Rivers State Showcases Investment Opportunities @ NBA Conference

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DSC_0467The 2017 edition of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Annual General Conference in Lagos was a beehive of high-powered activities, with its Plenary and Breakout Sessions, as well as Showcase Sessions where a number of states within the federation and corporate organizations used the opportunity of this unique gathering of luminaries and stakeholders in the worlds of law and other professions, business, politics and the academia to sell themselves and highlight their unique selling points.

It was an opportunity a state such as Rivers was not going to miss. As one of the pivotal states sustaining the country’s economy, thanks to its abundant natural and other endowments, Rivers State is estimated by recent studies to be the 15th largest economy in Africa, with a GDP higher than those of some sovereign African nations. As host to a sizeable proportion of Nigeria’s oil and gas assets, the fortunes of Rivers State – especially its peace and stability – remains the focus of keen interest on the part of stakeholders across Nigeria and beyond its shores – an interest the current administration, under the leadership of His Excellency, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, CON, Governor of Rivers State, is equally keen to turn into making the State an investment and tourism haven, and the destination of choice for local and international investors and tourists.

Chaired by Hon. O.C.J. Okocha, MFR, SAN, one of Nigeria’s foremost lawyers, the session at the Hard Rock Café, situated in the Oniru Estate waterfront on Victoria Island, was also graced by the Rivers State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Emmanuel C. Aguma, SAN (who represented Gov. Wike at the occasion); the executive director of the Rivers State Bureau of Public, Private Partnership, Hon. Nimi Walson-Jack; the Head of Service, and Special Assistants, among other key dignitaries.

In his brief but concise welcome address, delivered on his behalf by Attorney-General Aguma, Governor Nyesom Wike highlighted the success story Rivers State continues to represent in the larger Nigerian narrative – and especially the successes recorded by his administration since its assumption of office just over two years ago – a phenomenon which he attributed to the existence of peace, a solid security architecture, the sanitization of the tax regime which had in the past militated against the ease of doing business in the State, a comprehensive reform of the legal and regulatory framework to protect investors and their assets and  to position the State government as a partner in progress on a long-term basis, irrespective of the party in power; and a massive intervention by the Wike Administration in critical sectors of the economy such as physical infrastructure roads, housing and other construction; human services such as education and healthcare; agriculture; power and energy; as well as tourism and the hospitality industry.

Following the Governor’s address, a special documentary on the accomplishments and strides of the Wike Administration was shown, to the admiration of the audience.

The highlight of the Showcase Session was the special presentation, in which Hon. Nimi Walson-Jack, Executive Director of the State’s PPP Bureau, took the assembled guests on a fascinating exposition of the immense opportunities the State offers to prospective investors in all areas of socio-economic engagement, with fail-safe guarantees of significant profit margins and sustained long-term growth. Hon. Walson-Jack began by emphasizing the status of Rivers State as the second-largest state economy in Nigeria after Lagos); the centre of the nation’s oil and gas industry, host of two refineries, two major seaports and two airports; a number of multinational oil and gas firms, the oil and gas free trade zone (FTZ) at Onne, as well as holding the headquarters of a number of national banks; The PPP chief also went on to highlight the status of the Rivers State capital, Port Harcourt, as one of Africa’s fastest-growing cities and a teeming hub of commercial, industrial, educational and cultural activities and establishments. Under Gov. Wike’s ambitious programme to transform the state, Hon. Walson-Jack said, wide-ranging and far-reaching reforms are being undertaken in the aforementioned areas – including security, in a bid to return the state to the path of sustainable development and prosperity, and Port Harcourt, in particular, to its former glory as Nigeria’s Garden City. He enumerated the state’s USPs (unique selling points) to include the following:

  • The administration’s determination to render transparent and accountable leadership, and a governance model aimed at surmounting the challenges and maximizing the opportunities of the emerging and high competitive global marketplace;
  • The strengthening of institutions and the skills to make them work;
  • The resolve to revamp Port Harcourt as a 21st century city of international caliber and a hub for business and leisure;
  • A young and energetic populace that, given opportunities in employment and business incentives, guarantees a dynamic workforce as well as a huge market for consumer goods.
  • A positive economic outlook for the foreseeable future, and positive indices for all key economic sectors; and
  • The administration’s fight against crime and effective/timely interventions in security and logistics.

Among the numerous sectors offering massive opportunities to local and international investors, according to Hon. Walson-Jack,  are housing and construction; agriculture; the power sector; energy and natural resources (especially given the growing global demand for renewable energy sources); commerce and industry; tourism; and hospitality.

He concluded his presentation by highlighting the opportunities Rivers State offers for public-private partnership in each of the areas enumerated above, and what prospective investors must do to key in for mutual benefit. Apart from outlining the regulatory framework currently in place and constantly fine-tuned, he also outlined the Wike Administration’s proactive PPP agenda, PPP projects which are ongoing or still being negotiated.

The Rivers State government’s effort to attract investors by way of this Showcase event was given an unexpected but welcome boost by the presence and warm endorsements of two key stakeholders, namely, the NBA national president, Abubakar Mahmud, SAN and Chief Jim Ovia, the CEO of Zenith Bank and one of the biggest investors in the economic profile of Rivers State, urged Rivers citizens to have confidence in the future of their home state, and to act on that confidence. The former governor of neighbouring Cross River State, HE, Donald Duke – whose wife and former first lady, Onari, is a proud daughter of Rivers State.

A lively interactive session also threw added light on the issues at stake, as the session came to an end.

See Photos Below:

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