HOW THE OBASEKI ADMINISTRATION IS TURNING EDO INTO AN INDUSTRIAL HUB AND MAKING THE STATE AN INVESTMENT DESTINATION THROUGH HIS INNOVATIVE POLICIES AND INSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT STRIDES
Popularly known as the heartbeat of the nation, Edo state is historically an international trading hub and investment destination in West Africa. As far back as the 16th century, Benin had diplomatic relations with Portugal, an offshoot of trade relations with the European powerhouse at the time. It is safe to say that the old Benin Empire, with its paved city streets and world-class craftsmen, has been attracting foreign investment long before the term was even defined as such.
In recent times however the state has seen her economy dwindle to the point where Edo indigenes have gained notoriety for trafficking of young men and women to Europe to engage in criminal activity. This is not unconnected to the fact that the state had seen a decline in investments while existing businesses and industrial enterprises closed shop, with a ripple effect on support businesses.
The administration of “Wake and See Governor” Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, took over the state at a critical the point in time when revenues were in decline due to the collapse of oil prices and Nigeria’s economic recession, and had the herculean task of creating opportunities for the people of the state. The governor had the task of creating opportunities for the youth of the state to be engaged productively back home rather than seeking greener pastures in other climes.
In his quiet revolutionary style, “Governor wake and see” set about his job setting about his task by creating the institutional reforms that would spur investment and also empower citizens of the state to invest and grow their existing businesses. The state keyed into the ease of doing business drive of the federal government and took it a step further by ensuring that key performance indices were set for important agencies to streamline their administrative processes.
A few years back, the global tech leader and now development expert, Bill Gates, had argued that the government of Nigeria needed to prioritize human development if the country was to make any progress. Mr. Gates had posited that the country needed to drive greater investment in health and education as a panacea for economic development. Bill Gates might have been advising the government to look at the example of Edo the state as the Obaseki administration has anchored the longterm competitiveness of the state on a comprehensive reform of education and healthcare delivery to the people of the state.
In the Health they say is wealth and governor Obaseki has taken this statement beyond the realm of theorizing and made it a reality, creating the Edo Health Insurance Scheme and the implementation of the Edo Health Improvement Programme (EdoHIP), which has seen a revamping of the hitherto practically nonexistent primary healthcare system. The Edo BEST has been acknowledged both locally and internationally as the most comprehensive and fast-paced educational reform in the history of Nigeria, having addressed infrastructure and pedagogy in one fell swoop. The Edo Government Science and Technical College has also received a facility overhaul, including a 33kv line from the Azura Power Plant and a 45mbps fiber optic, the system installed to connect the school with the world.
As an experienced international investment banker, Governor Obaseki understood that one of the most important factors of production island and its ease of acquisition and titling is key to attracting productive investment to the state. The state created the Edo Geographic Information System (EDOGIS), with a mandate to consolidate land administration, management, registration and geographical mapping in the state, replacing the old Ministry of Lands. EDOGIS made the process of registration of titles a seamless process, as moved the chunk of the process online and made the charges more transparent, thereby removing much of the corruption associated with land acquisition and titling in the past.
The Obaseki administration was also quick to identify electricity as another major enabler of a better business environment and wasted no time in making unprecedented strides in the sector. The 1billion dollars Azura Power Plant came into the state, while the state government has also entered into a Power Purchase Agreement with the Ossiomo power over the development of a 55 megawatts power plant to serve the Benin City Industrial Zone.
In the beverage manufacturing the sector, Guinness made 8.5billion naira investment in the state, while Nigeria Bottling Company also made the expansion of its investment by about 600million US Dollars. In the cement manufacturing, both the Dangote and BUA groups have also made investments of 1billion and 600million dollars respectively, due in no small measure to the enabling environment created by the visionary Obaseki administration.
The state is on course to become the investment destination of choice over the coming years, as the dividends of the long-term investments in education, health, and infrastructure begin to catalyze into major global and local brands making major commitments of finances and expertise in the state. Indeed the foresight of Governor Obaseki has repositioned Edo state to become a major player in attracting investments and creating job opportunities for her teeming and bustling youthful population.