The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki in a special message on New Year Day assured the good people of Edo State of speedy economic recovery this new year even as he acknowledged that the out gone year ,2016, was essentially a difficult year for many families who have to undergo serious hardship in the face of economic recession being experienced by all Nigerians following years of plundering and profligacy by the Peoples Democratic Party’s 16 wasteful years.
The message of Governor Obaseki was quite reassuring coming at the beginning of a brand new year when Nigerians and indeed Edo people are practically at crossroads as to what would be their fate in 2017 or what steps would they take to get improvement in their economic situation and predicament.
The re-assurance of developing the Agricultural potentials of the state is most welcomed because, Edo State from history is an agricultural state very rich for massive crop production, animal husbandry as well as agro-allied industries. Edo State is one of the few states in Nigeria that the soil does not really need fertilizers for farmers to have bumper harvest even as it is naturally endowed with vast arable lands that can produce enough food to feed its citizens and even for export.
It is also a good news to hear of the big plan by Governor Godwin Obaseki to develop the Gelegele port as the core drive of his administration to open up the sea port potential of the state. It is certainly not the first time a serving chief executive officer would set out to develop the Gelegele port. Former Governor Lucky Igbinedion had made some frantic efforts during his tenure to open up the Gelegele sea shore for harbour and other coastal business activities. It will be good if Chief Lucky Igbinedion could share his experiences with the governor as such learning could be helpful at this time. It is needed so that the current governor could also avoid some pitfall or obstacles that he encountered.
Suffice it to also note that the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration as President at that time did not give the needed support that the state deserved coupled with the continued infighting in the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party as there were so many desperate interests contending for power and control of Edo State at that time.
But this time around, all Edo people must come out to support Governor Godwin Obaseki irrespective of our political divides to achieve this lofty dream. We need the Gelegele port to open up the state for harbour activities and import of essential goods and services. This would create hundreds of thousands of jobs and make many Edo people genuine millionaires and billionaires.
It will be great to have our respected Comrade Adams Oshiomhole throw his weight behind this idea as well because I strongly believe that the governor should not be left alone in his desire to develop the port for all Edo people and our neighbouring states. We need President Muhammadu Buhari to give Edo people the backing and all the support needed to have the port fully operational. We equally need the support of private investors and we are happy that our governor is well connected with several private investors within and outside the country.
Also, the Governor used the occasion of his new year message to announce a ban on all private revenue collection activities in the state.
The governor touched on an issue that has continued to agitate the minds of many Edo people over the years as many have fallen victim of the lawless activities of some individuals who persist in harassing and extorting innocent citizens under the guise of collecting taxes and levies from them. They have remained conduits for hemorrhaging the state of huge revenue .
Besides, many people have been tortured as some of the private tax collectors have their own torture rooms in their hide outs. Some of them even secretly wield arms working in tandem with unscrupulous security officials. Through such cover, they operated Gestapo-like operational bases they call offices. They deprived the local government councils in the state of vital revenue which they hitherto collect as part of their Internally Generated Revenue hence their inability to even meet personnel and overhead costs.
More worrisome is that some of the revenue are also meant for the state government. These private revenue collectors have become billionaires as they remit only a little fraction of their collection to the state government, while they move around as money bags even richer than three local governments put together. Some have amassed so much wealth that they can even challenge government official openly to contest. They use such wealth also to oppress innocent citizens and collect taxes and revenues in very crude manner in most cases.
Government, must make this ban permanent. Never again should these private tax collectors be allowed to rear their ugly heads in the state. They should be drafted into the government farming scheme as better alternative employment. Government should take all such private tax collectors and give them huge land to develop either crops, poultry, piggery, fish ponds or any such profitable business where they can employ the thousands of workers they boast of employing all the time they come on air.
Governor Obaseki should make good his promise that only employees of government would be involved in collecting taxes or levies. As a further plug to the revenue leakage, all revenue must be paid into the government account and all cash collections should be stopped forthwith. This way, the government workers involved in collection of taxes and levies would not have the opportunity of seeing or touching cash let alone embezzling it. That is the way to go for a government that has promised transparency and accountability to the good people of Edo State. This is also how more revenue would be garnered to meet the yearnings and aspirations of the people of Edo.
Mr. Dan Owegie is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Edo State.