For centuries, the coastal areas have been the most envied fundamentally because of their trade and commercial advantages.
Shanghai, Hong Kong, Shenzen, California, Texas, etc enjoyed their historical pioneering commercial advantages because of the coast. We can equally say the same of Calabar, Lagos, Port Harcourt, and Warri experiencing their “historical economic advantages” in Nigeria due to proximity to the coast. Lagos stands as the most vibrant “fetching” Nigeria over 70% of non-oil revenues. Ibadan, a non-coastal large city enjoys the historic advantage of serving as a “strategic route” to all Western Nigeria states, Oyo State remains the most strategic gateway between Lagos/Ogun to Northern part of the country. The city is enjoying splashes of commercial fortunes again as it hosts strategic rail lines and inland dry port.
After over 13 years of snaily approach, the Federal Government in collaboration with other critical stakeholders has approved the cost of N43.24 billion for the construction of Ibadan inland dry port otherwise known as Inland Container Depot (ICD) in July 2020. Ibadan is also anticipating the completion of the long-awaited Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail which gulped $1.6 billion(N458bn) coupled with the newly reviewed Lagos-Kano standard gauge line which Lagos-Ibadan serves as the first part of the new 2,733km Lagos-Kano gauge line. According to Mr. Glory Onojedo, Director, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) stated in December 2019 that the proposed Industrial Park near the Ibadan inland dry port will be the biggest ever in Nigeria. Undoubtedly, 2020 is a year of reawakening fortune for Oyo State. Lagos-Ibadan rail line is to be completed, other critical infrastructures like the inland dry port and Lagos-Kano standard gauge line will also be kick-started.
What is the worth of these investments?
Oyo State is not just about to milk more from the “golden cow” of Lagos State but it is luckily “having the largest share of the buffet” which Ogun State had solely enjoyed for over 10 years leading to splashes of Industrial cluster areas in Sango-Otta, Agbara, Mowe, Ibafo, Sagamu, etc. Unlike the minimal share of “Lagos fortune” that Oyo State used to have, the state is attracting over N500 billion worth of Investments. To be more specific, Oyo State is accommodating infrastructural investment that is worth over N500 billion.
How prepared is Oyo State for these economic fortunes?
It must be emphasized that these infrastructures are “Economic infrastructure” linking maritime with transportation and transportation with trade. Specifically, Ibadan is lucky or more than lucky to have been selected for “maritime trade links” and rail transportation at the same time. The State is, therefore, sitting on a golden stool of maritime wealth and rail revolution. Ibadan is being linked to the two most important commercial hubs at the same time, I mean Lagos and Kano.
Furthermore, Lagos-Kano standard gauge line will capture these routes Lagos, Agege, Agbado, Kajola, Ewekoro – Papalanto, Abeokuta, Oyo-Olodo, Ido – Omi-Adio, Ibadan, Abuja – Idu, Kubwa, Jere, Rijana, Kaduna – Rigasa. In all excitement, Ibadan now has all the strategic powers to inspire “revolutionary commerce, trade, and industrialization”. Oyo State Government should be thinking beyond the box on how to reinstate the state as the awaited commercial nerve of the country after Lagos State. It must be known that the preparation for these economic fortunes goes beyond the “ceremonial construction” of Industrial parks/free trade zones only.
How should Oyo State maximize these opportunities
With the rail revolution having its strong presence in Ibadan coupled with maritime trade advantages, Oyo State Government should be ready to apply “tactical aggression”, the bite must be furious and the State should prioritize urban renewal, Industrialization, Agro-revolution, and housing development. First, the Agro-revolution which is our biggest comparative advantage should be explored, we will need “infrastructure loans” to strategically target Oke-Ogun/Ibarapa for Industrialization and limit rural-urban migration and unemployment. These loans should be used in constructing “Oke-Ogun/Ibarapa light rail” which will connect FGN sponsored rail lines and will cover “Ido/Omi-Adio” strategically. These infrastructure loans will also be used to advance “farm settlements” into Agro-processing parks and another Agro-processing Industrial Park strategically sited at Ido, Oyo State. These loans will also target rural-urban roads.
The Industrialization drive capturing Oke-Ogun/Ibarapa zones through Agro-revolution will be complemented with more rapid Industrialization in the capital city which is Ibadan. About 80 percent of the approved free trade zones in Nigeria are dormant as no business activity being run in them, the Africa Free Zones Association reported. In light of the above, Oyo State Government through proposed infrastructure loans and PPP should adequately construct Industrial Park with proximity to the Ibadan inland dry port, adequate facilities, and not just “tax reliefs” remain the secret of unlocking Free Trade Zones. Also, the real estate advantages that will spring up from this rail revolution and infrastructural development should not be allowed to be “monopolized” by the private sector. The Government should mastermind the construction of new cities nearing the rail lines in the form of massive low-cost housing projects with flexible mortgage options. It will also be advised that most of the suggested infrastructural projects should be subject to “Infrastructural/concessionary loan agreement”. This implies an agreement of “concessioning most of these projects” to ease the State burden of loan servicing and repayment but a “self-paying loan model”.
In conclusion, the current Oyo State Administration should see this new wave of economic fortunes falling on Oyo State as an avalanche of opportunities. There is no other time to kickstart the economic revolution in the state but now, the current administration should count itself the luckiest at this favourable time.
Mujib Dada-Qadri is a Lawyer and Policy Analyst. He writes from Ibadan, Oyo state capital.