As the days go by, Nseobong Okon-Ekong writes that Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State is rising above the lowly pedestal of chief executive of states who just struggle to pay salaries, then list it as an achievement. Obaseki is transforming Edo by focusing on durable physical and economic infrastructure
Owing largely to his background in investment banking and his tenure as Chairman of state economic tink-tank, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State is laying a solid foundation to attract investments. Edo state is now a darling to international development institutions and investors.
He has now brought his expertise to bear on the development of Edo state, helping to facilitate the mobilisation of funding for the Edo-Azura Power project in the state, which has heavyweights like the World Bank Group, Siemens and Julius Berger among others.
This was to ensure that the state has a proven record of attracting and keeping investors to build the right infrastructure that can drive industrialisation. Though Edo-Azura supplies power to the National Grid, its presence has spurred the incursion of more power companies into the state and also guarantees other large industries in the state a source for relatively stable power.
Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium
One of the rising jewels in Edo’s spectacular skyline is the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, which is being renovated and fitted with more sporting facilities, including a canopy cover. Part of the governor’s infrastructure renewal masterplan, the stadium is being expanded and equipped with state-of-the-art facility to spur sports development and develop local talents in the state.
The new look of the stadium and the newly installed infrastructure assets have caught the attention of international sporting organisations, as the state is being slated to host the 2020 Under 20 Womens’ World Cup.
The state is also warming up to host the National Sports Festival scheduled for next year, during which athletes and sports enthusiast across the country will he hosted in the state for the sports fiesta.
Governor Obaseki said rehabilitation work at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin is near completion and the stadium would be ready to host various local and international sporting competitions.
“We take sports seriously in this state, because 72 per cent of our population are under 30 years of age, and that is why we are building 20 mini-stadia across the state. Therefore, four of these mini-stadia can be used as practice fields for the Under-20 Women’s World Cup.”
Work at the stadium started in 2017, with a design to revamp the Main Bowl, tennis court and the swimming pool sections.
A major aspect of the governor’s infrastructure drive is the renovation of public schools across the state, expected to complement investment in human capital development.
Schools, including conventional and technical institutions of learning, are being remodeled to reflect the governor’s commitment to build infrastructure in the quest to revive the state’s industrial sector.
Govt Science and Technical College
The Government Science and Technical College, is being remodeled to be become a center of excellence in technical education in the state. With its new state-of-the-art twin blocks, the school has resumed for a new academic session, while the state government has recruited new science and technology teachers to ensure that the school is top-rate. Work on the old buildings are already underway.
The target, according to the state government, is to have an institution that would serve as the grooming ground for best-in-town technical experts, who will receive training and certification that would be recognized in any part of the world.
Mr. Godwin Obaseki said the GSTC will host a production hub to spur industrialisation in the axis, noting that the hub will serve as a location for design and production of machines so as to create opportunities for students to work with those in the industry and translate what they learn to the real world.
Obaseki added that the state government is in talks with foreign partners for exchange programmes which will make provision for experts to train teachers on technical subjects.
Team Lead, Government Science and Technical College Benin Rehabilitation Programme, Giles Omezi, said the 2019/2020 academic session for students of the school commenced on Monday, September 16, 2019, adding that the National Board for Technical Education is pleased with the project.
College of Education, Abudu
For tertiary education, the state government has placed premium on revamping the institutions to become more forward-looking. The affected institutions include the College of Education, Abudu; Edo State Polytechnic, Usen and Ambrose Alli University.
The College of Education, Abudu campus used to be the defunct Provincial Teachers Training College that later transformed to the orientation camp for National Youth Service Corps scheme.
An equipped computer lab powered with solar energy has been completed, among other buildings have been completed at the campus.
Governor Godwin Obaseki had last year said the state would now have one College of Education and three schools instead of having three different colleges.
According to him, “Each school is specializing on specific aspect of teacher education. The one in Abudu will have a digital training centre to train primary school teachers, the school in Igueben will focus on Secondary school and science teachers while the one in Auchi will specialise in training teachers in Technical Education, Physical Education and Special Education.”
Commissioner for Education, Emmanuel Agbale, said the restructuring of the College of Education was a gradual process and that plans were on to open the Abudu campus in September.
As part of the Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation (Edo-BEST) programme, the state government is renovating schools across the state, to ensure that the schools are conducive for learning.
Over 230 schools are being remodeled as part of the state government’s commitment to provide conducive learning environment for pupils in the state, a major pillar of the Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation (EDOBEST) programme.
Renovation work is ongoing or completed at Ivbiotor Primary School in Benin City; Ezoti Primary School; St Paul Primary School, with Obaseki Primary School now hosting Ekpenede Primary School, Okai Primary School and Obakhavbaye Primary School, which were relocated.
The state government is keen on ensuring faith is restored to the public-school system in the state, which is being achieved through improved teaching and learning methods, and provision of a conducive environment for teachers and their pupils.
He emphasised that his administration was not leaving any public school behind in the rollout of the renovation programme, adding “We are committed to ensuring that the schools in Edo State are in good shape. We have had to take our time to do this because we wanted the School-Based Management Committee (SBMC) to be in place so they can play a critical role in ensuring that the schools are well run and that whatever is provided for the schools are not vandalised.”
Some of the schools scheduled for renovation include Ojirami Primary School in Ojirami, Akoko-Edo Local Government Area (LGA); Ugbogo Primary School in Igarra, Akoko Edo LGA; Amegor Primary School in Uwelu, Egor LGA; Eweka Primary School in Egor LGA; Olua Primary School in Egor LGA; Ivbiyeneva Primary School in Ikpoba Okha LGA; Aduwawa Primary School in Ikpoba Okha and Uhie Primary School. Others are Egbokor Primary School, Idunmwingun Primary School, Iguere Primary School, Evboeghae primary school and Oza Primary School, in Orhionmwon Local Government Area, and over 200 other schools across the three senatorial districts.
Why the World is Applauding Obaseki’s Education Reforms in Edo
The world is paying attention to education reforms in Edo State. In a recently published commentary on its website, the World Economic Forum (WEF) applauded the Edo State Basic Education Sector Transformation (Edo-BEST) initiative for improving learning outcomes among pupils in primary schools across the state and described the State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, as a trailblazer who is “quickly and dramatically lifting the quality of government schools and upskilling teachers in his low-income state.”
According to the WEF, “education experts around the world and across Africa in particular are paying close attention to EdoBEST, and has become a beacon of light to other education ministries because it is improving learning for marginalised children and upskilling both novice and experienced teachers at scale, within existing state budgets and without western aid.”
The Forum said that the changes are happening within the existing system and being spearheaded by existing teachers and school leaders, and hailed the reforms as “a Nigerian solution to a Nigerian problem.”
The World Bank and the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) have also highlighted EdoBEST as a crucial program that can be a template for transforming education in educationally disadvantaged societies. Last September, the World Bank Group organised a side-event at the UNGA summit in New York to discuss Edo-BEST.
The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) also recently bestowed Governor Obaseki with the Best Performing Governor Award in recognition of his education reforms, success of the Edo-BEST programme and his prioritisation of teachers’ welfare in the state.
He argued that basic education from the perspective of encouraging teachers, deploying technology to determine and tell when a teacher is in class, among others, form the basis of the Edo-BEST programme in the state.
“I can tell from my office today when a teacher is in class. If a teacher is not in class then the teacher hasn’t signed into the database. Once a teacher is signed in, the lesson note for that day will be loaded into the teacher’s tablet. And we’ve trained teachers to understand how to use the tablets and the technology to teach the children. So, this is also to motivate them and corporal punishment has been abolished in our schools. The outcome is that children are learning. A child in Edo state today after one term has now learnt more than three terms of work in the old system.”
What is EdoBEST?
Nigeria has some of the highest numbers of out-of-school children in the world. A number of official estimates conclude that 11 million Nigerian boys and girls are not in school. The education crisis is partly an issue of access, but it is also one of quality and transformation at scale has historically seemed beyond reach.
To counter this trend and achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4 (ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all), Governor Obaseki created the Edo-BEST programme.
What the program does is to rebuild school infrastructure and equip teachers and administrators to become better purveyors of knowledge using technology.
It is a comprehensive program aimed to develop state education across five pillars of work: governance, teachers’ training and development, community partnerships, infrastructure, and the local education board.
To roll out the programme in three local government areas of the state, the government pooled funds from the Edo State Oil and Gas Producing Areas Development Commission.
As at September 2019, under the auspices of Edo-Best, over 8,700 teachers have been trained and equipped with Information and Communication Technology (ICT) devices for improved learning outcomes, which have positively impacted over 150,000 school children in the state.
Also, over 234 schools are being reconstructed with 7094 computer tablets distributed to teachers and head teachers and 11688 School-Based Management Committee (SBMC) members have been trained to help in administering and maintaining public education facilities.
The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) has said Governor Obaseki’s education reforms, especially in “improving basic education and teacher’s welfare” in the state are worthy of emulation by leaders across the country.
The WEF agrees that Edo-BEST has been a tremendous success so far.
According to the Forum, “The impact on children’s learning has already been significant, even over a period of only three months. An initial study, commissioned by the state government in the first term of the programme, showed learning gains were positive. Pupils learned more, spent more time learning, worked harder and experienced a more positive classroom environment. Girls in EdoBEST schools outperformed all other pupils.”
“The initial analysis of boys and girls suggests that being in an EdoBEST school equates to nearly three-quarters of a year more maths instruction and nearly two-thirds of a year more literacy instruction compared to a normal Edo primary school. To put it another way, children are learning in one term what they would normally learn in one year,” the Forum added.
It continued, “The children of Edo are flocking back to the classroom because they and their parents know something of real value has arrived in their schools – learning. Other African leaders are watching with interest. EdoBEST could be a programme that not only changes the future for the children of Edo, but for children throughout Africa.”
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 14th, 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 organisations with 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 organisations 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 project (SEEFOR) Project, United Kingdom (UK) the Market Development in the Niger Delta (MADE), a number of Chinese companies, among others, at the hub.
Edo Production Center
The Edo Production Center is a novel initiative to drive industrialisation 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, footware 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 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, storm water 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 (GSTC)
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 uses 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 N200bn industrial park being pioneered by the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration in Iyanomo axis of Benin.
Preliminary work has reached advanced stage at the site of the power plant and equipment for the first phase of 10MW has already set sail.
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.
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 ensure 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.
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 ensure that workers are catered for while in service and in retirement