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At Oxford Varsity, Obaseki proffers solutions to Nigeria’s current economic impasse

25 May 2024


… says govt has to step back, advance policies to allow people create wealth

… reels achievements in education, infrastructure devt, others

The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has proffered solutions to Nigeria’s economic challenges, noting that it was necessary for the government to step back and advance critical policies that would enable people to create wealth.

The governor said this during his keynote address at the Oxford University Conference 2024, themed, “Charting Africa’s Path Forward: A Journey of Possibilities,” organised by the Oxford University Africa Society, at the Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford, United Kingdom.

Speaking on the theme, “Unlocking Africa’s Potential: The power of public-private partnership,” the governor said he undertook radical changes that have transformed the State’s economy, growing the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to over $26bn in the last seven years.

He said that any government that intends to grow the economy needs to step back and advance policies that would allow the people the opportunity to create wealth.

According to the governor, “How did we grow our economy? We focused on institutions. We focused on governance because that would help us organize ourselves. We reformed our civil service. We cleaned up our processes and digitized the way the government does business. Today, right on my desktop, I have most data on the government available at the click of a button.

“More importantly, we have worked on the human capital – the civil service. We have given them a sense of pride and made them respected. We have ensured that they are well remunerated. A few weeks ago, I announced the highest minimum wage in the country, even that is inadequate.

He added: “We have focused on the bureaucracy. This is not for the benefit of the bureaucracy itself, but to ensure that it helps people realise their potential. Government is supposed to work for us as citizens. To do that, we need to have clarity. Government’s role is not to build the economy. Its role is to help citizens achieve their goals.”

Obaseki noted that his administration placed emphasis on creating the enabling environment for businesses to thrive in the State, noting: “We deployed seamless means of collecting fair taxes from the citizenry. We also undertook the task of repositioning the government to carry out its principal function, which is regulation. Government needs to understand that it needs to step back and create opportunities for people to create wealth and make money.”

Noting that there was a lot of emphasis on human capital development, he said: “It is people that make things happen; the government's responsibility is to focus on the people and key to this is education.

“When we came into government in Edo State, we understood that it was not all about schooling. Education is not just about schooling, but learning. So we focused deliberately on foundational literacy and numeracy. If I have $100 to spend on education, I will spend $40 on basic education. We have focused on basic education in the last seven years and you can see the transformation in the kids. The children in Edo today learn 70 to 80 percent as much as their peers in Britain or America.

“Usually, everyone got an education for the certificates or to be employed. But we felt that was not right. Our people need to get educated to make them useful to themselves and the society. They need to be able to employ and sustain themselves.”

The governor also said his administration focused on remediation of the vocational education system, which had been broken and that as at January 2017, the rot had led to an exodus of over 30,000 youths who were waiting in Libya to cross over to Europe, according to data from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

“It was a humanitarian crisis. Young people wanted to stay anywhere else but home. They had to travel. As a result, we were top of the list in human trafficking and irregular migration. That was a signal. We had to support them and get the data on why they were leaving. The data showed that the education system had been broken and had to be fixed, which is what we have done,” he added.

The governor also said that he had to focus on providing key infrastructure to drive growth, focusing on roads and bridges, energy and digital infrastructure, which were critical to expanding the state’s economy.

According to him, “We are right at the centre of the country. We are the cheapest location to generate electricity because we have both the transmission and gas grids running through the State. Today, we supply close to 13 percent of the total electricity in Nigeria. Most importantly, we have onshore gas and have attracted investment in electricity generation.

“We have Independent Power Plants (IPPs) running in the State. Also, in the last three years, we have built almost 2000km of fibre optic cable infrastructure running through the State. We are currently building an additional 300km of fibre optic cable infrastructure to connect schools and primary healthcare centres.”

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