I am delighted to celebrate this New Year Day with you, my dear good people of Edo State. The outgone year 2022 came with a lot of promises but it also had major challenges. The economic difficulties, insecurity and political upheavals in Nigeria and globally caused great disruptions.
But despite it all, we are grateful to God Almighty for sparing us and giving us the wisdom and wherewithal to see the end of the year and the beginning of a new one.
In spite of all that happened last year, I am inspired by the dogged and indefatigable spirit of our people, who in the face of daunting difficulties continue to slug it out daily in the rain and in the sun to earn a living for their families.
In the last six years, we have vigorously pursued plans to restore Edo to its lost glory and provide improved living conditions for our people. I can confidently say, my dear good people of Edo State, that we have now began to see the results of the foundation we have laid.
The growing global tensions and disruptions in the world’s economy, coupled with the mismanagement of our national economy has had severe impact on the fiscal position of sub-nationals and the personal finances of citizens. As a result, Nigerians have had to deal with galloping inflation, volatile exchange rates and increased insecurity all of which have worsened the living conditions particularly of the poor in our country.
In spite of these national challenges, in Edo State, we have been able to engender economic growth and have made decent efforts to improve the quality of life of our people. We have spent ample time laying the foundation for our economic resurgence and with our far-reaching reforms, we have ensured that we are in a better position to confront the challenges that lie ahead.
Some of the efforts include increasing minimum wage to N40,000 (the highest in the country), regular payment of salaries and pension, improving the work environment, introducing technology to improve efficiency and easing the work process to ensure better service delivery to citizens by government.
We have intentionally focused on expanding our economic base by creating the enabling environment for business to thrive and attract investments into Edo State. We are transitioning Edo from a civil service dominated State to one which is attracting manufacturing, commercial agricultural concerns, service and technology companies, real estate and several SMEs, among others.
Through a mix of reforms in revenue collection and land management, we have curtailed the excesses of non-state actors, who had hitherto caused untold hardship for the people. We have cleared touts from our roads and are fighting land-grabbers so that there is sanity in public places as well as transparency and certainty in land transactions.
In the new year, we will continue with the reforms of the civil and public service, improve work conditions and train more workers to perform better. We are computerizing and digitizing government and implementing e-government, which will hopefully make me the last governor to operate a manual public service in Edo State.
Through the Edo State Basic Education Sector Transformation (EdoBEST 2.0) reforms, we are disarticulating Junior from Senior secondary schools and improving their curriculum and pedagogy in line with the success archived in EdoBEST 1.0. To ensure a viable and productive youth-led economy, we will be undertaking more reforms to make Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) schools better, and also to refurbish and open more of such schools across the 18 Local Government Areas of the State.
This year we will continue our emphasis in building the capacity of our young population to find quality jobs in areas like agriculture, health services and technology. Hence The Edo State College of Agriculture, Iguoriakhi will take in its first set of students before September this year, while the Edo State School of Health Technology will be rebuilt to meet global standards just like we did with our School of Nursing Sciences.
Quite a number of jobs are currently being created from several opportunities in the state’s agricultural sector such as the Edo State Oil Palm Programme (ESOPP), our cassava to ethanol initiatives, forestry plantations and also in poultry production. These and many more areas will contribute significantly to our Gross Domestic Product.
In 2023, we intend to exploit the advantage which Edo has in electricity with the establishment of Edo State Electricity Commission. We will be creating a vibrant electricity market in the state to allow and encourage investors to invest in generation and distribution of grid and off-grid electric power, thus expanding our existing investments in Azura Power and Ossiomo Power Project.
We are grateful to God Almighty that we are enjoying another incident-free Yuletide just as we did last year. The improved security in the state has been made possible largely because of the collaboration between federal and local security agencies and operatives.
With the Police Training School, in Ogida and the Forward Operating Base FOB being built for the Nigerian Army at Ehor, we will train our State Security Network and accommodate soldiers that will defend our forest assets and also protect our highways, such as the Benin-Auchi Expressway.
The preparation of the Edo State 30-year development plan, Benin Urban Plan and Edo Regional Plans are progressing well. I implore citizens to cooperate with the enumerators who we are sending out to obtain the information and data which we require to finalize these master plans. We have also set up a New Town Development Agency to plan and layout several new towns across the state. In all of these projects, there will be extensive stakeholder consultations and engagements.
The launch of the tourism masterplan has been well received by industry players and we are indeed impressed with the coming of big-ticket investors in the creative and entertainment sectors in the state. The construction of the Benin Cultural District, which is an integral part of the tourism masterplan, has commenced. We have secured the support of international partners for the cultural district and archeological works are currently on-going, which will make Edo a key site for global culture and tourism in the new year and beyond.
We are currently rolling out the Edo Resident Identity Card, which will provide a data of citizens to make it easier for government to plan and provide Services across the state. With the card which is linked to the National Identity Card, not only will we have data on residents and their core demographics, we will also be able to fast track delivery of programmes across health, education and other social services to the people.
This new year is an election year, when we will go to the polls for the general elections to elect a new president and legislators into our national and state assemblies to superintend the affairs of our nation for another four years. This election will have reverberating impact on our lives and the future of our country. Therefore, I charge everyone to come out and cast your vote for your desired candidate(s) in a peaceful and orderly manner.
As I end my New Year Speech, I wish to make a passionate appeal to my dear citizens of Edo State. Our priority project this year is to CLEAN and GREEN Edo. In order to make our state more attractive and to stem the serious environmental challenges such as deforestation and erosion, we will be reeling out policies, regulations and legislations to ensure that every citizen and household in Edo State participates in cleaning and greening our dear state.
I am indeed grateful to all Edo people, at home and in the Diaspora, for the unflinching support and faith in our government and the abiding trust in our policies, reforms and programmes to make Edo State Great Again. In this new year, I restate my commitment to work for the interest of the majority, and not the few in Edo State, at all times and to the best of my ability.
I heartily appreciate the Federal Government and our development partners who continue to stand by us. We are grateful to His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, the Oba of Benin and the traditional institution; the judiciary; the legislature; the media and civil society; the organised private sector; our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora, the public servants; students; farmers; market women and artisans, amongst others.
As we begin a new year, I urge you to join hands with government in the development of your communities and play your part in Making Edo Great Again.
Long live Edo State.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
I wish you a very happy and prosperous 2023.
Governor, Edo State