From Layi Olanrewaju, Ilorin
Kwara State on Wednesday concretised its status as the Free Trade Zone Area in central Nigeria, with Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq officially presenting the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) for the land allocated for the economic initiative.
Governor Abdulrazaq presented the C of O to Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA)’s Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer Prof. Adesoji Adesugba in Ilorin, the state capital, saying the step demonstrated the political will of the administration to strengthen the economic base of the state and bring prosperity to its people.
‘We are giving this certificate to concretise our commitment to the opportunity given to Kwara by the federal government. We must commend President Muhammadu Buhari for appointing competent persons right from the Minister to the MD who are actualising the programmes in the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment,’ the governor said.
‘Opening up zones like this accelerates infrastructural development, increases our GDP in all the catchment areas, and brings international investments to the zone. Already, we are speaking with the African Development Bank and most of the projects we are looking at are sited around the zone. Like we know, north-central is the food basket of the country but most of our agricultural produce go to waste. So, when we process here, it will reduce waste and expand businesses. COVID-19 has shown that we must look inward. The biggest companies today in Nigeria are processors and not necessarily farmers.
‘One of the unique things about the Kwara State Free Trade Zone is its proximity to the local airport and we will like to optimise the opportunities because Ilorin airport is designated as an international airport.’
Governor Abdulrazaq also disclosed plans to partner with the federal government in making the state a go-to place for medical tourism.
‘We are not just looking at one investment from the federal government. We are also looking at developing medical tourism in the state. So, we are partnering with the federal government to set up medical tourism by creating another zone which we want to take advantage of,’ he said.
Prof Adesugba, the NEPZA chief, identified Kwara as investment-friendly and suitable for the Special Economic Zone.
‘Investment does not stay in the air. Investment goes to destinations. It looks for places where it is most welcome. The investment will always go to where there is a will to support it. Your Excellency, at NEPZA, we have discovered that Kwara State seems to be (one of the) most welcoming states that we can work with in terms of setting up a Special Economic Zone.
‘Today, we are happy to be here to start with Kwara among the first three that we will be working on this year. We will work with you to provide state-of-the-art equipment to ensure that we promote investors to that area. Fortunately, we already have a group of investors from Turkey, Egypt, China that have been asking us where to locate their industries. This will definitely be a good location for them.
‘This is in line with the federal government’s agenda for industrialisation to power the whole of Nigeria and to take advantage of the benefits of special economic zones to address issues of unemployment and security and poverty reduction.
‘We are happy and glad to see (Governor Abdulrazaq) as one of the champions of industrialisation. We are proud of your successes in private business and we believe that you will bring to bear your successes in Kwara State. The state of development is quite very impressive. We are all aware of what you are doing and I must commend you for what you do for the development of the state.’