Governor Ikpeazu
Governor Ikpeazu of Abia State

From PETER OKORE, Umuahia

For the first time since the creation of Abia state in 1991 the Abia state Government has taken a bold step to reposition the state economy. This is in response to the many problems facing the state such as high unemployment, closure of all viable industries that had  made the state tick, overdependence upon Federal allocations, backlog of unpaid salaries, pensions, gratuities  and debts owed contractors,

To ensure sustained means of increasing Internally generated revenue (IGR) and engaging the citizenry in viable means of livelihood, an Agreement for full development of the proposed multi-billion dollar  Enyimba Economic City was signed last Friday, December 7, 2018 at Aso Rock Presidential Villa , Abuja. The tripartite document was signed between the Federal government, Abia state and the land donor host communities.

The Federal Government was represented at the epoch-making event by the Nigeria Special Economic Zone Investment Company, Limited; Abia state government was represented by the Enyimba City Development Company, Limited(sole managers of the investment); while  Abia State governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu led the delegation of host communities of the Enyimba Economic City from Abia state.

President Muhammad Buhari and other top federal government functionaries witnessed the signing of the Agreement at the Federal Executive Council chambers, Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.

The  project is  sitting on  a land space of 9,800 hectares; stretching from  Ukwa- East, Ukwa-West and Ugwunagbo Local Government Areas of Abia state as well as portions of Imo, Rivers and Akwa-Ibom States ,respectively.  A total of 30 communities are said to own the land on which the project situates. It has the advantage of being located on the largest Gas deposit site in Nigeria, for purposes of generating electricity there-from.

The Enyimba Economic City, modelled along the  line of Dubai market, when in operation, will  have  capacity to create a global business hub that will connect the South-East, South-South  states and attract long term local and foreign investments.

A statement by the Chief press secretary (CPS) to the governor, Mr. Enyinna Appolos said the ground-breaking ceremony of the City is expected to take place very soon, to mark the commencement of work on site. He said when the Economic City is completed, it would create 625,000 jobs and 300,000 Urban housing units ,  with expected Urban population of more than 1.5million people.

According to the governor’s spokesman, the City is also expected to provide more than 200,000 Industrial/ Business units  with an estimated  Annual turn-over of more than $5 billion.

Speaking with  BusinessHallmark in respect of the project, in Umuahia, the Abia state Capital, Mr. Chinenye Nwogu, Special Advisor to the Governor on Job Creation, who is also charged with the responsibility of overseeing the realization of the project, hinted that the project will re-jig the economy of the state and entire South-Eastern States of Nigeria  as well as offer employments  to  the army of youths currently roaming the streets and causing all manner of crimes in society. He also disclosed that the Economic City project is modelled after the Dubai markets.

The Ruyi Group of Companies from China is the largest private-sector investor in the project. Nwogu asserted that the Ruyi Group  has the financial  muzzle  to pull other conglomerates into the project.

“The Chinese are good partners in the venture because they are successfully running similar investments  in parts of the world”.

To ensure sustainable and steady electricity supply to the Economic City, the Ruyi Group is investing the sum of $2.5 billion  for power generation in collaboration with Geometric Power Plant, Osisioma.

Chairman of Geometric Power Limited, Prof. Barth Nnaji, in a statement, said that    processes are currently on to switch-on the company’s 141 megawatt power capacity station dedicated for de-lineated customers in Aba, Abia state. He promised that the station will be commissioned within the first quarter of 2019.

BusinessHalmark gathered that the protracted dispute Geometric Power Plant Ltd had  with Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) over her distribution capacity rights to consumers, within and outside Aba environs, had delayed the commissioning of the Geometric power plants, built since 2013.

The issues have today been resolved and adequate compensations paid to the deserving party. For now, the captive market held by the Geometric Power Company covers key industrial and commercial locations in Owerrinta, Osisioma, Aba metropolis and other proximate business premises and ring fenced clusters in Abia state.

It will be recalled that Geometric Power Ltd, operates a $530 million power plant in Osisioma area of Aba, Abia state. The Plant has a generating capacity of 141megawatts of electricity-supply to parts of the state.

Moreover, reliable sources indicate that the  EEC project is jointly managed by members of the organized private sector,(OPS) from Nigeria, China, Germany and the United States of America, USA.  Investors from these countries are coming to run the various components of the establishment. The components  include Industrial, Electronics, Leisure parks, Education parks, A Training Institute to be manned by Enyimba City Development Company and the foreign partners; ICT section, Garments and Shoe factories, Tourism, Sports section, Logistic hubs, etc, etc.

On the economic hope the project holds for Abia state and other shareholders, Nwogu further explained that  the project is designed to fund itself, give huge  investment turn-over and revenues to Abia state and shareholders. It has Free Export Processing Trade Zone attached to it., which  makes for high scale manufacturing of goods ,wares, services and sales to different parts of the world  at competitive global market prices.

On Sunday, 23rd September, 2018, Abia state governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu at a ceremony marking the launching of his campaign office at Mission Hill, Umuahia  broke the cheering news that President Muhammadu  Buhari has approved the establishment of a Free Export Processing Zone in the Enyimba Economic City.

However, other comparative advantages of the Economic City include its proximity to both Onne Seaport  in Port Harcourt and the Ibom Deep Sea near Akwa-Ibom state as well as the proposed Inland Container Dry Port(ICD) at Isialangwa Local Government area and Railway lines connecting the rest of the country. The location has a captive population of over 60 million people as the location is a very commercially  viable area.

Again the Economic City is located  in-between the three  Airports  in  Owerri,  Port Harcourt and Uyo, respectively, as well as has the full support of all the shareholders  and Governments. Both the State and Federal Governments  are said to have the political-will  in conceiving  the project and seeing  it to fruition, vide the MoU signed .

These aside, Aba is already a bustling  and renounced entrepreneurial city and a lot of commercial activities are currently going-on there to support the Enyimba Economic City.  The presence and activities at the Ariaria International Market in Aba, is an added advantage to the Economic City.

According to Nwogu, the Enyimba  Economic City Development Company(EECDC)  has done  engagements  with the various communities that own parcels of land there and each community has determined the  extents of their land.

“We adopted two methods in payment of compensations to the communities. The first was payments for economic crops, trees and other landed properties, while the second phase has to do with Share acquisitions in the investment.  As an added value, the natives will have  opportunities  to invest and be employed in the business. We estimate that the company will, within the first one year of operation, offer employments to about  50,000 people.

Other advantages of this project include enhancements of massive development of the place and  creation of jobs for both Nigerians and foreigners alike. It will enhance foreign exchange earnings and increase the IGR of Governments, boost Technological transfer and influx of foreigners to do business and also will have great impact on the Abia state Tourism industry.

Industry watchers, however, sadly regret that the numerous industries, plantations and other commercial centres that adorned Abia state before the Nigeria/Biafra war  have gone comatose or become  moribund  since  the civilian administrations came on board in Abia.

Some of these industries  that determined the economy and economic activities in now Abia state, included the Golden Guinness Breweries, Plc and  Modern Ceramics Industries, Umuahia; Abia Oil Company; Cotton Mills, International Glass Industries (IGI), Aba;  Ogwe  Golden Chicken, Abia Cashew Industry, Isuikwuato;  Abia Hotels; Aba Textile Mills; Lever Brothers  and Nigerian Breweries, Ltd, Aba, Metallurgical  Complex  and a few other privately-owned Industries. Aside these, there were also some Oil Palm  and Rubber Plantations opened by late M.I. Okpara, where  people resided ,farmed and made their living.

Today, those industries, establishments and plantations are apparently no-more. They have either been sold or abandoned since  politicians took-over the mantle of leadership in Abia.