After over 40 years of exclusion from the regional economic bloc, Odu'a Group, Lagos State was formally absorbed into the South-West investment Group last week. WALE ELEGBEDE writes on how the admittance of the Centre of Excellence state will jump-start the economy of the region
That Lagos State is the most economically viable state in Nigeria is not a matter up for debate anywhere.
With a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $136 billion, Lagos has become the fifth largest economy in Africa and one of the fastest growing mega cities in the world. At the national level, the Centre of Excellence contributes 30 per cent to the overall GDP of Nigeria, thereby making it a major economic focal point in the country.
Determined to leverage on the huge economic potential of Lagos and boost the ties among states in the region, governors of the South-West states, under the auspices of Western Nigeria Governors’ Forum converge on Lagos last week to dialogue on the progress of the region. Aside the Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, who was represented by his deputy, Mrs. Yetunde Onanuga, the other five governors-Akinwunmi Ambode (Lagos), Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), and Ayodele Fayose (Ekiti) where present at the momentous occasion.
The two-day quarterly meeting held at Lagos House, Alausa, Ikeja, and themed: Consolidating the legacy of regional integration, was convened on the platform of the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria fondly called ‘The DAWN Commission’.
Also in attendance were the Acting Director-General DAWN Commission, Mr. Seye Oyeleye; Chairman Odua Investment Group Limited, Engineer Akinwunmi; Group Managing Director, Odu’a Investment Company Limited, Mr. Adewale Raji; the Managing Director of NIRSAL, Mallam Aliyu Abdulhameed; Focal representatives and some very high level officials across the States in the Region.
With quite a number of highlights from the brainstorming sessions which include the admittance of Lagos into the O’odua Investment Group, the gathering also resolved to consolidate action on food security and job creation in the region by initiating a Rice Accelerated Programme for Integrated Development (Western RAPID). Lagos acquired a total of 115 million shares thus growing the share equity of the company to 690 million.
The governors also agreed to commit portions of land to the Lagos State Government to farm and promote rice cultivation and production in the region. Opening the meeting with his remarks, the host governor, Ambode, reiterated the need for comprehensive, sustainable and collective food security plan, as well as collaborative efforts on issues of security, economy and wellbeing of the people, among others in the South-West.
While stressing that there was no better time for states in the South-West to come together and proffer ways of tackling social and economic challenges facing the people of the region, the governor harped on collaboration as the driving force for progress in the region.
The Lagos State governor said,: “Increased collaboration in agricultural activities is critical to sustaining the teeming population of Western Nigeria. Lagos State alone has over 23 million people and on record, 85 people migrate into Lagos from other parts of Nigeria on an hourly basis.
“The drive towards food security is therefore not only to ensure that Lagosians have enough to eat, but that the people of entire Western Nigeria have enough to eat and export to other states and outside Nigeria.
“The whole essence of food security of Western Nigeria is thus focused on our states maximizing their comparative advantages to guarantee increased food, job creation and the welfare of our people.” On his part, Governor Ajimobi of Oyo State reiterated the need for collective focus to make development happen in the region.
He said: “The spirit of collectivism and not individualism should continue to be our watchword. The reality of the moment further showed that our focus must be on agriculture, education, security and physical infrastructure.”
Preaching the gospel of unity in its fold, Governor Aregbesola of Osun State stated that the spirit of togetherness must be strengthened daily for South- West to regain its status and address its challenges Aregbesola said: “Development must be tackled seriously within the region. Lagos has been working to ensure unity among other states but it must do more. It is noteworthy that the state is investing in the integration of the region especially investing in other states.
“If Lagos doesn’t invest in the integration of South-West, it will suffer the consequence. It is not that we don’t appreciate the effort of the state but we must emphasise what it must do. It cannot sustain the pressure that its success has continued to attract to it. It is the interest of all to relieve Lagos of the pressure.
“We all must be ready to develop in a way that will support Lagos demographically. If Lagos understands this key role and supports the region to achieve its potential, it will stimulate what the South- West will enjoy.
” Pledging his commitment to the integration of the region, Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Fayose, who is the only Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governor in the South-West, said the other five states of the region are looking up to Lagos and Governor Ambode. He said: “As much as we want restructuring; we want true federalism; I am committed to it but talking about Nigeria, the west has potentials; we have the capacity to develop this country and with Lagos on the driver’s seat, we can save the whole of this country.
“The states of the South-West are looking up to Ambode. As Governor of Ekiti, I barely get allocation that pays my salary but when we look at Lagos being in the South-West, we are consoled and Lagos can make the whole of the South-West comfortable but we will continue to come to Lagos if you don’t do something about it.
“We need Ambode to lead South-West growth and if we are able to achieve this, in another 10 years, the issue will no longer be restructuring because people will begin to look at what is happening in the west.
“Asiwaju Tinubu laid the foundation; nobody can deny it. I am never a member of APC and I will never be but the truth must be said at all times. The environment where we are today tells it all. I am particularly proud of his product – Akinwunmi Ambode, governor of Lagos State,” he said. Representing her boss, the Ogun State deputy governor, Amosun, Mrs. Onanuga, averred that there was the need to strengthen the legacies the unity of the region brought earlier.
She said: “We have realised that there is need to consolidate on the legacies of regional integration. We need to continue consolidation of regional integration. The South-West regional forum is very key to the development that we have presently in the country. It will be another avenue so that we can move the South-West forward.
The spirit of togetherness will continue to propel us to greatness.” The gathering, which also took other presentations including that of Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), also agreed that a Regional Agriculture Summit to be sponsored by Lagos State, will be held in Ibadan in May 2018
In a collective decision, the Group of Five, approved that Lagos to become one of the owner states of O’dua Investment Company Limited, which for almost 40 years has been managing the economic interests of the state governments of the old western region, an investment arm spanning real estate, hospitality, printing and publishing among others.
After a ceremony to formalise the inclusion of Lagos State into the conglomerate, two agreements and a Memorandum of Understanding were signed by the states. First was the Shareholders’ Agreement among the five states of Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti States to redistribute the total number of shares of the conglomerate in a way to accommodate the interest of Lagos State.
The second agreement was the Share Purchase Agreement between ODUA Group of Companies and Lagos State,essentially for the state to buy at a premium the One Hundred and Fifteen Million Shares of ODUA Investment due to it. It is worthy to note that the total shares of ODUA Group is Six Hundred and Ninety Million shares.
And the redistribution of the equities among the six states including Lagos State shows that each state in the region is holding on to One Hundred and Fifteen Million Shares. Also signed was a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, on Land Allocation between Western States and Lagos State.
However, raising a point of order during the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding MoU on Land Allocation between the western states and Lagos, the Ogun state deputy governor said it would not sign until some issues between the two states were resolved.
The state’s Deputy Governor, Yetunde Onanuga, who represented Gov Ibikunle Amosun, said the Lagos State government abandoned the 1,000 hectares of land given to it for its rice production project. Reacting, Governor Ambode said the idea behind the MoU on land allocation was to expand the agricultural output of the state’s rice mill.
Ambode said that the state required 32,000 hectares for paddy cultivation and in the interest of integration, the project would be beneficial to all the states in the South West.
According to him, Lagos state will be like ‘off-takers’ to the paddies, while the other states will use their people and farmers to cultivate the land, thereby creating employment and wealth in those states and the region.
”Four other states have actually agreed to sign the MoU. But what happened with Ogun state is that there are some minor issues that were outstanding before.
They could not sign today, but you can also hear them say they are committed to signing when those issues are resolved.
So, four have signed, remaining one state.” Other highlights from the communiqué include that the states of the region as a bloc will be monitoring the process for the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Concession into a world class infrastructure and the confirmation of Mr Oluseye Oyeleye as the substantive Director General of DAWN Commission.
Clearly, the regional integration and the admission of Lagos is an undiluted message that the South West is planning for its future. With their interests united, it is expected that they maintain the momentum for the development of the region.