By Patrick Isaac
Gradually, through what could be described as a systematic, frugal allocation of scarce resources, Edo State is joining the league of sub-national entities that are rewriting their story through pragmatic policy reforms, programmes and initiatives.
Edo people and the state’s bourgeoning investors have been inspired by the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration to take gradual, steady steps to open up the space to interrogate and challenge conventions that impede progress, with a view to correcting them.
On mounting the saddle, Obaseki espoused plans for resetting the state’s economic base as well as restoring the dignity of Edo people, anchored on six planks for development, which touch on all indices of human development.
On October 31, 2019, he launched the Edo State Social Health Insurance/Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) as well as the revamped primary healthcare centres under the Edo Primary Health Improvement Programme (EdoHIP).
The state had made an initial contribution of N100million to access the BHCPF, opening up opportunities to energise its health insurance programme. All of these tie up to an organic whole of a systemic plan to retool the primary healthcare system to meet the needs of ordinary Edo people.
Speaking at the launch of the scheme, Obaseki said the focus of his administration is to improve the lives of the people through good education and provision of basic healthcare services accessible to all Edo people and residents.
“Our emphasis and the bulk of money that accrues to the state is dedicated to improving the lives of the people of Edo through quality healthcare and education. We are spending more than 50 per cent of our recurrent expenditure on healthcare and education”, he stated.
On education, the state government has re-enacted the basic education sector by training and equipping 11,300 teachers with tech-based tools and skills to deliver technology-driven education to not less than 300,000 pupils across over 800 schools in the state.
Obaseki was awarded the Best Performing Governor in 2019 for the impact of the Edo-BEST programme as well as his prioritisation of teachers’ welfare in the state, which has led to improved outcome in primary schools across the state.
The governor said: “The programme will develop a highly-skilled teaching workforce by training, supporting and motivating Edo teachers to succeed in the classroom of tomorrow, empowering our children to compete effectively in the world of work. The programme will leapfrog the basic education delivery systems by leveraging technology to gather and utilise accurate and timely data to drive policy and planning decisions.”
Checks showed that in public schools across the state where teachers now teach with tablets and other digital teaching aids, parents and guardians are hurriedly registering their children to benefit from the new teaching methods.
It was learnt that the parents are pulling their children from private schools to public schools which have been revamped under the Edo-BEST programme.
Mr. Enagbare, a parent who withdrew three of his children from a private school to be registered at Oba Akenzua Primary School in Oredo Local Government Area, said he was impressed with the transformation of schools in the state.
“Despite the huge money we spend in private schools, my children are not doing well academically. So, I decided to enrol them in a public primary school. From the news, I hear from other parents like me, public schools have improved greatly because of Edo-BEST”, Enagbare said.
Committed to ensuring that the state is reset from its status as a civil service state to one that is driven by productivity on the back of its teeming youth population, the state government established the Edo State Skills Development Agency (EdoJobs), to actualize the governor’s promise of creating 200,000 jobs in his first term in office.
Not less than 170,000 jobs have already been created, including training programmes in technical and vocational skills, technology innovation and business acceleration, among others.
One of the innovative projects to drive industrialisation by the Obaseki-led administration is the Edo Production hub. The facility 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. The facility allows small businesses to share support infrastructure like security and low-cost financing to help boost economic growth in the state.
The centre, located in the Sapele Road axis of Benin City, is fitted with factory space, security and office space and live-in desks for relevant government agencies to engage, support and provide services to small businesses. The agencies 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.
It is fitted with 500KV transformers, which are connected to the 33KV line in the area. It has 1.2MW of power at the onset, which would eventually be expanded to 4MW, to power heavy machines to be run at the facility.
Another major contributor to the state’s burgeoning tech scene, which now incubates young innovators, is the Edo Innovation Hub. The Hub, which also houses the South-South Innovation Hub, is a cluster for innovators and inventors in Benin City and is priming youth to evolve and strengthen the technology ecosystem in the state.
Head, EdoJobs, Mrs Ukinebo Dare, said the state government has done a lot in energizing the economy by engaging youths and providing opportunities to garner skills or improve their chances for employability.
According to her, “We have struck a number of partnerships with businesses within the state and beyond aimed at upskilling our youths. A number of them have gotten employed while many others are self-employed. Our strategy is holistic and takes the issue of job creation from different fronts, ensuring that youths are best served with the right opportunities to explore their potentials.”
Edo State Government continues to drive development in the sports sector with the focus on building strong institutions, solid infrastructure and a robust grassroots development strategy to ensure sustainable outcomes.
The sports sector in the state is regulated by the Edo Sports Commission, an agency backed by a new law enacted by the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration.
The newly rebuilt Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium is a testament to the government’s commitment to revamping sports in the state and promoting an aggressive sports development plan. The new sports arena is equipped with a world-class main bowl, five tennis courts, a gymnasium, an Olympic sized stadium, two squash courts, among others. Five out of the 20 mini-stadia being built across the state have been completed.
Hinged on the huge potential of agriculture for wealth and job creation that could guarantee Edo people better life, Governor Obaseki has implemented well-thought-out, strategic and far-reaching reforms that attract and retain investments in oil palm, cassava, maize, yam, rubber, cocoa, rice, vegetables, aquaculture and livestock production.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is investing a whooping N69 billion into the Edo State Oil Palm Programme (ESOPP). The Edo State Agripreneur programme, which commenced in 2017, is part of the Governor Obaseki-led administration’s strategies to boost Micro, Small-scale and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and sustain current youth-focused agricultural initiatives in the state.
Under the scheme, over 10,000 hectares of rice, maize, cassava, soybean, and other crops are being cultivated in Agenebode, Warrake, Usugbenu, Iguoriakhi and Sobe. There were over 55,000 young beneficiaries while nearly 20,000 jobs were created under the initiative. In addition, the Edo Food and Agriculture Cluster (Edo-FAC) in Ehor, Uhunmwode LGA has benefited over 1,300 farmers. There is also a farm mechanisation programme for commercial agriculture in the state.
The milestone achievements recorded by the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration in various sectors of the state’s economy are pinned on the governor’s resolve to overhaul road infrastructure across the state, open up new towns, improve ease of doing businesses, enhance access to rural areas and consolidate on his administration’s urban renewal vision.
The governor has in the last three years embarked on road construction projects in each of the 192 wards in the 18 LGAs of the state, with each of these roads either completed or in various stages of completion. So far, the state government has built over 800 roads, which stretch for about 2000km. While the State’s Ministry of Infrastructure constructed about 200 roads, which stretch for 700km, the state under the various streams of the Edo State Employment and Expenditure for Result (SEEFOR), constructed over 400 roads, spanning about 1300km across the state.