Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday was at the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan Mid-Lab Syndication meeting in Abuja where he expressed satisfaction with the organization of the labs and the commitment of all participants towards achieving the overall goal of the exercise. During the launch of the Labs on March 13, 2018 by President Muhammadu Buhari, it was indicated that the labs would be targeting an initial $25 billion in investments from the private sector. The initial labs which are targeting investments in the Agriculture and Transportation, Manufacturing and Processing and Power and Gas sectors, are billed to round up on April 26, 2018.
Speaking after the gallery walk in the three labs’ setting on Thursday, the Vice President said he was particularly impressed by the level of commitment, enthusiasm and interest shown by participants in accepting to lock themselves up for six weeks all in a bid to fast track the growth and development of the country. He said even though regulatory processes are necessary in order to protect institutions and streamline activities, government appreciates the fact that it is necessary to limit bureaucratic bottlenecks so that they do not get in the way of progress; which was why government decided to embark on the labs to address any challenges that stand in the way of investments. The Vice President said he was encouraged by the fact that Nigeria really has what it takes to realize our investment and growth targets.
“We have made remarkable progress and working together we can achieve so much”, he added. To underscore his observation during the gallery walk of the labs, the Vice President said the leader of the Malaysian consultants working with the ERGP Implementation Team on the labs hinted him that going by his experience in other parts of the world, the ERGP focus labs have already achieved about 80% success in the three weeks so far. The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, in his opening remarks, commended the participants for their dedication and resilience. He noted that it was no mean feat for owners and operators of businesses to leave their duty posts for six weeks of engagement.
“The progress we have witnessed during the gallery walk in the various labs reflects the enormous amount of work you have put in the past three weeks”, he added. Reiterating the essence of the labs, the Minister said they were set up mainly to identify and unlock investments from the private sector by resolving any inter-agency problems that may be barriers to private sector investments.
“By bringing you, the investors and heads of critical agencies of government, into a confined environment, government is offering you a platform to finalise your business decisions in the fastest possible manner.
“ He said “data from the three labs show that in the past three weeks, we are on course to meeting our target of $25 billion investment commitment. So far, we have identified 59 projects that are four and five star. There are several other projects rated one to three star. We will continue to work with these categories of investors to improve the ratings of their projects to a five star project.”
Four and five star rated projects are those that are almost ready and require just finishing touches to conclude while one to three star-rated are those with potentials but need to be further worked upon. The Minister said he was pleased to note that two (2) projects in the Manufacturing and Processing Lab have already been able to procure letters from the Ministries concerned to move ahead with their projects.
Regarding the Power and Gas Lab, the Minister said progress has been made on issues of issuance of Licenses/Permits; in the area of Customs and Excise duties; in funding/potential partnership and other syndication issues; while in the Agriculture and Transport Lab, progress is being made to develop a market driven out-grower scheme that will benefit medium-size farms across the country. The Minister was optimistic that given the number of projects that are likely to be ready for approval by the end of the lab process, the aim of resolving inter-agency bottlenecks, which is one of the cardinal objectives of the labs, would have been achieved.
When consummated, the projects are capable of creating over 570,000 jobs. He also indicated that the Central Working Committee of the Labs, comprising the six sector ministers together with the Ministers of Budget and National Planning, Finance, Justice, the Central Bank Governor and heads of various agencies, is scheduled to meet within the next one week to consider and resolve many of the challenges already identified during the labs.