A harvest of agreements has followed the trip of Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki to China as part of the Nigerian delegation to the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). They include investment pacts with Chinese companies to develop a seaport, refinery, industrial park as well as road infrastructure. Edo is commendably one of the states with a favourable report from the trip that served mainly as a junket for others.
Nigeria is one of the significant beneficiaries of the $60billion the Chinese are willing to invest in Africa as development loans “with no strings attached”. The Chinese offer comes against the backdrop of increasing reports of China taking over principal assets in some countries in Africa and elsewhere for defaulting on repayment of their loans. Such statements should inform the need for careful vetting of the loan agreements and, more particularly, strict implementation and delivery of the projects.
With Peiyang Chemical Equipment Company Limited, Edo State would build a modular refinery with capacity for production of 1,000 barrels per day of crude petroleum. Work would commence immediately for completion in April 2019. The Edo State Government approved N700million for the project ahead of Obaseki’s trip to China, indicating commitment and willingness to commence work.
A related component is the training of Nigerian students through an exchange programme with Tianjin University. According to information released by the Edo State Government, Tianjin University owns 51 percentequity in Peiyang Chemical Equipment Company. They would grant technical training scholarships to students from Edo state for the study of engineering courses in China. Obaseki signed the agreement in Tianjin with representatives of Peiyang and Tianjin University.
Said Obaseki: “We emphasise on technical education for our young people. Anything we are doing today must have a job creation component. So, investment in modular refinery and oil and gas technology must have a technical training capacity. We have the largest onshore gas reserve. We want to see how we can leverage on some of the natural resources we have to ensure that we build an industry that is local and sustainable”.
Edo State would also collaborate with the Chinese to develop the Benin River Port and link it to the Lekki Deep Seaport. The objective is to tap into traffic envisaged for the Lekki Deep Seaport by serving as an alternative to the ships berthing there. The contract would include dredging of the river and construction of a link road to the Benin bye-pass.
For the Benin River Port, Edo State would partner with an investor in the Lekki Deep Seaport. “The company we are working with is the largest investor in the Lekki Deep Seaport. The Benin River Port is going to be a sister port to the Lekki Deep Seaport. We expect that up to 30 per cent cargo going to the Lekki Deep Seaport would be for Benin port”, according to Governor Obaseki.
“We are investing massively on agriculture particularly in areas like oil palm, rubber, cassava, fruits and all range of agricultural produce which need to be processed and exported outside the country. Companies operating in the state are seeking to export their products. The port will provide an opportunity not only to export agricultural produce but also some of the products manufactured in our area.
“Another advantage is that once you create the infrastructure, there is the possibility that other industries would spring up in the state. This opportunity is going to rapidly help in diversifying the economy of Nigeria.”
Another project is the Benin Industrial Park that would expectedly create 170, 000 direct and indirect jobs. Edo State projects that the Industrial Park would house “over 1, 000 companies” and generate more than $billion annually.
The Edo projects bespeak ambition. There is a missionary zeal to the pursuit of the dreams by Governor Obaseki. He is pushing for the development of the state in other areas including education, security architecture and industrialisation.
The initiatives of Obaseki two years into his governance of Edo State are the sort of programmes, plans and actions citizens expect from technocrats in office. Underlining Obaseki’s pursuit of investments in equity and loans for developing Edo State are years of experience in financial management and investments. The governor is a professional fund manager, stockbroker and investment adviser.
Obaseki was integral to several projects in Edo State under the leadership of his predecessor, Governor Adams Oshiomhole. As chairman in a voluntary capacity of the Edo State Economic and Strategy Team, he oversaw the outlining of several plans for the State now taking shape as projects under his leadership. He also served as Chairman of the Tax Assessment Review Committee for Edo State Internal Revenue Service and the Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
Given this rich background, citizens of Edo State, analysts and all Nigerians expect that Edo State would deliver on the projects admirably outlined. More importantly, we hope that Edo State would depart from the story of excuses, delays and non-performance on the various loans that have become burdens to the future. Onward to progress in Edo State.
Tags: Edo State