Edo’ll become economic hub of Nigeria—Gov Obaseki
SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN CITY
It is becoming obvious that the two major leaders in Edo state today, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare 11 and Governor Godwin Obaseki, share the same vision and mission and have the will to take drastic decisions in areas that have been very problematic to the people of the state over the years.
Immediately Oba Ewuare 11 became the Oba of Benin, his first assignment was to ban Community Development Associations (CDAs) in the seven Local Government Areas in Edo South. This singular decision endeared him to the people of the Kingdom because these CDAs had become killer groups in various communities.
In fact there are communities today whose elders have fled as they have become the targets of killing by the youths who occupied these positions and saw the elders as threats to their interests
On his part, Governor Obaseki on the 31st of December, 2016 banned collection of taxes, levies and all dues in the state by private indigenes who used to do that on behalf of the state government in previous administrations. These collectors had become a threat to the state as they harassed innocent citizens and visitors over one levy or the other and painting the state in bad light.
And knowing that this was a major problem in the state, Obaseki banned it and sent a bill to the state House of Assembly which will ensure that all levies and taxes that are collected by government agents are paid directly to the coffers of the government. This decision was again received with a loud applause.
Also, as Obaseki has been strategizing on how to fulfil the 200,000 jobs he promised to Edo people, Oba Ewuare is working hard to ensure the establishment of an Export Free Zone in Gelegele which will also create employment for the people of the state. And working towards the same direction, Obaseki returned from China two weeks ago where he met with investors who are willing to come and develop the Export Free zone.
In appreciation of what the governor had done so far, Oba Ewuare 11, last week Friday, paid a royal visit to Governor Obaseki with his senior chiefs and held discussions for several hours where issues that border on security, economy, and employment were tackled.
The only governor who had also enjoyed this royal privilege was the immediate past governor of the state, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, when the father of the current Oba, Oba Erediauwa visited him at Government House as a way of showing support for his administration.
The appointment between the Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare 11 and Governor Godwin Obaseki, was 11am but the Oba was there few minutes before 11am while they both entered into a private meeting which lasted about one and half hours. Those who were present at the historic visit included the Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu, Secretary to the state Government, Osarodion Ogie, Chief of Staff to the Governor, Taiwo Akerele, state chairman of the APC, Anslem Ojezua, former Deputy Governor of the state, Lucky Imasuen,and former Secretary to the state Government, Prof.Julius Ihonvbere.
Ewuare II commends Gov Obaseki
Emerging from the private meeting, Oba Ewuare spoke first informing the crowd that he was impressed with the activities of the governor particularly his efforts in ensuring the realization of his dream, which was the establishment of an Export Free Zone in Gelegele.
His words: “I have been passionate about the export free processing zone. When President Buhari came to visit me at Uselu when I was Ediaken N’Uselu, I mentioned it to him. I repeated it in the coronation speech and then reiterated it when the governor visited me as the Oba of Benin. This is to show how passionate I am about the Export free zone.
“When I was in Rome I tried to bring some investors to Benin, to develop the Gelegele sea port specifically. But I was advised by some professionals that if I focused on the development of Gelegele sea port, the Federal Government would not support it but if I looked towards the development of Export free zone tied to agro allied industries, the government would like it.
So I looked at it and I started working on that ever since and when I came to Nigeria I focused on it. So when I read in the papers that the technical committee has been set up for the development of Gelegele sea port by the state government I was very happy. But I know what the governor wants to do there is not the sea port itself but Export free zone which we want to pursue there.
The Export free zone can also have an airport strip and the possibility of developing power in that area. I want to thank the governor for his quick action in setting up that committee and I believe the chairman knows quite a lot about that port”.
Palace forges partnership with state govt
Giving his royal blessings to Obaseki’s administration, Oba Ewuare 11 declared: “I want to appeal to other members of the government to please support the governor. I want to assure you of the support of the palace. We want to assure you that you have the full support of our ancestors to be where you are. You should feel comfortable in your office.
If you have any issue don’t hesitate to come to me personally as you are already doing and we will always assist your government to succeed. By the grace of God and our ancestors you will succeed in your tenure. We have discussed areas of mutual cooperation where the palace and the state government will cooperate as I mentioned in my speech during inauguration.
Of course the governor being a brilliant economist has highlighted wonderful areas, he is already working hard for the state. I have seen that he is not just a politician, he is a technocrat as he was described”.
Edo will become Nigeria’s economic hub——Obaseki
An elated Obaseki then responded: “No honour can be greater than this when your father decides to greet and honour you and pray for you, you cannot ask for more. I want to thank you our Royal Majesty. We spent quite some time having conversation which dwelt on every issue that was contained in His Royal Majesty’s coronation speech.
For me it was an extension of my campaign manifesto. Following your installation speech, we also realized that Edo state more than any other state in the country, has tremendous advantages that will make it a major economic center in this country. We realize that like Lagos we have the logistic advantage and we also have a very high agricultural potentials unlike Lagos and many other states And one other asset which we have like Lagos which we never really thought about is access to international trade through the Gelegele axis.
And if we are going to re-enact our glory days, it is an asset we cannot continue to ignore and that is why we took steps to make sure that we fast track the process of making Gelegele an industrial and agricultural hub. We were in China to meet some potential investors and the interest was very encouraging.
We met investors who were prepared in putting up a habour, and use the gas available there to generate electricity. We also met investors who have experience in building industrial parks. So we are very optimistic that this will be a reality and we are just anxious that this will happen very soon.
“The issue of CDAs is an issue that we must stem because it will be very difficult and challenging to create 200,000 jobs if we don’t put order in our land administration system in Edo state. We have finalized a draft bill which we are sending to the state House of Assembly. This will criminalize any act by any CDA because the status today does not criminalize the activities of these people because when the people who are affected go to court to seek redress, the matters are treated as civil matters whereas in most cases arms are used to forcefully take over people’s property. S
o the bill will take care of criminal sanctions for those involved in it. We looked at our future, we looked at the current situation we are facing and we are able to craft a budget which we believe is the first step that will take us out of the current economic challenges.
“We have also looked very closely at the issue of governance particularly at the local government level and we have taken very decisive actions to ensure that the menace that had sprung up where people went in the name of government to harass innocent citizens in the name of tax collection and levies which was beginning to have serious impact and consequences on attracting investment into the state had to be stopped.
I made it clear in my new year message that the constitution permits only state actors to collect government revenue because we began to see a very dangerous trend where private people and groups have become a lot more efficient in collecting revenues in the name of the state for themselves and they were becoming a threat to the state itself.
We could not sit back and allow such situation to continue, we had to stop it. We also sent our first bill to the state House of Assembly harmonizing all taxes and levies in the state. I want to assure you that we are very clear, we are very determined in ensuring that Edo state is restored to its pride of place in this country and we become the economic hub which we are naturally destined to be in this country” he stated.