Published On: Mon, Sep 19th, 2016

Delta Will Be Known Soon As an Agrarian State

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On September 19, 2016

 

By Omoh Gabriel

 

Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa -Delta State Governor

Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa was a guest at the Lagos Business School Breakfast meeting, here he presented to a selected private sector operator what the state is doing to attract investment to help grow the economy.

Here are excerpts from the discussions

 

On building a commercial city in Asaba and relationship with Onitsha

The bulk of businessmen in Onitsha that really have the resources and money, live in Asaba, because there is no more space in Onitsha. Delta state has the space. Besides, Asaba is also very peaceful. We believe that the commercial city we are developing is very different from what they are doing in Onitsha. They are building infrastructure, but we are building a commercial city. The concept is very different .so obviously we are not building what they are doing but where we are and where we are going to is obviously creating a city that is commercially based and I believe that it is going to be very workable. Both sides will gain from it. Both of us Delta and Anambra are actually very close and we talk to each other.

On the status of Asaba airport upgrade to international status

As with the Asaba airport and whether the letter has been written to the federal authority for the upgrade, yes. Prof. Sylvester Monye has written the letter, but I told him that I am going to give myself up to December before I sign and he knows the reason. Otherwise, he wrote the letter that same day and brought it to my table. But, the question is because of a few challenges we have at the airport for which we have awarded the contract; I cannot send the letter. We have given the contractor up to December to upgrade some of the infrastructure to the required standard. The funding is fully available for that. We need to get that airport to that level before we can actually write for it to be approved as an international airport. Because, if we just seek for approval at the moment they may just think we are not serious enough. So the letter is available in my office, but it will be signed in December.

Making ports in Delta state functional

Actually, the reason why the Warri Port has not been able to pick up traffic the way it should is because it needs to be dredged; but overtime the Federal government said they are coming to do the dredging and you know that the state cannot go in there to dredge. But, one very important thing is that the Delta Gas City or Gas Revolution Industrial Park that is coming up within the Egidigba area, they would have no choice but to dredge the Escravos and by the time that is dredged a lot more ships can come into the Warri area. At the moment only smaller ships can come in there. We believe that once that project takes off a lot more ships can come in. As with the issue of funding, I think the solution is by the corner because I know that in the last visit we had to China, from the information we had, there is every likelihood for it to be funded through private sector driven effort, but it will be funded. So, we hope that the Warri Port will come alive very strongly. Because it is very well positioned, if you are in Onitsha and you want to get your goods, I am sure that you would not want to take it to Lagos. Rather, you will want to take it through Warri and we are building a dualised road from Ughelli down to Asaba, just by the corner to Onitsha. We are already dualising that road.

In the next four years what would you like Delta to be known for?

What will we like to be known for? Yes, agricultural development. We want to have been seen as a state that has moved more into agriculture than being dependent on oil. We also like to be known as a state in which the youths acquire skills to such an extent that they can feed their families without having to seek for civil service jobs. Those are the areas we are concentrating on. People have insulted me, said all kinds of things: “You are not engaging people in civil service jobs. I cannot take anymore, rather that money I will have used to pay salaries I rather use it to equip our youths with skills in agriculture and in other areas and ensure they are able to stand on their own. And with time, I believe they will realise we have done the right thing.

Need for agricultural summit in the state

I agree with you there is need for such a summit. It is something we are going to look into because I am very passionate about it, and I think that having taught together as a people we believe that that is the direction to go

Omonile Syndrome in Delta state

Omonile syndrome is not in Delta state only. We are very mindful of this. The area this is most evident, is the Uwe-Ekpa area, there has been a lot of insanity in that place; we are creating a special outfit that is working in that area. I think we are going to take care of that soon. I do not know the exact place you talked about now concerning the radio station, but I know that if you have any of such issues and if you contact me, I will take it seriously and intervene in such situation. But, you will realise that it will take a little time to actually deal with Omonile issue. More so with the challenges we have at the moment. But, we will not allow any business to be frustrated and that is why when the private sector wants to acquire land, I will want to be part of that process so that we are in the know of everything that is going on and we are able to put the people in check and use the appropriate laws to deal with those who do not want to conform with the law. We are dealing with that. We are very mindful of it.

What is the challenge for getting capital project done given that we are in dire need of infrastructural development?

Yes, at 56-44 recurrent/capital that is a proposed we made when going into 2016 budget, even when we thought that we were making enough projections. We did not anticipate what started happening this year. We are trying to grow the economy, but it will take time to do. A lot of our funds come from within, the Oil sector, either from VAT allocation or internally generated revenue from oil service companies or oil companies. But, with the challenges they had; you have a situation where we have a reduced internally generated revenue and a reduce inflow from VAT because the derivation we are getting is little to nothing. But, peace is returning. The question is will the funds available to you enough to pay salaries. If you do not pay the salaries of people and you would want to put all the money in capital expenditure, you will have no government to run. That is exactly what it is, so we will be doing our best to see what we can do.

What will you like the private sector to do to facilitate the planned health insurance programme knowing dearth of health institutions?

As to the question on our health centres of developed programming service, there is no doubt that there is paucity of health centres but in real sense of it and in terms of numbers. I believe that we have the right numbers to kick start the health insurance in the state. We have done an audit of the available health centres, it is not going to be about tertiary institutions. If you actually want to drive health insurance policy as it should be, you concentrate more on the primary health services and secondary health care services. The tertiary healthcare is something that can be provided inside or outside the state. As at today, we have well over 400 primary health care centres and that is closest and nearest to the people. We have done an audit and we found that all of them are not in a kind of functional state to take enrollees, but we have found that at least half of that number are in functional state and with just a little funding to each of those primary healthcare centres they will be a functional state to be able to take enrollees. As at today, and I believe that Delta state is one of the states that has, in terms of numbers, secondary health care facilities hospitals of various sizes in the public sector. We have 60-64 hospitals. Not many states boast of that number. Most states do not even have up to 20. All we need to do is to improve on their equipments. The personnel are there at least to take care of basic healthcare service. And if we are talking about tertiary healthcare institution, we have a teaching hospital in Oghara that has its own challenges but it is a functional tertiary centre and some of our hospitals like the one in Warri can also provide tertiary healthcare services. So the fact is that we are also using the private sector. We have private trainees and we believe that a combination of these will be able to provide a basic start for a success. Then, we will now find a way to start growing this. By the time you start to have a pool of funds available to them to begin to grow these various centres as it should be, I think that anybody who wants to come to invest in the health sector is welcomed at this moment because this is the right time to actually come in to key into the process. But we are doing a proper audit with the National Health care insurance and that is why we have taken a lot of task over the last six months. We are doing the ground work and we do not just want to take off like every other thing that has happened in the nation, where you take off and then you find you are challenged at the end. I have told them that we need to have all the information, the background information, before we take off for the health insurance. We are getting very close, we believe that by the month of October and December we should actually launched and take off.

On tax incentive for investors

On the tax incentive, you realise it is going to depend on the kind of business. It is something that is going to be discussed between the investor and us. We can give tax holiday. We can have negotiated taxation. It is all going to depend on each business model being discussed and will be discussed with the necessary personnel of the government at the point in time. So, we are available for discourse. The governor and economic team will work out the incentive fully in the next two months, but before then the economic management team will take charge of that, the commissioner for finance and few other commissioners with various investors. We will have very good sections where we will actually offer assistance to help people get along the line.

(SOURCE –VANGUARD)

 

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