• Sunday, June 16, 2024
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Obaseki: Finishing strong, transforming Edo’s economy for unborn generations

Edo re-accredits vigilante personnel

From being a perceived political neophyte in 2016, Godwin Obaseki has become a great administrator in public office.

He mounted the saddle of leadership in Edo State over six years ago by taking advantage of Public Private Partnerships (PPP) to push socio-economic growth, chart a new course to promote positive change and reposition the state as the nation’s heartbeat.

Over half a decade of steering the Dennis Osadebay’s ship with his unprecedented approach to governance and resolve to actualise a sustainable future for Edo residents, Governor Obaseki is obviously defying the unfavourable prevailing wind swirling around the air and he is navigating the state away from the shores of the bottlenecks impeding progress.

Beyond reorganising the city centre, showcasing its rich cultural heritage and masterpiece of artworks for a tourist-driven economic recovery, the governor is building an economic future for generations unborn by bridging the gap with the private sector to drive the state’s economy and exhibiting numerous investment opportunities to business owners with a view to rekindling hopes for an estimated population of over three million inhabitants.

The helmsman, fondly called “Wake and See” a nickname derived from surprise developments that hit residents every morning they wake up from sleep) has been blazing the trail in the corridors of power since 2009, when he led the Edo State economic and strategy team – the think tank office – that initiated many policy reforms in different sectors across the state which was aimed at improving the standard of living of its citizenry.

There is no gainsaying that the erstwhile governor, Adams Oshiomhole, cherry picked him to become his successor due to Obaseki’s sagacity and unflagging determination to build on the foundation he laid down in transforming Edo State.

Following his assumption of office for the first and second terms, November 12, 2016, and November 12, 2020, his eyes have always been fixated on putting Edo State on the path of progress, prosperity and ensuring it becomes a point of reference for other states across Nigeria.

Obaseki’s commitment to enriching the lives of Edo people by creating a conducive environment for businesses to thrive and for burgeoning investors to harness the rich business potentials of the state as well as bequeathing lasting legacies for successive generations birthed the annual Edo State investment summit dubbed, “Alaghodaro”.

Alaghodaro, a Benin slogan, that connotes progress, is a yearly event where experts, manufacturers, business leaders and other industry stakeholders converge, forge ideas and strategies to support the economic, social and development plans of the state government.

It also serves as a platform to mark the anniversary of the governor and review the impacts of the numerous programmes, reforms and initiatives by the Obaseki-led administration with a view to improving and sustaining the achievements previously recorded.

During one of the investment summits, the governor launched the state’s 30-year development plan and unveiled eight centres for the state’s economic transformation which include the Benin river port, the proposed airport in Edo North senatorial district, Edo State Oil Palm Programme (ESOPP), Victor Uwaifo creative hub, Edo Production Centre, the Edo tech park, Innovation Centers across the state and various oil palm projects in Edo.

The Obaseki-led government had earlier unveiled the Making Edo Great Again (MEGA) vision to the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) in Nigeria, outlining the government’s audacious plan to make Edo State one of the 20 top economies in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Africa by 2050.

In his presentation, titled, ‘The Edo Vision: From Who We Are To Where We Want To Be by 2050’, at the United Nations House, Abuja, he said that the state is harnessing its human and natural resources to place it as a leading destination for investment in Nigeria.

Read also: Withdrawal of Police from VIPs: Good policy, but ill-timed — Experts

According to the governor, “We envisage an Edo State which will be the fastest in GDP growth in Nigeria, and by 2050, must be top three in terms of GDP ranking in Nigeria and top 20 in largest economies on the African continent.”
Obaseki said the state government has undertaken reforms to place Edo at a vantage position to meet a number of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and also attract investment in energy and power, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), agriculture and processing industries, among others, to realize its vision.

He added: “With an estimated population of 10 million residents by 2050, our educational system must be the best in Nigeria, and we should boast of one of the best workforces on the continent.

“This will be achieved through rigorous planning in regional and urban planning, which will point to and emphasize what we must do to attain double-digit growth over the next three decades, and socio-economic master plans to complement the physical master plans.

“The government will ensure the sustenance of its massive investment in infrastructure to take advantage of the location of Edo. We must build the Benin River Port to lighten up to 30 percent of the cargo from Tin Can and Apapa Ports.

“We would also build a rail link to all parts of the country with Edo as a hub; build an international airport and ensure that Edo is the technology and innovation hub in Nigeria,” Obaseki noted.

Although it has not been a cakewalk in the past seven years, with criticisms and disparaging remarks from various group of persons, the governor has kept his head up and undeterred to placing Edo on a redemptive path.

He has, over the years, championed numerous policy reforms that has led improvements in basic education, agriculture, power, revenue drive, infrastructure among other critical sectors. In addition, he is bridging the capacity gap in the civil service through the creation of the John Odigie-Oyegun Public Service Academy (JOOPSA), which is headed by Precious Ajoonu.

In recent years, through the establishment of the John Odigie-Oyegun Public Service Academy, Edo State has witnessed a remarkable economic transformation under the leadership of Governor Obaseki, Precious Ajoonu, director general of the academy told BusinessDay.

Ajoonu said: “The John Odigie-Oyegun Public Service Academy has played a pivotal role in driving economic growth and innovation in Edo State. By nurturing a pool of skilled professionals, the academy has enhanced the efficiency and effectiveness of public service delivery, leading to improved governance and a favourable business environment. This, in turn, has attracted local and foreign investments, created job opportunities and stimulating economic activities across various sectors.

“Governor Godwin Obaseki’s establishment of the John Odigie-Oyegun Public Service Academy has been a game-changer for Edo State’s economy. By investing in human capital development and fostering collaboration, the academy has positioned the state as a center of excellence in public administration and governance. The transformative impact of the academy resonates not only in the economic growth witnessed but also in the enhanced quality of public service and the overall well-being of the people of Edo State,” she added.

Today, two modular refineries namely the 6,000 barrels per day (bpd) Edo Refinery and Petrochemical Company (ERPC) Limited and the 2,500bpd Duport Midstream Company Limited are domiciled in the state.

Little wonder, Hawilti, an African investment research firm, in its African Refineries Report, said that “Nigerian modular refineries have managed to navigate the country’s challenging business environments and found ways to secure new feedstock options to run small-scale facilities.

“Both the 6,000 bpd Edo Refinery and the 2,500 bpd Duport Midstream Refinery, for instance, are currently receiving crude oil by trucks from a marginal field in the Niger Delta to support their operations,” the research firm said.

Besides, in 2018, his administration set up the Edo State Investment Promotion Office (ESIPO), a business bureau, to facilitate investments and stakeholder engagement to improve the business environment in the state.
Reeling out some of the economic reforms embarked on by the Obaseki-led administration since 2016, Crusoe Osagie, Special Adviser to the Edo State Governor on media projects, told BusinessDay that Obaseki initiated the “Alaghodaro” annual meeting to smoothen the relationship between the investing private sector and the regulating public sector so as to allow free flow of investment into the public sector and engender development for the people of the state.

“Governor Obaseki came to office in 2016 and, from then, he started to pull intellectual resources and relationships with the private sector as a major way to drive development in Edo State. One of the initiatives that came to mind was an annual summit, where stakeholders in the private sector will come and meet stakeholders in the public sector, non-profit and different organizations to form a sort of think tank, chart a way forward for development and look for solutions to developmental challenges in the state and Nigeria.

“A lot of successes had been recorded. First, Alaghodaro was what gave us insight into the depth of reforms that we needed to bring to the government in Edo State in order to allow for the smooth flow of private sector investment into the state, and that is how we came with the different reforms in the State.

“We went into deep reforms in education sector because if the private sector must thrive in your state, then you must have a pull of manpower that is well trained and educated. So, that is how we came up with Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation (EdoBEST). As you are securing the present, you will also plan for sustainable security for the future.

“So, imagine when the first Alaghodaro summit held in 2017, and a child that was born the same year; then by 2024, when this government is leaving power, the child will be seven years old, getting ready to get into secondary school and already becoming a human resource within the economic space. So, Alaghodaro is what gave birth to that thinking for EdoBEST.

“Apart from that, we also have what we call the civil service reforms. If the state is going to develop in terms of investment flow and economic advancement, then the civil service, which is the bureaucracy that organises the environment for business to flow, must be effectively and efficiently managed.

“So, we implemented deep reforms which was one of the points that came out from the summit. This is what led to the reconstruction of the secretariat building because if people must work effectively, then they must work in an environment that is sound. I think we have the best secretariat in Nigeria right now. I don’t think there is any state that has a civil service secretariat that is as well built and well equipped as Edo State. That is for the physical environment.

“What about the manpower training? If civil servants must deliver services to the people, then they require capacity. As I talk to you; day in, day out, trainings of civil servants are ongoing in the John Odigie-Oyegun civil service academy,” Osagie said.

Osagie added that governance process is now digitised in the state, and that “at the moment, we treat memos digitally. Every civil servant in Edo State has a computer on his desk which he works with in a comfortable environment. These deep-rooted reforms were all, to a large extent, the brainchild of Alaghodaro.

“If the state is to attract investment and develop, then one thing that must happen first is that there must be energy supply. If there is no energy supply, then industrial advancement is only a wishful thinking. Today, we have the Ossiomo power company that came to invest in Edo, and we are already generating 95Megawatts power from there.

“If we are to have a productive economy, then land administration must be done transparently and professionally. This is what birthed the Edo Geographical Information Service (EdoGIS). Today, in Edo State, you can process your C-of-O within 30 working days. There is no state in this Nigeria that has facilities for geographic information service like we have here.

“In the last six years of this administration, the governor has signed more C-of-Os for individuals and businesses than what Edo has issued since independence. This shows the economy has been unbuckled and people now have the opportunity to venture because they can transparently acquire land and use it as a factor of production.

“In agriculture, there has been massive transformation. As I speak, the Edo State Oil Palm Project (ESOPP) has attracted $500m investment in plantation agriculture, particularly Oil palm. It is one of the outcomes. Dufil, producers of indomie noodles, is now in Edo State investing in oil palm production. We also have Saro Africa international limited, investing in integrated cassava production.

“We have the already existing Okomu, Presco and Nosak. All these agricultural ventures have come into the state and are expanding. Many of the progress recorded can be credited to Alaghodaro,” he said.

Osagie, while listing the achievements so far made, said the governor’s plan before he leaves office in 2024 is to ensure that “for the next 30 years of Edo State, government has embarked on an elaborate plan, and it is going to cut across every stratum of the society and economy.”

According to him, “What do we think the road network should be for Edo in the next 30 years? What do we think the business environment should look like? What do we think the real estate development of Edo should be in the next 30 years? What do we think the power supply and distribution should be in the next 30 years?”

In view of the notable feats achieved by the present administration, Ogbidi Emmanuel, president, Network Of Civil Society Organisation of Nigeria (NOCSON), advocated that more opportunities be given to those who have succeeded in the private sector to drive governance and give it a business approach.
Emmanuel said Obaseki’s style of governance was different from the common norm of political office holders, where favoritism holds sway.

“There was a shift from the narrative in this present government because the governor has been in the private sector where capacity, competence and ability to deliver on a task is given priority before any form of sentiment, whether religious or party affiliations.

“The private sector is known for targets, responsibilities and planning. It is said to be a business-minded sector. What we have seen, as a matter of fact in Obaseki’s eight years, is giving governance a cooperate approach different from the usual political engagement and influence.

“In my own opinion, the coming of Obaseki from the private sector gave us an eye-opener that we need to give more opportunities to those who are not career politicians to engage governance with the model of business approach and private sector-driven idea, where governance will be about putting policies together to improve the state and the economy.

“The private sector is about profit. Giving governance a business approach makes everyone not to look only into allocations but putting economic policies in place that can attract investors, and industrialization can become the agenda.

“It is only in Obaseki’s six years administration that we began to hear Edo agenda for 2030, a workable plan for Edo State for another 30 years. In the usual political setting, government and leadership do not plan. So, this private sector government engagement was an eye-opener to us and should be given more opportunities,” Emmanuel said.
However, on the aspect of public relations engagement, he pointed out that, “Obaseki has not fared well. There is no effective communication of government policies with the people so that they can maximise the opportunities within government. The government might be doing a lot but there is little done about communicating what the government is doing to the various segments of the society. How well they are communicated to the market women, low class citizens, among others matters a lot.

“The governor is moving towards the last lap of his second tenure and, in a year plus, precisely November 2024, he will bid farewell to Edo State seat of power. I believe that he has laid the foundation for a prosperous, progressive, productive state for tomorrow’s inhabitants.”