By JAMES SWAM
AN overt attempt by the government of Kaduna State to re-create an enabling environment for foreign and local investors to not only make out the abundant opportunities that prevail in the state, but also for both to harness and turn them around for economic and industrial growth and prosperity for the people, is manifest in the governor’s deep desire to restore the dying state of Kaduna’s industrial community.
A palpable search on the administration and its sojourn by anyone, premised on objectivity, would unveil this silent undying resolve to promote industrialization, and especially, how the Patrick Yakowa administration is luring investors to its domain. While this exposition is pertinent in view of the governor’s full strength commitment to seeing that Kaduna, the second industrial hub of the north after Kano, regains its lost pride, and therefore, erase iniquitous posture towards the administration, it will also help thrust aside negative propaganda by those whose stock in trade is to turn a blind eye at all times to all forms of positive development in the state.
Governor Yakowa espoused his administration’s resolve to woo investors and industrialists during a trip early this year with governors from other geo-political zones who were all on the entourage of vice president Namadi Sambo to the United States. During the trip, the governor engaged the business community, comprising entrepreneurs and business strategists, letting them into the world of unique business opportunities in the state, as well as the huge, untapped mineral resources available. He also visited some international manufacturing firms like the famous Mersey Ferguson, manufacturers of world renowned tractors and other farm machineries to woo the firm to the state, with a promise to provide enabling environment for an assembling plant to be sited.
This interest in reviving the industrial sector was equally captured in the governor’s address in September this year, at a workshop for senior business moguls organized by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Kaduna. While encouraging Kaduna-based entrepreneurs to be dutiful and focused on their businesses in the city, he expressed delight at the choice of Kaduna as host of the event, noting that that singular step goes to confirm the position of government that the state was fully prepared for a quick return to serious economic activities. These words of excitement were conveyed on the backdrop of the scale of devastation of lives and property occasioned by wanton attacks, spearhead by unscrupulous miscreants that had hitherto resulted in crippling businesses and scaring away entrepreneurs.
Amid cheers from members of the elite business community, the governor said “I was very glad when I heard that you selected Kaduna state to hold your meeting. This is further proof of the enabling environment we’re able to create in Kaduna State. And I want to remind you today that the state is a peaceful and secure place for your investment…We’re also doing all that is possible to promote and boost business activities in Kaduna.”
The Yakowa administration has been working relentlessly to effectively improve commerce by upgrading dilapidated infrastructures as well as building new ones to stimulate industrialization. One infrastructure that has caught the immediate attention of the governor, and is paramount to manufacturing and other forms of businesses, is electricity. In view of frequent electricity fluctuation in the state and its outright inadequacy resulting in low production by manufacturers, a partnership agreement was recently reached between the state and an expert German firm to improve on the existing energy requirement of the industrial layouts. The German investor has agreed to establish a 30-megawatts (mw) solar energy plant in Kaduna. Already, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed in August under the Nigeria-German Partnership. The firm is required under the contract, to build the plant at a cost of 50 million euros under a Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) basis that will see the German firm operate the facility for 25 years.
In the same light, the state government has been desperately pursuing the evacuation of 30-megawatts of electricity from Gurara dam through a Public Private Partnership (PPP) to boost electricity consumption in both
industrial and residential areas. To encourage the industrialization policy of the state, the Federal Government also recently approved payment of 37 billion naira to hasten completion of work at the dam as well as “provision of transmission lines that will evacuate the power to the Kaduna industrial area for the revival of ailing industries.”
The administration has also promised to make land available to industrialists who want to tap into the state’s large consumer markets and its position as gateway to other markets in the North. Land has always been an important component of manufacturing and Kaduna State government is dangling it as a bait to woo more investors. Sensing the seriousness of the administration and its commitment to seeing the return of industrial activities in the state, manufacturers of popular brands have signified interest to storm Kaduna to grab the opportunity. So far, this has yielded fruits by the coming of the largest noodles company in Africa. And if signals are true, then more companies would in a short distance establish production plants to provide employment for the state’s teeming graduates and school leavers who are already restive.
It was in this regard that the management of De United Foods Industries Ltd, manufacturers of Indomie noodles, in a quest to establish a plant in the north for its range of products, had taken the challenge and graciously approached the state for a land to build a factory. In quick response, the state allocated a large acre of land to the company at the Refinery Industrial Layout, Kaduna, which it named Northern Noodles Limited. Though the company promised to invest a whooping 50 million dollars at the completion of work, the first phase which has consumed 20 million dollars was successfully commissioned on May 22, 2012, by the governor as part of events marking his one year in office. As the largest noodle company in Africa, the firm, owned by Indonesian investors, has since started production, serving the needs of the northern markets and neighbouring countries.
Aside providing gainful employment to skilled and unskilled workers in many fields within the factory, there is also the benefit of the firm engaging in corporate social responsibility in its host community, thereby assisting the state in providing social amenities to the various rural communities in its neighbourhood. Another benefit is the revenue accruable to the state through company and income tax and others, which will no doubt add to Kaduna state IGR. The feat recorded by the building of the new company no doubt is an attestation that the coast is clear for manufacturing activities to resume in full-swing. Understandably, this has given way to emergence of other companies who have exhibited spirited intentions to take advantage of the central nature of Kaduna as the prime entryway to other states and invest in the manufacturing sector. In this latest group is renowned milk manufacturing company based in Lagos. The company has already requested for a suitable land to build a milk factory and the governor has instructed the ministry of Lands and Survey to locate a prime land for the company’s business need.
Today, the fallacy that businessmen and women have deserted the state or that no business can thrive because of fear of crisis, which is common in many societies, has dissolved. Governor Yakowa is successfully re-creating the state’s business environment to engineer rapid industrialization that Kaduna was known for in the last four decades, providing employment for hundreds of thousands of people. Surely, this scenario is what the administration seek to replay when the industrial community becomes bubbling with life once again.
SWAM wrote in from Kaduna.