition to that, we have also beefed-up our security arrangement, having just acquired twenty additional vehicles, in conjunction with other Southwest states which would be launched any moment from now. We have also put helipad in place for aerial surveillance the entire state, in the event that any crime is committed.
However, in terms of ease of doing business, we have put in place everything that an investor needs to be able to have a smooth inroad into Osun. We also have the Certificate of Occupancy fasttrack in place to enable people pick up their C of O within 90 days.
When you look at the totality of what we have, we can boldly say we have created a good environment for businesses to thrive, in line with our State Development Plan, which is based on four pillars of the economic development, infrastructure development, human capital development, and security and sustainable environment. All our programmes have been tuned to address these areas, and in doing that, we have created opportunities for investment.
Why investors should come to Osun
The State of Osun is a place to be for a number of reasons. We have a large expanse of land for agriculture with a vegetation that is very conducive for agriculture. We also have abundant mineral resources including– gold, fespar, granite, and many others, waiting for exploitation by investors.
Unfortunately, what we have now are artisanal miners who don’t even have the capacity to develop our mining sector. That is also the reason we want to regulate them and encourage local and international investors to come in and invest.
Above all our state is a very secured environment because we place a lot of premium on security.
In the area of power supply, that state enjoys not less than 18hours of electricity every day. Most of the companies that relocated to Ghana and other ECOWAS nations did not know what we have in Osun.
But in addition to all these factor the state government also has the political will to guarantee investment. I am from a private sector background where I have spent thirty years of my postgraduate working career and so I can say that I know what it means to allow businesses to thrive. It is the private sector that drives the economy, government should only provide the enabling environment to ensure that they have opportunity to drive the economy.
With all these, we believe our state is the best for investment and that is why we are going all-out to showcase our potential to the world
Incentives awaiting investors in Osun
We have lots of incentives for interested investors. For instance, in agriculture, we have a Land Bank where we make land available for investors, to save them the trouble of going into the communities to be facing landlords and Omoniles. So rather allow the face such challenge, our government is providing land to investors.
We are also a state that believes so much in the rule of law and once an agreement is made, it is binding on the government. So, I don’t see any problem.
Plans to incorporate artisanal miners in the scheme of things
Talking about the miners, the Federal Government has set up the Presidential Artisanal Mining Initiative where Osun and Kebbi are the two pilot states. The intention is to encourage our youths to go into mining and so we find a way of accommodating them and so since Federal Government is diversifying from oil, mining is a key aspect of that plan. Even the Federal Government is working to ensure that artisanal miners are properly trained. That is why we talk of regulation. If you leave them entirely to what they are doing, there will be lots of damage to the environment and you might end up discouraging major investors.
The essence of this is to ensure that they are not left out of jobs and to support them by increasing their skills in mining. Osun, on its own, has nine Life Academies, which are actually technical and vocational schools, for which we are proposing to designate one of such in the mining area around Osu as fully equipped to support training in artisanal mining because of the alluvial deposit in Osun.
As I speak, we are registering all artisanal miners in Osun. This is to ensure that we are able to flush out criminals that come under the disguise of mining. We have commenced the process of capturing the data of all miners, artisanal or investor, so that we can at least know precisely that whoever comes to do business in Osun is safe. We are trying to map all the titles that we have and to try to do a proper enumeration of who is doing what and where. This government has registered a few thousands already and we have given them a RFID-enabled card to help us track them. We also have their landlords which we call Seriki who are guarantors and through which we can reach out to them.
Beyond all these we are also trying to protect the environment to avoid the kind of situation we have seen in the Niger Delta and other resource-rich areas.
In terms of readiness for investors, it would interest you to note that although mining is on the Exclusive List, Osun is one of the very first few states that proactively reached out to the Federal Government and bought its own mining titles, which is about the largest in the country currently. It would also interest you that one private sector company is currently in Osun and has put the state in the global mining map as about the only gold mining state recognised in Nigeria. The reported size is about 1.5 million ounces of gold, which is worth over $2 billion. Nigeria as a nation has about 16 mining titles –with about 8 in Osun, while others are spread across Nigeria. That should also tell you that Osun is ready for business in Niger, Zamfara, Kaduna, Ebonyi and Zamafara.
Data on mineral reserves in Osun
Our government is doing resource estimates in partnership with the Nigerian Geological Agency. We already have titbits of what is available. However, we are partnering with investors who will do proper exploration to determine the commercial valuation.
Uniqueness of Osun Economic and Investment Summit and timelines for investments to begin
I can tell you that our government does not have the luxury of time to run talk shows. What we want to do is to showcase Osun to the entire world. Ordinarily, we should have been asking you to come and see things for yourself, but if Muhammed does not go to the mountain, mountain must be prepared to go to Muhammed. That is why, through this summit, we are asking you to come around so we can show you what we have. Again, the abundance of mineral resources may not have been known to many people.
As a matter of fact we as a government believe that getting an average supply of 18 hours of electricity per day is enough incentive for everyone to come and invest, especially for light manufacturing companies. These are opportunities not known to people and so it is a question of trying to show what we have to the entire world, and we are serious about it.
As we speak, we already have an investor who is signing an MoU with us having committed huge financial resources to us because of one of the projects. People are already showing interest to invest in Osun because they are getting to know our potential.
Again it is important to note that we also have good relationships with many donor agencies and development partners such as the World Bank, DFID and the French Development Agency. We are doing a lot with World Bank, for instance, on RAMP, SLOGOR, YESSO. They are supporting us because we are also doing so much. They are supporting us both technically and in terms of grant. Only recently, we won a grant in our health sector that has made it possible to revitalise 352 primary health centres across the state, and that makes it one health centre per ward. This is because we believe that health is wealth. These are some of the initiatives we have taken on our own and for which we have been given awards by most of these agencies.
For instance on the third day of the summit, we would hosting a roundtable with donor agencies and develop partners in the State to be able to strengthen existing relationships and establish new ones.
Current state of Itagunmodi mines
Itagunmodi is one of the major mining sites that you have a lot of artisanal miners, and I am sure it is part of the areas where investors are willing to invest in. That is why we believe that the first thing is to create that enabling environment for investors to be able to do their business without being molested. As I mentioned earlier, we have begun work with the artisanal miners to be able to regulate and put them in check for the benefit of all.
Business clusters being projected as targets for investors
Part of the things we are trying to achieve with the summit is to see if we can find people who willing to invest in Industrial Parks where you have opportunities for businesses to be sited with some degree of amenities. Another area is the Free Trade Zone, which we already have in place, for investors to come to use.
Let me also mention that we recognise the need to have a value-chain for our raw materials. We are not just looking for people who will use our State as just a base for raw materials, but we are creating opportunities for value-chain development. For instance, in cassava, we are already looking at ethanol and others, and that is part of what we are selling to the entire world. We recognise that having viable agro-allied industries in the state will boost revenue and provide lots of opportunities for our people, so that it is a win-win situation for all.
Leaving legacy of sustainable environment and avoid pollution challenges
For the new partners we are taking on board, we are ensuring that we are implementing the World Bank standard to contain environmental and social risks. Part of the things we are also doing is studying the livelihood sustainability around our mining areas to ensure that the social and environmental risks are considered and integrated in the agreements we sign with partners.
Currently, we are speaking with the Solid Minerals Development Fund to support us in the area of looking at the damage done ecologically by the activities of artisanal miners. This is part of the recourse we are currently putting in place.
Taxation regime in State of Osun and how to sustain friendship with investors
We believe that taxations have been so specified. In terms of taxes that people should pay ordinarily, for instance, when it comes to company tax, it is purely that of the Federal Government. What the states charge, perhaps, would be in the area of premises charge and so. I don’t see much of challenges in terms of taxation, except the taxation on property and profit, which is beyond the state’s control.
Addressing infrastructure challenges to ensure that cost incurred by investors is reduced to barest minimum
The State of Osun has done much in the area of infrastructure. If you come to Osun of recent, you would notice that there has been so much improvement in that area. Additionally, the Federal Government is working on rail lines which will pass across the state to the North. The quality of infrastructure in our state makes us very accessible.
Airport project at Ido Osun
The airport project was conceived before we came in about ten years ago during Governor Oyinlola’s administration. It was supposed to be a partnership between the State and the Federal Governments. It was supposed to be a 50/50 arrangement. Osun started but the Federal Government was not forthcoming. But, realising the fact that if you want to encourage movement of produce, a cargo airport is desirable, we have taken it up. We are looking forward to investors that may want to take it over and we give them 25 to 30 years lease on a Build Operate and Transfer basis. Quite lot investors are already showing interest in the airport because they believe, it is viable. It is part of what are marketing to the entire world during the summit. It is a laudable project that would create employment opportunities and commerce for our state.