Business

Rivers earmarks $10m to revive Songhai Farm, others

•Plans multi-billion naira aluminum plant in Ogoniland

 

From Tony John, Port Harcourt

Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, has disclosed that his government has budgeted about $10 million to revive the state’s agricultural sector in 2024.

The governor, who made the disclosure yesterday at the ongoing Rivers State Economic and Investment Summit 2024, said he was already in talks with an Israeli firm, Imagine Adams Agricultural and Technology to support in developing the state’s huge agricultural potential, including reviving abandoned projects and infrastructure such as the Rivers Songhai Farm, School-to-Land farms, fish farms, oil palm estates and poultry farms.

Governor Fubara has also hinted that the Apache Aluminium LLC of America has started the acquisition of land to establish a multi-billion-naira aluminium rolling mill (plant) in the Ogoni axis of Rivers.

According to the governor, Rivers State had since lost  rating as one of the industrialised States and competitiveness as a preferred destination for domestic and foreign direct investments resulting in the continuous posting of low economic growth, high unemployment rate, and slow development.

He noted that for decades, the Rivers state government had continued to depend more on allocations from the federation account to fund its expenditures because tax revenues had remained low due to low investments and economic growth.

Fubara said: “For us, building a resilient, robust, and diversified economy holds the key to sustainable peace, security and progress of our State and the spiritual, social, and physical well-being of our people.

“We, therefore, commit to the re-industrialisation of Rivers State in partnership with the informal and organised private sectors through necessary policy, legal, and other support measures, and systems.”

He harped on the benefits of the summit which would afford the participants the opportunity to know the economic potential and business opportunities available in Rivers State.

The governor said: “The State also is the second largest economy in Nigeria, and with a nominal GDP of over $28.4 billion, the State’s economy ranks in the top 25 economies in Africa comparable to countries like Botswana, Rwanda, and Gabon.

“The State has a relatively robust infrastructure, including good roads, two seaports, an international airport, and a free trade zone, and with a population of over 7 million indigenously diverse, educated, highly hospitable people, and a business-friendly environment, Rivers State stands at the centre of diverse economic opportunities.

According to him, “Rivers State provides several investment opportunities across diverse sectors of our economy, including oil and gas, agriculture and agro-processing, manufacturing, hospitality and tourism, education, ICT, and healthcare, infrastructure development, glass products, and garments production, and power generation and transmission, to mention a few.

“With over 40 percent of fertile cultivable landmass, Rivers State has the potential to make a significant contribution to national food security with commercial investments in mechanised agriculture and the agro-processing industrial value chains.”

He told participants that several state-owned but moribund companies, farmlands, and business infrastructure, including oil palm estates, rubber plantations, poultry, and fish farms are available for interested private investors to take over and revitalize.

He added that the State presents lucrative opportunities for the commercial production of highly valued cash crops for the export market.

Fubara stated: “Given these advantages and many other attractive opportunities, the economy of Rivers State has great potential for serious investors to tap into, exploit and be rewarded with huge profits and lucrative returns on investments.

“Since assuming office, we have prioritised peace and security and focused on growing our economy through partnerships and collaborations in line with our belief that it is the private sector, not the State government, that grows the economy, creates jobs, and guarantees wealth and prosperity for our people.

“Our commitment is to make Rivers State the best place in the country to invest and do business by creating a vibrant, investor-friendly business environment, and improving the ease of doing business to boost investors’ interest and confidence in the State.

“We have already implemented certain policy initiatives and reforms, including the prompt allocation and issuance of land titles and certificates of occupancy to prospective investors and a moratorium on State taxes and levies on new businesses.

“We are also working on the harmonization of State and Local Government taxes to eliminate double taxation and the imposition of multiple levies on investors.

“Two weeks ago, we launched the N4 billion matching fund loan scheme with the Bank of Industry Limited for small, micro, and medium-scale businesses to drive financial inclusion and enhance the growth and development of support these businesses to grow our economy, create jobs and wealth for our people.

“Furthermore, we have also approved the establishment of the Rivers State Investment Promotion Agency to provide one-stop-shop investment services and facilitation to investors in the State.”

The governor added: “In the first year of our administration, we received an appreciable number of expressions of interest from local and foreign investors to invest in diverse sectors of our economy, including agriculture, real estate, power generation, and manufacturing.

“We have signed a development agreement with TAF Nigeria Limited for the construction of 20,000 mixed houses in the Greater Port Harcourt City. We signed another development with Gosh Nigeria Limited for the construction of an international spare parts market. The State government provided hundreds of land as its equity and work has since started at both sites.”

Governor Fubara continued: “We have opened discussions with Imagine Adama Agricultural and Technology of Israel to support the State in developing our huge agricultural potential, including reviving abandoned agricultural projects and infrastructures such as the Rivers Songhai Farm, the School-to-land farms, fish farms, feed mills, oil palm estates and poultry farms across the State. We have earmarked about 10 million USD for this project this fiscal year.

“Last week, the State Executive Council approved the proposal by Rainbow Heritage Group to build the New Port City in the State on about 1000 hectares of land in collaboration with the Greater Port Harcourt City Authority.

“We have also concluded arrangements for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Planet One Holding Limited of Dubai for a 10,000,000 USD Mangrove Forests Conservation and Carbon Capture Project under the Private Public Partnership arrangement.

“By and large, we are the economic heartbeat of the Niger Delta region and the South-East and our focus at this time is to grow our economy to greater heights so that we can derive more tax revenues to deliver quality social services to our people.”

According to him, “Our mantra is “Rivers First.” Our covenant and commitment are to serve our people to the best of our ability with compassion, honesty, and responsibility.

“I assure you all that our intentions are right; our commitment is unwavering, and with the collaboration and support of all, we will collectively harness the economic potential of Rivers State to achieve considerably high and sustainable economic growth and prosperity in the coming decade and build a brighter future for our children and grandchildren.

Chairman of the occasion and former governor of Cross River State, Mr. Donald Duke, huge economic potentials Rivers, emphasizing on the natural endowment the citizens and country have.

He said: “The point here is that we  are so blessed as a people. Maybe I should put it in another way; we are so endowed by nature. We do not know how much we have.

“This conference is so apt at the time when the nation is seemingly losing her noble greatness. Most times, we talk about the number of we have. But, we never  talk about the quality of people we have. The world is beyond the stage when you celebrate numbers. You celebrate quality. So, the nations we talk about are not the largest nations in terms of population.

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