When Governor Ambode assumed office as the Governor of Lagos State, there was no doubt that he knew what he wanted and how to go about it.
At every outing of his administration’s policy, he adopts different method in contrast with that of his predecessor in order to make a different impact with his administration.
On Thursday, February 18, 2016, Governor Ambode hosted the corporate body in the state in an event that was tagged, “5th Lagos Corporate Assembly.” During that outing, Ambode surprised people when, for two hours, he answered various questions bordering on challenges being experienced by various companies in the state.
The Governor stayed for more than thirty minutes addressing individual needs apart from the common challenges bordering on corporate bodies. According to the CEO, who were interviewed by Oriwu Sun, “This was a unique experience” and they were impressed by the kind of attention he gave them and promising to see them individually.
In their view, other Governors would rush straight to their waiting vehicles and zoom off immediately after the address but he stayed behind.
The Governor, who walked in briskly in his impressive agbada with his Deputy Governor, Dr. (Mrs.) Idiat Adebule and Chairman House Committee on Commerce and Industry, was also seated on the high table with the eloquent beautiful president of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mrs. Nike Akande.
Immediately the Governor stepped in, national Anthem was heard and after which he read his address to more than t
hree hundred (300) people present at the State House Banquet Hall.
When that was done, the Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Prince Rotimi Ogunleye delivered his welcome address and he said that the forum has been a useful vehicle through which the government and private sector interact and discuss issues that are germane to the industrial growth of the state, adding that the promotion of the commercial and industrial growth of the state has been the main focus of the assembly.
Prince Rotimi Ogunleye also said that the state recognizes the business community as the engine room for commerce and industrial development and that providing a wholesome operating environment for stakeholders in the sector, is key to job creation, poverty eradication and overall economic of the state.
The commissioner for Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives stated that the Ambode led-administration would continue to ensure collaboration with the organized private sector to sustain the existing cooperation and to also accelerate the momentum of development.
Prince Rotimi Ogunleye, once again described the event as a veritable platform that enables the government to feel the pulse of the business community, observing that the forum has helped in resolving many issues affecting businesses in the state, particularly the issues raised in the last edition.
According to him, it has helped to create friendly environment in the state.
However, he assured the private sector that the Ambode led government is committed to assisting the commercial and industrial sectors to maximize its potentials for greater contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the state.
To this end, his ministry shall continue to institute measures aimed at creating a sustainable and positive business environment for all stakeholders in the private sector.
According to him, the Lagos Free Trade Zone, Enterprise Zone, Agric-Industrial Park, Industrial Estate, Business and Technology incubation centres, Shopping Malls and Commercial Centres provided by the State Go
vernment across the state have been providing physical infrastructure for businesses.
He explained that the state government business policies have engendered industrial development, trade promotion and free orientation of the cooperative societies for sustainable growth. These policies he said were designed to ensure that producers of goods and services and their respective distributive agents and consumers enjoy the benefits of doing business in the state.
In a bid to promote and sustain enterprise growth, his ministry would continue to interface with other ministries, departments and agencies and other states and the federal level as well as relevant local and international economic support institutions.
Prince Ogunleye promised that his ministry would continue to collaborate with bilateral and multi-lateral Chambers of Commerce and Industries and respond positively to their yearnings, promised that Governor Ambode is working tirelessly to ensure that Lagos State becomes the choice destination for every discerning investor and entrepreneurs. He urged participants to make use of the opportunity presented by the forum to interact positively with the Governor on issues, prospects and challenges of doing business in the state to enable the government put necessary interventions in place for the acceleration of business and industrial growth in Lagos State.
After the commissioner’s address the representatives of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industries (LCCI), Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), representing other members of the Private sector, National Association of Small Scale Industrialists, representing micro and small business operators as well as DFID-Gens 3, came forward and made insightful presentations.
The LCCI representative, Chief (Mrs.) Nike Akande in her own presentation, commended Governor Ambode for programmes aimed at securing lives and properties and encouraging economic growth, but urged the Governor to expedite action on the issuance of land titles, and also prevail on the federal government to fix the rail system in Apapa and relocate tank farms in that axis.
In his own presentation, the MAN representative, Mr. Folaranmi Odunayo commended the Governor for the ‘light up’ Lagos initiative but also sought the inclusion of the industrial areas in the project.
He also advocated collaboration between the federal government, Lagos and Ogun State in addressing the traffic grid lock and the enactment of building code to centralise the creation of structures, especially, along the expressway.
Also, Mr. Segun Tayo Kuti George, who represented NASSI, while speaking at the forum commended Governor Ambode for giving the NASSI representative the opportunity to speak at the forum for the very first time since its inception, and for sustaining the laudable initiatives, improving security in the state, establishment of industrial clusters, wealth creation and employment as well as the establishment of twenty-five billion Naira (N25billion) Employment Trust Fund aimed at increasing the level of employment and reducing unemployment in Lagos State.
Mr. George also lauded the State Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives under the able leadership of Prince Rotimi Ogunleye for carrying NASSI along in all its programmes.
He however, advocated the creation of sales offices in the 57 local government and LCDAs in the state where Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) products could be displayed to partly solve the problem of marketing facing the association as well as legislation that would require big malls and shops to take certain percentages of SMEs products in order to generate more funds for small businesses.
Mr. George, therefore, urge the Governor to use his good office to influence the improvement of power supply in the state to enhance productivity and output of business activities, He also made a case for the inclusion of key SME representatives in the body that would be saddled with the task of allotting the twenty five billion Naira Investment Trust Fund to enable them make useful suggestions that would ensure that the money actually get to those who really need it. The representative also sought the formation of SME council in the state to ensure continuous interaction on how to grow businesses.
Mr. Andrew Thorburn, who represented DFID – GEM 3, in his own brief comment, commended Governor Ambode for creating the Ministry of International Affairs, which is also known as Lagos Global to help in projecting the positive image of the state outside Nigeria in a bid to attract more foreign investments to the state.
He also expressed his delight for the presentations made so far and event further to proffer solution on the problems raised which is continuous and constructive dialogue with the government over time instead of taking the back seat and complaining. According to him, because Lagos account for fifty five percent of the foreign investment coming into Nigeria. It is the main place to measure the prospect of doing business in Nigeria.
Mr. Andrew Thorburn also stated that the government must take the lead in doing things right including doubling the foreign investment receives in the coming years to help in diversifying the economy of the country. While stating that, the services sector in the state has huge potentials to attract foreign investments in the future, particularly Nollywood (Film Industry), Information and Telecommunication Industry (ITI), Health, Insurance, Finance and Manufacturing Industry, he said his agency is ready to partner the Lagos State Government in developing the services.
The presentations were, however, followed by comments and questions session after which the governor delivered his response and closing remarks.
In his address, Governor Ambode commended his predecessor, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) for establishing the Corporate Assembly and promised to ensure its continuity and also make it larger and more interactive as well as ensure that the forum holds two times in a year.
He explained that as part of measures aimed at encouraging investment, his administration has created N25billion Employment Trust Fund to give soft loans to entrepreneurs at the three percent interest, while the office of Overseas Affairs and Investments otherwise known as Lagos Global, office of Civic Engagement, as well as the Ministry of Wealth Creation and Employment Generation were created, all in a bid to promote investment opportunities.
The governor said as part of measures to further improve on the creation of enabling environment for businesses to thrive, his administration is also in the process of establishing Lagos Micro Finance Bank which would go a long way in providing succour for business owners in the state.
In his words, “As we speak, we are in talks with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and very soon we shall come up with the Lagos Micro Finance Bank and this is another effort geared towards the economic well-being of our people.”
He debunked claims that work had stopped on the first phase of the Blue Line of the Light Rail Project connecting Mile 2 to CMS, saying the allegation was totally untrue.
Governor Ambode said that in truth, the contractors might not be seen working but they are actually working on the waters for now and that by December this year, the project will start working as work is seriously ongoing.
He stated that the government is also about concluding on the channelization of the waterways in Lagos to improve on water transportation so as to encourage investors and reduce the pressure on roads network in the state.
Governor Ambode assured members of the organized private sector and would be investors that the state is more than willing and ready to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive with the overall aim of improving on the socio – economic well-being of the people of the state.
He added that his government is ready to partner with existing and prospective investors for industrial growth so that they can be bringing value to the state.
While responding to a question on why Lagos as one of the few emerging Mega Cities on African continent does not have a world class Trade Convention Centre, the governor said that the government is in the process of transforming the Kuramo Beach into a World Trade Convention Centre, assuring that he was very much committed to showcasing the economic potentials of the state to the rest of the world.
In his reaction on question about traffic challenges in Apapa and making life comfortable for people and businesses in the axis, he recalled the security tour he recently embarked upon to Isawo and Oke-Oko creek in the suburb of Ikorodu, where he met with military personnel carrying out the “Operation Awatse,” a joint military operation of the security agencies to tackle the menace of pipeline vandalism in the Arepo axis.
His words, “The idea is that when we open up the area and construct the Isawo-Oke -Oko Creek Road to connect the Lagos–Ibadan Expressway, from there, we would have greatly reduced the traffic gridlock on Lagos Road and then finally put a stop to the activities of pipeline vandals so that we can begin to directly pump petroleum products from Atlas Cove in Apapa to Mosimi and then tankers will have no business to come to Lagos to lift product.”
On the complaints about multiplicity of tickets for levies and rates and the involvement of touts in the collection of levies in the local government areas, Governor Ambode assured that he would work on perfecting a methodology for collection of rates, and that he would soon come up with a grand plan to permanently tackle the menace of touts.
On Power, he said although power generation is a sole responsibility of the federal government, but said that between now and 2017, he has an agenda to create clusters of Independent Paver Projects (IPPs) across the state to improve on power generation and ensure 24 hours power supply in Lagos.
On the request by the African Women Entrepreneurship Programme for a land to build a centre in the state, the governor assured that the state government will provide a land for them for the project.
After the governor’s address, the chairman of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, (MAN), Ikeja branch, Prince Felix Oba Okojie was invited to the podium to deliver the vote of thanks after which the gathering rose to recite the National Anthem to bring the event to a close a exactly 12.16p.m.