As the Gateway Cargo Airport in Ogun State nears completion, another milestone was reached on November 4, 2022, when the state welcomed the business world’s who-is-who to the inside and outside the coasts of Nigeria with the groundbreaking ceremony. Special Agro-Industrial Zone (SAPZ) project, carried out by Governor Dapo Abiodun.
The $800 million project would be the largest investment in Nigeria, with the first phase amounting to $400 million. The project is an integrated development initiative designed to physically concentrate large-scale agro-industrial activities to leverage and exploit the state’s high agricultural potentials.
The SAPZ will accelerate the state’s ongoing industrialization by boosting productivity and integrating the production, processing and marketing of carefully selected commodity value chains that will enable agricultural producers, processors, aggregators and distributors to operate in the same environment.
Speaking at the inauguration, Governor Abiodun said the project is a collaboration between Arise Integrated Industrial Platforms and Ogun State and will be completed in a record time of 18 months. He is of the opinion that the special industrial park is the first of its kind in the country and would generate more than 20,000 direct jobs and individual prosperity.
The governor said he was delighted that the location of the airport, which was until March 2020 a forest and a dump, had now become the airport city which would probably be the fastest-built international airport in Africa.
Abiodun revealed that apart from the SAPZ, the Nigeria Customs Service has decided to locate one of its largest facilities in the country on its 100 hectares of land at the airport, while the army of l Nigerian Air, local and international investors in transport, hospitality and agriculture have also shown interest in the airport
The governor noted that the groundbreaking was further testimony to the restoration of trust between the government and the private sector and assured that his administration would continue to work diligently to further gain the confidence of private investors. He assured that the current state administration would continue to engender policies and programs that would remain people-centred and allow the private sector to thrive.
Abiodun thanked Gangan Gupta, Chairman of Arise Group, for realizing the vision of making Ogun State the industrial hub of the country and also thanked the President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, for his support and encouragement to continue the realization of the project.
“I must then acknowledge and thank the President of AFREXIM, Dr Ben ORAMA, whom I called to further discuss the PPP/SAPZ model with and who organized the physical ARISE meeting and myself. Without the trust Dr. ORAMA had in me, which was the basis of the referral in the first place, we certainly would not be here today.
“Of course all of this had to be backed by funding and I have to thank the support of the African Finance Corporation led by my brother, Zuberu Samaila, who ensured the project was significantly de-risked and AFREXIM Bank for making us confidence,” the governor said.
He explained that his administration’s decision to turn the push factor of Lagos into a pull factor towards Ogun, led him to introduce various policies and reforms, and also deploy technology to improve government efficiency. and increase the state’s ranking on the ease of doing business index.
“Today we are considered one of the safest, if not the safest, states in the country. We have built over 400 km of interstate highways in three years and six months and it is worth mentioning that we have at least one road in each of our 20 local government areas and have built more than 1,200 affordable housing units across the state, creating jobs for artisans.
“We will be back here very soon to commission our international agricultural cargo airport in a few months and our deep sea port is also loading,” Abiodun said.
Gangan Gupta, Chairman of ARISE Integrated Industrial Platforms, said the company has invested in several African countries, including Togo, Benin, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Gabon, Rwanda, Republic of Congo, among others, saying that his company was happy to be in Ogun State and ready to build industrial platforms capable of transforming the economy and contributing to the industrial development of the state.
Trade and Investment Minister Niyi Adebayo, who was physically present on the occasion, described the project as a milestone and a step forward in Nigeria’s economic revolution. He added that SAPZ would help in agro-industrialization and create jobs for the people, noting that “it is going to be a regional trading hub.”
The Minister acknowledged that Ogun State has a rich history in the field of agriculture and agro-processing in the country and commended the Governor for his visionary leadership and brokering the partnership which attracted a multi-million dollar project for the state in particular and Nigeria as a whole.
Chairman of the Senate Industries Committee, Adetokunbo Abiru, also described the project as an example of how the private sector could be harnessed for Nigeria’s economic development, expressing confidence that the SAPZ would boost the value chain. agriculture, increase incomes, create jobs. and stimulate exports.
African Finance Corporation Chairman Sumaila Zubairu said the project, sitting on 5,100 hectares of land, will change the landscape of Ogun State in 18 months.
“With added value like this, we can create jobs and wealth. We will continue to play our part in enhancing industrial development in Nigeria and Ogun,” Zubairu added.
Furthermore, AFREXIM Bank Chairman, Benedict Oramah, attributed peace and security in Ogun State as key factors that attracted the Arise Consortium, and commended the Governor for creating an enabling environment. local and foreign investments in the state.
The Commissioner of Finance and Chief Economic Advisor to the Governor, Dapo Okubadejo, noted that the SAPZ marks a major milestone in the economic revolution of Ogun State.
He revealed that no less than 30 laws have been enacted to simplify business operations and reduce administrative bottlenecks in the state, adding that six business clusters have also been established across the state, to enhance the investment dynamics.
Giving his royal blessing to the project on his estate, the Akarigbo of Remoland, Oba Babatunde Ajayi, who was pictured at the ceremony, said he and his people had been praying and looking forward to the take-off of the project, which is being held at benefit of the whole community. He assured that all the traditional leaders and the people fully support the project.
Mrs. Arike Adesanya, a petty trader from Ilisan, expressed her joy that the project is finally taking shape.
“This airport is something we have been waiting for for a long time. I was in junior high when we were told that an airport would be built in this city. Since then, nothing has been done until the term of Governor Abiodun. I am happy that very soon Ilisan and all the towns here will be like Lagos where business will flourish.
Ayinde Adebanjo, a farmer, said she was delighted with the advent of the project. “I am happy because my agricultural products will no longer be spoiled. I’ll just pack it up and take it to the airport to sell it,” he said.
From the activities that have started to take place at the site, it can be said that it is not just an autonomous airport, but an airport that integrates other modes of transport such as road and water, integrated into the state transport system.
With the arrival of Arise Integrated Industrial Platforms to invest 400 million dollars initially at the airport, the special agricultural processing zone will improve production cost efficiency through shared infrastructure and facilities, which in turn will increase the productivity competitiveness of agricultural value chains.
The SAPZ will help realize Governor Abiodun’s vision of making the state the fastest growing economy in the country and the industrial hub of the West African sub-region.
Having a dream is one thing and making the dream a reality is a whole other ball game. As the founder of the Walt Disney Company once said, “All of our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
The SAPZ would not have embarked without the resilience and determination of Governor Abiodun, who ensured takeoff from the agro cargo airport.
In 2007, the government of then Governor Otunba Gbenga Daniel decided on a cargo airport for Ogun State. The Ilisan Remo site for the cargo airport was chosen because of its proximity to Lagos, Africa’s fifth largest economy, as well as access to the always busy Lagos-Ibadan highway and the Lagos-Ijebu-Ode-Ore-Benin highway. Although the administration obtained the necessary approvals from the relevant government agencies and carried out the necessary investigations, the project did not start until the Daniel administration expired.
The fate fell on the government of Prince Abiodun, who succeeded Ibikunle Amosun. Although Amosun succeeded Daniel as governor and was in charge for eight years, nothing was done to continue the project. Instead, Amosun attempted to abandon the project, a move that smacks of politics. He secured another large tract of land at Wasinmi on the Abeokuta-Lagos highway for a commercial airport project which also failed to take off.
For a man who has repeatedly said that his rise to governance is aimed at making Ogun State more prosperous for all natives and residents, taking the airport from mere red tape to reality is a plus for the ‘State of the front door.
• Joseph wrote via [email protected]