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Industrialisation: Ogun On Fast Track To Claim Hub Status From Lagos

A fruit and nutty factory in Agbara	                                                                                                                               Courtesy bassarg.com.ng
A fruit and nutty factory in Agbara Courtesy bassarg.com.ng

THERE is no gainsaying that Ogun State is gradually becoming an investment haven, overtaking Lagos in terms of localisation of industries. Aside being a centre of attraction for new investors, some companies in Lagos, the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria, are relocating to Ogun State, especially around Shagamu area of the state.

A journey from Ikorodu to Shagamu would reveal that most companies in Apapa have acquired land and have commenced the building of other factories in the process of relocating to the area. One of such companies is Niger Biscuit, which has already acquired hectares of land in Shagamu, where it is presently building a new factory. Investors in the steel sector now see Ogun State as a comfortable location for manufacturing activities.

In 2014 alone, N515b came in as investment into Ogun State, while Lagos came second with just N73billion, according to report by Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN).

Officials of Ogun State government said there have been deliberate policies put in place to make the state a haven for new investment, since the inception of the current administration.

According to the Ogun State Commissioner for Commerce and Industries, Otunba Bimbo Ashiru, since the present administration assumed office in 2011, 100 new companies have moved to establish there. “And I have commissioned 79 of them,” he said.

Among them, he explained, was the multi-national American company, Fidson Healthcare PLC, which has invested over N25 billion.

“There are over 100 companies in the state, but we have been able to commission 79 till date. When we came in, Ogun State was rated number 35 in terms of the place for doing business in Nigeria. What we did was not only to create a friendly environment; we also put all necessary infrastructure on ground for easy take off of any business and sustain them. We then went to the World Bank to convince them that we had improved in so many ways through creating enabling environment for business to thrive. We have also introduced a one-stop-shop, whereby investors now know who to talk to and where to go. The enabling environment we created was in infrastructure development. For instance, the road network was greatly improved upon. We equally established a good relationship with all stakeholders, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and Chambers of Commerce, so that we could get feedback from them always on what could be done and improved upon in terms of doing business in the state, ” he explained.

Giving another reason for the influx of industries to the state, he said, “Ogun State is the most secure state in Nigeria today. We have been given award to that effect twice internationally. What we are saying in essence, is that, if you create security and an enabling environment for business to thrive, it will help because the primary objective of any investor is to secure his or her investment and that is what we have succeeded in doing.”

To woo investors to the state, the government gives discount on land purchased by any investor and a handful of other incentives.

“Governor Ibikunle Amosun has given approval for discount on land, but not only that, we also allow investors to do whatever business they want to do within one year, without paying tax, once there is an evidence that two of the company directors have paid tax in other states in Nigeria. We created a one-stop shop for investors with the various units of government working seamlessly to enhance the investor-friendly profile of Ogun State. We also created a help desk to assist investors. We created an open-door policy in the form of liberal regulations for the establishment of industries and we provided suitable land in designated urban and rural areas.”

The commissioner said the state is benefitting greatly from the exodus of companies in terms of job creation. He said a former President once observed that it would get to a point, where no single citizen would be without a job in the state with what is going on.

“The last time we commissioned one of these companies, Fidson Healthcare Plc., they informed us they had employed over 500 individuals from Ogun State and another one said they had employed 10,000,” he said.

The chairman of export group of Manufacturers Association, Mr. Tunde Oyelola, said Ogun State has capitalised on its proximity to Lagos to attract investors, especially in the area of localisation of industries, using liberal policies.

According to Oyelola, Lagos is collecting so many charges that are not obtainable in Ogun State, adding that charges in Lagos is pushing many investors to Ogun State.

He explained that the land use charge and signage charges alone are enough to scare investors away from Lagos.

Said he: “In Lagos, there are lots of charges such as land use charge, the signage charge and a handful others, which Ogun is not collecting and that has made the state more friendly for investment. The cost of land is lower in Ogun compared to Lagos. So, Ogun has capitalised on all these together with the proximity factor to attract more industries. Because they know that Ogun is not far from Lagos, where there is a market for their products and they don’t have to spend much on transporting raw materials from the ports in Lagos, they have made their environment friendlier to attract industries. That is the reason why Ogun has become the destination for new companies.”

President and Chief Executive of Beloxxi Industries, Mr. Obi Eze Ezeude, attributed the trend to availability of land in Ogun compared to Lagos.

Ezeude, who owns a biscuit factory in Agbara area of the state, explained that among other factors that are attracting investors to Ogun State is the cheap cost of land and ease of acquisition.

In Lagos, industrialists were at Alausa, the seat of the government, during the week, to protest multiple charges, extortion by Local Government officials and lack of infrastructure. This alone is enough reason for their considering Ogun State as their new investment destination.

In response, Lagos State Commissioner for Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives, Rotimi Ogunleye, said the state government would continue to ensure collaboration with the Organised Private Sector (OPS).

“Not just to sustain the existing level of development, but to also sustain the momentum of progress. A wholesome operating environment remains key to job creation, poverty alleviation and overall economic improvement of the state,” he explained.

He observed that some issues earlier raised by business owners in the last one year have all been addressed.

On the arbitrary imposition of levies and rates by the third tier of government, the commissioner said the Ministry of Local Government and Community Affairs has advised the management of respective local government to adhere strictly to the Approved List of Chargeable Rates under the Law.

At the meeting with business executives during the week, they requested government to discontinue the use of consultants by regulatory agencies, such as the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) and the Lagos State Safety Commission, owing to the attendant high costs of doing businesses in the state.

But the commissioner told them that, “As a regulator, the agency registers the consultants, as stipulated by the LASEPA Law, appraises the technical reports prepared by the consultants on behalf of the project proponents, as well as communicates its observations and recommendations to the proponents. However, the agency is not involved in the negotiations between the proponents and the consultants.”

On issuance of Certificate of Occupancy (C-of-O) to companies, the commissioner said since the inception of the present administration, over 3000 C-of-Os have been uploaded for the governor’s approval.

He reassured captains of industries and commerce that more than before, “Lagos State is poised to assist the industrial sector in maximise its potentials for greater contributions to the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“Towards this end, the state government, through the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives, shall continue to institute measures aimed at creating a sustainable and positive environment to all stakeholders in the state.

“From the ongoing development at Lekki Free Trade Zone, the Enterprise Zone, the Agric Industrial path, Industrial Estate, Business and Technology Incubation centres that we have all over the state to shopping malls and commercial centres, we have been providing physical infrastructure for businesses.

“Also, our business support policies have engendered industrial development, trade promotion and re-orientation of cooperatives for sustainable growth. These measures are designed to ensure that producers of goods and services, their distribution agents and their consumers enjoy the benefits of doing business in Lagos,” he said.

To promote enterprise in the state, Ogunleye added that the ministry would continue to interface with other ministries, departments, and agencies in other states and at the Federal level, as well as other relevant ones both local and international institution and development partners.