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Nigeria’s oil-rich Rivers State makes moves to become investor magnet

Nigeria’s oil-rich Rivers State has a unique opportunity to emerge as a beacon of progress, replacing hopelessness with hope, according to former Apex Bank governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.

At the same time, Rivers State Governor Siminalayi Fubara has highlighted the state’s efforts to create a more vibrant, investment-friendly environment, aiming to reassure investors of the requisite return on their investments.

Located in the Niger Delta region, Rivers State is a key oil-producing area in Nigeria. It hosts several major oil companies and boasts several oil wells.

Despite its vast oil wealth, the region has faced oil theft and sabotage over the years and suffers from a high unemployment rate.

Building an investor’s paradise

However, Fubara emphasized that his administration is taking measures to re-industrialize the state and bring back numerous production factories that had shut down operations.

During the two-day Rivers State Economic and Investment Summit (RSEIS), themed “Rivers Emerge: Advancing Pathways to Economic Growth and Sustainability,” held at the Dr. Obi Wali International Conference Centre in Port Harcourt, Sanusi delivered a keynote address where he called for better management of the state’s resources.

“With rich abundant land, abundant resources, and natural resources, as well as the strategic location of the state, Rivers can be one of the best investors paradises, not just in Nigeria but in West Africa if the right things can be done,” Sanusi said.

The Emir of Kano stressed that a prosperous future relies on the capacity of state institutions and the quality and skills of its population.

He drew comparisons with countries like Japan, Singapore, Germany, Australia, and Rwanda, which have thrived without significant natural resources, attributing their success to good governance, innovation, and education.

Fubara highlighted the various measures taken to make Rivers State a destination for all categories of investors.

“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,” he said.

Fubara also announced a N4 billion (over $2.7 million) 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 these businesses.

‘Oil is not a curse, the curse is the leaders’

Sanusi pointed out that while countries like Russia, the UAE, and Norway have benefitted from their natural resources, their success also hinges on visionary governance and strong institutions. He argued that resources can be both a blessing and a curse, depending on leadership. “Oil is not a curse; the curse is the leaders we have had,” he said.

Fubara detailed further initiatives, including providing hundreds of hectares of land for projects like a multi-billion-naira aluminum rolling mill and collaborations with international firms to develop the state’s agricultural potential.

He emphasized the importance of reviving abandoned agricultural projects and infrastructure, saying he would set aside about $10 million for these efforts this fiscal year.

Governor Fubara highlighted the investment opportunities across diverse sectors, including oil and gas, agriculture, manufacturing, hospitality, tourism, education, ICT, healthcare, infrastructure development, glass products, garments production, and power generation and transmission.

With over 40% of fertile cultivable landmass, Rivers State has the potential to significantly contribute to national food security through commercial investments in mechanized agriculture and agro-processing industrial value chains, he said.

In his keynote address, former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Kingsley Moghalu, said that due to the prevalence of poor governance in Nigeria, the abundant human and natural resources in the country have not been sufficiently harnessed to achieve the desired prosperity.

He particularly advocated for the implementation of well-meaning policies to dismantle barriers to doing business while promoting transparency and building investor confidence.

Moghalu added that, alongside developing requisite skills among the people and building enduring critical infrastructure, the foundation for good and competent governance should be assured to make the foreign direct investment (FDI) sought truly beneficial to the country.

Sanusi concluded by highlighting the importance of investing in human capital and creating an education system that meets contemporary labor market demands.

He called for an end to corruption in the judiciary, sensible tax policies, and the development of a skilled workforce to reduce dependence on foreign expertise.

He urged Rivers State to aspire beyond being a recipient of federal allocations to becoming a commercial and industrial hub where citizens enjoy a decent standard of living.

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