By Dapo Akinrefon
UPON its inception, the Rotimi Akeredolu administration says it has embarked on an investment drive as a means of shoring up the Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, of Ondo State. The recent decision by the Federal Government to grant licence to Ondo State has been received with delight by the state government.
Explaining how the state government intends to utilise its large deposit of oil and bitumen, Mr. Oluwafemi Akarakiri, speaks on the investment drive of the state government and what the state stands to benefit by industrialising through partnership with the private sector. The Akure, Ondo State-born was appointed as Senior Special Assistant to Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu on Energy and Mineral Resources.
Akarakiri is an oil and gas expert with over 20 years working experience across multinational organisations in different parts of the world. Prior to his appointment, he was the Regional Manager, West Africa, Weatherford Nigeria, former Wireline Country Manager, Netherlands and Denmark, Schlumberger Oil Services.
Bitumen licence: He said the Federal Government’s decision to grant licence to Ondo State Government for bitumen exploration was a good initiative.
Akarakiri said the initiative is one area “we have to commend the Federal Government for heeding the cry of Ondo State. Several people are aware Ondo State has one of the largest bitumen deposits in the world but has been left untapped for a very long time. This time around, the governor and his cabinet have made it a priority to get that bitumen out, mine and process it; and that is when Ondo can start enjoying the benefit of being a bitumen resource state. So we commend the Federal Government for heeding that cry and granting that licence.
“It’s a good thing to know that the licence was not just granted to anybody but to an organisation that has demonstrated they know what to do, very active and with what we have seen so far, very determined to make sure things get done so quickly. We are aware of the steps they have taken so far and very pleased with their activities.
So we believe that in a very short period of time, we will be able to celebrate the first production of bitumen in Nigeria and especially, in Ondo State. This is something we are keenly looking forward to, given the immense value it will add, not only to the state but to the federal infrastructural activities across the nation as well. Our state will boom.”
Handling of bitumen exploration
When asked how the exploration will be handled, the oil and gas expert said: “Licences have been given to several organisations in the past but the one we are focused on now is the Southwest Bitumen Company that has just been given a new licence and they are running very well with it.
We also have Ondo State-owned company, BEECON with which several interested parties are proposing partnership. But I also want to encourage others that have been given licences in the past to take a cue from what Southwest is doing. When they all come to production, the savings in terms of foreign exchange from being able to derive bitumen locally is enormous; and it is not limited to asphalt alone, it can be used for other things in the country – roof felt, adhesives for example.”
Noting that Ondo State is blessed with mineral resources, Akarakiri said: “We have huge deposits of clay, kaolin, limestone, marbles, silica sands – rock that can be processed into different things – clay bricks for low cost housing and salt-resistant structure that will find good use in Lagos Lekki axis, ceramics, cement, dimension stones, fillers for fertilizer and paper manufacturing, glass and glass fibre etc.
It is, therefore, amazing that these resources have been lying fallow just like bitumen. So with the current drive of the state government, many of these will find their way to the market, creating employment and wealth for our people in the process. This is the dawn, the sun is about to start shining, and I believe in one or two years’ time, we are going to start harvesting what we are planting now.”
Incentives for potential investors
Speaking on the plans of the state government for potential investors, he said: “One of the incentives we have here is ease of doing business and that is where the Ondo State Development and Investment Promotion Agency (ONDIPA) comes in. Today, in Ondo, you don’t have to go from one ministry to another before you can get your businesses going or have MoU signed with the government.
ONDIPA will handle everything for you. You will be talking with people who came from the private sector; who understand your language; government is also ready to help in facilitating licences where the federal government is involved; again, I want to use this opportunity to thank the Federal Government for always listening to us anytime we visit them on behalf of our potential investors. We also have tax incentive.”