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Analysing 8 years of Amosun’s urban renewal agenda

As countdown to the May 29th closure date for the Ibikunle Amosun administration in Ogun State continues, several analysts have started undertaking a media prognosis of the man and his achievements over his two- term tenure as governor of the Gateway State.One of such analyses was featured on the back page of The Punch newspaper edition of Tuesday, April 16th. Titled Ogun State’s mismanaged advantage, the piece, by Azukah Onwuka, sought to amplify the purported failure of the Amosun administration in harnessing the opportunities presented by the state’s unique location, especially her proximity to Lagos, to engender massive infrastructure and socio-economic development of her satellite towns.

While it is important to accept that the writer has the right to his opinion, allowing the obvious misrepresentations as chronicled in the said opinion piece to pass unchallenged is definitely not in the interest of our dear Ogun State. Expectedly, the Special Adviser to the governor on property and investments, who is also the Managing Director of the Ogun State Property Investment Corporation, Mr Babajide Odusolu, has written a rejoinder on the Punch online portal detailing some of the notable investments and interventions the administration has made in road infrastructure development of the satellite towns in the past eight years.

Nevertheless, as an unbiased citizen, who has been privileged to live and work in Ogun State for over twenty-five years, I am moved to contribute his views to make the conversation richer.

No doubt, the governor and members of his cabinet stand on the threshold of history. But that history should neither be manipulated nor written without a proper evaluation of the Amosun milieu vis-à-vis the profile of Ogun State in 2011 which is the administration’s take off point.

Of a truth, if the unassailable evidence of holistic socio-economic, infrastructure and industrial revolution that has been undertaken by the administration, albeit silently but doggedly, in the last eight years is anything to go by, the Amosun team should indeed be happy that they have set the state on the path of permanent positive transformation that could only produce an economic revolution that will not be forgotten by future generations.

Shortly after the inauguration of the Amosun administration for its first term, a peer review exercise conducted by the policy consultant to the then Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), Mr Ilyasu Gashinbaki, came up with an illuminating but highly predictive preliminary report that appeared to have defined the trajectory of the Amosun administration’s development blueprint.

According to the report, Ogun State’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) was projected to exceed that of Oyo State by 2013; and might be ranked in the same category with major IGR driven states like Lagos, Kano and Rivers by 2020. It also hinted that the state should attain fiscal autonomy by 2015, if a pragmatic economic-cum fiscal policy to harness and sustain the State’s current economic realities were faithfully implemented.

Additionally, the Gashinbaki Report also reckoned that if the current policy thrust was to be sustained by successive administrations, especially regarding innovative seeds of development such as the deep sea port, Olokola regional free trade zones, Kajola special rail system, Gateway International Airport, tourism, trade and  commerce, construction boom and trans ECOWAS trade, then Ogun would fast-track the process of becoming the most advanced sub-nation among countries in the West African sub region.

According to 2007 GDP estimates, the state was ranked ninth in the country with regards to GDP, with approximately $10.5billion GDP when the state’s population, based on the 2006 census, was about 3.75 million and 16th among the 36 states in Nigeria. But these have since changed in the last eight years as Ogun State of today occupies a place among the top five on all ranking tables for socio-economic development indices among states in the country. The state now provides a home for many as a large number of the workforce of Lagos today resides in Ogun due to the urbanisation and rural development schemes that have given room for several satellite estates to emerge in various locations in the state.

The huge investments spilling into the state today are said to be the fallout of the policies put in place by the administration since its inception in 2011. For instance, early in the life of the administration, a clear-cut focus was put in place for achieving the set goals, one of which was to improve on agriculture and also embark on urban development. This reasoning was premised on the belief that agriculture will lead to urban development, and at the same time create wealth for the state, considering its capacity to employ more people and the possibility of processing farm produce, which will ultimately lead to the harnessing and development of agriculture.

It is also important to place on record that from 2011 to date, hundreds of companies, each with a minimum investment of $100 million and above, have made Ogun State their abode. Between 2012 and 2014 alone, a total of 64 companies in this category set up in Ogun State. Between 2014 and now, the number has grown tremendously. Several thousands more cottage industries, especially in Agriculture and Agro-allied sectors have also sprung up and are doing well. This development has today made the State the industrial base of the country as it is doubtful if any other state in the country has witnessed same growth trajectory as Ogun in this regard.

Likewise, most of the direct foreign investments coming into the country have found an appropriate business atmosphere within Ogun’s several upcoming and rejuvenated industrial layouts, including new businesses which are coming into the state in droves. These and more, make Governor Amosun to declare at the 2nd edition of Ogun State Investors Forum in 2014 that “today, Ogun State is not only open for business, it is business.”

The multiplier effect of these efforts is that the government has achieved wealth creation, increased IGR and started an industrial revolution. This is evident in the average monthly IGR of N4 billion revenue now being generated by the state compared to N730 million when Amosun took over the administration in 2011.

Perhaps a plausible explanation for why the administration has pursued infrastructure development across the state with vigour is because Amosun understood perfectly that for the state’s economy to be more vibrant and less dependent on federal allocations, it must be private sector driven; a factor that the governor said has made his administration to continually provide an enabling environment for businesses and investments to flourish, to complement the policy of on-going massive construction in all parts of the state and towns while economically strategic village settlements are also being reengineered.

To further energise the measures to turn the state into an industrial hub, the Amosun administration has worked closely with the Bank of Industries (BoI) in the last eight years to aid credit facilities for investors. This is aside the ease of acquisition of land for investment purposes like farming and siting of factories and other industries. Today, Ogun State government gives as much as 70 per cent rebate on cost of acquiring land and ensures that documentation of such properties are concluded at the speed of light via the much acclaimed Home Owners Charter Project. However, development of such lands must commence within six months of its allocation. This is to discourage speculative investors and ensure that only serious minded investors who are prepared to add value come to the state.

A report by the International Finance Corporation in the pre-Amosun years had ranked Ogun State as the 36th on the ease of doing business index in the country, and one of the complaints was the timeline for land transactions.

Though it met a sordid land administration process on ground, the Amosun administration has, however, boldly undertaken a holistic reform of the entire land allocation procedure and this has resulted in the reassessment of operations and a more thriving system.

Transiting from an entirely manual data storage system, Ogun State today uses Electronic Data Management System to store vital land information on a central server that is accessible from connected computers. Thus, while the old practice was for files containing vital land information from the Western Region era to be strewn on shelves in the Bureau of Lands and Survey Office, Amosun’s administration has revolutionised the system by using special scanners and servers to capture records while all the files are now indexed appropriately. Additionally, Geographic Information System has been installed to provide up-to-date satellite imageries for the entire state to aid planning. While border communities are to have images of 50cm, others would have 80cm.

“Where we are going is for people to stay in their offices or homes and log on to our website and complete their land transactions. Computers are already installed in our search rooms and people can conduct their searches themselves after paying a token; we don’t want any exploitation”, Special Adviser to the Governor on Land Matters and Director-General, Bureau of Lands and Survey, Mrs Ronke Sokefun, once revealed.

In eight years, it is gratifying that a lot has been achieved by the Amosun administration in closing perceived gaps in the areas of large unregulated informal sector and integration of tax planning, urban planning and urban regeneration.

Among many other standouts, one ambitious but highly commendable move of the administration is the earmarking of 37,000 hectares of land stretching from Papalanto axis in Obafemi Owode Local Government all the way to Ifo in Ifo Local Government area to facilitate the establishment of a modern smart city that would be a model in physical planning and infrastructure as a way of kick-starting the mission to remodel Ogun into a 21st Century aspirational City.

The new town, which will be part of the Lagos Mega City, will take off from the left hand side of the Papalanto road where Nestle Nigeria Plc has its factory off the Abeokuta-Shagamu dual carriageway and will traverse Mowe, Ofada, Loburo and Ifo communities, among others.

While previous administrations that ran the state in the first 12 years of this 4th Republic had left a mountain of administrative rot that propelled infrastructure collapse and socio-economic stagnation, the Amosun administration has redrawn the picture. Expectedly, the administration has had to naturally pin the rebuilding, remodeling and rejuvenation of urban infrastructure agenda to a pragmatic, phase-by-phase approach that took cognizance of available resources, geographical-cum-ethnic balancing and effective resource allocation in a manner that did not suffer other government responsibilities.

Massive investment in and commitment to provision of adequate security has been at the root of the urban renewal drive witnessed in the last eight years. Today, the ‘omo onile’ problem that characterised property acquisition and development in most parts of the state, especially in the satellite or border towns, has been largely eradicated. Thus, a bright future for further infrastructure development of the state through an effective public-private sectors partnership interventions that rests on CDAs and CDCs (which have been greatly supported and incorporated into government’s security and infrastructure architectural plans at various levels) is a comforting possibility.

Today, Ogun has become a success story of note, thanks to the administrative and political will of the present government to reverse the rot of the past. As Amosun prepares to gloriously bow out of the Government House, the job is by no means finished. The next administration needs to sustain the political will, commitment and honest approach of the current administration to take the state further on the development journey. In this regards, further work needs to be done in some important areas. These include residence and tax jurisdiction challenges; property audit in urban areas; greater financial empowerment strategy by issuance of bankable titles (C of O for all houses); beautification by corporate bodies; indirect tax systems challenges; goods and services tax review, for example consumption tax for hotels; diversification of tax and non-tax IGR sources as well as deepening tourism, trans-ECOWAS-trade and industrial development agenda already kick started by the Amosun administration.

However, Amosun and his team deserve resounding applause from all well-meaning citizens.

  • Ogundele is a Property Consultant and Public Affairs Analyst based in Abeokuta, Ogun State

 

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