The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki has said investment in infrastructure, including roads, electricity, Information Communication Technology (ICT) and gas is imperative for the country to attain economic diversification.
Obaseki, who spoke at the South-South Enlightenment Engagement Forum themed “Maximizing non-oil export potentials in the South-South region for economic growth,” said his administration has in the last three years focused on diversifying the economy of Edo State.
Speaking to participants at the event in Asaba, Delta State, Obaseki said his administration has worked very hard to create the enabling environment for businesses to thrive, stressing that one of the missing links is financing support and expertise to manage small businesses, which Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) is bringing on board.
“For us to diversify our economy and encourage export as a nation, we must focus on infrastructure, particularly access to roads, electricity, Information Communication Technology (ICT) and gas.
“Edo and Delta states are blessed as we have the capacity of generating almost 2,000 megawatts of electricity but the challenge is how to move the power to areas for effective production,” he said.
Obaseki said his government has also embraced agriculture to develop and grow the Edo economy, adding: “We have partnered the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to develop the oil palm fund and the CBN has supported our plan with N70 billion in funding. We have programmes for both small and large investors in oil palm. Under the oil palm programme, we approached the World Bank programme called Rural Access and Mobility Projects (RAMP) to develop rural roads for easy evacuation of farm produce for export.”
On his part, Delta State Governor, Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa said the engagement forum was a big leap for Delta State and the South-South region as it encourages the region to begin production for exports.
“The programme is to enlighten the people and encourage the states to produce for export. Beyond the knowledge, NEXIM Bank has facilities to support each state and SMEs in the South-South. The bank has committed N1 billion to grow SMEs and the lending rates is convenient at nine per cent cheaper than what you get in commercial banks, which is 20 or 21 per cent per annum.”
The Managing Director of NEXIM Bank, Abba Bello, said the organisation is signing a Memorandum of Understanding with all states in the South-South region to support the efforts of the governors in the region to diversify their economies.
“The N1 billion is a start-up seed, which we intend to grow to N5 billion per state and in the next 3 to 5 years, spread across other states in Nigeria. We are ready to support all the efforts the South-South governors are embarking upon in diversifying the revenue base of their states’ economy outside of oil,” he noted.