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It’s new dawn as Ore opens industrial park

The Ondo State government is gradually transforming Ore town, the headquarters of Odigbo Local Government Area of Ondo State, to an industrial hub in order to ensure a solid economic base for the state and to create more employment opportunities, HAKEEM GBADAMOSI writes, after a visit to the industrial park.

 

Prior to the coming on board of the present adminstration of Rotimi Akeredolu in Ondo State, to many, the state is regarded as one of the agrarian states of the federation, which is also populated by civil servants with not enough functional industries across the state.

Most industries put in place by the first civilian governor, the late Adekunle Ajasin, between 1979 and 1984, had gone moribund with no hope of revival for many of them. Some of such industries included the Oluwa Glass in Okitipupa, Ifon Ceramics in Ifon, while the only surviving Okitipupa Oil Palm Company is still struggling for survival.

But as part of his electoral promises during the 2016 governorship campaign, Akeredolu is staying true to his words to industrialise the Sunshine State in line with the best in the country and also to create more employment opportunities.

Aside creating jobs, the establishment of these industries is also to ensure a solid economic base for the state and reduce over-dependence on the monthly allocations from the Federal Government to develop the state.

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In mid-2017, the governor embarked on an investment tour to China, where he sealed an agreement and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Linyi Municipal Government of Shandong Province, which gave birth to five of what is now known in the state as the Ore Industrial Park, in Odigbo Local Government Area of the state. This has contributed to repositioning the state and has gradually put the state on the level of becoming one of the leading industrialised states in the country.

Heap of cassava tubers ready for the production of ethanol.

At least five different companies have commenced operations at the Ore Industrial Park, which include a paper mill, ethanol plant, medium density fibre board, high density fibre board, plywood and textile company.

The aftermath of the tour to Linyi Municipal Government of Shandong Province by Akeredolu and his team led to the kick-off of 10,000 hectares of the afforestation project, where Gmelina arborea was  planted on 1,500 of the 10,000 hectares, which was jointly owned by the Ondo State government and Wewood.

During a visit by the Nigerian Tribune to the new industrial park, it was noticed that all facilities had been put in place for the paper mill factory. According to the Business Development Manager of Weewood Limited, Mr Sun Peng, while conducting reporters round the paper mill company, the paper mill is structured to create more jobs for residents.

He stated that Weewood had prepared for the take-off of the paper mill long before the arrival of machines for the mill in Nigeria, by making the primary raw materials available in large form, saying “this was done through the planting of trees that will form the primary raw materials for the mill.”

He also said: “The trees keep growing and maturing on a daily basis because this is a fertile land. The trees are yielding expected results and we have enough materials on ground even before the take-off of the paper mill company.

“We did not rely solely on the plantation we have here for the production of paper, we also source for materials from local suppliers who specialise in the production of this special wood which is used for newsprint.”

Peng, however, said production is being delayed by power supply to the factory. He disclosed that the project is about 95 per cent completion, and attributed the establishment of the factory and other companies to the proximity to power supply.

Peng said the factory is now about 80 per cent complete, adding that on completion, the paper mill is expected to employ more than 3,000 direct staff, while many more are expected to benefit from jobs created down the value chain.

Speaking on the development, another worker who hails from Ore, Saheed Abifarin, said: “The governor deserves commendation for this initiative. This is a win-win situation for Ondo State and its people. The company has been employing our people and will continue to employ our people on the farm to plant the trees; it will go on to employ many of our unemployed youth in the factory and other auxiliary jobs that would be created. It will improve quality of life here.”

Processed wood.

At the Ethanol plant, work had commenced at the site and all facilities have been put in place.

It was observed that farmers, businessmen, and women are already reaping from the indirect jobs created by the ethanol plant. The warehouse is filled with thousands of bags of dried cassava, waiting to be loaded into the machines, while more than 20 trailer-loads of cassava are waiting to off-load several other bags of cassava brought by local suppliers.

Peng explained that in producing ethanol, the company would use cassava for its production. He disclosed that a special specie of cassava is being planted in-between the Gmelina trees, which will be used to feed the ethanol plant.

Noting that test-run of the machines would begin before the end of April, he added: “Already, about 1,000 people have been employed for the ethanol factory for direct jobs. The plant is also expected to provide jobs for more than 10,000 people, particularly cassava farmers and traders.”

He said local and private farmers had been involved and stressed that local farmers, who have been supplying the cassava, are excited about a ready and lucrative market for their goods.

One of the farmers, Shehu Oladapo, who trades in cassava in Odigbo Local Government Area of the state, commended the efforts of Akeredolu for the initiative and said: “I thank Governor Akeredolu for this initiative and it will go a long way to realise our dreams. We come on a daily basis to supply cassava and we are happy with this, as we are paid promptly and this project has turned cassava to gold in this part of the state.”

At the ethanol project, it was observed that farmers, businessmen, and women were already reaping from the jobs created by establishment of the ethanol plant.

The Weewood Plywood/HDF factory is already bubbling with activities The company’s products, high-quality fiberboard plywood, are already in high demand in markets across the state.

Ore
Inside view of the paper mill factory.

One of the workers, who spoke with Nigerian Tribune, said: “The workers are working round the clock to meet the demand of the local market, while there is international demand for the product.” He, however, said that the factory would surely be positioned to earn foreign currency through the export of the product, which has been in high demand.

The WinWin Textile factory also located inside the park commenced production of textile thread a few months ago. This building is workplace for no fewer than 500 workers and this has also helped to solve the problem of unemployment, especially for residents, who for the first time have found a worthwhile venture outside the civil service.

According to one of the managers of WinWin Textile, Ahmed Adeyinka, the textile is presently producing polyester sewing thread. He also disclosed that the textile  factory would move to the next stage of producing textile materials like lace, Ankara, among others, very soon.

“Presently, we have 500 people working for us. We now produce all kinds of sewing polyester thread for the local market. In a couple of months from now, the factory will begin to run at full capacity with the production of textile materials of all kinds,” he said.

One of the managers of the wood factory, Oyeye Destiny, explained that the industrial park was located in Ore because of the centrality of the town as the town is regarded as the gateway between the South-West, South-East and South-South geopolitical zones. For travellers going to the South-South/ South-East from Lagos, Ore is the stop-over point where people get refreshed before proceeding on their long journeys.

Being a gateway town, many industrialists have moved to establish one company or the other in the town, as there is the belief that getting raw materials from the hinterland and the finished product to markets in Lagos would be easier.

Aside this, the Federal Government presence in the town through the Independent Power Plant (IPP) established a few years ago made Ore town the destination of many foreign and local investors because of the proximity to the power plant, the absence of which hinders the growth of many industries across the country.

This is one of the reasons the immediate past government set up an IPP in order to distribute electricity to companies which may want to establish in the corridor. All factories are set to commence operations immediately the IPP completes the process to transit power to the industrial park.

More than 3,000 people have been employed by the companies and factories, but the plant is also expected to provide jobs for more than 10,000 people.

However, the Ore Industrial Park which is fashioned after Linyi Municipal Government of Shandong Province in China, will not only turn the state to a model for one-stop industrial parks in the country, it will also help to take unemployed youth off the streets.

And if the experience of the Linyi’s economy, which is based around its wholesale markets and an annual trade volume of 40 billion RMB (US$5 billion), is anything to go by, the administration of Akeredolu may have just set a standard by which governance would be measured in the country.

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