• Sunday, February 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

A creative strategy to fight poverty

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Those who often set out to fight poverty at various levels of government in Nigeria do so for various reasons. Some, for personal aggrandisement and some for showmanship. Others does so more of compulsion than conviction. Regrettably, these efforts are usually devoid of meaningful and sustainable planning and are therefore ineffective.

However, the efforts by Governor Ibikunle Amosun to reduce poverty in Ogun State,seem a departure from that pedestrian norm. It is a calculated and sincere move whose effect is already becoming apparent for even the cynic to see.

Borrowing a leave from Johnnie Walker, who said the whole world step aside for the man that knows where he is going, the governor set a five-cardinal programme to guide his administrations quest to rebuild the state.

He particularly set out to slacken the vice-like grip of poverty, which the World Bank sees as major scourge of developing economies. The governor trained his eyes on achieving this through the construction of world-class ‘Ogun Standard’ roads and an audacious return to mechanised agriculture. Senator Amosun hold that road infrastructure remains a key indicator of economic development,a key signpost to development and an invitation to investors.

His government therefore set sail an ambitious urban renewal program never seen in the history of Ogun State. 14 roads,scattered across the three senatorial districts in the state,are presently under construction. They are the 7-km Sagamu-Benin Express Junction/Oba Erinwole Junction road, the 4.8 km Ilo-Awela road in Ota, 8.7 km OGTV-Brewery junction road, 6 km Moshood Abiola Way, 34 km Ayetoro- Lafenwa road, 9 km Ojere-Adatan road, 5.6 km Somorin – Ajebo road, 2.2 km Madojutimi – Asero Stadium, 850 metre Moriamo–Olorombo road, all in the state capital.

Others are the 107 km Ilara-Ijoun-Eegua-Oja Odan-Ilase road, 25 km Ilishan-Ago Iwoye road, 29 km Mowe-Ofada-Ibafo road, 9km Ejinrin-Oluwalogbon junction in Ijebu Ode, 12 km Magboro-Underpass road, Isheri road and the 36 km Sango-Ijoko-Agbado-Akute-Ojodu Road.

Most of these roads, except the Sango-Ijoko-Agbado-Ojodu road, are at different stages of completion ranging from 20 to 70 percent and are billed to be completed by December 2014. The reconstruction of the derelict Sango-Ijoko-Agbado-Ojodu Road was flagged off in October, 2013.It was aimed at bringing succour to residents of the border towns with Lagos.

Interestingly, with the road construction effort, the problem of unemployment is being creatively addressed. The construction firms are mandated to source some of their skilled and unskilled workers like carpenters, iron benders and bricklayers from among indigenes of the state. Today, over 800 indegenes of the state are on the employment of the construction firms. The construction effort also brought about the sprouting of several food-sheds located around the various construction sites.

Another consequence of the road revolution is the boom in sales of moulded bricks, sand and gravel supply and cement business as property owners, after collecting their entitlements from government, often find it wise to mend their breached properties. The government’s decision to mend fences wrecked due to the construction work is also having ripple effect on the local economy of the state. Bricklayers, sand and cement sellers are daily smiling to the bank as clientele flow in daily boom in car-washing business in all the cities where the construction effort is on provides a comical edge to Governor Amosuns poverty reduction effort. In Ogun State, car owners now need to wash their cars more than thrice weekly after they have gone through those roads still under construction.

The conviction that business and investment can only blossom in an atmosphere of security prompted the Governor to invest heavy in security. The government purchased 14 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC’s), bought 400 patrol vans fitted with communication gadgets, 500 bullet proof vests, 500 bullet proof helmets, 1000 AK-47 rifles as well as 2 million rounds of ammunitions for the use of policemen operating in the state. The result was magical as crime statistics suddenly crashed in the state with Ogun state becoming one of the most secured states in the federation.

Curiously,the urban renewal effort of the government, coupled with the investment in security is already yielding interesting results. Companies are scrambling to invest in the state. Statistics gleaned from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry indicate the initiatives are bearing good fruits. 125 companies have so far indicated interest in relocating their manufacturing outfits to the state. 35 are already on the ground at varying level of operations, while 27 have fully commenced operations.

Suddenly the state has become the preferred investors’ destination and an emerging industrial hub in the country.

A proof of the clement industrial environment was the relocation of the customers service section of one of the frontline telecommunication giants to the state capital. The telecom firm thereafter engaged over 1200 graduates, the bulk of whom are indigenes. Like the telecom firm, many of the firms moving to the state are employing indigenes of the state.

It was in recognition of these efforts that ‘BusinessDay’ newspaper, a highly influential and authoritative business news tabloid, adjudged the State as “the fastest growing economy and the destination of choice for industrialists and entrepreneurs in Nigeria”.

Strikingly, the governor’s strategic intervention in poverty reduction is not only in felt in the area of urban renewal.  The government also stimulated employment through agriculture. It advanced loan to 1000 farmers under its Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme and also purchased agricultural equipments’ worth over N800 million to aid the return of mechanised farming to the state.

In one iconic gesture, the government launched 86 pieces of land clearing equipment. The farm machinery include four CAT bulldozers,30 MF 275 xtra tractors,33 baldan disc plough,15 baldan disc harrows, two baldan rotary slashers and two baldan four row-planters. The equipment is being hired to farmers at 10 percent discount.

The government also gave soft loan to over 24,850 women under its micro-credit initiative in a determined move to assist small businesses and boost self-reliance among its women-folk.  The loan facility advanced to the women ranges from N20, 000 to N200, 000 depending on their mode of business.

Apart from employing 12,000 workers into the state employment, the governor also supported his wife, Mrs Olufunso Amosun,to train and equip 2000 graduates in entreneurship skills.

By:  Olusola Balogun