Minsource Limited, a Kano based company conceptualized the Kano Chinatown project three years ago, but in this interview with Hisham Habib in Kano, the Chief Executive Officer of the company, Shazali Umar explains why the project slowed down.
How did you come about the idea of Kano – Chinatown project?
The reason for the multi – million -dollar project was the concern for business in the north’s commercial hub, Kano and the modern challenges facing us here. Minsource Limited conceptualized the Kano China Town project as a result of careful analysis of what is obtained here and our major trading and business partners which are the Chinese, who have been in the city for a long time hence the need for a more formal way of doing things. Don’t forget, Kano is not only serving the north but most parts of west African sub -region.
The project was conceived in phases, the first of which will cost as much as $200 million. There would be 4000 shops in an ultra modern market with facilities,850 warehouses, a three – star hotel, a Chinese medical center and some 286 housing units.
The second phase was also to cost $200million and it was going to be a free trade zone, that will cover 140 hectares of land and was expected to house not less than 100 Chinese industries.
When was the MOU signed and what were your expectations then?
The Memorandum of Understanding was signed three years ago towards the end of the last administration in Kano. I was then expecting the parties to do what is desirable. We in the private sector would look for the funds and we set out to do that and luckily the biggest bank and one of the largest lending banks in the world was ready to fund the project. We were doing that and expected the government of the day to support but it had other plans.
We sat with our Chinese partners and some local banks here and worked on a modality. The Kano governor was informed and we drew out the timeline which the government was aware of. The design of the overall project was contracted outside and that alone cost us almost a Million dollar only for us to see the government building houses on the same land.
So what happened?
The project was halted because the land was somehow hijacked and we went to court, we want the rule of law to prevail. There is no way we can make progress if the private sector is not protected. The MOU was signed by the government, the office of the Attorney General fine- tuned the documents before they were signed but unfortunately this happened. If you see the importance the Chinese placed to the project…. look at how Lagos is implementing development plan from Tinubu to Fashola and now Ambode. We went to court and the court in its wisdom stopped everything and asked for the status quo to remain pending its judgment. The investor should be protected either foreign or local.
Should the government offer you another land?
We will only accept a settlement with damages, the plan will have to be altered and our documents have to be changed, our partners will have to come back and review things and all that we have done including feasibility studies will have to be done again and who will bear the cost? We want fair play.
What s your vision for business in Kano?
My vision for business in Kano is that the government should put more effort upon what it is doing. Kano is known for business. The business community is striving to have the desired support. We cannot spend all the money needed when the infrastructure is not there and this foreign partners know we have vast land and so land cannot be the stake alone, there is a light rail project which I offered funds to make things happen, at the end houses are being built when those built earlier in Kwankwasiyya and Amana were not sold. The place will be better if a mall, a school a hotel and warehouse outside the city are there. The foreigners will come and bring jobs and foreign direct investment which our teeming youth will reap.