R-L: Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki; Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; Deputy Governor, Edo State, Rt. Hon. Philip Shaibu; Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh; former governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, during the inauguration of the Edo Fertiliser and Chemical Company Limited, Auchi, Edo State

Sunday Ehigiator writes that Edo State has become a huge construction site under Governor Godwin Obaseki

In the many years that Nigeria has experimented with democracy, there have only been pickets of instances where solid technical expertise met reformative governance, especially for one running a government.

Instead, most of the time, Nigerians were exposed to and often times expect a government that offers tokenistic solutions to problems: a borehole here, roads leading to nowhere there, jamboree agricultural initiatives and many such schemes. Development experts have often intervened to support and focus government intervention to improving livelihoods, but they can only do so much.

Governor Godwin Obaseki in Edo State has piloted the affairs of the state with a panache that negates this trend. With ample experience from the boardroom, horned through years of brokering deals as an investment banker, he appears to be on a mission to rebrand governance. And with him on this task is no other than the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who brings in years of experience in administration, grooming and nurturing students as professor and lawyer, to bear on governance.

Since taking the mantle as the Vice-President, Osinbajo has come to upend this practice, marshalling programmes and policies that hit at the heart of most policy debacles, as can be seen in the Executive Orders he issued, the Social Investment Programme and a couple of others.

On his visit to Edo State, the Vice-President will launch the South-South Innovation Hub, meet with Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), stop-over at the Edaiken Market, perform groundbreaking of the 1800-unit Emotan Gardens and the Edo Azura Power Plant.

Some of these projects are done in collaboration with the Office of the Vice-President, while the housing project and the expanded Edo Innovation Cluster, which houses the South-South Innovation Hub, are efforts by the Governor Obaseki-led administration to reset the local economy for growth and expansion. For instance, a key feature of the Innovation Cluster is that it will serve to train young people on top-of-the-range skills to stimulate a local tech ecosystem, which will empower youths to provide digital solutions to everyday problems.

As with earlier visits for the inauguration of the Edo Chemical and Fertiliser Company Limited, Auchi and the groundbreaking of the Benin Industrial Park (BIP), the Vice-President will be in the state to lend his support for a number of the state government’s landmark projects.

Obaseki’s affordable 1,800-unit of housing project, a plus for local manufacturers, low income earners

The construction of the 1, 800-unit Emotan Gardens in Ikpoba Okha Local Government Area of Edo State, is remarkable in a lot of ways, chief of which is the fact that it is the first government housing project in Edo State in the last 16 years. The project is being developed through a joint-venture partnership between Edo Development and Property Agency (EDPA) and MIXTA Africa, a private property development company.

Executive Chairman, EDPA, Isoken Omo, notes that Emotan Gardens is not just the first estate being developed by the state in the last 16 years, it will also be the first of kind, given the scale, offerings and class.

She said the project was well planned to provide affordable homes, adding, “We are building affordable houses from bungalows to high-rise buildings with flexible payment plans. We have looked at the housing needs of the people of the state and know exactly what to do.”

Obaseki has assured that the state will provide the land for the project and link local makers of building materials in the state to the project to ensure that costs are minimal and that the units are affordable.

He said: “We want to use the project to develop the supply chain of inputs that are locally produced in the state. This would grow local businesses. We have insisted that raw materials to be used for constructing the 1,800-unit housing, should be sourced locally from industries in the state. This will assist the industries contribute to the growth of the local economy.”

On his part, the Managing Director, MIXTA Africa, Mr. Kola Ashiru-Balogun, explained that the first phase of the project which will commence with the groundbreaking ceremony by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, will be completed within 12 months.

According to him, the different payment plans being considered for the affordable housing project, include a 24-month interest free payment plan, as “MIXTA Africa is discussing with financial institutions to see how arrangements can be made to provide longer tenured financing payment plans.”

Edo Innovation Cluster: Restoring hope through innovation

Technology buffs can finally say that the tech bug has finally caught Edo State and Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo is right on time to put the icing on the cake. With a robust collaboration between the federal and state government, the setting up of the cluster is to provide youths in the state avenue to channel their strength for social good as well as develop skills for survival in the digital economy.

The cluster is situated at the Institute of Continuing Education (ICE), in Benin City. ICE is being remodeled to meet the requirements of co-working spaces to spur collaborations.

The governor says the facility “will host over 25 Information and Communication Technology (ICT) companies. These companies will use the facility as innovation hub for different forms of training and certification. Those that will benefit from the facility are both the young and old residents in the state as they will get skills and certification.”

Commissioner for Wealth Creation, Cooperatives and Employment, Hon. Emmanuel Usoh said, the facelift of the facility has validated Edo State as a case study in Nigeria on how public facilities can be transformed for effective use, which was the drive for the governor in refurbishing the former Institute of Continuing Education (ICE) into an innovation hub.

According to Usoh, among the over 25 technology companies which will be accommodated in the hub, include Google Cisco, Miscrosoft and Oracle. He explained that the hub, an initiative of Governor Obaseki will up-skill youths, stimulate tech-focused small businesses and curb human trafficking and illegal migration.

“The hub will offer youths who are interested in travelling abroad for jobs, opportunities to acquire up-to-date skills in technology. The training programme will be as intense as obtainable in similar hubs across the world, as we are partnering with global companies in setting up the facility.

“International certifications will be obtainable at the hub. This will offer youths unique opportunities to discover their talents in the use of technology and improve these skills and promote innovation as the world has become a global village, where technology is key in transforming the society for the better,” Usoh said.

Why FG is partnering Edo on MSMEs and Start-ups

There has been an increasing focus on Edo as a hub for economic opportunities given the state government’s posture, which has promoted growth of Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). It is expected that with the coming of the Innovation clusters, even more start-ups will find expression in the state, with the use of the facilities provided at the innovation hub.

At ICE, the state government is providing the space and other structures for the hub, while the federal government is bringing in some experts to operate at the South-South hub. However, there is also a strong partnership between the state government and technology companies, which is likely going to make the facility one of the most equipped to accommodate start-ups in the region.

Usoh said the Edo Innovation Hub would also accommodate a training facility where small business owners would be trained on how to leverage digital solutions to transform their businesses in line with the vision of Obaseki to create more jobs and wealth for the people.

According to him, “Individuals and groups who own small businesses in the state and intend to transform their businesses in line with global standards can acquire innovative skills at the hub.”

Senior Special Assistant to the President Muhammadu Buhari on Industry, Trade and investment, Dr. Jumoke Oduwole, explained that Edo state forms part of the vast business corridor in the South-South region.