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‘Business climate in Niger among Nigeria’s best’

The first Niger state Investment Climate Summit has just ended. How would you assess the forum? The summit was a huge success. First, it recorded…

The first Niger state Investment Climate Summit has just ended. How would you assess the forum?
The summit was a huge success. First, it recorded the kind of attendance that is unprecedented in the history of economic summits in this part of the country. Secondly,   we were able to excite investors with business potentials in the state and valuable tips on how they can take advantage of these opportunities. Specifically, we emphasized our competitive advantage in terms of land mass and the huge employment opportunities embedded in Agriculture. So, it was on the strength of what we presented to the investors that they tabled actionable plans that would accelerate economic development in the state in the areas of Agriculture/ Agro-Allied businesses, Infrastructure, Roads, Housing, Manufacturing, Employment generation and Wealth creation. For instance, investors who have their eyes on Agriculture were happy to know that Niger State has about 10% of Nigeria’s entire land mass, 80% of which is arable. They also now know that in Niger State, we have
 people who are friendly, hospitable and welcoming- the type you cannot find anywhere else. The peaceful nature of our state also makes it an attractive investment destination.
Why is the summit now?
Yes, many have asked this question, but my answer is: Why not now?  In the last seven years, we have worked tirelessly to create a favorable climate for doing business. We have repositioned land administration in a way that has fast tracked the processes leading to the issuance of Certificates of Occupancy. We have also improved on the way we administer taxes as it pertains investors. What this means is that big time businessmen who come to Niger State would enjoy tax incentives which may sometimes include outright waivers depending on the volume of the investment. Contract enforcement and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) centres have also been established so that good investments are not frustrated by unnecessary litigation. So these are some of the deliberate steps that we took in order to increase the flow of investments into the state
What policy reforms would you say the state has embarked on to make the business environment attractive?
I have just listed some of the incentives to include the repositioning of land administration which has made issuance of C of O very easy. I have also mentioned another area which has to do with tax administration. But let me say that the state has a comprehensive package which has made Niger State one of the best investment destinations in the country. We now have all the laws that encourage private sector participation in the development of the economy of our state. We now have the Fiscal Responsibility Law and the Public Procurement Law which are a set of rules which ensures sound financial management, greater transparency, and accountability in public finance.
Also, we have the Small and Medium Enterprises/Micro Finance Agency Law which has ensured the smooth take- off of micro finance banks and small businesses in the state.
The Government has made efforts to attract businesses. Has the investment drive yielded positive results?
Very well! You would recall that Niger State is among the five states that Nigeria’s foremost industrialist Aliko Dangote has acquired farmland for commercial production of rice. And i am sure you have not forgotten that part of the agreement requires that Dangote Group would establish two modern rice mills in Niger State, each with a capacity to mill 120,000 metric tonnes of paddy. What this means is that thousands of jobs will be provided for our young people.
And only recently, the state government got a private company which has indicated interest in investing over N1.6bn in the establishment of Shea Butter factory in Mokwa Local Government of the state. We have since met our own part of the bargain, which is the provision of 20 hectares of land to the firm.
On completion, the factory would engage about 10,000 people and would generate an average of N10m monthly. So, no one needs to be told that these and other businesses that would soon take off will do the generality of Nigerlites a lot of good.
Does that mean that the state is leveraging only Agriculture where it has a competitive advantage?
Well, that may not be very correct. Yes, Agriculture enjoys priority attention because, like you said, it is our competitive advantage. But we have other priority sectors where the state government has made huge investment in order to attract the right kind of businesses. In the area of tourism for instance, the state has 65 tourist sites which if properly harnessed will spin a lot of money for the state. Popular among our tourist sites are Zuma Rock, Kainji Lake National Park, Gurara Waterfalls, Baro Empire Hills, Mungo Park Cenotaph and the Zungeru Colonial Ruins.
Talking about energy, it is common knowledge that Niger State houses the three hydro electric power stations in the country, with the fourth under construction in Zungeru. We have several other opportunities in the areas of Mini hydro power projects, municipal waste to power projects and rural electrification/ distribution projects.

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