By Orobosa Omo-Ojo JP
The keys to unbundle economic potentials of a state are hidden in the sets of policies that are in place to grow the economy and attract new investors.
These keys must stringently include plans that can guarantee security, business retention, new business development, technology trend, and must also have the potential to organize the distressed neighborhoods, to encourage community ownership of public assets (COPA).
It’s only after all these development programs are put together, managed, and evaluated, that measurable growth can take place.
Only few states in Nigeria have succeeded in growing their economy along this structured time-tested plan and Edo is one of such states.
The Edo State Reform Document titled: “The Road to Prosperity, 2017-2020”, developed by Governor Godwin Obaseki’s administration during his first tenure, aptly fits the mechanism to promote economic and social prosperity.
In like manner, the vision of Obaseki’s administration, according to the document, is: “To develop a modern and progressive Edo State where every citizen is empowered with the opportunity to live life in its fullness.” On the other hand, the mission statement is, “To achieve economic prosperity for Edo State.”
The reform architecture is anchored on what has been called “the key pillars of the brand hexagon.”
These pillars according to the document, are infrastructure revolution, institutional revolution, economic revolution, socio-welfare revolution, environmental revolution, and new township development.
Judging by the successes recorded thus far, the Obaseki’s administration is on the path of revolutionizing some key sectors captured in their “…key pillars of the brand hexagon.”
The performance indicators during the first six months of Obaseki’s second term, shows a progressive path from his last tenure, which can be considered as the incubation period.
He has been able to define the roles of local government and other groups that are involved in the local economic development policy chain.
Using logical data, Obaseki’s administration is engaging key sectors to determine, for instance, how much resources should be devoted to different sectors in a way that will reflect on the social economic well-being of Edo people.
There are also engagements on what can be done to enhance the benefits of Local Economic Development (LED) in increasing the quantity and quality of jobs for both skilled and unskilled job seekers.
The question of what programs are most effective in attracting new business to the state and retaining existing businesses is also being asked.
The administration is probing into what programs are most effective in promoting small business start-up and expansions.
Perhaps one major plank Obaseki has hinged his programs on, is finding the most effective developing technology-oriented businesses. Part of which is the Edo Innovate – an innovation centre supporting the supply of highly skilled ICT talent and improving greater access to jobs in the ICT sector.
Edoinnovates was launched in 2020 by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and since inception, over 5000 youths have benefited from the training.
The careful approach to planning by the governor and his team, is yielding commendable results less than five years into his eight years cumulative tenure, having won reelection for fresh term of four years.
This report deliberately is focused on infrastructure revolution, economic revolution and socio-welfare revolution.
The Edo-BEST initiative which is an acronym for Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation is a programme focused on reforming the state’s education sector made up of 1,500 public primary, junior and senior secondary schools; 15,000 government teachers and about 300,000 pupils.
According to the framework document, “It consists of five distinct yet integrated pillars of activity including governance, teacher development and instructional design, community partnerships; infrastructure and the support and development of the local education authority.”
The success of EdoBest, remarkably, has won the state and Governor Obaseki local and international recognitions.
The former Benin Technical College, BTC has been transformed with the assistance of the Canadian government to a citadel for modern technical training, now known as Government Science and Technical College (GSTC).
There is also the Special Training Centre for Teachers, in line with the Edo Best curricular in Abudu, headquarters of Orhionmwon Local Government Area.
CCETC-Ossiomo is one of eight companies that was granted license by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) in 2018 with a combined capacity to generate 1,648.25 Megawatts electricity. Whilst others are still struggling to actualize their plans, Ossiomo is supplying electricity to consumers in Benin City.
The completion of CCETC-Ossiomo marks the flagship of Obaseki’s economic revolution project. The 55MW Independent Power Plant (IPP), conceived by the administration, is to bridge the energy crisis in the state and to support the state’s industrialisation drive.
Ossiomo Power Plant is a Public, Private Partnership (PPP) between the Edo State government and Ossiomo Power Company.
Presently, the IPP company supplies power to designated production centres, especially within the Benin metropolis.
As part of other stimulus, Edo State Government has entered into ‘Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)’ with CCETC-Ossiomo to supply regular electricity to government institutions and public utilities, including hospitals, street lights, the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium and others.
Edo Refinery and Petrochemical Company Limited (ERPC) in Ologbo, near Benin City, has also commenced operation. The modular refinary has the support of Edo State Government as well.
The completion of the project as well as the Ossiomo Power Company are vivid expression of confidence by foreign investors in the present Edo State administration.
The two projects are products of some Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that has been negotiated by Obaseki.
Both projects by all standards, are major socio-economic revolution that is capable of revolutionizing the industrial sector in Edo State.
However, it is not all high marks for the administration!
Some of the roads and public utilities are sooner than expected, being destroyed by people.
In some cases, government contractors have deviced ways to permanently remain on site. They do so by leaving some failed portions of a road during construction with the hope that they will be called upon to fix it at extra cost.
A typical example is the Ugbor-Amagba road that was handled by Levant Construction Company. After years of abandonment by successive administration, Governor Obaseki awarded the contract to Levant.
The contractor struggled to execute the contract, but to the dismay of residents, Levant left the intersection of Country Home road and Ugbor road unattended.
Ironically, the company’s dump site is right in front of the abandoned section of the road. The obstruction caused by their truck and the deep gullies they have created, makes motoring on that axis harrowing experience.
Moving upfront to Amagba, by the moat, the underground culvert drainage has collapsed and the portion of the road has also failed within six months of execution.
Their are other several roads that are suffering from lack of supervision.
Apart from mischievous contractors, the activities of car wash operators is another challenge facing the administration’s effort to deliver road infrastructure in Benin City. Some of the roads have been washed away by waste water from the car wash outfits.
The failure of the monitoring unit of the agency in charge of public utilities to carry out their duty may eventually erode and deprive Governor Godwin Obaseki high score in some vital sectors.
But for now, Mr. Godwin Obaseki is gradually repositioning Edo State as the economic nerve-centre of South-South and South-East in a manner that can be measured with global sets of indicators for wealth creation, employment and reduction in poverty line.