Obaseki’s Edo Beyond the Noise

0

In this review of recent developments Edo State, Adedayo Adejobi explains that a lot more is happening in the state than is apparent

The political tussle in Edo State has worsened by the day.
The Godfather type battle against idealistic godsons which is extremely common in the Nigerian political space is being reenacted in the only state where the All Progressives Congress (APC) has a sitting governor across the south-south and the south-east.
The contention which began rather subtly has since metamorphosed into a whirlwind with the potential of reducing the APC from its current status of a national political party essentially into a regional party.

If the APC no longer has any state under its control in the entire South-south and South-east, it would hardly be correct to call it a truly national party.
Meanwhile, despite this apparently fierce battle of wits between the Edo politicians in Abuja on the side of Oshiomhole and the Edo politicians at home backing Obaseki, those who live outside the state are mostly mislead to think of Edo State is actually under siege.

Far from it. To put it mildly, this noise is extremely misleading.
When Sunday THISDAY visited the state last week, the quantum of social, economic and infrastructural development on the ground was puzzling, to say the least.
Massive transformation can be seen across all sectors. Education reforms, civil service transformation, infrastructural renewal, SME/Industrial revolution, ICT development and many more.

This transformation deserves more commendation, considering the fact that Edo State is by no means one of the states of the federation with handsome monthly take-home pay from the Federal Capital Territory.
Amidst the crisis, Edo people have continued to relish the incumbent governor’s fascinating initiatives in the state, perhaps looking forward to more political tussles that will, in the end, be to the benefit of the masses.

Edo Innovation Hub
The Edo Innovation Hub is a cluster for technology innovators and inventors set up by the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led government to strengthen the state’s nascent technology innovation scene. The hub was commissioned on June 14, 2018, by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and hosts the South-South Innovation Hub, a regional cluster for technology entrepreneurs in the Niger Delta.

Tagged Edo Innovates, it provides a range of beginner, intermediate and advanced training in business and technology innovation, providing youths the opportunity to learn a wide array of employability and entrepreneurial skills. Specifically, some of the offerings at the hub include digital skills, business support services, start-up incubation, and business acceleration, mentorship, co-working spaces, and entrepreneurship training.

Asides the South-South Innovation Hub, the facility has two halls, five training rooms, six fully-furnished co-working spaces, conference rooms, outdoor workspaces, offices, four rooms with a total of 100 computers, among others.

More than 1000 youths have been trained at the facility since inception, with not less than a quarter of them being females. Some of the organizations with a presence at the hub include Microsoft, Tech4Dev, LinkedIn, Curators University, Hotels.NG, Siemen’s Impact Hub, Makers Academy, Pan Atlantic University’s Enterprise Development Center, among others.
The Hub has recently proven to be a resource center for the state’s government plans to build an internationally competitive locally-trained labour force in partnership with reputable organizations working to mitigate the menace of human trafficking and illegal migration.

This has attracted investment from the World Bank-assisted State Employment and Expenditure for Results (SEEFOR) project, United Kingdom (UK) the Market Development in the Niger Delta (MADE), a number of Chinese companies, among others, at the hub.

Education Reforms: EdoBEST
The Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation (EDOBEST) programme is spearheaded by the Edo State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB). The initiative is aimed at transforming the basic education sub-sector and consequently improving learning outcomes in the schools.

Some of the milestones reached include 8,700 teachers trained and equipped with Information and Communication Technology (ICT) devices for improved learning outcomes, which have positively impacted over 150,000 school children.
Over 234 schools are being reconstructed with 7094 computer tablets distributed to teachers and headteachers. 11688 School-Based Management Committee (SBMC) members trained to help in administering and maintaining public education facilities.

The Tayo Akpata University of Education is also being repositioned and restructured into three campuses. The campus in Abudu will have a digital training centre for primary school teachers, especially those in the EdoBEST programme. The campus in Igueben will focus on Secondary School and Science Education while the one in Auchi will specialize in Technical Education, Physical Education, and Special Education.

The State Governor appointed a new Rector, Prof. Abiodun Falodun to drive the revamp of the Edo State Polytechnic, Usen, in 2018. Since then, the school held its maiden convocation ceremony after over 20 years; introduced new academic programmes, including Mass Communication, Public Administration, etc. It also now has more transparent management that has now attracted more TETFUND interventions.

Industrialization Edo Production Centre
The Edo Production Center is a novel initiative to drive industrialization in Edo State. It is a facility that provides Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and Artisans with 24-hour electricity, business support, market development, and industry linkage opportunities. It currently serves as a mini-replica of the big businesses and diverse industries expected at the Benin Enterprise and Industrial Park.

It is fitted with 500KV transformers, which are connected to the 33KV line in the area. It would have 1.2MW of power at the onset, which would eventually be expanded to 4MW, to power heavy machines to be run at the facility.

The Edo Production Center is fitted with factory space, security, and office space and would provide live-in desks for relevant government agencies to engage, support and provide services to small businesses. The agencies to be hosted at the facility are the Bank of Industry (BoI), Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Edo Internal Revenue Service (EIRS), among others.
The production centre will also be set up at Auchi, Irrua, and Okpella. The production centre initiative is being implemented through collaboration with the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).
The Centre aggregates different manufacturers, including welders, metal and fabrication companies, polythene makers, printers, woodwork experts, recyclers, footwear makers, among others.”

Benin Enterprise and Industrial Park
The Benin Enterprise and Industrial Park is a $200b park complex to be sited in Iyanomo axis of Benin City, in Ikpoba Okha Local Government Area. The Federal Government through the Ministry of Environment is currently conducting the Social and Environmental Impact Assessment for the project.

The proposed project will involve the development of industrial processing and non-processing zones which includes automobile zone, construction, and building materials zone, mineral zone, agro and food processing zone, amongst others.
The project will be provided with state-of-the-art infrastructure such as site grading roads, power, water, communications, drainages, sewage treatment plant, effluent treatment plant, stormwater drains on a total land take of 996.72Ha. It will be implemented in phases to facilitate the flow of investment and to recalibrate the development of infrastructure especially the vertical infrastructure to the market.

Government Science and Technical College
The Government Science and Technical College project is pioneered to revamp the old Benin Technical College (BTC) and reposition the institution as a leading, model hub for Technical and Vocation Education and Training (TVET).

CCETC-Ossiomo Power Plant
The 55MW Ossiomo Power Plant is being developed by Ossiomo Power & Infrastructure Limited and CCETC Clean Energy in Ologbo, near Benin City, and will engage in electricity distribution and embedded generation of 55 Megawatts gas-powered electricity.
The State Government has signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the company for the supply of power to public offices and utilities in the state, including the Government House, hospitals and street lights. This will free up power for other users in the Sapele Road axis, where the distribution infrastructure of the company passes through.
The arrangement will also break the monopoly of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC), paving way for a fair electricity market in the state.

The plant is also expected to power the Benin Industrial and Enterprise Park, a N200 billion industrial park being pioneered by the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration in Iyanomo axis of Benin.
Preliminary work has reached an advanced stage at the site of the power plant and equipment for the first phase of 11MW has been installed.
It is expected that the plant will also provide power for the Edo Production Centre, a facility along the Sapele Road corridor that provides a working space for medium-scale industrial enterprises, to boost productivity in the state.

Emotan Gardens
Emotan Gardens is an 1800-unit affordable housing estate being developed by the state government through the Edo Development and Property Agency (EDPA) and Mixta Africa, a renowned property developer.
The estate sits on a 70-hectare in Upper Sokponba axis of Benin City and provides a range of housing options to subscribers, starting from N5.5m. The estate is the first of its type in the state in the last 16 years after the state government overhauled the EDPA.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the estate development was signed between the state government and Mixta Africa in May 2018 and work kicked off in June. The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, was on hand for the groundbreaking ceremony of the estate, which officially kicked off the construction work.

As at January 2019, 100 units of the property have been completed and the Vice President did the honours once again in handing over the first unit of the estate to Mrs. Osaru Noragbon, who was adjudged the Best Teacher in Edo State.

An interesting aspect of the estate development is that raw materials used in the construction and finishing the buildings were sourced within the state after the governor gave a directive to that effect, to ensure that jobs are created in the state. The materials which include tiles, doors, glass, and other such materials, were sourced from companies operating in Utesi, an industrial cluster in the state.

Urban Renewal (infrastructure)
Governor Godwin Obaseki-led government has urban renewal as one of its key development thrusts. This is being realized with the massive construction of roads, reclaiming of gully erosion sites, construction of parks and restoring sanity to public places across the state. The unprecedented urban renewal projects have earned the governor the sobriquet, ‘Wake and See Governor,’ said to be a product of the governor’s unique leadership style that abhors unnecessary fanfare.

The road construction projects span across different parts of the state and are being spearheaded by the Ministry of Infrastructure, State Employment and Expenditure for Results (SEEFOR) and SEEFOR Plus, the state government-funded scheme modeled after the World Bank-funded project.

The major roads receiving attention and those completed are St. Saviour Road, Ugbor-Amagba Road, Lucky Way, Ehaekpen-TV Road, Ikiran-Oke-Ikakhumoh Road, Benin-Abraka Road (the longest road project ever constructed by the state government), Agbede-Awain Road, Uzebba-Okpuje-Akagbor Road, Irhirhi-Aruogba-Obazagbon-Obagienevbosa, among others.
There is also a large cache of township roads being worked on across the state to bring development closer to the people and reactivate economic activities in the hinterlands. Many say the spate of road construction being witnessed can only be compared to what obtained in the Old Bendel State, as most of the roads were last worked on 40 years ago.

Civil Service Reforms
Governor Godwin Obaseki has reiterated that he will not sack any worker in the state because he believes in the power of the human intellect and would never work to render any worker a liability. With this thinking, the governor has made the civil service in the state a fulcrum of his reform agenda by ensuring that workers are catered for while in service and in retirement.

This informed the decision to re-train civil servants for efficiency and through a partnership with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), the state government is retooling the state’s workforce for effective service delivery.
In line with its efforts to ensure that no civil servant is redundant, the state government conducts regular training for civil servants with a focus to make them better at their jobs. Block C & D in the secretariat complex are being revamped, with the treasury building

The government has also undertaken to redesign offices and build a training school that would provide institutional support for the plan to ensure that workers are brought up to speed with current developments in their areas of expertise.

The state government has also built judges’ quarters to ensure that the welfare of members of the top brass of the judiciary is well catered for. New Court complexes are being constructed, with the governor determined to convert Edo into the judiciary hub of the Niger Delta. Stenography equipment and other modern equipment have been procured and court clerks trained to deploy them to ensure an efficient, fast and seamless judicial process.

The pension reforms in the state have also helped in clearing the backlog of pension arrears accumulated for almost 20 years before the current administration. The workers in the state have been migrated to the contributory pension scheme. The success of the scheme at the state level has inspired the extension of the scheme to the local government level.

Fight Against Human Trafficking
One of the biggest tasks before the state government is the challenge of human trafficking and illegal migration, and the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration has faced it head-on. When he came into office, the governor didn’t mince words as to the fact that the state had a problem with illegal migration, which deprived the state of its human capital.
Hence, he set to work by employing a mixed approach of engagement and dialogue to get the necessary stakeholders on board. With this, the state was able to set up the Edo Taskforce Against Human Trafficking (ETAHT), empowered by the Edo State Trafficking in Persons Prohibition Law.

The law was a landmark feat to give legal backing to the fight against human trafficking in the state. With such commitment, the governor has appealed to different bilateral organizations, particularly those from countries that suffer migrant crisis to invest in opportunities of building institutions and infrastructure that will complement the state government’s efforts in engaging and empowering youths in the state.

This has attracted a lot of attention to the state, much of which was predicated on the state government’s sincere and decisive stance against human trafficking and illegal migration.

To further buttress the state government’s campaign, the Benin Monarch, His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, threw his weight behind the campaign by placing curses on traditional medicine men that administer oaths on victims of human trafficking, urging everyone involved in the diabolical practice of human trafficking to desist from it henceforth.

With the established understanding that change is often met with stiff resistance, it may be necessary to ask if this radical transformation and advancement may be partly responsible for the supremacy battle between the current governor and his predecessor.
Could this be a matter of petty jealousy by a Godfather being astounded that his Godson is stretching the boundaries of possibilities, breaking new grounds and may likely overshadow his achievements in his time in office?

Also, it could also be a matter of the Godfather being anxious and making frantic efforts to rock the boat and cause distraction because his political myth is being unravelled. The tides are indeed changing and the Obaseki-led administration is setting a higher standard with which to access and interrogate public policy and development in Edo State.
Well, the jury is still out on that and hopefully, the next couple of months hold the answers to the many questions of the cause for the needless political tussle in Edo State.