Interview: Abiola Ajimobi

What sort of tangible measures is Oyo State taking to increase foreign direct investment?

ABIOLA AJIMOBI: The Oyo State government has developed enduring strategic alliances with local and international partners. The first step to securing cooperation and private sector investment was implementing improved safety and security measures, such as Operation Burst, a Joint Security Task Force initiative that has resulted in reduced crime and which saw improved capacity under this administration. Further gains in safety for individuals and property in the state have been achieved through the State Security Trust Fund Bill and a commitment to provide the needed support for security agencies in order to make them more effective.

Tackling unemployment is another important tool of crime prevention. Youth development schemes, such as the Youth Employment Scheme of Oyo and the development of a technical university in partnership with Texas Tech University, will enhance the state’s human capital. Creating a supportive environment for new business also requires substantial investment in physical infrastructure. The state government is therefore transforming the landscape through new developments. “Plug-and-play” industrial estates with adequate infrastructure are being developed for investors, and various foreign entities are already developing food processing facilities on the outskirts of Ibadan. Meanwhile, urban renewal and environmental beautification efforts are making our cities more liveable.

In spite of ongoing efforts, however, challenges remain. Like many other states in Nigeria, there is a lack of steady power supply, inadequate gas infrastructure, insufficient road networks and a limited supply of piped water. It is also the desire of this government to alleviate the cost of market entry by offering incentives. In this respect, certain businesses are entitled to a 90% discount on land acquisition and reduced processing times for permits and licences. Oyo State is also setting up a One-Stop Investment Centre to help firms navigate the complex waters of Nigeria’s business climate.

How is the state government looking to finance and drive development across Oyo State?

AJIMOBI: In order to finance government-led development, the state government has endeavoured to deepen and widen the revenue base. We have focused more on the amount collected and efficient allocation by stimulating economic activity, designing more legal instruments to enforce the collection of taxes and levies, capacity building among collection authorities and aggressive public awareness campaigns.

Our next plan is to go to the bond market to seek funding for long-term projects. We have implemented a meticulous management of our current revenue, including our internally generated revenue. The state government is also making strong headway in mainstreaming its public-private partnership (PPP) framework toward the provision of adequate semi-public goods and services. There are already opportunities for PPP agreements in the state, specifically in agriculture, housing, mineral resources, infrastructure, transport, aviation, industrial parks and waste management. In order to ensure transparency and efficiency, the state assembly has approved a PPP law that will provide a legal framework for any PPP arrangement.

What is being done to develop a 10-year master plan for the state’s socioeconomic development?

AJIMOBI: In order to better integrate the state’s plan with the national planning milestone (Vision 20:2020), the state government has begun putting in place a strategic plan for 2013-20 that employs both vertical and horizontal integration options for various stakeholders and development projects.

We face a number of challenges in achieving this, however, as the government seeks to overcome a weak track record on planning implementation and a dearth of statistics at both the national and state levels. Ultimately, the process is expected to produce a medium to long-term strategic document that will provide a fulcrum upon which the annual budget will rest.