The concept of the Abuja Industrial Park, AIP, elicited quite a wide range of interest when the news broke out in 2010, initiated and promoted by Zeberced Nigeria Limited, a Turkish Business interest that has been operating in the construction and infrastructural development sectors in Abuja since 2007, the Industrial Park promised to be a phenomenal development with the grains of boosting the much needed presence of private sector driven entrepreneur activities in the nation’s capital city. The optimism that greeted the project derived from details of its blueprint.
Strategically located on 250 hectares of land at the Idu Industrial Zone, Phase II, the park is designed to host 117 industries complimented with a myriad of support services and Small, Medium Enterprise, SMEs. With a total investment value of USD 1.8 billion, the AIP is planned to attract investments from Turkey, other parts of the globe as well Nigerian entrepreneurs and with a capacity of providing job opportunities skilled and unskilled Nigerians. The gargantuan novel project is designed to be independent in terms of critical facilities such as a 100MW of electricity, an Airport, a railway, a waste water treatment plant, hotels, banks and shopping complexes among others.
Work commenced in earnest in 2013 and within a short space of time, the initiators of the park had conducted basic requirements of land survey, Utility Survey Plan (USP), land use plan and engineering design which were promptly approved by the Federal Capital Development Authority, FCDA. Having paid over 128,000,000 million naira as compensation to the original owners of the land, the initiators of the project also went ahead to complete earth work to the grading level of the first phase of the road network covering sixty-eight industrial plots; the construction of an Administrative block, a power plant, waste and clear water recycling clean plants among other essential services. That was just as, batching plants and an 8,000 block per hour block industry with interchangeable moulds for interlock; concrete pipes of up to 2 meters wide were installed to facilitate construction of the supper structures.
However, even though the project was regarded in official circles as falling under the programme, and in spite of the zeal of shown by the promoters at inception, the Abuja Industrial Park has been very slow in its progress to the point that, many feared it might eventually turn out a still born, a mirage or another failed lofty ambition. The impediments of its progress include the non construction of the only access road needed to fast track mobilization of equipment and execution of the other aspects of the project. There is also the problem posed by the Abuja Water Board line which the FCDA need to relocate outside the boundaries of the park where it presently lies. The absence of rail siding from the Abuja Light Rail Station to the proposed railway station in the park is yet another teething challenge that has showed the speed of the project. The promoters of the AIP, Zeberced are also yet to reach agreement with the relevant government agencies over purchase of excess 50MW for use by the national grid out of the 100MW to be generated at the park.
Speaking at the inter-ministerial committee meeting, the Minister of State, Industry, Trade and Investment, Hajiya Aisha Abubakar said the essence fo the committee is to, “map out strategies toward the speedy realization of the Abuja Industrial Park.” She described the AIP as a concept in —- with the “Special Economic Zones strategy adopted by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration towards the speedy diversification of the economy and also supports the government policy on the promotion of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs)” Hajiya Aisha Abubakar said the committee under her supervision will henceforth, “leave no stone unturned in the effort to actualize the Abuja Industrial Park”. She reiterated the commitment of the government to the attainment of the objectives of the economic recovery growth plan and thus, the presence at the meeting, the minister of state, Federal Ministry of power, Works and Housing, the Executive Secretary of the FCDA among other critical stake holders in the AID.
The significance of the Abuja Industrial Park cannot be over emphasized. In the context of the nation’s capital city, the APP comes as the first major private sector – driven employment out let for the teeming young Nigerians, skilled and unskilled that stream into the city in search of job opportunities.
The country to attain exporter of finished industrial products thereby, saving the stupendous foreign reserves presently expended on imports, the AIP will also serve as a catalyst for the emergence of similar ventures in other parts of the country.
What is more, the park is being wholly undertaken by a private sector player without the financial commitment of the government. It is a positive development that, at the end of the meeting, the meeting concluded that the AIP is consistent with the concept of the Abuja Master Plan as well as the overall Industrial Master Plan of the Federal Government which seeks to establish industrial clusters across the geo-political zones of the country. Describing the AIP as strategic in its location at kilometers from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport and 5 kilometers away from the Abuja City Centre, the committee members unanimously described the project as having the “capacity to boost the industrial and economic development in the FCT and the country at large.”
While attention of key players and the general public have been rekindled, all eyes are —- and focused on the Aisha Abubakar-led Committee on the fate of the park. Assurance that the inter0ministerial committee will deliver on its mission will derive from the immediate remora of all the bureaucratic bottle necks and other avoidable encumbrances hitherto put in the way of the Administration delivered in good time, the assurance give at the meeting to immediately mobilize the contractor given contract for the construction of the vital link needed for the movement of heavy construction equipment to the park. The FCT should also quickly redeem its pledge of relocating the water pipeline out of the park as well as begin the extension of rail siding line to the AIP.
For the park to spring back to life, it is equally very imperative that the Minister of State, Federal Ministry of Power, works and Housing, Alhaji Sulaiman Hassan should walk his talk by seeing to it that his Ministry accelerates the process of the power purchase agreement between the government and operators of the park. As he remarked at the meeting, the government should in fact, be excited with the deal in the context of its policy proclamation of expanding electricity supply through private sector participation in power generation. In the same vein, the support expressed for the AIP by ZEPZA at the meeting must be translated into fulfillment of its pledge readiness to grand Zeberced or the AIP, the Free Zone Status, once laid-down conditions are met. The Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission should go beyond verbal assurances to taking concrete steps towards granting pioneer status to the Abuja Industrial Park.