Ikpeazu: Our strategy to create over 600,000 jobs in Abia State

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Signs N100 billion project agreement with FG

By Levinus Nwabughiogu

His determination to change the narrative of the state was taken to a notch higher last week when he led a high powered delegation to the presidential Villa, Abuja to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari for a deal that would create over 600,000 jobs.

Outside the drive for the provision of massive roads infrastructure, his vista for meaningful development through job creation has also been so opulent. And so, in the last three and half years he has superintended over the affairs of his people, there is no gainsaying the fact that has has worked assiduously to change the social status of many people, especially the youths for good.

His advocacy for and indeed, efforts in the production and patronage for Made-in-Aba products have earned him a place in the economic cum political annals of Nigeria. Hardly can anyone catch him spotting foreign tailored clothes whether in or outside Nigeria. This was, however, a vow he made upon his assumption of office as a way of promoting the locally made good and services.

Yet, he is not stopping. He has embarked on other exploits. This time, his ultimate goal is to take more youths numbering 625,000 off the streets of Umuahia, Ohafia, Arochukwu and Aba and gift them with a more worthwhile venture where they can indeed, put their talents, skills and expertise to task.

To realize this dream, Governor Okezie Victor Ikpeazu of Abia State early this year articulated a gigantic project called Enyinmba Economic City, EEC. This is a signature project that will industrialize not just Abia State but also the south east and south south geopolitical zones. The establishment of the city has seen the governor traversed the length and breath of the world; from Singapore to China and the trips have paid real off.

The city is sitting on a wide field of 9,803 hectares of land, spanning across three Local Government Areas of Ukwa East, Ukwa West and Ugwunagbo in the state.

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The land is at the center of the five Southeast and four South south States. Located near existing sea ports (Onne and PortHacourt) and proposed Akwa Ibom Deep Sea Port, it has major arterial, intercity roads connections. There is also a proximity to Owerri, PortHacourt and Uyo airports. It also has functional gas pipelines and boarders Owaza gas fields just as it transverses the existing national rail line from PortHacourt to Maiduguri.

The key pillars of EEC is to create a global business hub that connects the nine Southeast and South south States, build first class infrastructure in the location, including dedicated power and attract economic activities that are mainly driven by manufacturing and supported by other uses which included Logistics, Medical, Entertainment, Education, Lifestyle Residential among others. The target is to attract pro-actively long term local and foreign investments, thereby integrating Nigerian businesses, manufacturing and services, into regional and global supply and value chains.

The city would also provide urban housing of over 300,000 units for urban population of more than 1.5 Million people. It is also projected that the city will provide more than 2,000 industrial/ business units, with estimated annual value output of more than $5 billion.

The project is a well thought out one, combining the clear focus of the private sector and the enabling powers of the Governments at all level. Hence, it is a Private Public Partnership (PPP) of Crown Realties Plc, the Host Communities, Abia State Government and the Federal Government of Nigeria under project Made In Nigeria for Export (MINE) of Federal Government of Nigeria.

The First Phase of the project is fully designed and shovel ready and the projection is that construction will commence in Q1, 2019 and various major anchor tenant discussions are progressing well for manufacturing transfers from China, Germany and other Countries to the new city.

The positioning and master planning of the city was done by Surbana Jurong of Singapore and CBRE of India in collaboration with local firms.

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Speaking to Vanguard on the project, governor Ikpeazu said: “This city is borne out of a need to recreate Dubai in Abia State. The idea is to create an efficient technology driven digital city for light and heavy manufacturing and we have done all the surveys and we found out that it is the choicest and the best economic city today in Africa. There is none like it because it is 30 minutes away from two sea ports, one is in Abonima and the other one is in Onne. It has a rail line straight from there to Kano. Again, it has gas for energy because that is where we have our gas belt but most importantly, it is close to the highly skilled and energetic Aba manpower.

“So the energy and the skilled manpower that will drive whatever activity in that city is available. We have an anchor company coming in from China, that is coming with more than $20 billion. They are also prepared to underwrite the one hundred and twenty something billion Naira which Geometrics requires to provide electricity. In effect, in Aba will soon become the first city to enjoy uninterrupted power supply in Nigeria. That is our vision and that is our prayer.

“A lot of people expressed worry that I have been to China more times than many people have been around there in their lifetime. It is because they don’t understand; the future of Abia, our tomorrow, is the Enyimba economic city. And we are targeting, first of all a garment factory which will put a stop to our people frequenting China for the raw materials they use for their garment business. So we have it all planned out and it doesn’t take one trip to achieve that. But I am proud to say is that the MoU has been signed between Enyimba economic city and some core investors such that one investor is ready to bring in $20 billion.”

The Buy-in of Federal Government

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Obviously, the project is so huge that Abia State government needed to get the buy-in of the federal government. Incidentally, it is coming at a time when President Buhari is leaving no stone unturned to revive the economy and create more jobs for the teeming unemployed youths.

And so, Friday, December 7, 2018, the President played host to Ikpeazu who led some leaders of the state among whom were former Senate President Adolphus Wabara; Vice-Chancellor of Abia State University; and some Abia State House of Assembly members.

The event witnessed the signing of an agreement between the state government, federal and the private investor on the city.

President Buhari witnessed the occasion alongside his Minister of Trade and Investment, Mr. Okey Enelamah; Governor of Central Bank, Godwin Emefiele; Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed and Secretary to Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha. Abia State Commissioner for Lands, Survey and Urban Planning, Uche Ihediwa, signed the agreement on behalf of the state government; Mr. Femi Edun, Director of Nigeria Special Economic Zone Company signed for the federal government while Mr. Darl Uzu signed for Crown Realities Limited, the private sector developer.

By the signing, the federal government has designated the City a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) with Free Trade Zone Status and one of the three (3) pilots that include Kano and Lagos. It has also taken 20% equity in the project of N100 billion out of the estimated project cost of N500 billion.

It is expected that President Buhari would perform the groundbreaking function of the city early next year.

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