My dear good people of Edo State, I am delighted to celebrate the 63rd Independence anniversary of our dear country, Nigeria, with you.
As we reflect on the progress we have made as a nation, it is important to pause and ponder on our collective journey as Edo people and as a nation.
It is important for us to celebrate our achievements, acknowledge our challenges, and reaffirm our commitment towards ensuring a more united, progressive and prosperous Nigeria.
Ours is a story of courage, resilience, sacrifice, and the indomitable spirit of a people. Our founding fathers, who were driven by a vision of a united and prosperous country, fought tirelessly to lay the foundation of our dear nation, liberating us from the shackles of colonialism and instituting our long march to nationhood and greatness.
Although we have recorded many successes in these past 63 years, it is doubtful if we are where our founding fathers anticipated.
The last two decades in particular have seen us grapple with multiple challenges occasioned by economic, security, political and ethnic pressures. However, our enduring faith and belief in the unity and progress of our country has endured, keeping us together as one nation.
I must commend the dogged and indefatigable spirit of our people, who in the face of many daunting difficulties continue to slug it out daily to earn a living, especially amid the current economic realities.
As a government, we are aware of the very dire and difficult economic and social challenges that you currently experience, which has inflicted hardship and suffering on the people, especially the poor and vulnerable.
We are taking critical steps within the limits of the resources available to us as a state by initiating and implementing policies and programmes to respond to the recent fuel subsidy removal policy by the Federal Government.
We have introduced free transport service for passengers on all routes operated by the state-owned Edo City Transport Service (ECTS), among many support programmes that the Edo State Government has put in place to reduce the challenge, sufferings and exorbitant cost of living faced by Edo people.
We are glad with the salutary impact of this initiative which covers 13 intra-city routes and several intercity city routes daily, covering towns and villages within the State’s three senatorial districts. Over three hundred thousand residents have benefited from the scheme in the first two weeks of the palliative programme, while we expect over 1,500,000 residents are projected to benefit in the initial two months of the free transport initiative. We have placed new orders for additional CNG-run buses to increase the fleet
We also launched a 24-hour free Wi-Fi service in various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and other public places in the State to provide unlimited internet access to workers and other residents to enable them work effectively and efficiently from selected public spaces.
We have begun reviewing the minimum wage of our workers which is currently N40,000 (the highest in the country), with a view to increasing it as soon as the Federal Government revises the Revenue Allocation Formula.
We will continue to ensure prompt and diligent payment of salaries and pensions, enhance the work environment and sustain the use of technology to improve efficiency and ease the work process to ensure better service delivery to Edo people.
In light of the challenging structure of the Nigerian economy, we are doing our best to deliberately create the enabling environment for new businesses to thrive and to attract investments into Edo State.
We are transitioning Edo from a civil service-dominated State to one that is attracting manufacturing, commercial agricultural concerns, service and technology companies, real estate investors and several SMEs among others.
We have made significant progress with the Benin Port Project, with the emergence of a preferred bidder, Motal Engil, who will soon commence work.
We have taken bold steps to transform Edo into an industrial hub, with the successful establishment of two modular refineries that are currently refining crude oil.
The refineries are the 6000bpd facility operated by the Edo Refinery and Petrochemical Company (ERPC) in Ologbo, Ikpoba Okha Local Government Area and the 2500bpd Duport Refinery run by Duport Refinery Company Limited in Egbokor, Orhionmwon Local Government Area of the State.
Benefitting from our government’s business-friendly reforms, two ethanol plants in the State are in their various stages of completion and are set to be commissioned before the end of our administration next year.
The plants include the Greenhill Ethanol Plant, sited in Ologbo, Ikpoba Okha and the Dufil Ethanol Plant in the Ovia area of the State.
We are also encouraging investments in the electricity sector to grow our economy. Apart from our investment in the Azura 450MW and support for the 95MW Ossiomo Power projects, we have also passed a law setting up the Edo State Electricity Commission.
The purpose of this law is to establish an independent Electricity market in Edo State. It is expected that this will attract investors to generate and distribute electricity within Edo State, particularly to underserved communities.
In Education, we are implementing the most ambitious reform in public education, which has been acknowledged by the World Bank and the World Economic Forum as novel in tackling learning poverty.
Our healthcare reforms have ensured the running of a vibrant Health Insurance Scheme and the reform of Primary Healthcare System to ensure affordable and efficient service that cuts out-of-pocket spending.
Today, Edo is the most connected State digitally in Nigeria and operates the most digitized civil and public service in the country, with fibre-optic internet cables running across all the local government areas in the state.
The State runs an e-governance system and is the first State in the country to have entirely shifted to a digital mode of administration.
As a government, we will continue to pursue bold and transformative reforms and programmes to place our State on the path of sustainable economic growth and development, while strengthening the foundations of our society by transforming our institutions, curbing corruption, reducing the leakages in public resources and building the capacity of our people.
In spite of all our efforts to improve the wellbeing of Edo people, they still face intense hardship due to the floundering National economy. The staggering inflation, which continues to sour and the massive devaluation of the Naira, is pushing more people into poverty.
About two years ago, I had warned against the mismanagement of the economy and its concomitant effect on the value of our currency. Refusal to heed the call has led us to this dire situation.
Severally, I have raised alarm about the very poor state of federal roads in Edo State. The presence extensive federal road network in Edo which should have been a blessing, is now wrecking our economy because these roads are in a state of massive disrepair.
This has led to severe pressure on our State roads, which are now falling apart as most of them were not designed to handle the amount of tonnage they are now forced to carry.
To pull our country from the brink of economic collapse, we must now begin to take sincere and honest steps to stimulate economic growth, which will enable our people lead more fulfilling and happier lives.
One way out of our current crises is for the federal government to urgently consider devolving authority and move more resources to the state and local governments. For example, if authority to manage federal roads and resources were devolved, the constituent units will be empowered to intervene in these federal roads that have failed across the Edo State.
As we celebrate our 63rd Independence today, I call on all Edo people and Nigerians to stand united, regardless of our political, tribal, ideological, and religious differences and work together towards building a more prosperous and progressive Edo State and Nigeria.
We must also continue to pray and call for good and responsible Governance from our leaders. Together, we can overcome our present socio-economic challenges and place our country on the path of sustainable economic growth and social development, ensuring that the labour of our heroes’ past is truly not in vain.
Happy Independence Day to all Nigerians
God bless Edo State and Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Governor, Edo State