27th March, 2012
Lagos State Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN) was on Monday a guest of the Ogun State Government at the first Ogun State Investors Forum with the theme: “Ogun State Open for Business” restating that security remains the most potent driver of investment.
Governor Fashola who spoke as one of the discussants on the topic “Private Investment in Agriculture” at the forum held at the DLK Events Centre, in Abeokuta said a recent research project conducted in Lagos by Oxford University has revealed that not even owners of small businesses like barbing salons, provision stores, bukas or beer parlours will invest in setting up a business if they do not feel safe and secure to do so.
He added that in its determined move to show that Ogun State is ready for business, security is not negotiable and the state must be ready to create an environment where the security of life and property is guaranteed.
The Governor also identified other key elements which are conditions precedent for any state that is serious about stimulating economic growth to include law and order, a reliable judicial system, consistency of policies and institutional integrity.
“Closely linked with security is law and order. It is beyond argument that businesses or indeed any form of human endeavour cannot thrive in a lawless and disorderly society. It is not enough for investors to feel that there is a low crime rate or that there has been a reduction in crime.
“The environment must be one where taxes are promptly paid and social miscreants, minor misdemeanours and petty crimes are the exception rather than the norm. Government must also simultaneously remind the citizens of the benefits that will come to them if they play their parts,” the Governor stated.
Governor Fashola also stated that such a state must demonstrate consistency of policies stressing that no investor will be willing to come to an environment which is characterized by inconsistency of policies.
“There will always be margins for reviews but very little margin for reversals,” he said .
He identified the most critical institutions for accessing law and order to be the presence of a dynamic parliament and a strong and reliable judicial system that will prescribe remedies and punish infractions in accordance with the standards of globally accepted adversarial adjudication processes.
The Governor also took time to explain the reality and correct the wrong impression that businesses are relocating from Lagos State.
He said what must be first recognized is that the business needs and economic orientations of a family, a community, state or country will rapidly change according to the demographics of its population and its socio-economic needs.
“So we find that, manufacturers who first established their factories and industrial plants in Lagos, but can no longer find enough contiguous land to expand, have moved to the location closest to where they call home – Ogun State. Ogun’s proximity to Lagos and its land size (Ogun State is four times the size of Lagos State) – is what has helped manufacturers to take these strategic decisions.
“And this is not unusual. It happened in the United Kingdom, where we saw a massive urban-rural migration of factories and industrial plants of the major manufacturing companies, even though London and the other major cities have remained their primary markets”, Governor Fashola stated.
He explained that similarly, Lagos has over time evolved from an industrial economy to a more service-oriented economy – Information Technology, Banking, Tourism, Retail Outlets, Hospitality etc resulting in a situation where for every one factory that is established in Ogun, at least four hotels, retail outlets or other service providers open up in Lagos.
In his words: “What does all this mean? It means that each region has its own unique selling point. It also means that we can draw on our comparative strengths for mutual benefit, development and integration. For instance, some of the quarries that supply the construction sites in Lagos are located in Ogun State. The Lekki Epe Toll Road, the Eko Atlantic City project, the Badagry 10-lane Expressway and Light Rail project, – all use the products from these quarries. So you need Lagos to service the jobs in those quarries!”
The Governor who spoke alongside the Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs Omobola Johnson, Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka and Kaduna State Governor, Mr Stephen Yakowa also commended the Ogun State Government for the initiative of the first forum said it is borne out of a great vision and courage to set new frontiers and ambitions.
Governor Fashola said in Lagos State, the administration is self driven and is now ready to engage in faster gear with the competition that is coming from a state like Ogun State.
The Governor noted that most investment drives in Nigeria are always foreign driven to the detriment of the large un-utilized capitals that are sitting in many accounts in the banks in the country.
He advised the Ogun State Government to consider ensuring that the investors’ forum metamorphosed into a full economic summit as Lagos State has done, adding that it will lay a basis for root and branch dissection of all sectors of the economy where commitments are made and resolutions are followed.
He informed that he has already asked his Works and Infrastructure Commissioner to collaborate and share ideas with his Ogun State counterpart on how to improve access between the two states as it affects Shagamu/Ikorodu Expressway.
Also speaking, Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka called for the entrenchment of healthy competition among states, saying it will bring out the best from each state of the federation.
Professor Soyinka said with the convening of the investors’ forum, the states are showing that they will no longer wait for the government at the centre to develop the states because they have largely been responsible for the underdevelopment of the states.
Professor Soyinka stated that the quality of education in Nigeria has been deteriorating due to proliferation of tertiary institutions, adding that Nigeria and Nigerians should invest in education instead of seeing education as an investment for generating profit solely.
Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs Omobola Johnson who also contributed to the panel discussion said ICT can serve as critical infrastructure that could drive the growth of the economy if properly harnessed.
She said several opportunities such as the creation of incubator centres exist for Ogun State to tap into from the present arrangement so that ICT could be used as a basis for making it an investors’ haven.
The Kaduna State Governor, Patrick Yakowa, who also shared his experience about Kaduna at the forum, said he has learnt a lot with his presence since the opening of the confab and would be coming to Lagos to learn one or two things about good governance.
He also advocated peer review among Governors as a basis to stimulate healthy development of the states in the country.
The former Prime Minister of Republic of Ireland, Mr Bertie Ahern who delivered the keynote address, said the present administration in Ogun State deserves credit for its emphasis on economic development.
He listed some of the conditions which made Republic of Ireland record tremendous economic prosperity, peace and global political prominence during his time to include provision of stable business location for investment and being positive and having an “I can do it” mentality.
He added that others include the building of infrastructure, development of education, development of the people, provision of business incentives and agriculture.
Speaking earlier, the Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun said Ogun State which is famed for its ofada rice has become the investment destination with several incentives put in place by his administration.
He said Ogun State has grown to become the third best revenue generating state that is determined to provide an enabling environment for would-be investors who are willing to take advantage of the incentives.
The session was witnessed by some members of the Lagos State Executive Council who accompanied the Governor to Abeokuta, including Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, Mr Ben Akabueze; that of Finance, Mr Tokunbo Abiru and Commerce and Industry, Mrs. Sola Oworu.