Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), has described the Lekki Free Trade Zone as a major vehicle to attract investment into the country even as appealed to the Federal Government to provide a direct gas pipeline to the Zone to enable it generate its own power.
Governor Fashola, who spoke at the Investment Hall of the Lekki Free Trade Zone while flagging off the Zone’s Investment Forum and the Eko Expo 2012, said gas is the major requirement for the sustainability of the Zone adding that though some companies have shown interest in generating power in the zone, such power would not be sustainable if it has to be fueled with diesel.
“We acknowledge the support that the Federal Government is giving. The environment for investment they have created. The men of Customs and Immigration here; but we need a direct gas pipeline into the Zone in order to generate its own power”, the Governor said, adding, “Mrs. Oworu has told us of some companies that have shown interest in generating power here. But the plan cannot be sustainable if we generate power and fuel it with diesel”.
Describing the Lekki Free Trade Zone as a useful model, Governor Fashola said the Zone, like its counterparts all over the world, represents a vehicle to attract investment into the country adding that his administration is committed to driving the model to achieve that objective.
Citing the Chinese example, Governor Fashola, who said the nation’s economy is now dominated by goods made in China, pointed out that it was because the Chinese Government provided the conducive environment for investment that manufacturers go to China to set up manufacturing industries.
The Governor declared, “Today, our life is dominated by things made in China. It is not an accident. It was a major economic strategy that made the Chinese market the easiest and most efficient place to manufacture goods. It is not so much what the Chinese made themselves that made them leaders of the global economy but what the world has decided to go and manufacture in China and one of the vehicles for giving that attraction to the Chinese economy are economic zones and free zones like this”, the Governor said.
“We have adopted a useful model and are working with partners who have done it before. It is now our commitment to use that model to achieve what we want”, the Governor said, adding that although Africa is being touted as the growth pole of the world and the future investment destination, this would only come true if the right economic steps are taken by Africans themselves.
He declared, “Make no mistake about it, it is not a given thing, we must earn it. There are cycles of development that move around and it is not enough to count the numbers. It is a huge opportunity but we must do the right things”, adding, “I think the Free Trade Zone, the partnership we have with the Federal Government and the enthusiasm shown by the Minister of Trade and Investment is a strong signal of our commitment to take the opportunity now”.
Governor Fashola expressed joy that the investment drive in the Lekki Free Trade Zone is being led by Nigerian companies who, according to him, “are putting their money in their own economy”.
“The most significant thing that is happening here is the investment drive that is being led by Nigerians; an investment drive where Nigerian companies, Nigerian industries are putting their money in their own economy”, the Governor said adding, “The truth is that there are no investments coming from the outside that will be bigger than what we can generate here and if we don’t put our money into it, nobody is going to come”.
According to Governor Fashola, “That is why our Government has focused on providing the materials that we are convinced will stimulate investment, providing the necessary secure environment in which to do business. That is why we have invested so much in security; that is why we have invested so much in Transportation which is the linchpin of modern civilization and without which there is no business”.
Throwing more light on what informed the recently signed Traffic Law in the State, Governor Fashola said, “This Free Trade Zone sits between a seaport which will be somewhere in the Atlantic and in the front of it will be an airport to provide a logistic centre to bring in raw material and to take goods out easily”.
“That is why the 40 members of the House of Assembly found it necessary to enact traffic laws to ensure that the Lekki-Epe Expressway that is coming this way serves its purpose to become an efficient road network into this place with law abiding citizens driving in the right direction, obeying traffic rules so that people can move goods and move in an efficient and cost saving manner for the benefit of all of us”, the Governor said.
On the Eko Expo 2012, Governor Fashola, who paid tribute to the initiator and first Military Governor of the State, Brigadier General Mobolaji Johnson, said the Expo had grown like the Lagos International Trade Fair over the years but had also experienced a lull adding that when the proposal to hold it was brought to him, he said the only condition in which he would approve was that it be held at the Lekki Free Trade Zone.
“The Governor, who said the event was initially planned for the Tafawa Balewa Square, declared, “But I said the only condition I can approve it is if it is held in this new Trade Zone; the industrial hub for Lagos and Africa so that people will come and see what we are talking about and also the opportunities that lie here”, the Governor said.
Governor Fashola paid glowing tribute to the managing company of the Free Trade Zone, the Chinese partners and the people of Ibeju Lekki who gave their land for the project as well as the Ministry of Commerce and Industry led by Mrs. Sola Oworu pointing out that the development that has taken place in the last 18 months has been tremendous.
“I think about 18 months ago when I came here, what we came to open was the Data Processing Centre and the One-Stop Shop where you have all of the Customs and Immigration and all of the facilities. And, I tell you, when I came here today, I almost lost my way and the credit must go to the management company, our partners and the leadership provided by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry under the leadership of Mrs. Sola Oworu”.
Governor Fashola appealed to the land owners to keep the peace and cooperate with the Government to carry out the project to its conclusion pointing out that it is such projects that gives value to the land.
“I want to appeal to you all. I have received all your petitions about excision of land and all that. We are working on them. But we need you to keep the peace if we are to add value to your land and to your life. The work we are doing is not easy but we are proud to do it; we are proud that you gave us the privilege to do it. If you could show understanding, you will benefit in the end”, Governor Fashola said.
Governor Fashola who noted that the Zone would outlive many of those who midwife it, described it as a legacy that the children who will inherit it will be very proud and thankful to all those who contributed to the realization of the dream.
In his remarks, the Consul General on Nigeria/China Trade Cooperation, Mr. Liu Xianfa described the Lekki Free Trade Zone as the biggest Chinese investment outside China adding that the investment would further strengthen relationships between China and Nigeria.
In his address, the Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr. Segun Aganga, said the Federal Government would work closely with the Lekki Free Trade Zone and its counterparts across the country to supply all the necessary needs to enable them achieve the desired objectives which, according to him, include investment generation and job creation.
Earlier in her welcome address, the Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Mrs. Sola Oworu said the Lekki Free Trade Zone which, according to her, is being developed in four phases, had already generated over 5,000 jobs with the host communities being the beneficiaries.
According to her, the Eko Expo, which was first staged in 1968, was resuscitated by the present administration after 10 years of break and has been repackaged as an effective promotional platform for the benefit of Small and Medium Enterprises as well as larger enterprises.
Also present at the occasion were the Speaker of the State House of Assembly Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, former Commissioner for Special Duties, Dr. Tola Kasali, top officials of the CCEC partners, Traditional rulers, Land Owners and members of the host communities as well as other top government functionaries.