Oyo State Government and a Chinese conglomerate, China Polaris, have sealed a partnership agreement estimated at about N636bn ($2bn) for the establishment of a free trade zone for the manufacturing of automotive products, solar power generation, among others.

However, the first phase of the project comprising five factories is estimated to cost about N159bn ($500m) and is expected to be completed before the end of the first quarter of next year, while the entire project is expected to be completed in the next two years.

The Governor of the state, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, disclosed this, on Tuesday, during the turning of the sod to herald the construction work for the project, tagged Polaris-Pacesetter Free Trade Zone, located along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Ibadan.

He expressed optimism that the project, which occupies a thousand hectares of land, will be ‘the new hub of African economy’ when completed.

Ajimobi described the event as the outcome of  five years of an intensive hunt for investors in core economic activities in his determination to achieve growth and sustained development in the state.

“During the period, I was in China for two weeks to seal the agreement, which culminated in the ceremony we are having here today.I’m happy to announce to the people of Oyo State that today berths the result of a five-year intensive hunt for genuine investors to come and partner us in the state. Polaris-Pacesetter Free Trade Zone is an industrial revolution with the total package of $2billion investment aimed at pushing the state to the top notch, not only in Nigeria but in Africa.The multiplier effect of today’s ceremony is the imminent massive job creation and financial freedom for the government and the good people of our dear state.

The governor appealed to the Chinese investors to fast-track construction work at the trade zone, with the target of completing the first phase in the next three months.

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Describing China as the fastest growing economy in the world, Ajimobi said that the industrial template to be propelled by the Polaris-Pacesetter Free Trade Zone would enhance agricultural, commercial, educational and infrastructural development in the state.

Ajimobi was upbeat that the project will be a source of envy to states that border Oyo when completed.

The governor said that the time had come for the state to add value to agriculture by ending the regime of wastage besetting the sector and the state’s natural resources.

The President of China Polaris, Mr. Zhang Wendong, and the Leader of Delegation who is the representative of the Chinese government, Ms Zhang Xuemei, were among the top Chinese officials on the train.

Wendong assured the state government of the investors’ irrevocable commitment to the Polaris-Pacesetter Free Trade Zone project, saying that the first phase of the project, which comprised of five factories, would gulp about N159bn ($500m).

He hinted that the conglomerate will ensure the completion of the last phase of the project within the next two years timeline that was proposed by the state government, which, he said, will include an assemblage of automotive products and production of solar energy to power the city.

He said, “Polaris-Pacesetter Free Trade Zone will encompass light, medium and heavy manufacturing lines of $2billion. The first phase will cost $500m, which will involve production and assemblage of vehicle parts and solar energy.

“We are targeting solar energy that will power the whole of Ibadan and its environs. This is the first of its kind in Africa and we are trying to see how it will do here before we replicate in other African countries.”

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