By Ali Abare
The recently held Nasarawa Inaugural Investment Summit has come and gone. The summit, which was held on the 11th and 12th of May, was the brainchild of the Engineer Abdullahi Sule administration aimed at, not only showcasing the potential of Nasarawa State, but also attracting private investors to the state.
As a result of meticulous and all-encompassing arrangements, the investment summit culminated into a huge success as world-class business leaders, captains of industry, as well as technocrats brainstormed on the way forward as Nasarawa State became the new investment frontier in the country.
The summit was organized in line with the commitment and determination of the Engineer Sule administration to diversify the economy of Nasarawa State, to wean it from over-dependence on the monthly federal subvention and make the state self-reliant.
Of course, this would naturally require foresight and a dogged spirit to realize, especially in a society where the monthly subvention is seen as manna from heaven and the only known viable option for development and growth.
In this respect, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, unfolded his administration’s Nasarawa Economic Development Strategy (NEDS) which encapsulates the vision and key strategies on how the administration will transform the economy of the state to compete among the top three viable states in the country.
The problem with planning in Nigeria and subnational entities like Nasarawa State, pundits argue, centres on the inability of government to summon the necessary political will to implement its stated objectives.
This is where the Nasarawa State Government, under the leadership of His Excellency, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, is making the difference, demonstrating not only the foresight and capacity to initiate a comprehensive economic development plan for the state but equally muster the requisite political will to execute the plan.
The National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and presidential aspirant of the ruling party, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, commenting on the recently held Nasarawa Inaugural Investment Summit while on a courtesy at the Lafia Government House, pointed out that the major drawback to achieving any goal is lack of implementation of stated objectives.
“It’s one thing to have a blueprint, it’s another thing to have a commitment to do the job and being brilliant enough to go through the minefield and make priority out of immediate lower hanging fruits,” Tinubu stated.
Also speaking during the opening ceremony of the investment summit, the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, another presidential aspirant, noted that the metaphor of refining as suggested by the theme of the summit, “Diamond in the Rough: The Making of a New Investment Frontier”, demonstrated a deep appreciation of what needs to be done, even as the administration celebrates what has already been done.
According to Prof Osinbajo, “A crucial component of the success of this enterprise is the vision and unequivocal political will of the governor and his team. This is absolutely crucial and we have seen that demonstrated in driving this vision and the determination to get things done.”
Indeed, for the Engineer Sule-led administration, organizing the two-day investment summit is a major step forward to open up the state to investors and achieving the vision of the administration for a private-sector driven economy.
It provided the administration a once-in-a-lifetime chance to bring together world-class business leaders, captains of industry, as well as seasoned technocrats, who according to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, postulated some theories and a whole lot of strategies that can help Nasarawa State.
While commending the state governor for his vision and unshaken political will to rapidly industrialize the state, Prof Osinbajo, in a keynote address at the event, noted that Nasarawa State has tremendous potential, especially in agriculture and mining that would, however, require polishing in order to shine.
The vice president equally identified the state’s proximity to the FCT as another potential for the generation of internal revenue from the personal income tax of workers residing in Nasarawa State but working in Abuja.
“This is absolutely crucial and we have seen that demonstrated in the clarity of vision and the determination to get things done. The governor has cast a vision early in the life of the administration in the following words, ‘To re-engineer Nasarawa State for rapid industrialization’,” he stated.
Osinbajo further commended the Governor for initiating reforms through the Nasarawa Economic Development Strategy (NEDS), which sets out a range of reforms covering the central billing system and ease of doing business, which led to the establishment of the Nasarawa Investment Development Agency (NASIDA).
In a goodwill message, President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, described the summit as an important and necessary requirement to a state that is committed to promoting the enabling socio-economic development, as well as improving the quality of life of the citizenry.
Dangote commended Engineer Sule for providing the necessary enabling environment for the investment summit to be held successfully.
He noted that the enablers include providing committed and focused leadership and well-thought-out institutional framework that enables the creation of sustainable conducive business and investment climate.
Dangote equally harped on developing not only a credible, comprehensive development plan identifying investment opportunities and projects but backing them with supportive public policies and regulations that make investment opportunities competitive.
“I am aware that on his arrival at the Nasarawa Government House, he has worked hard to create a state development strategy, the NEDS, that aims to position the state as one of the top three investment destinations in Nigeria.
“I am also aware that Governor Abdullahi Sule has secured the services of a world-class team of economic advisers led by one of Africa’s leading professionals, Professor Koinyisola Ajayi, to ensure that NEDS has all the ingredients of a comprehensive people-oriented economic development strategy.”
On his part, former president of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama, while delivering another keynote address titled: “Building for the African Continent: Lessons from the Ghanaian Economy”, shared some key thoughts on how Nasarawa State can proceed, with the benefit of hindsight, with its investment plan and implementation milestones.
Dramani congratulated the Engineer Sule administration for the decision to focus on stimulating the Nasarawa economy by building and expanding infrastructure, and developing the human capacity of the people to create wealth and jobs.
According to the former Ghanaian leader, infrastructure does stimulate economic growth and that, while the private sector will drive the Nasarawa Economic Development Strategy, it is the state government’s responsibility to position the sector by implementing the strategy, building and ensuring that the needed infrastructure is in place.
Speaking as a member of a panel, Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki, said Engineer Sule, since his assumption of office, has remained focused on germane issues engendering development. “For us in Edo, just like for you in Nasarawa, we know that the biggest and most important resource that we have as a state, is our people.”
Also, speaking as a moderator of a panel, the chairman, organizing committee for the investment summit, Professor Koinyisola Ajayi, sought to know what the governor had in place to govern Nasarawa State when he decided to leave the private sector to join politics.
Delivering his speech at the event, Nasarawa State Governor, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, said the investment summit will afford his administration the opportunity to continue to strategize on the future of the state’s economic fortune with vigour.
Engineer Sule said the event will further provide the state government the opportunity to explore business opportunities that abound in the state, as well as forge investment partnerships in the agricultural and solid minerals sectors of the economy.
“The summit is, therefore, aimed at positioning Nasarawa State in the investment destination amongst the top three most competitive states in Nigeria by 2023, in terms of accelerated growth, increased economic opportunities, social inclusion and improved quality of life of the citizenry,” he stated.
The governor added that the summit is also aimed at promoting investment opportunities and fostering synergy, as well as partnerships between government institutions and private sector actors who are critical players in the socio-economic development of society.
Engineer Sule acknowledged that the summit brought together experienced and tested financial, investment and economic experts that would assist the state in attracting investment and providing the needed direction for his administration to follow in order to galvanise growth and development.
On his part, Vice President of the Islamic Development Bank, Dr. Mansur Muhtar, speaking as a member of a panel with the topic “Opportunity Collaborating for Growth: A Discussion on how Sub-Nationals can utilize their Shared Strengths”, chaired by A. B. Okauru Esq., Director General, Nigerian Governors Forum, disclosed that beyond the resources the bank provides to countries and sub-nationals like Nasarawa State, it also provides knowledge and advisory services to support member countries.
Chairman of the organizing committee of the investment summit, Professor Konyisola Ajayi, said indeed, Nasarawa State is a diamond in the rough, not because of the great things previous governors have done but because of the nature of the people of the state.
Professor Ajayi who doubles as the chairman of the Nasarawa State Economic Advisory Committee commended the leadership style of Governor Sule, which has brought about the necessary synergy between the three arms of government thus paving the way for investors to come into the state.
“Our hope here in Nasarawa State is that it becomes one of the largest economies not only in Nigeria but in Africa. And with all of us here, we are certain that this truly will be achieved,” he said.
Earlier, in a welcome address, the Chief Executive Officer/Managing Director of Nasarawa Investment Development Agency (NASIDA), Ibrahim Abdullahi, described the two-day event as a very exciting moment for the state.
Abdullahi pointed out that Nasarawa State is experiencing unprecedented reforms in policy and action, especially in the past three years with the Engineer Sule administration focusing on building a credible, strong and sustainable business environment.
“This is to support the government and state’s aspirations to revitalize the economy of the state, leveraging private sector capital and expertise. It is also in the belief that government has no business in doing business,’ he said.
He stated that the event will comprise six plenaries, with the first being an opportunity for collaboration, focusing on the need for states across the country to capitalize on the strength of growth and development.
The presidential plenary featured President John Dramani Mahama and a host of other key distinguished speakers, among who are, Aliko Dangote, 14th Emir of Kano, HRH Muhammadu Sanusi II, which focused on the urgency for sustained economic growth, seeking to galvanize necessary partnerships and support to help in building the economy of Nasarawa State.
At the end of the event, four deals were signed worth over 600 million US dollars.
Also, as part of the event, a handbook for small claims court to make the state more business-friendly was formally unveiled.
This is just as winners of the Nasarawa MSME Challenge 2022, emerged carting away various cash awards ranging from USD5000 to USD1000. The competition was organized by NASIDA and invited MSMEs to participate in a pitch competition aimed at facilitating access to capital and support for them from both public and private sectors.