By Babajide Komolafe
DEVELOPMENT experts predicate a robust and sustainable relationship with the World Bank and its development partners on a regime of strict adherence to rules and terms guiding the execution of developmental projects, transparency, accountability and a preference for projects that can pull the largest number of people out of poverty, as against frivolous political projects.
For many states and even countries, adhering to these World Bank terms is a tall order, as project impact must be measured, contract terms such as cost, cycle and funding are set in stone while the financial books are open for transparency.
What Edo is doing right
Edo State has prudently applied its receipts, portfolios as well as technical support from the bank, which account in part, for the erosion control projects, road projects, sanitation, water, agricultural and policy reforms in institutions spread across the state, designed to engender inclusive growth.
Specifically, the Bretton Woods institution is impressed with the number of people that have been moved out of poverty, projects’ impact on the environment, reduction in child and maternal mortality figures, gender mainstreaming amongst other considerations, that underly the World Bank’s partnership with various states and countries.
According to the bank’s Governance Global Practice, countries and states are encouraged “to build strong institutions and prosper by creating an environment that facilitates private sector growth, reduces poverty, delivers valuable services and earns the confidence of their citizens – a relationship of trust that is created when people can participate in government decision-making and know their voices are heard.”
Attesting to these development paradigms as basis for the vigorous relationship between the bank and the Governor Godwin Obaseki led administration, World Bank Senior Director, Governance Global Practice, Debbie Wentzel, told the Edo State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki when she led the bank’s delegation on a business visit to Edo State recently, that the bank is willing to consolidate its relationship with Edo State in improving her governance structures for better results.
Wentzel was accompanied on the visit by Practice Manager, Hisham Waly; Lead Project Specialist, Chief Bayo Awosemusi; Senior Public Sector Specialist, Ikechukwu Nweje; Senior Operations Officer, John Paul Ngebeh; and Procurement Specialist, Sunday Osoba.
“We are hoping to work with the state to support her in improving governance structures. We want to see how the World Bank can support the state to get better results. We will be looking at building the state’s transparency, economic recovery; revenue collection and creating an enabling environment where private sector can thrive better,” she said at the visit.
Edo-Azura Power Project
Before Wentzel’s visit, Country Director of World Bank, Nigeria and Co-ordinating Director for Regional Integration Programme in West Africa, Rachid Benmessaoud, led the bank’s delegation on a visit to the governor at the Government House, Edo State.
He was accompanied on the visit by the Country Manager, International Finance Corporation (IFC), Nigeria Office, Eme Essien; Programme Leader, Muna Salih Meky; Programme Leader, Kofi Nouve; Lead Procurement Specialist, Bayo Awosemusi; Senior Private Sector Specialist, Feyi Boroffice; Senior Agriculture Economist, Adetunji A. Oredipe; and Senior Operations Officer, John Paul Ngebeh, amongst others.
According to Benmessaoud: “Obaseki has established a flagship effort that has resulted in the Edo- Azura Power Plant where he brought the World Bank Group together and we are ready to replicate the model and build more Azura projects in Nigeria and West Africa.”
He explained that the strong partnership between Edo State Government and the World Bank is highly cherished by his institution, and commended the insistence of the Obaseki administration on transparency and accountability. “I want to assure the governor that the World Bank will help in addressing the human capital needs by pulling her resources together to support the Edo State government,” he pledged.
Visit of the Eleven World Bank Executives
Benmassoud’s visit follows the recent visit of 11 Executive Directors of the Bretton Woods institution, who were in the state for on-the-spot assessment of the bank-sponsored developmental projects in the state. The May visit of the bank’s eleven wise men and women to Edo State, according to those keeping steps with the activities of the bank, shows its unprecedented interest in the Edo economy.
The 11 Executive Directors – considered to be an interestingly large delegation – took time to assess the performance of the state on key development indicators, and reviewed activities to determine the feasibility of extending more support to some of the programmes funded by the bank in the state.
In the World Bank delegation were the Executive Directors for Switzerland, France, Italy, Peru, Germany, South Africa (representing Angola, Nigeria and South Africa), Burkina Faso (representing Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa), Zimbabwe (representing Anglophone Sub-Saharan Africa), United Kingdom and Indonesia.
Tracing the relationship between him (from his days as the head of the planning team under former governor Adams Oshiomhole) Governor Obaseki said: “We have gone through a learning curve with the World Bank, a journey which started over nine years ago and we want to drive this down to the local government councils so that every individual in the state will feel the impact of our government at all levels.”
He explained that at the state level, several reforms of key institutions have changed work culture for better outcomes, and added: “Our institutions are working at the state level and we want to work at strengthening the local councils.”
The governor said that his administration also plans to work with the World Bank in strengthening governance-support structures for optimal performance and deepen the deployment of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the state.
He maintained that what the state needs from the World Bank now is ‘More Knowledge and less Cash’ so that the state will optimise her resources for the benefit of all. Obaseki noted that the several visits of the World Bank officials lend credence to his administration’s “commitment to bringing development to our people in the state, with the support of our partners,” and assured that Edo State under his watch places high premium on the sanctity and the integrity of partnerships, contracts as well as an open and transparent process.
“Development partners like the World Bank, operate in an environment where stakeholders abide by rules governing the partnerships, and in which input, output and outcomes are measured from time to time. The World Bank will not take you seriously if all you do is to award ‘political contracts,” he added.
Some of the bank-sponsored projects include the erosion control projects under the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Project (NEWMAP), Edo State Employment and Expenditure for Result (SEEFOR), covering road projects; agriculture (FADAMMA); water, sanitation, and other forms of assistance, which the governor said have accelerated development in a number of rural communities in the state.
Edo as model for other states
Speaking at a lunch for the World Bank officials in Government House, Benin City, World Bank Executive Director for Angola, Nigeria and South Africa sub-groups, Ms Bongi Kunene, said that with the successes recorded in executing major infrastructural and social development projects in Edo State, the state has become a model for development financing at the sub-national level in developing countries.
Ms Kunene disclosed that the Bretton Woods institution was impressed with the level of work done through its various projects as well as the partnership that birthed the Edo-Azura Power Project. Noting that Edo State was among the two sub-national governments that accessed its budget support instruments, she stressed that the World Bank was willing to “partner the state on future projects, as long as the projects are in line with the Bank’s focus.”
On the Edo-Azura Power Project, she said, “The project is transformational. It gives us a scope of what we can do together. We are delighted to see solutions.”
Showcasing the achievements of his administration in agriculture to his guests, Obaseki said that one of his goals is to replace crude oil with oil palm, as aggressive effort is being made to make Edo State the oil palm hub in the country and beyond. He highlighted some of the challenges faced by his government, including illegal migration and human trafficking, explaining that 60 per cent of returnees to Nigeria are from Edo State.
According to him, “Trafficking is high because the people are very aspirational and are prepared to take the risk of embarking on the dangerous journey. If they can turn such zeal to learning a skill and contribute their quota to development, the nation will be a better place for us all”.
Obaseki further said that in the state alone, about 3,300 people have returned home after a painful experience in Libya and elsewhere and added that his administration has been reintegrating them into the society through a bouquet of initiatives including creating jobs, mentoring, technical and vocational education; skill development programme, amongst others.
Edo State is clearly not the highest recipient of crude oil revenue in the Niger Delta states and is behind Lagos and Kano states in internally generated revenue figures.
The World Bank’s interest in the development of the state which has heightened in recent times, is a reflection of the state’s commitment to inclusive governance, ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity through the reform of critical public institutions that will support private sector growth.