Private Sector Renaissance in Edo

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Crusoe Osagie in this report highlights the strategy to promote enterprise development and private sector job creation in Edo State

“Given our location, the land we occupy and the resourcefulness of our people, Edo State has no reason to be poor.” This quote by Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State has actually been at odds with the reality of the condition in which most people have lived for years.
Apart from people who work for the government or have one form of contract or the other with it, there has hardly been another thriving industry in the state.
Most of the 3.2 million people in the state have mainly been sustained by relatives who live outside the state in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt among others, as well as those in the diaspora.

It had been a sorry state of affairs before Adams Oshiomhole took office and delivered modestly in the area of infrastructure and refurbishing of primary and secondary schools.
Although Oshiomhole’s performance dwarfed that of his predecessor in office to the extent that there can be no basis for comparison, it still did not quite deliver the goods as much as was necessary in the most critical area of need: vast unemployment and poverty.

Obaseki however came into office striking all the right notes. He was intelligent in his analysis of all the major areas that needed to be fixed by the state government.
He promised 200,000 jobs and realised that jobs cannot be provided for the unskilled, so he also simultaneously initiated programmes to build the people’s capacity.
As for the unmistakable problems of power dearth, technical barrier to investment flow and access to market, he took them all into account.

The Power Question
Obaseki kicked off the Azura-Edo IPP, a 450MW Open Cycle Gas Turbine power station being constructed near Benin City. It is Phase one of a 1,500MW IPP facility located on a 100 hectare site. It is said to be large enough to accommodate future expansion of the power plant.
With this coming on stream in a few years, the state is guaranteed of sufficient power to support enterprise development which will produce the jobs he has promised.

Capacity Development
To promote capacity development, Obaseki said his government was partnering the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) to develop human capacity of workers in the state.
He noted that his administration was committed to the development of human capacity and skills which could be exported to other parts of the world.
“We are pleased to partner with ITF and we see you as a veritable tool to develop our human capacity.

‘’We seek inner capacity building of our people in the civil, public and private services.
‘’The civil service is even more urgent, let’s see how you can help us rebuild the core of our training structure
‘’Our goal is to train young people and support them with credit,’’ he said.
Speaking about the partnership, the Director General, ITF, Mr. Joseph Ari, stated: ‘’We are here to solicit for your funding in what we are doing and we want Edo government to key into our flagship programme,
‘’We want the state government to collaborate with us to set up a modern skill training centre for Edo people.
‘’We want to identify the domestic trade in the state and impact skills into youths in line with the National industrial skills development programme,” he said.

Ease of Doing Business
A key factor in easing the business environment for free flow of capital is land reforms and transparent land acquisition and ownership system.
In the regard, Obaseki has since signed the Community Development Association (CDA) Bill into law. It prohibits forceful and illegal occupation of landed property by CDAs in the state.

Shortly after signing the bill into law, the governor proceeded to the palace of the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, to present a copy of the law to him. The monarch had in his coronation speech, decried the bloodshed in communities perpetrated by land grabbers under the guise of CDAs, and vowed to move for a law that will decisively deal with such people and ban the CDAs in the communities.
Obaseki described the law as historic, adding that it would make the state more receptive to investors and set it on course for more development.

“My administration believes that the way to sustainable development is to unleash and nurture our productive energies and those of investors. Investment will not thrive in a lawless environment. It is a thing of pride that we signed this bill into law.” On his part, Oba Ewuare II said the new law signified a major milestone in the Obaseki-led administration and commended the governor and the state House of Assembly for the speedy passage of the Bill into law. “I want to say that today is historical and I am overwhelmed. I was really upset with the activities of CDAs in the state. I saw the need to tackle the issue of CDAs as their actions became destructive.

The governor bought in the idea and decided to draft a bill to criminalise their activities. I want to commend him for this step as many people expressed doubts about his willingness to work with the palace, but he has dispelled such fears,” he said. He commended the Oba for his support in making the law a reality. “Our land tenure system before and during the colonial era was rated as the best, but it had been turned around by some nefarious activities of CDAs. It was therefore, a thing of joy during your coronation that you undertook the task to pull down the CDA structure.” Obaseki urged the Chief Justice of the state and security agencies to support the implementation of law in the state, adding that a task force chaired by a former Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, had been constituted to drive the enforcement of the law and supervise all matters related to the law.

Agripreneures Unleashed
As one of the silver bullets to ensuring the achievement of the promise of 200,000 jobs, Obaseki, recently, inaugurated 1000 hectares of cleared field in Sobe Farm Settlement in Owan West Local Government Area in the state for maize production.

He said the maize cultivation, which could directly empower 200 agripreneurs to become millionaires, was part of his administration’s Accelerated Agriculture initiative to create jobs in the state.
Explaining the execution plan for the initiative, he said the phase would target job creation for 1, 000 agripreneurs through the cultivation of 5,000 hectares of maize farms across the LGAs in the state.

He said: “Today is the first step towards actualising the 200,000 jobs promised by my administration. If we invest in Agriculture, we can do more than 200,000 jobs in Edo and Nigeria as a whole. We had an agricbusiness workshop to brainstorm on the challenges in our agriculture sector and we discovered that land preparation was a major challenge in the state. This initiative is to make land preparation easy via mechanisation for our farmers,” he said.

He continued that the initiative was in partnership with Saro AgroSciences ltd, which would provide technical support for the programme.
Meanwhile, he added that mechanisation centres would be situated close to the proposed 5000–hectare maize field to enable the agricpreneurs manage the 5 hectares that would be allocated to each of them effectively.
In addition, the governor urged the farmers to follow the recommended cultural practice for maize production to ensure optimal yield.

For his part, the Group Managing Director of Saro AgroSciences, Mr Oluwole Adeyegbe, said the scheme targets a minimum of 4 metric tonnes of maize yield per hectare, which would be bought directly from the agripreneurs (farmers).
According to Adeyegbe, the company was also collaborating with the state government for the second phase of the initiative, which would feature the use of green houses, pig production and Cocoa Yield Enhancement Programme.

The agripreneurs, he however explained, who would be beneficiaries of the scheme, must be able to raise 10 per cent of the capital and would be linked to the CBN Anchor borrower’s programme for easy access to credit.
Commending the governor for the initiative, the secretary of Sobe Farm Settlement Cooperative, Mr. Anthony Aibor, appreciated the prospect of employment creation for people in the area.
He however appealed to the government to tackle infrastructure decay in the community and the scourge of Fulani Herdsmen.

Frowning at the scourge of Fulani Herdsmen, which is one of the challenges encountered by farmers in the area, Governor Obaseki revealed that the state government was concluding strategies to curb the menace.
He said a Response Mechanism Team (RMT) would be formed among the farmers in the community to allow for intelligence reports, which would help in monitoring the herdsmen’s activities.

“The success of the programme depends on how well the government tackles the menace of Fulani herdsmen as no farmer has recorded great success for the past five years due to the activities of the herdsmen,” he said.