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Our plan is to industrialise Delta State – Akpobire

Chairman of Delta State Integrated Development Project, DIDP, a Public-Private Partnership Development programme, in the office of the Governor of Delta State, Mr. Godwin Gary Bire Akpobire, is one of the silent thinkers and professionals saddled with the responsibility of developing and creating investment platforms for entrepreneurs to invest in the state.

In the past four years, he has been gathering investment data on energy, housing, agriculture, transport, education and several industrial developments in the state. He has also developed master plans for 1,509 communities in the state, Akpobire spoke to Vanguard on the behind-the-scene plans to transform Delta State.

What is DIDP all about?

DIDP is a Public-Private Partnership Development programme existing in the Governor’s office with the task of developing and creating investment platforms in several sectors in Delta State to enable investor’s come in and invest. In that regard, we started about four years ago by gathering the basic investment data required by investors in several sectors ranging from energy, housing, agriculture, transport, education and several Industrial developments.

*•Mr. Godwin Gary Bire Akpobire

We also started a process of an integrated master planning for each community of the state. We believe that proper planning of each community can and will attract investment needed to build viable and sustainable communities.

We have developed master plans for 1,509 (One thousand, five hundred and nine) communities in the Delta State. We also recognise that government budgeting process on its own, with its limited resources and the challenges of modern times cannot fund all the needs that will get us to our goal of being a first rate society.

There is therefore need to involve private sector finance and expertise in several areas if we are to achieve that goal. Creating the enabling environment for investors is therefore paramount. DIDP, therefore, focuses on areas and sectors that private sector involvement and funding is possible and beneficial both for Government, Investors and communities. We then create platforms that enable all the stakeholders to engage in those areas.

Over the last four years , we have created good platforms in which investors from around the world have shown interest and we have been going around the state working with them on how to kick-start their operations in many areas.

Master plan

In electricity for example, we created a master plan for electricity that includes gas production and utilization, generation, transmission and distribution. We are engaging investors from around the world in these areas and a vibrant electricity supply market will soon emerge in Delta State to drive our industrialization process. In Transportation, we have been working on projects involving the creation of a Deep Sea port, a State Railway and Road Highway Network.

We have also been working with communities to create industrial space for investors around the state based on the comparative advantages that each of these communities have to offer. In these spaces, we are developing clusters looking at new districts for different products.

We believe that every community in Delta State has the potential to be economically sustainable if given the opportunity and the platform to develop its natural resources. I am talking here of non-oil resources. However a number of issues need to be addressed. These includes proper mapping of the resources of each community, the advantages and the disadvantages it presents to any investor seeking to locate in that community.

What we have been doing in the past four years is collecting and analyzing the data and information as well as developing the business case so that investors and communities can develop a profitable partnership. Planning is an essential part of any successful venture. It takes time to actualize a properly planned process. If we fail to plan, then we are planning to fail.

The result of this effort is what is materializing into active projects this year for several communities. There are still issues to address, but I think the partnership between willing investors and communities will only grow as they both seek to advance their interests.

Plan for four power plants

Electricity is the lifeline for any industrialization process. His Excellency recognized this many years ago and wanted particular focus in this area. I am sure that you are aware of the efforts of the state in lighting up the streets and bringing so many communities into the national grid. His Excellency’s effort in ensuring that gas supplies are not disrupted and the NIPP programme, which is fully supported by the state, has contributed to stable power nationwide.

Delta State is naturally blessed as the home of gas to be the capital of power generation in Nigeria. We currently have one of the most efficient power stations managed by Agip in Okpai. In 2007, we started with the Governor’s mandate to look at building a vibrant platform for investors in Electricity generation, transmission and distribution as well as looking at alternative energy sources around the state.

As you may be aware, we applied a few years ago for four power plants licences. The power plants are located in Ovade, Olomoro, Okpai and Oboghoro. We also applied for a transmission licence so that the four power plants can evacuate power to our own state grid that will take the power to the industrial sectors that we are planning for the state. So, the entire plan is to take it from our power plants within our own grid to our industrial zones so that we can create jobs.

We also applied for an off-grid distribution licence, which means the future of Delta State is not dependent on the functional capability of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) or its successors but we want to be able to control our own industrialization process. That is what we have done.

Currently, those licences are coming to conclusion and work has begun in the sites, especially the one in Okpai. Work is ready to begin now in Olomoro, Ovade and Obogboro. It will take about 26 to 32 months for these power plants to be completed.

We have had very keen commitments and movements from the investors on these four power plants. The capacity of the power plants is 625 megawatt each which is enough for our initial industrialization plans. There is capacity to increase this going forward.

It is a very ambitious plan but Delta State industrialization plan has been an ambitious one from the beginning. We want to host investors who need to build new steel plants, aluminum smelting plants, glass industries, fertilizer plants, Feed mills and cold storage facilities. These are high electricity usage industries. So, by no means the 2,500 megawatts is not a big figure, it is actually a bit less for our industrial requirement.

Your franchise model on off grid distribution has being raising so many interests. Can you explain how and why you decided on this model?

In electricity, I always say that the last mile is the only mile. What I mean is that unless the consumer is receiving constant electricity, whatever you are doing in generation and transmission will amount to nothing. So, the distribution element of the process is the most critical and must be taken care of properly.

When we started studying our electricity needs, we discovered that the assets in distribution were the least maintained and the most prone to vandalism. This was partly an institutional culture that does not give real responsibility to anyone for the proper care of those assets.

In our off grid distribution network, we have created a unique model that allows local people to take full responsibility for the functionality of their electricity needs.

We created local electricity networks for every off grid area in Delta State and will have a local company, individual or cooperative that you can meet locally to ensure that your electricity needs are met. In fact we call these Local Electricity Network Operators our “angels of the last mile”.

It means that in every town in Delta State, somebody will be responsible for the provision of electricity. That business model will help us to ensure that there is accountability within the system; there is technical expertise, joint responsibility for the efficiency of the network and a feeling of ownership that will reduce vandalism and theft.

Soon, there will be an announcement regarding the off grid network and Deltans will have the opportunity to participate in the management of their own electricity network and in creating wealth for their own local communities.

We believe that this electricity distribution business model will help us to reach all off grid areas in Delta State at a speed and quality of supply which is consistent.

24-hour electricity

There are also plans for a Delta Electricity Conference soon. The energy conference will enable us to explain to Deltans our model for the provision of electricity for Delta State. It is my hope that in Delta State, every community will have electricity for 24 hours and the fulfillment of that dream is not dependent on the functional capabilities of PHCN alone.

We have had very keen commitments and movements from the investors on these four power plants, the transmission lines and the off grid distribution entities.

How is it possible to knock off PHCN from the system so that Deltans will no longer rely on PHCN again?

We are not knocking off PHCN. We believe that both DELDISCO and the Benin PHCN can exist in the state. The initiative of the governor is not to knock-off PHCN or to restrict its activities. In fact, the state government is interested in the success of PHCN and its privatization programme.

We want to partner with companies that are interested in the generation plants and the PHCN in Benin because we believe that their business plans will not be complete without the involvement of the state and the host communities.

We are very much keen on the privatization process of PHCN and hopes that it goes ahead on schedule. We have, however, seen that we cannot depend solely on that system.

We need to build a more robust system, a more vibrant electricity supply market for Delta State that guarantees the industries moving to the state with 24 hours electricity, to guarantee our off grid areas that they are not going to be left in the dark for too long and that is why we have developed this off grid electricity master plan which will be complimentary to PHCN infrastructures in Delta State.

In the future there will be possible areas of co-operation between the two networks, I can see that we probably will be able to have an electricity supply market where DELGENCO, the state’s power generating outfit can supply to the national grid, and DELDISCO, the distribution arm, can take care of some of PHCN Benin areas where the need arises.

We are now in a world where there is the need to ensure that our communities compete and for our communities to compete, electricity is essential and we can no longer wait for a long time to make this happen. We need to do something and that is what the governor is doing by this initiative.

When you say the governor is doing something, don’t you think that time is not on his side since he will be leaving office in 2015?

I think it is a very big mistake when people say a lot of things have not been put in place. The fact that we have not made a lot of our work known to the public does not mean nothing has been done. Personally, I think results are a better judge. It is surprising that a lot of people criticize the governor using indices based on political propaganda and personal vendetta.

In most cases, you will find that the harsh critics don’t live in Delta State; do not know the streets or quarters of the town they hail from. They live in cyberspace and use alias to attack the governor. This kind of consistent misinformation is a disservice to the citizens of the state.

Now let’s talk about the reality of the Uduaghan’s administration. It is a reality that the governor has built an international standard airport; a reality that the governor is dualizing roads; a reality the governor has IPP projects going, and also a reality that the governor has designed a new electricity transmission system for the state and attracted the highest value of inward investments in Nigeria with the Koko Free Trade Zone bringing in over 16 Billion USD financial commitments.

Just the things that I am talking to you about now; that he is working on things like deep sea port, agriculture, housing, training. Add to that his record in the last four years on free maternal health care, employment of over five thousand new primary school teachers, Micro credit grants, scholarships, buses for the masses, DESOPADEC funding and numerous projects in oil producing communities, Four new Polytechnics, Marine School in Burutu, I can go on and on.

When the opposition criticizes the big projects, they show their lack of depth, experience and open malice because they should have known that these kinds of projects do have a gestation period. They are not projects that you pick up in the shelve, you have to plan them, you have to design them, you have to manufacture equipments for them, you have to get the right engineering, there are lot of things that you need to do to get these projects going and in place.

I talk to the ordinary man in the streets. I work with communities every day and most communities know that the government is performing. Unfortunately, misinformation and rumor have  become the new propaganda tool against the state.

There is need for you to visit communities to know what is actually happening. If you go to community like Umeh, you will not tell the ordinary man in Umeh that government is not performing. If you go the community like Ogheye, you will not tell the ordinary man in Ogheye that government is not performing.

If you go to a community like Okpai, you will not tell the ordinary man in Okpai that government is not performing. This is what informs the votes that the governor got during the last elections.

May be, you can argue that we probably need a more proactive media strategy and explanation of our actions. But, I think the taste of the pudding is in the eating and not in the publicity.

Can I know more about the transportation model that you are developing for the state?

Let me go back again on this achievement thing. In 2008, Delta State became the first state to apply for a licence to build a state railway network. We got the approval to build our own railway. It took us two years of planning and getting the technical details right. It took us another year and half to look at the finances and to ensure that the financing is going to work.

This year we will begin the process of actually getting the construction going. That process starts with the Hon. Minister of Transport coming to hand over the licence in a brief ceremony to the governor. We did not think it was worth it to have a ceremony where the governor is picking up a licence when the project is not fully planned or fully funded yet and we have not had the right operators and the right investors.

These are the things that have happened and we did not make a lot of noise about them. There are several other projects like that around the state. We now have the opportunity to build a railway route from Agbor to Koko because there are other activities worth over 16 billion USD investment that is coming into Koko that requires materials that need to be moved to Koko in large scale.

That was a big driver for investors interested in building that railway line. We also have an up-coming activity in Asaba that also requires large-scale materials to be moved.

That means that the railway investment is very appetizing to investors. This is just one example of many projects we have been working on around the state. Rather than publicize them for publicity sake, we just work on the reality of what is to happen.

Now, the transportation master plan covers four basic areas. One, the highway, an intra-state highway that takes you from Asaba and returns you back to Asaba across the state.

It takes you from Asaba to Patani on the bank of the River Niger; it takes you from Patani to Burutu to Forcados through Escravos, Ogheye, Koko, back through Sapele, Agbor and then back to Asaba.

This highway will enable goods to be conveyed across the country in an easy manner, not just in Delta State. It enables investors that we are trying to encourage to come into Delta State to have easy logistics and cheaper cost of bringing in their raw materials and manufacturing them. Now, that is one strategy.

This highway road project will go beyond the tenure of this government to build. The timing of DIDP and the structure of DIDP are institutional. They are not meant for political manipulations and tenures.

You do not plan a territory like Delta State on the basis of the tenure of a single governor and that for me is one of the biggest achievements of the governor. I believe he has taken long-term decisions not minding the lost of fame in the short term.

Most administrations look at short-term gains so that they can have short-term fame. Governor Uduaghan has a decision that will benefit the state in the long term, rather than bask in short-term political glory.  That for me, is one of the blessings that the state can count for having this governor as the chief executive today.

Projects like the railway line and intra-state highway may take a longer time and probably may not be completed until the end of the eight-year tenure of the next administration. Please, note that the project will be driven by private capital and we expect that will shorten the time that it will take for the Highway and Railway projects to be completed.

The second strategy is the construction of a state railway network. I have explained the fundamentals earlier, the financing and the imperatives that drive that project.

The third transportation strategy is the creation of a deep-sea port. As you may be aware, Delta has four ports – Sapele, Warri, Burutu and Koko. These are inland routes and there is essential need to have one deep-sea port that can bring in large vessels that are able to ship raw materials and finished goods in large quantities in and out of Nigeria.

In this regard, we have been working for over four years, looking at possible sites in our sea front axis of the state for partnership with international investors and experts. The end is a long-term project but the implementation of that project will begin in the next one-year and half. I believe that development will herald a change in the face of marine transportation in West Africa.

Now, I have talked about the roads, rail and the marine seaports. One of the most successful projects that government on its own has implemented in transportation is the Asaba International Airport.  Asaba now has an airport that is comparable to most airports around the world. It is still under what I call testing phase that is going according to schedule.

The Airport makes Delta State capital the true gateway for every business transaction. The benefit of this airport is now trickling in for the residents of Asaba and environs. It is comparable to any other airport of its type around the world. It will open up Delta State in no small way.

The Osubi Airport is also being expanded to an international airport capable of being the logistics base for the Nigerian Air force operations in the Niger Delta. These two airports in Delta State are going to be a catalyst for growth of these major cities and the State.

For DIDP, the transportation system being put in place by this governor will make any investment in Delta State so easy, cost effective and a territory for investors. That is why investors are excited about Delta State any time we talk about our State and every time we show the facts and figures.

For investors who are looking for facts and figures, Delta State is where it all comes together, no hypes, no political jingoism, and just simple economic facts.

You talked earlier about master plans for communities? Can you elaborate?

One of the most exciting things is what we have been doing in our work with communities is the creation of community master plans. I believe that any community that fails to plan for its future has planned for its future generations to fail.

Each community’s master plan covers several issues from land use, infrastructure, environment, education, economy and several others.

The process enables the communities to look critically at what resources they have, where, how they can put them to use to become self-sufficient. For example, one of the DIDP aims is to create an industrial area in every willing community in Delta State.

This is to help fulfill the governor’s overall objective of creating sustainable jobs. As you know, it is industries- small, medium and large-scale industries- that will help create sustainable jobs.

Sustainable jobs creation is the driver of growth for any community. That is why the governor is working daily to find new avenues to provide infrastructure that encourage industries into communities.

The way we are trying to encourage industries in these communities is to create particular areas in every community where industries can be sited. In some of those communities, we call them districts with focus on particular products so that there is an amalgamation of similar industries in one place.

We believe that clusters of particular industries make the cost of production cheaper because they can use common infrastructural facilities.

The cluster can have one common raw material supplier that makes the cost of procurement cheaper. They can also have one common service and logistics provider which helps in getting raw materials and finished goods to market easier.

We now have communities across the state that has been working with DIDP for over three or two years on different products and in the next one year, those economic districts and zones will start unveiling themselves.

This is a new vibrant industrial Delta State emerging. You will see a new vibrant industrial Delta from Patani to Umeh to Enwhe, Ughelli, Mosogar, Sapele, Uzere, Okpai, Asaba, Agbor, Mosogar, Warri, Ughelli Burutu, Bomadi, Ewu, and Ukwu-Nzu.

Most of them will tell their own stories of how they have developed. We have been working with some of them for more than three years to develop that capacity to engage, that ability to be able to say, okay, ‘We can do this. We can host this industry.

Our children and young men can work in these factories.’ At the end of the tenure of the Governor Uduaghan, I think the governor will be most responsible for creating the most jobs and that will be a sweet target to achieve. If we get through, it will be more than an achievement.

In terms of community participation, what are you going to give the communities because you talk about equity share by the communities and the government?

We have just two things as a starting point of DIDP. We do not dictate to the communities what the communities must do. What we have done is to give the communities the tools to create their own future. To help them understand the potentials that exists within each community. Of course, not every community has succeeded in this process and so many are still trying to overcome internal challenges.

We have created a platform for communities to come together and plan their future; organize themselves properly as a unit for their economic survival. This process empowers the communities themselves through committees to negotiate their own position, to become true partners to the process.

So for most communities hosting these industrial districts you are going to see committees that are involved which the communities themselves have put up. These communities in deliberations with interested investors set up special purpose vehicles to carry out the development of the industries in their communities.

The communities have equity in each of the special purpose vehicles. The equity to the investors and other related agreements governs their relationship. So it is not a situation of government dictating to the communities on what it wants the communities to do. It is actually the communities being empowered to do business.

What the government has done is to empower any willing community to define an industrial area so that investors can come in and their people can be employed.

And you do not see a situation whereby the projects will tear the community apart?

No. I believe the agreements are going to be very straightforward, very inclusive and very open. There is not going to be any hidden agenda. We have learnt a lot thing from these communities in the way they engaged the oil companies operating in the state.

The key to security of investment is openness, inclusiveness and participation. I think what we have done in creating these industrial sites is to ensure that there is openness, inclusiveness and participation.

The truth is that nobody destroys their own. Each district will be the industrial pride of the host community and they will strive to make it work. It will be the work place of the youths of that community, so I believe that it could be a place they will want to secure. I see it as a win win for communities, for investors and for the state.

Talk about housing projects in DIDP.

Housing is a very critical need for our citizens in Delta State. The government has a robust policy and plans to provide social housing across the state. The Honorable Commissioner for Housing, Chief Paulinus Akpeki, has been very proactive in trying to drive the social housing sector.

DIDP involvement is in the creation of commercially structured housing projects. There are two of those structured commercial housing projects on DIDP’s plans for the year. One is in Asaba axis called the DIDP Downtown, and the other one is in Warri axis called the New Oil City.

The one in Asaba will be providing about ten thousand apartments and we are having a housing conference to unveil that project very soon this year.

The goal of DIDP Downtown development is to provide affordable commercially low cost apartments to anyone who is having serious challenges concerning home ownership.

The development has very unique mortgage feature. Homes in the downtown project will be easy to access and easy to own. That project is going to one of the star projects of the governor and it is something that can be easily seen next year.

Talking about all these projects, I do not think that Delta State Government has the money to bankroll them.  Are there investors supporting you?

At the beginning of the planning process of DIDP, we realized that the state cannot fund any of the projects we are proposing. So, we focused on projects that can be commercially funded by investors only.

We are totally focused on creating profitable, sustainable projects that investors can fund 100 per cent. Of course, government on its own part as a public partner needs to work on creating an enabling environment and to foot some pre-development costs to enable the investors come to a final investment decision.

All DIDP projects that are listed for 2012 have serious commitment from investors. They will require very little or no government funding at all for them to be implemented. Investors have enough confidence in the administration of Dr Uduaghan to invest in Delta State and to signify their intention to be part of the industrialization process of the state.

If I get you right, is it also true that private investors have committed so much to the four power plants that you have?

We have investors who are fully committed to the DELGENCO IPP power plants and we have new investors who are coming into the state every day.

Almost every month, we receive two investors who are interested in participating in power plants site projects. We have 14 dedicated sites with stranded gas and ready studies where a power plant investor can locate his IPP investment.

I think that we are also going to see new power plants projects in Delta State. A lot of investors are interested in power generation investment in Delta State because of our gas availability.

Please elaborate on your agriculture projects in the state.

We believe that we need to, as a state, diversify the economy away from oil. That is a campaign that the governor and DIDP have carried on for four years. We believe that a Delta that is not based on oil revenue and federal allocation alone must be built.

One of the key sectors that we think can diversify the state’s economy is agriculture. In agriculture, DIDP is focusing on four key products. The first one is Aquaculture with specific emphasis on catfish production.

The second is poultry production and of course government has done very well already with the establishment of the Delta Obasanjo Farms that are gearing up for full production.

The third one is encouraging new oil palm plantation across the state because we think it is a key area.

We have also identified very unique areas like Umeh where we now have a project to grow banana for the European Union. In Umeh, we want to be able to grow banana and export them to Europe. So that is our fourth product.

Apart from agriculture, we are working like I said before with communities on several product districts. For example, In Patani, we are looking at breweries, beverages and distilleries. In Arhade, Elu and Ovrode, we are looking at a zone that manufactures electrical equipments.

In Okpai, we have the Delta East refinery. We are planning for the first time in Nigeria, resin manufacturing in Emu with another refinery project in Emu. This is actually in fulfillment of the promise the governor made during his campaign to set up a modular refinery and a petrochemical plant for Ndokwa-West.

We are also having a pharmaceutical district in Mosogar and a glass-manufacturing district in Ughelli in Delta State. There is a fruit and food-processing Zone in Ukwu-Nzo, in Aniocha North Local Government Area, LGA.

In fact there are several projects happening in several communities and very soon, those communities and their representatives will begin to speak up on the opportunities and prospects for their economic development.

When you talk about exporting banana to Europe, how are you going to do it, knowing fully well that it is a perishable product?

The logistics are now possible because of the investment that the Governor has made. The airport in Asaba becomes the place where we can take the banana to and the next day delivery to Europe is now possible. This was impossible before the airport in Asaba was built.

The Asaba International Airport been designated an international cargo airport and that gives us the opportunity to take perishable goods from Delta State and export them to European and American markets.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.