The Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, says the investment drive of his administration has been yielding dividends in key sectors of the economy.
Fayemi spoke when he received the top management team of Sterling Bank, led by the Divisional Head, Retail, Shina Atilola, on Friday in Ado-Ekiti.
The team unfolded the bank’s proposal to develop tourism, art and craft sectors.
Fayemi, represented by the Deputy Governor, Chief Bisi Egbeyemi, expressed delight with the bid tabled by Sterling Bank Plc to invest in Arinta Waterfall in Ipole Iloro and develop it to a tourist destination of choice in Nigeria.
The Sterling Bank economic initiative also incorporates the agriculture sector where it plans to invest and make Ekiti a key Food Basket in the South West and Nigeria.
Fayemi said tourism occupied a special place in his administration’s desire to generate employment, more revenue and make the state depend less on the monthly allocation from the Federation Account.
He also lauded Sterling Bank for its plan to further develop the Ikogosi Warm Spring, a twin tourist centre with Arinta Waterfall, with both located in the state’s tourism corridor in Ekiti West Local Government Area.
The governor commended the efforts of the Senior Special Assistant on Tourism Development, Wale Ojo-Lanre, in attracting investors to the sector.
Fayemi said the government fully supports the bank’s initiative, which would boost the state’s economic profile.
He said: “We thank Sterling Bank for this laudable initiative to invest in arts and craft which will economically empower our people working in that sub-sector.
“We are delighted that the package incorporates the tourism sector, especially on Arinta Waterfall.
“The investment drive of our administration is yielding dividends in the key sectors of the economy and we are also glad that you are also touching agriculture where we have also attracted investment from renowned corporate players.
“Our friends in Sterling Bank, your bank has been very good and you are one of the most reliable banks in Nigeria, and you have many brilliant minds working for you.
“I have listened to your plan for the state and since Wale Ojo-Lanre is backing you, we have no alternative than to support him because we know he will not recommend a bad product to us.”
Ojo-Lanre said: “This is one of our finest moments, that we are being ruled by your (the Governor’s) inspiration and motivation to look for ways to bring corporate organisations to assist our people in arts and craft and tourism.
“This prompted me to approach Sterling Bank, the only bank that has funds supporting tourism.
“Sterling Bank has been using its resources to support SMEs and jumpstart the economy.
“Ekiti must be a paragon of tourism and we need partnerships to make this happen.
“The bank is ready to partner with Ekiti State for the development of its tourism potentials.
“They are here for commitment as a strategic partner for symbiotic relationship on tourism development.”
The leader of the delegation disclosed the readiness of the bank to assist the youth and women working in the arts and craft industry with finance.
He said this was to help them grow their businesses and market their products.
Atilola said the bank had also identified agriculture as a sector in which Ekiti had comparative advantage, especially in cassava production.
The banker said assistance would be provided to assist farmers with equipment to process the product.
He described the Arinta Waterfall as a virgin economic opportunity that could be developed and marketed locally and globally with the aid of technology.
According to him, Ekiti is lucky to have such a tourist attraction.
Atilola said: “This offers us a virgin opportunity to take tourism to a higher level and we are ready for this.
“We have visited the site and we are ready to develop this tourism site for the benefit of this state.
“Besides, we are also partnering with a private investor to redevelop the facilities in Ikogosi Warm Spring and assist in promoting it through branding like key holders, face caps, T-shirts and Adire fabrics to market Ikogosi.
“We need to rework it to be a major revenue earner for the state, we want to sponsor a documentary on Ikogosi to project it to the international community.
“These are some of the plans we have in the pipeline.”
Atilola said the bank would also help fund education in Ekiti, especially with the upgrade of the old College of Education to Bamidele Olumilua University of Education, Science and Technology.
Other government functionaries in attendance included Special Adviser, Governor’s Office, Foluso Daramola; Principal Private Secretary to the Governor, Dr. Sunday Aniyi; and Permanent Secretary, Office of the Deputy Governor, Sola Ogunmiluyi.
Sterling Bank officials present included Gbenga Adegoke, Group Head, Products and Propositions; Abiodun Jegede, Regional Head, Institution, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti States; and Abiola Adelana, Business Manager, Tourism.
Others were Oluwafunke Alawode, Slick Hustle Products Manager; Akinkunmi Abimbola, Zonal Head, Retail, South West Zone 2 (Ondo and Ekiti); Bola Suyi-Aluko, Institutional Banking Unit, Ekiti; and David Obuma, Tourism Business Office.