Nasarawa: An Investment Summit With A Difference

BY VICTORIA N. IKEANO

It was bound to happen sooner than later. The only surprise perhaps is that it is coming some three years into the administration’s tenure which is also, one year to end of its first tenure. We all are aware that in Nigeria, the last year of any government’s tenure is subsumed in politicking with much energy and attention devoted/diverted towards election campaigns and the litigations therefrom. So, one had expected this summit to happen latest by the second year of the governor’s assumption of office. I guess, the COVID pandemic contributed to its delay. Even before he was sworn in, Governor Abdullahi Sule had done a kind of SWOT analysis of Nasarawa State – its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges. So, he came prepared with a clear vision of where he wants to take the state to. Being an industrialist, this centred on the economy—growing the state’s economy and to wit, creating wealth, improving the citizens’ standard of living by attracting small, medium large-scale industries anchored on the state’s comparative advantage in the areas of agriculture and solid minerals. Studies have shown that the best way to accelerate economic development and so banish poverty so to speak, by creating employment is through industrialization because of its multiplier effects. So, one of the very first acts of the governor was establishment of the Economic Advisory Council composed of experts and chaired by Professor Koyinsola Ajayi (S.A.N) which then produced the policy framework document known as the Nasarawa Economic and Development Strategy (NEDS), detailing the state’s roadmap to economic growth. One of the state’s goal is to be among the three most competitive states in Nigeria by year 2023. To this end it has established the Nasarawa Investment Development Agency (NASIDA). Recall that the Nasarawa Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) was among the organisations that were scrapped by Sule’s predecessor. Now, it has been revamped, reformed with an apparently bigger mandate. In 2021 it attracted some 500 million dollars worth of investment into the state.

The Nasarawa Investment Summit, the first of its kind in the state was meant to crystalize the government’s efforts towards attracting more investors into state, reinforce its concept of public private partnership, bring current and would be investors as well as government on to a dealing table where the state’s investment prospects are showcased for them to choose from. It is different in that what states in Nigeria had been organising so far and which Nigerians are more familiar with, are Economic Summits. Thus, the Nasarawa Investment Summit is about the first such summit in Nigeria. An Investment Summit is more appropriate than an Economic one given the ultimate objective. I foresee states renaming their ‘Economic Summit’ to ‘Investment Summit’. Another unique thing about the Nasarawa Investment Summit was establishment of a ‘Deal Room’ right at the venue where investment deals are struck. As at the time of this write-up, the summit was still on-going so I could not get figures of the number and net worth of investment deals concluded

A third unique thing about this inaugural Nasarawa Investment Summit is the unveiling of the Small Claims Court handbook by the state’s chief Judge, Justice Aisha Bashir-Aliyu who happens to be the first female chief judge in the north central zone. She revealed that the Small Claims Court which meant to give investors confidence in the judiciary is the first to be established in the north central zone, adding that some 132 “small claims” have been filed since its establishment. Creation of this court is especially useful for small and medium-scale enterprises/entrepreneurs that abound in our societies. Dr. Jumoke Oduwole, Special Adviser to President Mohammadu Buhari on Ease of Doing Business remarked that the Small Claims Court which goal is to make access to Justice easier is part of the reform initiatives of the Ease of Doing Business aimed at creating a conducive environment for investors. It had been established in a few states like Lagos, Kano, Edo.

Expectedly, this Investment Summit, attracted an array of very important personalities and investors, both local and international’ They included Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who is chairman of the National Economic Council, former Ghanaian president, John Mahama who gave an insight into his economic policies during his presidency, Edo state governor Godwin Obaseki, former Central Bank of Nigeria governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, etc., etc.

Senator Abdullahi Adamu, the state’s first elected executive governor said that the state was a rural setting when he assumed office in 1999, so much so that the office of the then local government chairman had to be used as a kind of Government House. He noted that a lot of efforts had been put into developing the state as witnessed by its transformation. According to Senator Adamu until recently, the state had not been able to gain as such, from its abundant solid minerals, adding that it is blessed with abundant raw materials for industries. Senator Al-makura who handed over to incumbent Governor Sule, also lauded the summit, stating that it would give businessmen and investors confidence in Nasarawa state. Incidentally, both former governors/senators chair committees that are germane to the state’s investment drive. Senator Adamu before his resignation from the upper chamber following his recent election as national chairman of the ruling APC was Senate Committee chairman on Agriculture while Al-makura is the chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Solid Minerals. Chairman of the Nasarawa state Economic Advisory Council, Professor Ajayi who also doubles as chairman of the Nasarawa Investment Summit disclosed that they hope to make the state one of the largest economies in Africa as he welcomed all to the “the Deal state”.

Chairman of Dangote Industries Limited, lead sponsor of the Summit who Governor Sule sill calls ‘boss’ to this day (having worked as managing director of Dangote Sugar before his election) and who has substantial investments in Nasarawa state, reiterated his group’s commitment to the state’s economic growth. Governor Sule himself gave a background to the Summit’s theme, ‘Diamond in the rough, the making of a new investment frontier’. He reeled out figures to show that the state was making progress in its investment quest, including tripling of its internally generated revenue. Nasarawa is stepping up its efforts to further improve on those statistics. In his presentation, Mahama harped on the importance of infrastructure development – roads, schools, hospitals and the like. He also stressed the need to invest more on capital projects than on consumption, enthrone transparency and accountability, among others. The erstwhile Ghanaian president urged policy makers to always prepare for the uncertainties of the future as well as take into consideration global events that could affect the economy. Vice President Osinbajo’s address was interspersed with facts and figures about Nasarawa state. It was as though the state was his favourite book he was reading. Director-General Strategic Communication and Events, Yakubu Lamme creditably performed his task as master of ceremony with his mellifluous voice. About ten investment ready deals were expected to be signed on first day of the summit.

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