*By Governor Godwin Obaseki*
My dear, good and peace-loving people of Edo State, I bring you New Year greetings. New Year’s Day is significant because it provides the opportunity for families, communities and friends to come together to express love, felicitations and give thanks to God, reflect on the past and look into the future with renewed hope, vigour and faith. It is also a time for forgiveness and forging of new relationships that will shape the entire year.
For us, it is the beginning of another year of opportunities despite the challenges we encountered in the past year. We wholeheartedly thank the millions of Edo people, residents, friends, and development partners for their faith in my administration and their support for all our policies and programmes. We also acknowledge the unfettered support of the Federal Government and our party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) for standing by us as we continue to work at redefining and redirecting the policies, structures and institutions of leadership and governance for the benefit of the citizens in the State.
The year 2017 was challenging in several ways. Being our first year in office, aside from falling oil prices and therefore declining allocations, we struggled through the worst economic recession which the nation has experienced in decades. We made very tough economic decisions as a team, relying on God’s guidance, our creativity and the support from our people, to weather the storm. I am pleased to note that we have now turned the corner on very difficult times. I thank you most sincerely for your patience with us.
We have kept our word to serve our people with all our strength and might because for us, leadership is about solving problems and providing direction across all sectors for our people to realise their God-given potentials.
2018 promises to be another year of opportunities for us as a state because we hope to grow the economy of Edo and significantly improve the social and economic conditions of our people, based on the foundation which we have laid in 2017.
With the timely approval of the 2018 budget, we will commence its implementation immediately by focusing on our key programs aimed at addressing the most critical challenges facing us as a state.
In order to achieve our main goal of creating a minimum of 200,000 sustainable jobs, we will continue to construct roads and other infrastructure to ease movement of people and goods, support investment in agriculture, improve our education and health systems and ensure that we create a peaceful and secure state.
We have committed to construct and rehabilitate at least 3,000 kilometers of road network in Edo during my tenure in office. The contract for many of the roads we advertised are being awarded so that the contractors can take advantage of the dry season. We are also emphasising maintenance of existing roads by strengthening the agency which will now work more closely with the local government authorities.
In our new transport masterplan, in addition to continuing the rehabilitation and construction of major and arterial roads, we are working on new user-friendly road signs, appropriate house numberings, restocking the Comrade Bus fleet with 75 new buses, and have completed the designs of new all-purpose modern bus terminals. We are confident that the construction of the Central Benin City Bus Terminal will commence in the first quarter of this year.
Other projects that will be pursued in the new year include the development of the Gelegele Seaport. We are committed to the realisation of this project because of the several socio-economic benefits that are tied to it, namely jobs and a gateway for exporting processed products from our industries and the allied businesses it will attract to the state. The technical report on the development of the seaport has already been completed.
Perhaps, our saddest moment in 2017, was the very shocking and sad experiences of our sons and daughters in Libya: who fell victims to one of the worst forms of evil, which is human trafficking, including our children, that left our shores with high hopes for greener pastures only to be subjected to all manner of inhuman treatments such as slavery, organ harvesting while many died in the Sahara Desert and in the Mediterranean Sea.
We were all pained to read harrowing accounts of the experiences of the returnees and even more pained to see videos of their unfortunate experiences on the internet. We are cooperating with the Federal Government, development partners and other stakeholders to execute a comprehensive strategy to identify, track, arrest and prosecute all those involved in this heinous crime. We have also put in place a comprehensive welcome, documentation, counselling, training, rehabilitation and empowerment programme for the returnees. I am glad to inform you all that we are recording great successes on all fronts.
As part of our efforts to stop human trafficking and illegal migration, my government is currently working on a project with the Federal Government to assist people to migrate legally and properly. Our skills centres will offer training, certification and visas under well defined structures which will allow those who want to travel to do so safely and with dignity.
In 2017, we were able to resuscitate the Auchi Fertiliser and Chemical plant which is now the only such facility available for the Presidential Programme on Fertiliser, employing over 500 workers.
As part of our urban renewal project, the Edo Development and Property Authority (EDPA) has been restructured to better perform its legal functions, and we have acquired over 700 hectares of land around Obagie N’Evbosa where we will construct a new town this year and over 2,000 jobs will be created at the project site.
The design of the Ilushin Agriculture processing zone, Ikpoba Production Park, Edo Auto Market have commenced while construction work has started at the N200 billion Benin Industrial Park, one of our major achievements in 2017, which I promised our people during my electioneering campaign. We anticipate that the industrial park will commence operations in 2019.
We have a new security architecture with holistic coverage and a faster response system that has restored a greater sense of security among our people. With the full support of the Omo N’Oba N’ Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, and the good people of Edo State, we have institutionalised land acquisition and management in Edo State with the Private Property Protection Law that has restored sanity in the sector. This has eliminated unnecessary skirmishes and killings over land ownership in the State.
The new Edo Geographic Information Service (EGIS) has commenced initial work, preparatory to the Aerial survey of the entire state, an initiative that will further deepen the reforms in land administration. I urge everyone to support the GIS officials carrying out this task.
In the primary and secondary education sub-sector, we have successfully completed the census of our public primary and secondary schools to ascertain the exact number of schools, teachers, students and infrastructural facilities that exist. This will aid us with planned rehabilitation, reconstruction, equipping, and management of our educational institutions as we embark on massive rehabilitation and reconstruction work which will commence in our public primary and secondary schools.
This is the only way to effectively empower our people educationally to enable them compete anywhere in the world.
We are overhauling our basic education system by introducing technology in our primary schools and enhancing the capacity of our teachers to instruct our children using modern technology.
Our teachers will be supported and the school curriculum adjusted to make it more relevant. We will commence our basic education reforms with a pilot project covering the first 300 schools
Recognising the salience of power to security, education, tourism, industrialisation and productivity in general, we have laid the building blocks for reliable and consistent power supply in Edo State. As you are aware, the Azura Edo Independent Power Project (IPP) has come on stream, generating electricity seven months ahead of the initial scheduled date. This is noteworthy as it sends a clear message to investors that Edo is indeed committed to enduring partnerships that serve the interests of all stakeholders.
We have signed a Power Purchase Agreement with Ossiomo Power and Infrastructure Company to provide 5MW to power Government buildings and street lights. Following an audit of communities experiencing incessant power cuts, poor supply or total blackout, we have initiated discussions with the Benin Electricity Distribution Company on the ways to improve electricity supply to the citizens of the state.
Our Edo Jobs initiative will intensify its efforts at training and preparing the unemployed for effective engagements in the job market. We urge our unemployed youths to take advantage of our agricultural initiatives. Currently we have a land bank of over 10,000 hectres to grow rice, cassava, oil palm, and for poultry and piggery this year. The strategy of the state is to assist investors remove some of the risks associated with Agricultural transactions and leverage on the financing provided by the Federal Government through facilities like anchor farmers/borrowers programme and FADAMA to support commercial and small-holder farmers.
With the local government elections holding this year, I wish to reiterate our commitment to credible polls and an electioneering process devoid of rancour and any form of violence. I appeal to political actors and all stakeholders to approach the local government elections with the spirit of good sportsmanship.
I once again congratulate the Edo State Council of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs, which was inaugurated recently and headed by His Royal Majesty, Omo N’ Oba N’ Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II. The support from our royal father and other traditional rulers in the state, has been unprecedented. As worthy allies, I urge them to maintain the peace in their respective domains so that we can transform Edo State into a place with boundless opportunities for investments and social transactions.
Edo civil servants have expressed their excitement over ongoing reforms in the civil and public services of the State. Being the ultimate drivers of the reforms, I want to commend them for keying-into the reform agenda anchored on promoting growth, productivity, efficiency, and sustainable development to meet the basic needs of our people. We are automating the work processes and deploying Information and Communication Technology to change the way our civil servants respond to tasks. Our ultimate goal is to make speed, efficiency and transparency the hallmarks of the Edo State civil service through training and retooling of government workforce.
As part of our strategies to fulfil our promise to create a minimum of 200,000 jobs in my first four years in office as Governor, we have commenced the rebuilding of our technical colleges, beginning with the Benin Science and Technical College, so that we can train qualified and competent artisans and technicians who can employ themselves and also provide services and manpower to the investors we are attracting to the state. Our Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Nigeria Institute of Welding will provide proficiency training and retraining for artisans and enable them to earn certifications. This would also be available to already practicing artisans in the State.
We are working with the Federal Ministry of Health to domesticate the National Health Act and we are finalising work on our Primary Healthcare Bill and have commenced work to establish the Edo State Health Insurance Act. The implication of these efforts is that quality healthcare will now be accessed easily in the remotest parts of the state. We are completing a comprehensive audit of primary health care centers across the state and in this new year, we shall execute the first part of equipping and staffing the first 200 PHCs to provide quality service to our people.
I am pleased to inform you, my dear people, that we have concluded the procurement process to identify a credible investor that will manage the new Central Hospital, to provide first-rate health care services while encouraging medical tourism and creating jobs.
In the Sports sector, we have approved the construction of 20 mini-stadia across the state, for which designs have been done. This will serve as a talent discovery and development initiative for our youths and lovers of sports in the state. We have made inter-house sports mandatory in our schools and we will continue to support our dear Bendel Insurance Football Club.
The tremendous response to, and goodwill showed by investors from within and outside the country to the 2017 Alaghodaro Investment Summit is a clear demonstration that our efforts are yielding results and being recognised. As we follow-up on the outcomes of the Summit, I must thank all Edo people for their support as we prepare for the 2nd edition of the Summit this year, 2018.
Finally, I want to thank you all, irrespective of your ideological or political affiliations, for your patience, understanding and support as we work together to make Edo state second to none. I thank members of the opposition political parties for their cooperation and support in our collective struggle to improve the lives of our people, strengthen the structures of governance, rebuild public confidence in government, and make our state safe for all. I thank all our religious leaders for their prayers and urge you to continue to pray for our state. It is my prayer that in this 2018, God will continue to bless Edo State and we shall make unprecedented progress for the benefit of our people and country.
I wish you all a very HAPPY NEW YEAR
Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki
Governor, Edo State
January 1, 2018