Despite the Pandemic, Ogun Remains in Safe Hands

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In a year that has been mostly ravaged by the corona virus pandemic with the attendant lockdowns and uncertainties, the Ogun State government, helmed by the debonair Governor Dapo Abiodun, has continued to implement the plans behind his Building the Future Together agenda – the kernel of which is to give Ogun State focused and qualitative governance whilst creating the enabling environment for a public-private sector partnership, which is fundamental to the economic growth of the state and individual prosperity of the people of Ogun, writes Lanre Alfred

Masked, in adherence with the dictates of the season; and garbed in blue native attire with dark sunshades to match, Prince Dapo Abiodun, the executive governor of Ogun State could, however, not mask his excitement during the inauguration of the Agbeloba Aquaculture Hub in Owiwi, Ewekoro Local Government Area of the state, which is being promoted by the former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

There, Governor Abiodun revealed his administration’s plans to have an allied agriculture-based airport to help develop the state as a destination of choice for agriculture in Nigeria, saying, “We are looking to have an airport based on agro-allies from which agricultural products like the ones we have here can be transported by air outside the country and still arrive fresh to other destinations. We are seeing these kinds of things that will complement everything we are doing.”

As he walked around the hub, Governor Abiodun commended the former president for his investment and commitment to agriculture, a sector he described as the surest path out of the poverty and unemployment that plague the country. “We believe that we can grow what we eat and we want to congratulate former President Olusegun Obasanjo for his tireless and continuous preaching. We, as a government, believe in what Baba (Obasanjo) is doing and we will continue to advocate for this because we see ourselves quickly becoming the food basket of this nation,” he said.
The governor added, “It is important to note that Baba (Obasanjo) did not start his agricultural revolution just yesterday. He is a legend who is fondly remembered for his popular farming program ‘Operation Feed the Nation (OFN),’ long before Obasanjo Farms Nigeria Limited.

“That was 45 years ago when he was Head of State, and aged only 38 years old. At that time, Baba had seen that the future of our great country is in agriculture. And even after leaving office, we are pleased that he did not leave the OFN that he started. It is a reminder that now more than ever; we need another Operation Feed the Nation (OFN). This time, it has to be urgent and with its own initiatives.”

Governor Abiodun said that his administration is confident that the bid to turn the state into a special zone for processing agricultural products would soon become a reality and pointed out that in the next year, at least 5,000 young people from the state will receive mentoring, support and linkage to profitable agro-investment firms as a prelude to setting them up in their respective businesses.

The former president commended the governor for all his initiatives in the area of agriculture and encouraged him not to relent. Indeed, in the last one year, the Abiodun-administration has recorded many achievements in agriculture noteworthy, the launch of the Anchor Borrowers Programme in partnership with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). A poverty-eradicating initiative that will provide inputs, service support and training required for farmers through a single-digit loan and guaranteed off-taker, the ABP idea is in fulfilment of Abiodun’s promise to increase food production and create employment opportunities for Ogun people, especially youth and women involved in agriculture and create another avenue to boost the nation’s self-sufficiency in food production. The state has facilitated the crediting of the CBN with over N700Million and 3,500 farmers drawn from all 20 LGAs.
There is the Ogun Broiler Project, which provides day-old chicks, feeds, inputs and training to young farmers and buys the chickens after six weeks.

To date, it is reported that about 9,000 youths have benefitted from the scheme and they make a profit of about N130, 000 in each six-week cycle. There are also the Joint Ogun State and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Value Chain Project, which is ongoing across eight LGAs including Obafemi-Owode, Yewa North & South, Ijebu North & East, Ifo, Odeda and Odogbolu; and the FADAMA Graduate Unemployed Youths Scheme (GUYS), which credited 200 beneficiaries with a total grant of over N74Million with varying individual amounts depending on the chosen agricultural enterprise including cultivation of cassava, maize, rice, yam and vegetables as well as the rearing of poultry, fisheries, piggery, snailry, large ruminants and agro-processing, among others. Worthy of mention also is that the state government has constructed four solar-powered boreholes to make a total of 11 of the type, resulting in 2,500 beneficiaries of the Ogun State Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP) having access to safe drinking water while it partnered with the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology to distribute improved varieties of plantain, banana, and pineapple to 100 farmers as a way to promote increased productivity of farmers.

Amid the extraordinary challenges and uncertainties wrought by the immediate impact of the corona virus pandemic, many governors and political leaders are under pressure not to buckle or bumble in continuing to build a more prosperous, equitable and sustainable society. The acute awareness of this has made Governor Abiodun quicken his pace and double his efforts in all areas of the state’s life. Last May 29, which was the thick of the pandemic when the world had literally ground to a halt, the Abiodun administration clocked one year in office and the governor also clocked 60 years old. There was, however, no celebration or fanfare to mark the momentous day.

But the governor made a state-wide address during which he reeled out his administration’s achievements. He agreed that the pandemic tested his administration’s effectiveness but, “Because we are a government that has been focused, deliberate, methodical, driven by an unwavering commitment to serve and one that enjoys tremendous goodwill of our people, we confronted the pandemic headlong…and we have been able to record notable achievements in all sectors of our dear state in the last one year.”
Pivoting his achievements on the ISEYA acronym (meaning Infrastructure, Social Welfare and Wellbeing, Education, Youth Development, and Agriculture and Food Security), the governor disclosed that as a quick fix mechanism to address the deplorable condition of roads when he came into office, the Ogun State Public Works Agency which is proving to be efficient and responsive in rehabilitating intra and intercity roads was established. He listed several intra-city roads that had either been rehabilitated or newly constructed, surmising, significantly, that the very essential Ijebu-Ode – Epe Road, a major link between Ogun and Lagos States and an alternative to the busy Lagos -Ibadan expressway, which had been in a state of disrepair leading to abandonment by commuters for several years, is now nearing completion.

Governor Abiodun said, “But for the COVID-19 pandemic and the requirement for physical distancing, we would be formally commissioning some of these roads as part of the activities marking the first anniversary. Nonetheless, I am happy to report that the activation of some of the completed projects, is on-going for immediate use and benefit of the good people of Ogun State, thus, bringing relief to the large population of our people who commute on these roads on daily basis, either to go to work or to journey to neighbouring states.”

In the area of energy, Governor Abiodun admitted that a major national challenge to both industrial growth and domestic wellbeing is the availability of regular power supply. According to him, “In our usual deliberate approach, we have taken a number of strategic steps to significantly improve power supply in the state, which includes the establishment, for the first time in the state, a power and energy board; commencement of power audit to dimension the power requirements in the state to determine the needs and improved provision of power supply in phases while its output will serve as input into the Light Up Ogun Project aimed at improving power supply to critical locations and sectors in the state; and procurement and installation of transformers to some communities across the state through the Local Government Transition Committees.

Governor Abiodun also disclosed that his administration recognises transport as a critical sector and an enabler of economic activities and well-being of the people while appreciating the need to strategically manage the sector beyond the almost exclusive focus on and unstructured management of transport unions. In this regard, he said, “We have upgraded the hitherto Bureau of Transport to a full-fledged Ministry of Transport, which will, among other mandate areas, coordinate and streamline activities in the transport sector, evolve a system that will help to strategically determine and prioritise new roads to be constructed or existing roads that should be rehabilitated by the relevant agencies. It will also manage the transport unions in a structured way including maintaining a database of the operators for safety and security as well as revenue generation. The new ministry is further charged with the responsibility to explore other modes of transport in the state, especially the railway.”

The governor further stated that the multi-dimensional roles of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as a most potent economic sector on its own, an enabler of other sectors and strategic tool for operational efficiency of public sector administration are globally recognised, adding, “ICT offers tremendous opportunities for employment generation and wealth creation for our teeming youth as well as their global competitiveness.”

Therefore, the Ogun Tech Hub and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (Stem) Centre was created to serve as a knowledge platform where citizens connect, share, build new skills and competencies to solve local challenges that improve the quality of life of Nigerians. According to Governor Abiodun, the hub was conceptualised to make Ogun “the one-stop-shop for technological innovations across Africa where start-up companies will conveniently be set up. This step is, firstly, a result of the collaboration of tech enthusiasts and private sector players largely independent of our government.”

He continued, “The development and deployment of the Ogun State Job Portal is yet another demonstration of our commitment to leveraging on the potentials of the ICT for socio-economic transformation. Our ultimate goal is to ease the availability of broadband Internet connectivity across the State and access by educational institutions, health facilities, government offices, and industry, among others. The many ICT initiatives of this Administration have received both local and national accolades, with two awards by the Federal Ministry of Digital Economy and Communication – Best State in ICT Penetration and 2nd position in ICT Human Capital Development.”

To reduce the unemployment rate in the state, Governor Abiodun created the Ogun Job Portal in August 2019, which aims to link the state’s unemployed youths with matching job opportunities in the labour market. Within a few weeks, the governor said, “Over 120,000 unemployed and underemployed youths had registered on the portal. Potential employers can post their vacancies on the portal and it acts as the first point of call for employers looking for qualified people to hire. To date, about 300 firms, both within and outside Ogun State have filed their vacancies and requested to tap into the great potentials of the job portal. For instance, The Federal Capital Development Agency (FCDA) recently just hired nine engineers through our portal.

“Our government has also advertised its available vacancies on the portal. In February 2020, Ogun State recruited 1,000 people from across all 20 LGAs into the Ogun State Environmental Protection Agency (OGEPA). In the same month, 400 youth artisans were recruited across crafts (plumbing, electrical and building) as Direct Labour initiative into the State Ministry of Housing’s Building Programme. We recruited 1,500 teachers to the public schools across the 20 LGAs in the State through the same platform.”
Giant strides were also recorded in the area of health like the rehabilitation of two General Hospitals in Ijaye, Abeokuta; and Ilaro; on-going rehabilitation of 236 Primary Healthcare Centres; recruitment of medical officers – resident doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals in various cadres into the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH), Sagamu; immunisation of almost 1.3 million children against polio, an approximately 33% increase from the total recorded number in the previous year; provision of life-saving intervention to 8,000 women during the Maternal and Child Health Week; and regular medical outreach offering free medical examination including free eyeglasses, immunisation, blood pressure and sugar level checks, Hepatitis counselling and vaccination.

In the period under review, there was an upgrade of selected state hospitals to provide the prevention of HIV from Mother to Child (PMTCT) and Anti-retroviral Therapy (ART) services; purchase of a new collection of medical equipment, which includes a Dialysis Machine; Mobile Digital X-ray machine; High-Resolution Ultrasound Machine; new intensive care beds; twelve new ventilators; eight CPAP machines; 10 new Ambulances and a logistics truck just to mention a few; and completion of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) floor of the 250-Bed Hospital at Abeokuta, with capacity for 18 available beds, eight of which are high dependency and 10 ICU.

Despite recording the index case of the COVID-19 in Nigeria, the state government responded swiftly by converting some existing underutilized or moribund facilities to health facilities, which helped to expand and improve the standard of the available health facilities in the state. It also established, namely, five treatment and isolation centres for COVID-19 patients at Ikenne, Sagamu and Abeokuta, facilities that will also be valuable in the treatment of other infectious diseases; a Molecular Laboratory at the OOUTH, which is the first Molecular Laboratory solely funded by a state in Nigeria, with capacity for 150 tests a day; and the first COVID-19 Mobile Laboratory in Nigeria with the capacity to run 450 tests a day is now located at the intended 250-bed hospital at Abeokuta. With the Molecular Laboratory, the state now has a combined daily testing capacity of about 600; and the provision of COVID-19 drive-through and walk-in testing centres that are equipped with a specially-designed protective glass enclosure that prevents the medical personnel collecting samples from getting infected.

The state government also rose to the occasion to commence Nigeria’s first online teaching and learning at the primary and secondary school levels – The Ogun DIGICLASS, which is to ensure continuous learning even in the period of COVID-19 and thin out the tendency of children derailing academically due to the disruption in the school calendar.

Other achievements recorded in the area of education include the renovation and reconstruction of 95 public schools fitted with modern corrugated roofs, furniture, halls and modern toilet facilities across the three senatorial districts; capacity building for teaching and non-teaching corps; resolution of industrial crises in the sector; and the appointment of digitally-compliant teachers; and motivation of existing corps of teachers with timely promotions and introduction of ICT into the teaching-learning process among others.

Shelter is one of the necessities of human life and the Governor Abiodun-administration is not oblivious to this. Therefore, he says that his government is determined to address the deficit in the housing sector by building about 2,000 affordable housing units across the state with a minimum of 500 in each of the three senatorial districts. Amongst other interventions in the sector, the administration has embarked on the construction of Prince Court Estate at Kemta, Abeokuta, an affordable housing project with a plan for 450 units out of which 130 units of the first phase are fully completed; and construction of King’s Court Estate Development project at Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta; and construction of additional 23-units of 2 and 3 bedroom affordable bungalows at Laderin Estate Civil Servants Scheme.