IF job creation is a sine qua non for economic growth and social development, the recent signing by the Ogun state government of a $400 million memorandum of understanding with a foreign company , Arise Integrated Industrial Platform, on the development of Olokola Free Trade Zone (FTZ) and Remo Agro Processing Zone deserves critical attention. The Olokola Free Trade Zone (OKFTZ), founded in 2004 and located on 10,500 hectares of land along Ondo and Ogun states, was to serve as a complex of multi-purpose deep seaports and a free zone. -exchange, as well as export processing area, with operations in oil and gas manufacturing, gas supply, among others. Located directly opposite offshore oil and gas discoveries, it was to include a refinery and petrochemical park, warehouse and storage buildings, heavy industry, as well as living and recreational areas. Indeed, speaking in Abuja at the official signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on the Olokola Liquefied Natural Gas (OKLNG) project between the governments of Ogun and Ondo States, the co-owners of the Olokola Free Zone and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Chevron, Shell and British Gas in March 2007, the then Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, described it as a milestone to stimulate export activities in Nigeria. The project, however, did not go as planned and was stalled throughout Governor Ibikunle Amosun’s eight-year tenure, although a silver lining was offered by Dangote Group Chairman Alhaji Aliko Dangote who wanted a $16 billion refinery. located in the riverside area of ​​Ogun.

Incidentally, the current state helmsman, Prince Dapo Abiodun, was Chairman of the Board of Olokola FTZ when Dangote approached the Ogun State Government with his plan. However, following the businessman’s failure to meet Governor Amosun’s terms, the state lost the proposed $16 billion refinery to Lagos. All of this, fortunately, is history. As fate would have it, Abiodun became the state’s fifth democratically elected governor. And as someone who fully understands what happened in the Olokola affair, he is apparently in pole position to avoid the inconveniences of the past and make an informed economic choice on behalf of the Ogun people, that is why the Okola free zone is now being revived. with maximum economic opportunities for Ogun State and by extension Nigeria as a whole. When it took office, the Abiodun administration had identified the state’s profile in terms of comparative advantage and had undertaken to bring in investors to improve the socio-economic well-being of the population and maintain the position of the state as the industrial capital of Nigeria. It is therefore not surprising that with the memorandum of understanding between his government and the Arise Integrated Industrial Platforms (IIP), around 25,000 jobs are already in sight. In fact, the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding is one of the dividends of the road shows that Governor Abiodun has undertaken across the world.

The company is widely recognized for its activities in identifying industrial gaps in African countries to unlock value and create new industries, with the aim of industrializing key sectors by creating local transformation, maximizing production , efficiency and costs, which in turn generates local added value. . It aims to boost exports, enable the local processing of raw materials and promote trade through tailor-made special economic zones, as convincingly demonstrated by its activities in Gabon, Benin and Togo. And given the economic potential of Ogun State and the business-friendly infrastructure and policies put in place by the Abiodun administration, under which the Gateway State has become the largest investment destination in the Nigeria, his intervention in Ogun promises to be the largest and most profoundly successful in Africa.

Speaking shortly after the signing ceremony held at the Governor’s office, Abeokuta, Arise IIP Founder and Managing Director Gagan Gupta revealed that his organization will focus on the Olokola Free Zone and Agribusiness Processing Zone. de Remo, adding that the $400 million would be for the completion of the first phase of agribusiness projects, with larger investments envisaged by July 2023. Noting that his company would bring own funds to the ground leaving 35% shares open to national actors and the state, Gupta commended the depth of information made available by the state government to his team when it came to an assessment of the potential investment areas. In his own response, Governor Abiodun noted that the project would not only create employment opportunities but would be a training center as the company would set up a technical training center to train artisans for the livelihood of the project. His words: “We are happy to find an Afrocentric partner; who understands the sub-region and all the issues that concern people and is ready to spend more than 400 million dollars. We are indeed very happy that you are in Ogun State. I am happy that you are setting up two economic zones, one in Olokola which will take care of mobility and automobiles and the other, the Remo cluster, which will take care of agro-industry. We will support you and we will leave no stone unturned. Our support for you will be total. The infrastructure you bring will attract more investors to come to our state.

When it is kept in mind that the current project will not only open Ogun State to new investments but also provide quality jobs for its burgeoning youth, the vision behind the revitalization of the free zone of Olokola will be more fully appreciated. It will literally transform the corridor into an industrial hub, especially given the existence of a power plant through which gas is accessible. With gas transported from Escravos directly to Olokola, activities in renewable energy, automobile manufacturing, among others, promise to radically transform Ogun’s economy and take it to phenomenal heights. Regardless of the current focus of investments on renewable energy, the Olokola FTZ has different layers of investments and is expected to be linked with the agro-airport currently under construction at Ilishan Remo. Manufactured goods will move effortlessly from the free zone to the agro-airport for export. The Olokola Free Zone is, for all intents and purposes, a gateway to prosperity. The renewable energy aspect will be ready in July this year and the multiplier effects over the next two years, including job prospects in the region of 150,000 to 200,000, can only be imagined. A free trade zone housing real estate, automobile, agricultural and manufacturing industries and complemented by an agro-allied airport is an unbeatable economic prospect for Ogun State. This is an obvious fruit of Governor Abiodun’s strategic thinking. Great things indeed await the Gateway State.

Apagbo sent this piece via japagbo@aol.com