This month, the life of the current administrations nationwide will hit the one year mark. It is usually accompanied with the rituals of stock takings to see how far governments at all levels have performed in the task of meeting the expectations of the governed. It is an opportune time to critically appraise the quality of those handed the mantle of leadership on May 29, 2019. To quote Ratan Tata, “….The government’s job is, in fact, to run the country, to manage the country, to govern the country…” This is a truism that is applicable across the world. It is in this context that a spotlight must be shined on the first year anniversary of governments in Nigeria, one year after.
But, in the application of the measuring barometer, we must not lose sight of the prevailing economic quagmire that has been the lot of Nigeria in recent times with the downfall in the international crude oil market, which started in 2014. This has surely affected the performance of governments across the three tiers of government; federal, state and local government. It was in this state of economic morass that the current administrations were sworn in in 2019.
Prince Dapo Abiodun took over the mantle of leadership in Ogun State at the same time. And like his counterparts across the country, he was besotted with scarce resources at inception. This, coupled with the myriads of problems inherited from his predecessors, including bad roads, security lapses, high unemployment rates, dilapidated infrastructure, makes the task ahead very daunting indeed. Ogun State, as a result of its proximity to Lagos, is partaking in the many problems confronting the “Centre of Excellence” and the nation’s economic nerve centre, especially along the hundreds of border communities that have suffered neglects by the previous administrations in the state.
Being the perceptive administrator that he is and with his record as a major player in the private sector, and with great success to boot, the Prince from Iperu did not waste time in imprinting his footsteps on the sand of the Gateway State. Although, it took him a while to constitute his cabinet, the calibre of the assemblage was worth the wait. And it has been a good story to tell for the people of the state. Unlike the last administration, which was accused of concentrating its major projects in Abeokuta, the state capital, Abiodun’s midas touch has been felt across the three senatorial districts that make up the state in the last one year.
To ensure rapid infrastructure upgrade of the state, the new government quickly introduced an initiative to fix two roads in each local government area of the state. The initiative is definitely paying off. One of the first major projects embarked upon as part of the initiative, was the Osi Ota project, which links Sango Ota with AIT Road and Ikola in Lagos State. With the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway now impassable with the passage of time, the Osi Ota project, which has since been completed, has become the major link between Lagos and Ogun states along that axis. It took the government four months to complete the Osi Ota project in December, having started in August of the same year. The completion of the road, which is surely parts of the dividends was indeed a great relief and payback time for the people of the state who had placed their hopes on Abiodun and his All Progressives Congress (APC) during electioneering. Through the state’s Public Works Agency, the Osi Ota miracle has been replicated across the state.
Another milestone reached by the Abiodun-led administration in its first year in office was the flagg off of the 14-kilometre Ijebu-Ode-Epe Road. This is another road that connects Ogun with the nation’s economic capital, this time from the eastern flank of the state. The road project, being constructed on the Public-Private Partnership arrangement under the Build, Use and Transfer framework, has special features, including a dual-carriageway with 10 lanes – four lanes on each side with one pull-out section, and a 14-lane toll plaza for easy payment of tolls. The road, meant to connect Epe-Ajah-Victoria Island in Lagos State, would provide a perfect alternative to the usually locked-down Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
The governor has already assured that the construction of the road would be followed by those of Sagamu-Ogijo and Sango-Ota-Abeokuta roads, among others, provided that the Federal Government agreed to cede the roads to the state government. Already, contact had been made with the Federal Government regarding the transfer of the two roads to the Ogun and Lagos state governments for reconstruction.
Another area the Abiodun-led administration has scored high in the last one year is in the area of security. The state shares an international border with the Benin Republic. This poses great strain on the security architecture of the state, occasioned by cross border banditry, coupled with the influx of people from the neighbouring states, especially Lagos. To address this major challenge, the government, within just few days in office, launched a Security Trust Fund where over N1 billion was realised.
With money raked in, the government embarked on the mission to change the security architecture in the state. This was done through the procurement of security equipment, including 100 patrol vehicles, 200 motorcycles and communication gadgets, among others, to aid the police and other security agencies in their work. This has ensured that residents of the state are adequately protected by the government.
Education is the bedrock of any society. Realising the importance of this sector, the Dapo Abiodun-led administration has in the last one year ensures that students learn in a very condusive atmosphere. Gone are the days when students sit in dilapidated classrooms with no furniture. In the last one year, 236 schools have been rehabilitated across the state. There are plans to begin work on another 236 schools as soon as practicable.
The government also ensures that the burden of paying school fees or levies of whatever form in the state was removed from parents. Consequently, the governor ordered the cancellation of the N3,700 school fees imposed on parents by the immediate past administration. Pupils and students are enjoying the privilege of free books, reminiscent of the free education era in the state.
Desirous of not leaving any stone unturned in the quest to revamp the sector, 10,000 teaching and non-teaching staff were promoted in a massive promotion exercise. For the current administration, the reward for teachers should be for them to reap while still in service, hence the gesture, which was also targeted at improving the standard of education in the state through quality teaching.
The last one year has also seen a declaration of war on unemployment in the state. With the influx of people from Lagos and thousands of graduates of the state passing out every years, it is incumbent on the government to provide job opportunities. This was the brain behind the opening of a job portal by the government. The purpose was to have the records of the unemployed with a view to provide links with the various companies in the state. The portal recorded over 120,000 people within the first three weeks of its opening. Businesses operating in the state are now posting vacancies on the portal and there is a local content law in the pipelines that will stipulate that a certain minimum of companies’ staff must be Ogun State indigenes.
The government also set up skills acquisition centres across the state, a Tech hub in Kobape, Abeokuta, as part of the drive to reduce unemployment to the barest minimum.
‘Okowo Dapo’, a loan programme for market men and women is another innovative idea of the government Abiodun government to enhance the living standard of the people of the state. The technology hub was set up to rejig ICT across the state and enhance the ease of doing business.
In partnership with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Anchor Borrowers Scheme is on course to produce Ogun agricpreneurs. A total of 10,000 youths harvested from the job portal and allocated a hectare of land each, with the documents attached to the lands, have begun slowly to build wealth. The CBN has provided funding to the tune of N1.5bn and will pay the agricpreneurs stipends until the harvest. Stage two of the plan will engage another 30,000, so that in the next two years, about 200,000 agricpreneurs would have been created.
In the health sector, the administration, in the short period of one year, ensured that both primary, secondary and tertiary health institutions are given facelift in the areas of rehabilitation and provision of the needed equipment.
At the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital, the recruitment process for all categories and cadres of healthcare professionals (doctors, nurses, pharmacists, lab scientists, radiographers, etc) has already commenced; the State Hospital Ilaro, has been refurbished; and free medical outreach held at Ilishan, Odeda and Ilaro, addressing polio, diabetes, malaria, eyes, malaria, typhoid and other issues. The government has also set up more resident primary health centres, again per ward, so that people can enjoy health services without travelling miles away from home.
Determined not to leave any sector untouched, the government also constructed 50 units of housing at Hilltop Estate and another 200 low-income, mass housing units project at Ibara, all in Abeokuta, the state capital.
To ensure accountability and prudence in the management of government resources, including the implementation of the Medium-term Expenditure Framework (MTEF)for budget preparation, Abiodun established the Fiscal Responsibility Commission for prudent financial management of state resources; efficient allocation of public expenditure, revenue and debt management; and long-term economic stability. It established the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Office and implemented staff biometrics and payroll audit and treasury management solution for single view and efficiency in treasury and payment processing, and a Bureau of Public Procurement Council has come on board, too.
The emergence of the coronavirus in the state, which index case was recorded in April, has however slowed down the momentum of the government with the lockdown of the state, Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) by the Federal Government to curtail the spread of the disease.
Even, without the Federal Government support, the Dapo Abiodun administration has been able to pull resources together to mount a serious campaign against the spread of the virus, including building and equipping of isolation centres across the states as well as the distribution of palliatives to the vulnerables and the less privileged.
Emmanuel wrote from Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, Ogun State.
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