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Making Edo an Economy Hub

By Solomon Idubor

Saturday November 16, was another historic day in the lives of the people of Edo State. It was a day the state successfully transited from one elected Governor to another after eight years of an administration.

It was the day the present administration, led by Mr Godwin Obaseki, was inaugurated as the governor of the Heart Beat of the country.

Indeed, immediately after taking the oath of office, he declared his intention to hit the ground running in delivering on the promises he made to the people of the state during his governorship campaign.

He promised during the campaign to increase the revenue base of the state and also reduce the state dependence on crude oil which is the mainstay of the country’s economy. He said this would be carried out without necessarily increasing taxes.

The aim, according to him, is to build a new Edo State. He promised to make the state an economy hub through increase in Small and Medium Scale businesses, Agricultural activities, expansion in Information and Communication Technology, provision of the right environment for industries to thrive, as well as promote the Ease of Doing business.

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Almost three years into his administration, the governor has Walked- the Talk; he is successfully positioning the state into an economy hub.

Aside improving on the Ease of Doing business, Obaseki provided the leadership needed to bring to reality the plan of establishing a Sea Port in the state. With the design and feasibility studies for the proposed Benin Sea Port concluded, the governor has successfully negotiated for the financing of the soon to take off project.

The potentiality of this project is enormous; it can only be imagined the economy activities and multiplier effect the Benin Sea Port project will have on the state and its people.

Dubbed “Wake and See Governor” he scored another feat by conceptualizing, and again successfully negotiated for the Benin Industrial Park which construction work is billed to commenced by November, the month of the third anniversary of the administration.

To solve the challenges of power supply, his administration also invested heavily in power infrastructure to electrify the state without depending on the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) alone.

Obaseki further said that the state government is also targeting more employment creating opportunities through strategic partnerships and massive investment in agriculture, especially oil palm production where the government has reserved over 200,000 hectares of land for oil palm alone partnering with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and other investors.

Other exciting reforms and initiatives by the government to make the state an industrial hub is the area of transportation, “Edo is a natural transport hub in Nigeria hence we are leveraging on that to engender prosperity for all citizens,” Obaseki stated at a function recently.

In the area of information and communication technology which the governor described as key to development in the 21st century, he has turned the state into the most connected state in terms of bandwidth in Nigeria. He was able to achieve this through partnership with MainOne Cable and Facebook international.

The Chief Executive Officer of MainOne Cable Company, Funke Opeke, said that the investment by Facebook and MainOne in broadband network infrastructure in Edo State is as a result of Governor Godwin Obaseki’s ease of doing business reforms and commitment to boosting productivity through technology.

MainOne has been laying fibre cables across the state since November last year, in what is seen as a major step to firm up the state’s burgeoning technology ecosystem, after the launch of the Edo Innovation Hub.

Opeke said that the leadership in Edo State prioritises technology development, which is why the project was able to scale through in the state.

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According to her, “Our work brings our team in contact with the leadership in many of the states. These particular states have leadership that is promoting the development of technology ecosystems and job creation in their states.

“When we had the opportunity to engage and share with them our capabilities and accomplishments on previous projects in places such as the deployment of fibre infrastructure for Silicon Yaba with CCHub, the deployment of Express Wi-Fi with Tizeti in Lagos as well as our aspirations for pervasive broadband everywhere in Nigeria, they welcomed us to build infrastructure in their states.

“The Edo State government has prioritised technology as one of the cardinal pillars of the ongoing reform agenda in the state, introducing ICT-compliant pedagogy in primary schools; building the Edo Innovation Hub, where school leavers and graduates undergo beginner and advanced training in technology, as well as revamping technical education to increase productivity.

“Governors Godwin Obaseki has identified ICT as critical themes for the transformation of their states and have been supportive of our fibre expansions.”

To provide a conducive environment for businesses to thrive, the administration also embarked on aggressive rehabilitation and reconstruction of roads, especially links roads, across the state.

“We have been able to reduce the cost of building infrastructure across the state, hence we are able to build more with less covering the 18 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the state.”

Obaseki also provided the leadership needed, by mustering the political will to outlaw the “untouchable” Community Development Associations (CDAs) in the state.

“Today in Edo, you can get your Certificate of Occupancy (C-of-O) within 30 days. We have eliminated third parties in land transactions in the state with the Anti-Community Development Association (CDA) law. Today, you can go home and sleep with two eyes closed when you buy land,” he noted.

The government also placed premium in using sports development as part of its reform to transform the state. The Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium is being reconstructed to a world class standard while other sporting facilities are also receiving attention as part of the reform.

The governor has said, with the reconstruction work of the Stadium, the state will soon play host to the World Cup Qualifier of the Super Eagles and also the Falcons.

With other reforms being carried out to promote commerce and increase the revenue base of the state, Obaseki said he is not relenting and will not be distracted by the few who sees the state as the ‘means to their meal ticket’

He has also never believed that the task of achieving his set targets for the state lies on him alone.

“The task ahead, however, is not government’s alone. We are in this together to bring enviable change to Edo State devoid of political, religious or ethnic differences. It is an enormous task and count on your continuous goodwill and support to make Edo the state of our dreams, truly, the Heart Beat of Nigeria,” he had stated in the inaugural address.

Mr. Idubor, a development consultant, writes from Benin

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