Together with the Deputy Governor of Ondo State, I want to welcome you to this special dinner to make your acquaintances. It is a great honor to be amongst you with my lovely wife and members of my administration. I must say, you all look great tonight.
This is the 1st time I am meeting many of the diplomatic corp since assumption of office on February 24, 2017, a little over 2 months ago. Standing here, I can’t help but be reflective because four years ago, I decided it was time to change the tone of our politics, I worked night and day against all odds with my team to develop plans to rapidly transform Ondo State. Then I decided to run for office.
As a new governor full of vigor and ideas, I promised the people of Ondo State that our administration will focus on five (5) cardinal points that is sure to improve the lives and wellbeing of our people. These areas, for the purpose of emphasis are:
1) Job Creation for our youth and women through sustainable Agriculture, Entrepreneurship)
2) Massive Infrastructural Development (road networks for our farmers, our oil & gas potentials in the state
3) Provision of functional Education and Technological growth; (Plans underway to establish a Technology village)
4) Provision of Accessible and Qualitative Health care and social service delivery
5) Rural Development and Community Extension services
These goals were birth out of the need to empower and improve the socioeconomic stance of our people and the state in general. Indeed, changing the lives of our people is a goal worthy of our best efforts.
Whilst it is an acceptable fact that government continues to be responsible for the delivery of basic services and infrastructure, it has become clear that the methods by which these services and infrastructure have been done in the past can be better optimized if we can work together as a team with our development and donor partners present including the private sector to achieve the development agenda of the State.
One of the key components in economic development for any government is the creation of enabling environment for potential partners and investors. To this regard, we have progressed in the state assembly the bill on Fiscal Responsibility law, Procurement Law, Organic Public Finance Law and Audit laws.
Just yesterday, I launched the “State Integrated Financial Management Information System” SIFMIS built on the S.A.P software under the World Bank assisted Public Sector Governance Reform and Development Project. I believe this will totally eliminate gaps in the handling of public funds and usher in an era of financial accountability transparency and responsibility to create the necessary enabling environment required to foster the desired economic growth.
We have almost at the finishing line in creating the Ondo State Investment Promotion Agency to drive FDIs and investments into the state.
At this juncture, let me recognize and say thank you to all the development partners working in Ondo State; WORLD BANK, PIND, DFID, MADE, FOSTER amongst others that I haven’t mentioned. I hope you have found us a worth partner so far.
It will interest you to know that the Ondo State primary Health care Board won the Bill & Melinda Gate grant award as the best state in immunization at the Nigeria Immunization Leadership challenge that has led to a grant to start the revamping of our primary health care Centre cold chain initiative using SolarDirect Drive Refrigerators. We still seek partners to further develop it and our other health initiative such as maternal health, family planning, and supply chain to ensure no woman in Ondo state dies giving life.
The Public sector governance reform team of the World Bank alluded to the fact that Ondo state PMU is the best in the country.
With a population close to 5 million people signifying its potential for high productivity of both human and material resources. Given the impact of the global fall in crude prices on the economy of oil producing nations and particularly Nigeria, it should not come as a surprise for a proactive administration such as ours to change focus from total dependence on allocations from FG to ways of improving FDIs and hence GDP growth in Ondo State. Coincidently, Ondo State is blessed with myriad investment opportunities in various sectors waiting to be explored. Time will not permit me to enumerate each one but briefly, let me interest you on some of these sectors craving attention.
Ondo State is recognized as one of the most educationally advanced States in Nigeria. The sheer number of public tertiary institutions is an attestation to this claim. They include Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko; Ondo State University of Medical Sciences, Ondo; Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo; Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo; Federal College of Agriculture, Akure; and Federal University of Technology, Akure.
The State is on the other hand seeking for private partnership in managing the newly established Ondo State Public Service Training Institute (PSTI). This Institute is a management development establishment for the training of middle and senior level manpower for both public and private sectors of the economy. It is the first of its kind and has the required infrastructure to be the foremost institute in sub-Saharan Africa. One of our priorities is to resuscitate staff training and the retraining of the entire Ondo State workforce, we already have the Ondo State Public Service Training Policy developed by PWC.
Ondo State is an agrarian economy with agriculture being the dominant employer of labor, providing income and employment opportunities for over 70% of the population. It is no longer news that Ondo state accounts for over 40% of Nigeria’s annual cocoa output. This is in no small measure due to the favorable ecological and climatic conditions that support the cultivation of a large variety of crops, however we process less than 2% of our cocoa output.
Additionally, Ondo state is also a major player in other agricultural produce in tree crops such as oil palm, rubber, cashew and kolanut; arable crops such as cassava, yam, maize, rice, sugarcane; fruit crops such as pineapple, citrus, mango, pepper and tomato. Our Rice paddies for example are taken all the way to Lagos or Kogi by our farmers to be processed because we don’t have a large capacity rice mill in the State.
An area of intervention in our agriculture sector is the resuscitation of existing plantations especially the Cocoa, rubber and Oil palm and the rehabilitation of our ailing industries including the Okitipupa Oil Palm Plc and Araromi / Ayesan Oil Palm Plc.We are determined as an administration to break down the barriers that have made us stagnate. We are planning sustainable initiatives that will outlive my administration and many administrations to come.
We want to deliver our mandate with you our partners by leveraging on your experience and learning to achieve our objectives.
We want to change the mindset of our youth and women to think entrepreneurial, to relinquish the thought of farming as a way of life, rather as a very profitable, cool, sustainable business that can make them financially independent.
We also want to develop a strong knowledge economy with policies that are geared towards using ICT as a catalyst for innovation in every sector of the economy, also support existing innovation hubs, build new Innovation Centre’s across the state to serve as magnet for our youths who are high-end-thinkers to birth new ideas in partnership with the largest local and international hubs and technology companies such as Microsoft, Google, Main One Cable, SAP, some of them we are already in discussion.
I am pleased to announce for the first time that Ondo State is developing a 15billion Naira Ondo State Employment Trust Fund designed by SAO CAPITAL. This fund’s core focus will be to stimulate Micro Enterprises, SMEs and drive Innovations. The funds potential verticals will be Fintech, women-led startup businesses, food and agribusiness, health-related startup businesses, Environment and Energy businesses. Ondo State Government will be seeding the fund with N1bn yearly and our strategy for co-funding partners will be from development banks in Nigeria, NGO and foundations, and our multilateral partners present here. This fund will be managed by highly experienced fund managers with extensive MSME experience.
Other initiatives being planned is ‘Project Light-up Ondo” with the application of small renewable energy technologies and captive IPP projects to power at least 60,000 households especially in the riverine community in Southern Ondo without grid connection.
Back to Land initiative will unveil a scheme in partnership with development programmes working with the State to empower around 20,000 youths and women in agribusiness in its drive to boost youth employment thereby drastically reducing the unemployment level in the state.
The state government is also looking to harness available opportunities in agribusiness and processing in conjunction with interested partners/investors. There are ample potentials and markets in cassava processing as over 100MT of cassava produced per annum are either being processed locally or transported to neighboring states for processing which more often than not impact development of the industry.
Our coastline, one of the longest in Africa is home to various fish species like sole snapper, croaker, barracuda, big eye grunter, catfish etc. This is an unchartered territory that promises an exciting prospect for fish farming as part of this administration’s drive towards economy diversification.
One of Ondo State’s high value project is the proposed Olokola Deep Sea Port and Free Trade Zone Project. The Olokola Free Trade Zone is an industrial enclave designed to be supported by a multi-purpose Deep Sea Port Complex. It is conceived as an integrated multi-purpose deep-seaport complex and Free Trade Zone, serving also as Oil and Gas logistics base as well as Export Processing Zone all with direct access to the Atlantic Ocean.
Despite obvious benefits to the proposed OKFTZ project; it has been lingering over the years with inability of successive governments to start-off the project which is proposed to be private sector led with a maximum of 40% government participation.
To this effect, a nine-man technical committee has been instituted to reactivate the OKFTZ project.
In addition to Oil and Gas, Ondo state boast of possessing the second largest reserve of Bitumen in the world. It is also endowed with large deposits of various solid minerals including Limestone in Okeluse Arimogija, Granite Kaolin, Silica Sand amongst other minerals.
Whilst attention over the years has been on Oil and Gas; this Government is willing and ready to exploit her Bitumen reserve in a sustainable way. It is estimated that over 90% of the minerals in Ondo State are unexploited and unutilized. This gap points to the need to encourage Public – Private Partnership in these sectors.
Most of this tourist location require minimal investment in areas such as development of Beach Resort and park; travel and Tour companies. The proximity of Ondo to Lagos (which boost the largest aggregation of formal workers in Nigeria) is also an added upside to potential markets / investments.
I, Arakurin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, representing the Ondo State Administration is making a promise that we are ready to work our fingers to the Bone. We encourage you to join us in revolutionizing the state. Gone are the days of paying lip service to proper governance. An African Proverb says “If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.
Once again, I welcome you to Ondo State – The Sunshine State. Thank you very much for your time.