…dazzles investors, guests at BusinessDay CEO Forum with progress of Benin Port, Enterprise Park, others
The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, on Thursday, at the BusinessDay CEO Forum, showcased investment opportunities in Edo as well as the impacts of the public-private partnerships that have translated to the remarkable transformation of various sectors of the State’s economy including education, agriculture, healthcare, public service, security and infrastructure, among others.
Speaking at the event in Lagos with the theme, “Charting a Course to Growth and Development,” Obaseki said reforms and projects by the government over the past six years have transformed the State into Nigeria’s emerging industrial, commercial, and investment hub.
According to him, “Edo State is an exemplar for Nigeria. It’s the emerging industrial, commercial and investment hub of Nigeria.”
The governor noted, “We have laid our policies on investment growth and industrialization on a few key pillars. First, we are ensuring that we focus on the engine of government, the bureaucracy, because if the government doesn’t work, the economy will not work.
“We have also focused on developing talents because it's all about people. The economy cannot run on its own as people have to drive the economy. We have focused on policies that support businesses and are providing the needed infrastructure with our emphasis being digital infrastructure. We are also creating an environment of law, order, and security.”
He continued: “In the last six years, we have essentially tried to rebuild our bureaucracy and re-engineer our civil service. What is unique is that we have tried to use technology for governance. I have made a promise that I will be the last governor in Edo that will work with paper files. So, we are moving the whole platform digitally.
“We have focused on training our people with a priority on how we recruit. We have tried to depoliticize recruitment, making sure that the core of the civil service is now recruited based on merit. Currently, any graduate who has a first-class degree anywhere in the world has automatic employment in the Edo civil service.
“We have also focused on business-friendly policies, taking advantage of the Federal Government’s social investment tax credit and a few of our partners have come to invest in building roads and others. We have created a tourism master plan and today, we're working on a 30-year development plan for Benin City and a regional plan for the State.”
On reforms in the education sector, the governor said, “For us, it is about people, focusing on talents. We realised that foundational learning was very weak and we saw this when we had to deal with the issue of human trafficking. We have invested hugely in the past six years to strengthen foundational learning because without that you cannot build anything else in terms of developing talents.
“We are supporting vocational education because there is a large population of youths who have fallen through the cracks but they are very talented. So, we are partnering with various companies in the area of technology. We have a programme with Decagon to train youths on software development and engineering.”
“We are also very big on technology. We are working with companies like MaineOne and others on fibre optic connectivity and today I believe Edo is the most connected state digitally in Nigeria.
“By October this year, we would have completed 1600kms of fibre optic connections to all local government areas, and by the first quarter of next year, we expect to construct another 300km in all our secondary schools and primary healthcare centres in Edo.”
Speaking on successes recorded by the government in industrialization leveraging public-private partnerships, Obaseki said, “For us, there are so many advantages we have to share, and the key is knowing how to lean on those advantages. What we have done is try to attract private sector partners into key areas we think we have a comparative advantage.
“First in industry, we have the Benin Enterprise Park. It sits on almost 1000 hectares of land and its next door to the Ossiomo Power Plant, so we have gas and electricity to serve the park. The first phase, which is about 50 hectares, is already being developed in partnership with the Nigerian Local Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB). We are working with other partners to see how to expand.
“We have also attracted investment in the modular refinery since we have gas assets. So, we currently have two modular refineries in Edo. The two 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.”
He added, “After 70 years of talking of rebuilding the port in Edo, we finally have been able to get a preferred bidder, Mota Engil Africa, to work with us on the development of the Benin Port Project which will be one of the closest ports to the belly of Nigeria. Designs have been done and we expect that we will begin construction before the first quarter of next year.”