Rivers economic summit will transform the state, says Mayor of Housing soon

The time to reverse Rivers State’s economic slide may have come, so says the Mayor of Housing, My-ACE China, who is a real estate success strategist.

China said in an interview with National Network to herald the Rivers State Investment and Economic Summit which starts Wednesday May 22, 2024, that businesses fleeing from other parts of Nigeria especially the north (due to banditry) and Lagos (due to demolition exercises) are heading to Port Harcourt, and urged the state government to carry out urgent measures to receive them. 

National Network:  Why Rivers Economic Summit?

Good news: Rivers economic slide soon to reverse 

The good news is that time has come to reverse this. Rivers has potentials. It is time to exploit it. Some people import sand, but Rivers has the best sand which is why it had a glass industry called the West African Glass Industry. 

Those who arranged that the economic summit be discussed in Pidgin English radio station are wise because it has proved that they want to carry along all categories of business operations. It means all business people are required to understand the concept and objectives of the summit. 

Economic summit to a common man means think before you act. It means to arrange your economy well, know your areas of advantage and priority. Planning gives better results. It teaches you to put more money where you have advantage. So, the media and strategic media groups have been lined up to communicate the summit well. It’s necessary for brand building. It will help to build Rivers State economy into a brand and sell it in such a way that people will understand and assimilate it well. 

It means that perception is stronger than reality. Before I came to PH, we believed that the state was terrible and that people were dieing and nothing was moving and houses were falling. Now, I have found out the realty. So, economic summit is to separate reality from perception. 

For those who ask what the Rivers State Government should is willing to give as incentives to boost investment, I would first say we are not here to talk politics but valuetics. It means the value for business. So, we expect people to read and listen with neutral ears not political eyes. In that case, we can say that from the point of business, this governor has done well especially in housing. The governor has excuse not to do economic summit, he has excuse not to do flag off of projects, or not to continue old projects. But despite all this, he has continued to do projects. Few governors can that kind of thing. He pursues peace because he thinks that where two elephants fight, the grass (the common man) will suffer. The best that touches my mind is the 20,000 housing scheme he initiated soon after inauguration. Even the Federal Government has not done 20,000, let alone states. No housing estate in Port Harcourt is up to 20,000 and all put together is not near 20,000. Even one major estate in this city is just 1000. 

So, the summit is to look at where the governor has done well and where to adjust. They will review the roads and other projects. The best bridge is the one that connects lands or flying over waters. The state government has shown focus and value so far despite the situation on ground, but can do more. If he settles down, he will do wonders. As he listened in the housing sector, he will listen in other areas. His public private partnership (PPP) system in the housing scheme was great. What worries land developers is land acquisition and land papers. Sometimes they kill people just to get land. The Governor secured the land and made the developer to only face building. He also asked the developer to take direct labour, and that would give jobs to over 60,000 people. They are hiring many people. About 10 industries are involved in that project; sand industry, cement industry, electrical industry, etc. He wants to show the world that he is ready and that Rivers State is ready.

On Certificate of Occupancy (CofO) issue, in his one year in office, his has signed more Certificates of Occupancy than all others before him. The problem is most governors make Certificate of Occupancy look like getting kidney. So, we admire the man for this from the building subsector. I tell people to watch Rivers. Now, Abia is doing well, and he has got close to the governor of Abia State, Dr Alex Otti. The economic collaboration between both men is much. 

One of my friends said before any farmer will plant, he levels and softens the ground. The major discovery we have made is that the first year is used to prepare the land. Civil servants have been treated well. They got N100,000 each for Christmas, got promotions, pension, etc. This communicates good message and investors like it. Now, three roads alone alone got N501.2bn in one year. Investors will be impressed by these early signs. 

National Network:  Fleeing businesses from other parts of Nigeria seem to head to Port Harcourt. 

For over 20 years, fleeing investors from the north seem to have been running mostly to Port Harcourt. There is migration of business in Nigeria. That could be why Oyigbo is expanding steadily. Now, such threats to businesses seem to have reared its head in Lagos to make that place a new danger zone. It is the duty of Port Harcourt to prepare land and housing to welcome migrating businesses again.

The Nigeria Export Promotions Council (NEPC) had done an assessment of the One-State-One-Product (OSOP) scheme where a state chose which crop to specialize in and later do export and earn foreign exchange. Rivers State Government chose oil palm and added cassava. This has been for over five years but many say there has been no deliberate effort to develop these two and get their farmers to export readiness. If well managed, cassava will become an export product. See Songhai Farm initiative where the government sunk in many billions of naira, it has been allowed to rot instead of selling it because there were offers. There are several companies waiting to be revamped and privatized. At the economic summit, the government will list such companies and a handbook will answer the questions. 

I carefully observed one thing over the thanksgiving events round the state. It gave me an idea. I was looking from an investment point of view. There is a book called the emotion of economics. Gloom is doom, and bloom is boom. When people are happy, things boom. A smiling face sells more. There has been no fight at the rallies, but joy and happiness. So, the people seem to be happy and this is the foundation of a start of an economy. 

Agriculture is now failing in the north because of banditry, terrorism, and violence. They can’t access fertilizer anymore but that is what Rivers state produces at Indorama. That is the difference. If you create security in Rivers State on top of other values, investors will flock in. 

As an active player in the real estate sector, and they say that sector is the next oil/gas, I will say the sector has a lot to contribute to the economy of Rivers State. This is because house is one of the three basic needs of man (food, shelter, clothing). You can manage one cloth. You can’t manage hunger because its no respecter of persons. Food is land-based and so its real estate. Real estate provides competitive housing. Migration has also started in Lagos. One house is built by 35 persons but if one is demolished, you scare away 35,000 persons. More persons are coming this way. 

On potentials of Rivers State 

All hands are not equal, so some states are richer and others are not so wealth, especially in terms of internally generated revenue (IGR). In the case of Rivers State, because it is the treasure base of the nation which is the hydrocarbon (oil/gas) industry which is Nigeria’s economic mainstay, Rivers State is high on IGR and in wealth generation. So, when RS coughs, Nigeria catches cold. 

Rivers State ought to continue to be investors heaven as it was in the beginning when wealth was based on productivity. At that time, Rivers State excelled in farming and port system to convert produce to export. Production without export is food. Roads and ports made Port Harcourt thick. What made Lagos important was federal capital presence. It was in Port Harcourt that business was thriving and life was bubbling. It was indeed the Garden City of Nigeria. 

It was oil that brought easy money that made people abandon agricultural activities. Politics later came and made it worse. Politics made people to abandon industries and hustle. It made youths to believe that if you don’t disturb (cause violence), you will not be noticed and settled or included.

National Network:   What is the Role of Government in real estate?

The role of government in real estate is to first is to systemize the land business; put it in the system. Meet the aboriginal owners, settle with them, register the land in the Ministry. This will remove land grabbing. As the land is changing hands, the system will keep indicating. All land being safe gives investors confidence. 

Ease of Doing Business

EoDB is another forte. There should be fixed amount to be paid for certificate of occupancy and when this is done, it should not take 21 days to pick it up, without knowing the people in government. Also, the government should issue land use regulation which stipulates what you can and cannot build in any area. The governor must put people that are trusted and not involved in politics like Olusegun Obasanjo did when he put the late Prof Dora Akunyuli in charge of drugs and food (NAFDAC). 

Entertainment is another critical area:

Beyond cassava and oil palm, there is huge potential for agriculture. This is because river is source of wealth (fishing, leisure, etc, and the state is called Rivers State. There was Carniriv at one time. Those days of Rex Lawson made Port Harcourt the happening centre. Companies were paying entertainers. Now, it looks like if you don’t migrate to Lagos, you won’t succeed. 

It is painful that most of the projects that others use to come first now were once started in Rivers State; power, palm kernel, monorail, airline, etc. 

Expectations from the summit:

The governor is the chief host and so he will unveil his plans and incentives. Without a summit, he started the 20,000 housing project, roads to riverine areas, etc. So, the summit will show him priorities, and EoDB, new offices to enhance business, incentives, tax waivers, etc. Abia State is now boasting with steady power. Rivers was first in that area. The healthy competition between Abia and Rivers will begin. Major impact will be rapid development in places such as Oyigbo as gateway towns.

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