Idu: Industrial Zone for a Capital City
Spanning a wide expanse of land, the Idu industrial layout within the heart of Abuja covers about 588 hectares of land that is demarcated into 208 commercial plots and is the government’s approved industrial cluster for the Federal Capital Territory. A recent visit to the area by Chineme Okafor showed that with its massive infrastructure development, Idu is gradually attaining the status of a first-rate economic hub
Expectedly, a first time visitor to the Idu industrial area would hope to walk through a zone characterised by the heavy sound of industrial machines and the usual beehive of human activities that are associated with functional industrial areas across the country.
Such industrial zones like the Agbara industrial estate in Ogun State, Nnewi in Anambra state, and perhaps, Aba in Abia State are known for their thriving economic activities, which in turn, add value to the respective states. Idu, however, is yet to attain the same status as observed by this report during a recent visit to the industrial cluster zone, which has been variously flaunted by the FCT administration to prospective investors.
When in 1999, Nigeria returned to civil rule and confidence in the country’s economy began to manifest, the then Ministry of Federal Capital Territory (MFCT) and Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) decided to act out government’s objectives for industrialising the FCT, such that it provided certain economic incentives. This was hinged the provision of fiscal terms in terms of tax deductions and allowances; the provision of insurance cover for export-oriented industries as specified under the enabling law; liberal land allocation of industrial parks; the provision of well laid-out industrial parks; and provision of infrastructure demarcated industrial parks.
While initiating these incentives, the FCTA, at various times, made efforts to boost rapid industrial development of the city, and apart from the elimination of bureaucratic bottlenecks usually associated with land distribution and allocation in the FCT, the administration made provisions for the development of light, medium and heavy industries at Idu industrial park phases I, II and III, as well as in Gaube and Gwagwalada industrial parks respectively. The provision of the requisite infrastructure at these layouts, such as roads, water supply and distribution networks, sewage and drainage systems, electricity services and telecommunications facilities were rolled out by the FCT administration, albeit in stages.
But a few years down the line, the Idu industrial cluster zone, which got more government attention, is hardly a thriving economic hub, as there is minimal economic activity. Ordinarily, the strategic location of the nation’s capital as well as the seeming large-scale development of the FCT should make it an attractive investment destination for investors, but has not been the case.
The Idu industrial area which covers parcel of land has been in existence for over a decade but even with the presence of manufacturing firms such as the Nigeria Bottling Company (NBC), Seven Up Bottling Company which both maintain plants within the industrial zone, as well as indigenous furniture company, Itex, the industrial complex can best be described as under-utilised.
Idu, which is a well-planned industrial zone with a functional road network and functional sewage system, is however hamstrung by lack of stable electricity supply and telecommunication facilities. According to some of the medium scale industrialists, especially building material manufacturers and merchants, the expected rapid growth of the zone has been hampered by poor electricity supply to the zone and as such, industries within it have had to resort to alternative sources of energy.
A number of them which have been operating in the zone for a sometime, explained that the fear of running businesses at a loss due to lack of basic infrastructure, especially power supply, has remained one of the major challenges in attracting other industries to the zone. They alluded to the fact that the road network in the zone is good but that a lot of industries are deterred from establishing factories where they are not guaranteed stable power supply, in addition to other costs they must incur.
They also cited such factors as proximity to raw materials as well as other social challenges of housing and perhaps, government’s undue interference as some of the reasons that have stunted Idu’s growth. An official who pleaded anonymity at Paramount Woodworks Ltd told this reporter that the expectations amongst operators in the complex is that the mass rail line project which will pass through the zone when completed in 2015, could help enhance economic activities.
He added that transportation of needed raw materials from cheap sources could then be done through the rail line, attracting investors to the zone. He added that the industrial zone is also awaiting the completion of reforms in the power sector, which could increase electricity supply to Idu.
According to industrialists at Idu, the Abuja mass railway line that is currently under construction and due for completion by the first quarter of 2015 is eagerly been awaited as a possible means of revving-up economic activities in the zone.
The rail line will run through the heart of the zone. This, according to industrialists, will attract customers to the zone and would also help cut the cost of transporting finished goods and raw materials to and from other markets. The current phase of the rail project which is made up of Lots 1A and 3 will cover a distance of 77.78 kilometres and would connect Abuja city through two major routes, namely the airport axis to Abuja city centre and Dei Dei/Kubwa axis to the city centre. This, they said, will be a huge boost in enhancing the potential of the industrial zone to interested investors.