For a place touted to be a Civil Service state, nobody bargained for the magnitude of what is taking place in Edo. The present administration led by Governor Godwin Obaseki, also known as the ‘wake and see governor’, has beaten the imagination beyond slogan.
Enter ‘ALAGHODARO 2017’ Edo state investment Summit, with theme Envisioning the future. ‘Alaghodaro’ is a Bini word, in Edo language which simply means ‘progress’. To say the name of the summit was apt is an understatement.
The media hype leading to Edo state Alaghodaro Investment Summit was such that only the best was expected. Everyone could feel the train of progress coming, and quite a number got ready to join this moving train, by way of participation at one level or the other. That is not to say some people didn’t have mixed feelings about it. As a matter of fact, some felt it was one of those usual gatherings where politicians make empty promises , and raise people’s hopes only to dash them the moment they turn around.
Some expected the usual jamboree of past administrations where resources that could have been channeled towards meaningful development to improve the livelihood of Edo people are wasted on fun fair, all in the name of ‘one year in office’.
No, it was completely different. Governor Obaseki being an astute technocrat, with a tenacious will to lead the state on consolidated progress, decided to take things to a whole new level, via investment summit; a complete departure from the past.
People from all walks of life attended this summit, but note worthy were, Okechukwu Enelama, Minister for Trade, Industry and Investment, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari, the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Prof Yemi Osinbanjo, Representative of the Senate President, Senator Francis Alimikhena, The Benin Monarch, His Royal Majesty, Oba Ewuare II, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, immediate past governor of Edo state, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, former Governor of Cross River state, Donald Duke. Also in attendance were Minister of State for Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, Alhaji Aliko Dangote of Gangote Group, the Chairman and CEO of BUA Group, Alhaji Abdulsamad Rabiu, representatives of Service Chiefs, the Iyase of Benin Kingdom, Chief Sam Igbe , other palace chiefs, and traditional rulers from other parts of the state.
Of course all top government functionaries at the state level were present, including the Deputy Governor, Rt.Hon. Philip Shuaibu, Secretary to the State Government(SSG), Osarodion Ogie Esq., Prof Julius Ihonvbere, Chairman Strategic Planning Team, Members of Edo state House of Assembly, the Head of Service Edo state, Mrs Gladys Idahor, Chief of Staff to the Governor, Taiwo Akerele, all Commissioners, all Permanent Secretaries .
From the private sector, there were quite a number of participants and partners, who to brainstorm and show case their products and services at the summit. These include Okomu Oil, Sterling Bank, Access Bank, Dangote group, Guinness, Azura, Banwo and Ighodalo, Templers, BUA Group, Afrinvest, Vatebra, Raycon, Dana Air, Kia, Airtel to mention a few.
In his welcome address, Governor Godwin Obaseki said it was an opportunity to review achievements with promises made when he was being sworn into office. He said in the last one year, there has been a retooling and capacity building for civil servants, the revamping of Benin Technical College to train qualified artisans who will create jobs for themselves and others, the transformation of the justice system in Edo state by investing in technology to fast-track the dispensation of justice, transformation of the State Universal Basic Education Board by weeding out corruption and indolence, the Azura Power project to be completed next year, adding that the reforms of his administration will leapfrog Edo into the future.
Governor Obaseki also revealed that one of the events of the summit was signing of a Memorandum of Understanding(MoU) between the United Nations Training Institute and Edo state government.
According to him, “we are proud of our progressive heritage, our greatest asset in Edo state is the quality of our human capital resulting from our long history of enterprise; at the moment in Edo state the people truly lead, we run accountable government”.
Governor Obaseki who said “Alaghodaro is progress and progressive future”, remarked that the state House of Assembly has been solidly behind his administration, noting that “at the moment, in Edo state, the people truly lead”.
He didn’t fail to acknowledge the presence of some members of the opposition party, who honoured government invitation to the summit; admitting that but for the useful and constructive criticisms of the opposition over the past one year, his administration may have slipped along the way, and derailed from the path of progress that has been chosen.
In his welcome address, Chairman, Alaghodaro 2017 Edo state Investment Summit, Mr Asue Ighodalo, said over the years, Nigeria has ranked low in competitiveness and ease of doing business, but that the summit was geared towards moving the nation to being the global best in world class status, with Edo state taking the lead. He enjoined all participants to engage productively over the next two days; and that is exactly what happened.
Declaring the Summit open, President Muhamadu Buhari who was represented by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr Okechukwu Enelamah, said Envisioning the future is a necessary first step towards the much desired great Nigeria, just as he urged other state governors to follow Obaseki’s leadership model that places high premium on industrialization.
He said reforms to ease the business climate has brought the needed change to registering businesses, issuance of visa on arrival and tax collection.
President Buhari who commended the presence of the private sector at the summit, said there is no way things can happen at the centre, without bringing it to the sub-national level. He remarked that Governor obaseki was bringing his energy, network and intellect to bear.
It was also revealed at the Summit that Edo state is Nigeria’s best kept secret.
Dr David Ladipo, MD of Azura Power said investors seek environments where policies are continuous and consistent, which they have found in Edo state. According to him, “investors prefer doers and not just visioneers”.
Dr Graham Hefer of OKOMU Oil, attested to the fact that Edo state has created the enabling environment, as reflected in their production volume since Governor Obaseki’s administration came on board.
The CEO of Notore Chemical Industries, Onajite Okoloko stressed that Edo state has everything a serious investor needs- access to the Lagos market, access to raw materials, availability of the right human capital and the right weather that can support agriculture.
Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man said ‘Edo is sitting on gold’ owing to the presence of abundant resources. He disclosed that a single agricultural product exported from the state in 2016, fetched millions of dollars. While he urged the state government to focus on its area of comparative advantage, such as agriculture and agro-processing, he declared that Edo state is the perfect place to be at the fore front of Nigeria’s drive for economic diversification.
In a documentary shown at the summit, on Edo Before, Now and into the Future; the Deputy Governor, Rt.Hon. Philip Shuaibu, said Edo sate is moving from a civil service state to an industrialized one. Secretary to Edo state government, osarodion Esq., said the major focus is on building the economy of the state, by creating the enabling environment through sanity.
Prof Julius Ihonvbere, Chairman Strategic Planning Team Edo state said government has provided the enabling environment through policies, revamping of the taxation system and institutional reforms.
At a plenary session on Institutional Reforms titled “Doing Things Differently”, which was moderated by Ifueko Omoigui Okauru, Prof. Oladapo Afolabi, former Head of Service of the Federation, stressed that for any reform to yield the desired result, the buy-in of the political class and the common people must be secured and sustained over time. He opined that the reforms should focus on areas that will mostly impact on the wellbeing of the people, as sustainable institutional reform is people-driven. This he says will ensure the reform is placed in the heart of the people. He urged the state government to be continually responsive to the forces of change, and carry the civil service along in its reform programmes to ensure their success.
Investment experts and heads of federal government regulatory agencies proffered solutions to the bureaucratic bottlenecks in government that are hindering business growth in Nigeria.
On day two, the high point of the summit saw the Vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo perform the groundbreaking ceremony of the N200 billion Benin Industrial Park at Iyanomo, in Ikpoba- Okha LGA of Edo state.
The Benin Monarch, His Royal Majesty, Omo N’oba N’Edo, Uku Akpolokpolor, Oba Ewuare II who was present with his chiefs and Enigies , took part in the unveiling of the plaque alongside the vice president.
Speaking at the event, Prof Osinbajo commended Governor Obaseki for the huge public-private investment initiative saying “this is what the country has been waiting for to take us to the height that we desire. Several other countries have embarked on this line of industry and succeeded. If we put in the same effort as them, we will also excel”
He further said “this strategy has been adopted in some Asian countries and they have achieved economic growth, diversified their economy, and are now exporters of consumer goods”.
He expressed optimism that the industrial park would not only lead to job creation but bring down the cost of goods and services in the state and country, change the face of the Nigerian economy and unleash its industrial potential. He assured of the federal government’s readiness to support the project and see to its completion.
It is believed that the industrial park will create 170,000 direct and indirect jobs and contribute significantly to the country’s manufacturing sector.
Still on day two of the Summit, at the plenary for “Financing the Vision”, it was noted that government has two currencies – cash and guarantee. Uche Orji, MD/CEO, Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, submitted that sanctity of contracts will boost investor confidence and accountability on the part of government to the people, as crucial to investment drive.
On capital for business, in addition to ensuring that contracts are sacrosanct, Uche Orji urged Edo state to create a fund that will guarantee private sector investment. He equally said the only way to access the informal sector is to organize them by providing infrastructures needs to boost their economic activities. “Government is a combination of individual household choices we make, credibility is all about accountability and discipline” he said.
Medium and Small Scale Enterprises(MSMEs), were identified as the engine room for growth, and the need to create a trust fund investment and support of MSMEs was stressed.
To ensure that only investors with bankable projects or ideas are guaranteed, it was suggested that the state government should design an independent body-a non-partisan entity with legal backing to guarantee investors.
At the session on ‘Edo creative Industry’, led by former Governor of Cross River state, Donald Duke, Edo state government was charged to invest in theatres, incubation centres for creative people and put in place the right policies to drive her prestigious art and craft sector. Citizens were asked to disabuse their minds from seeing artifacts as idols.
Donald Duke submitted that Edo state should put in place the structures for harnessing the socio-economic gains accruable from the tourism activities in the state, being the gateway state to the south-east, South-west, South- South and Northern part of the country.
In an interview, former Governor, Adams oshiomhole said it is a continuation of policies and programs of past administration with a new vigor and determination focused on building the economy of the state.
Olumide Akpata, Partner, Templers cited lack of policies infrastructure, access to funding, as the challenges facing the creative industry, while Film producer, Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen, urged the state government to create a film corporation to coordinate the activities of film makers in the state.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, noted that Edo was one of the states Nigeria is looking forward to lead the way in transformation of economic fortunes.
At the plenary on “Edo Agro-industrial Revolution and Agribusiness Transformation”, Felix Nwanbuko, Chairman, PRESCO Plc , Rasheed Sarumi of SARO Agro Services and others made a call for more enabling environment, opening up of space for small holder farmers , access to sufficient funds towards research and removal of bottlenecks, to enable all reap the benefits of the sector.
On the issue of Manufacturing, security, power, multiplicity of taxes and lack of social responsibility on part of corporate organisations were identified as key areas to be addressed. Streamlining of taxation was noted as needful.
On the Basic education and Technical and Vocational Education (TVET) plenary session, it was agreed that education is the foundation for the future, neither is it cheap. The importance of scalable technology in delivering education was identified as well as the need to tackle it with a futuristic approach. The introduction of informal and technical schools for those who can’t go through universities or other higher institutions was noted and the need to equip teachers with the right tools was key in all these. The right passion for the work, to impact the children and students positively and effectively was also noted. Raising platforms for financing these innovations was not left out.
Engaging parents and community in education was highlighted and it was stressed that TVET should not be seen as a second tier system of education, but rather as skill learning. These skills must be market oriented and demanded.
In the Health plenary session which was led by The Minister of State for Health, Dr Ehanire Osagie, there was a debate on health as a business or industry versus health as a service to be rendered by government, as well as the need to fuse tourism and health care. It was submitted that the burden of provision of adequate health should be shared between government and private sector and civil society. The need for an effective insurance health care scheme that responds to the under privileged as well as the place of technology in the whole system was addressed. The place of traditional herbal practice and need for multi financing mix for the health sector were not left out.
Receiving the report of all the plenary sessions held during the summit, on behalf of Governor Godwin Obaseki, the Deputy Governor, Rt. Hon. Philip Shuaibu, said some of the recommendations were already being implemented by Edo state government, as they form part of the template the administration is working with. He equally promised that the remaining recommendations will be adopted by the state government.
Sons and daughters of Edo state in the Diaspora, also came for the summit, to see where they can fit into the plan to industrialize the state.
The events were capped with a cultural gala night on Saturday and a thanksgiving service on Sunday, at the Samuel Obgemudia Stadium in Benin city.
Governor Obaseki’s focus on institutional reform, environmental sustainability, infrastructural development and economic revolution shows that the administration is indeed very ambitious .
It is hoped that in no distant time, if not almost immediately, Edo state will begin to count the gains of this summit to the benefits of all, by way of adequate health care for all delivered through modern technology, improved world class educational standards, robust economy that is all inclusive and private sector-driven, Agro-Industrial revolution and Agribusiness Transformation, complete industrialization and jobs for all, to mention a few.