Despite recession, other odds, Delta marches on
Since it is only fit and proper to assess the administration of any democratically elected government based on its campaign promises and manifestos, the attempt to x-ray the performance of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State since the past one- and – a- half years, to determine to what extent the socio –economic development activities of the state government conforms to its policy goals, would amount to a glance into the successes of the SMART agenda of the administration.
The sectoral successes recorded so far are evidence of Dr. Okowa’s determination to provide prosperity to all Deltans as contained in the SMART agenda, which is all about wealth creation through growing micro, small, upgrading infrastructure , modernising and deepening agricultural sector and establishing agro-based industries.
These feats are coming against the backdrop of the current economic recession that has engulfed the nation’s political economy in the second quarter of 2016.
Since then, economic democracy has fallen in nearly all parts of the country, as man’s capacity to survive in the current hash economic reality on a daily bases has become much more difficult.
The negative consequences of the recession facing the nations sustainable economic growth are, a fall in per capital income, high level of unemployment, hunger, increase in crime wave and absence of democratic values.
In spite of all these anomalies, Delta State government led by Okowa has remained resolute and demonstrated incredible proficiencies in steering the affairs of the state in the right direction by recording remarkable successes at different levels of governance in the state.
Okowa has shown not only transnational initiatives, but also international knack to set Delta state on a high map to battle recession.
Applying some logic in his administration, Okowa has scaled- dawn on administrative cost and a scale -up in prudence and accountability in government.
Okowa’s administration represents a departure from the old ways of extravagance, the administration is run on a different governance paradigm that emphasis accountability, prudence, and a masses- centric focus, an inclusive and participatory spirit which activates the productive capacities of the people and their sense of belongingness.
This understanding informed the developmental approach to governance by Okowa who placed a premium on improving on human capital development and strengthening of the infrastructural bases to ensure for enabling environment to drive socio-political and economic development in the state.
Amid these national gory economic tales, comes enchanting report that the state internally generated revenue (IGR) realised between June 2015 and September, 2016 was N56, 646,821,063.75 representing a 68.53% performance. This is coming against the background that several large tax-paying corporations in the state have either scaled down their operation or in certain cases relocated from the state.
It is interesting to note that the decline in international oil price affected the statutory allocation accruing to the state from the federation account, dropping to N3 billion, with a staff strength of about 50,000 while the wage bill averages N5.5 billion monthly even when its battling to check the menaces of large scale of ghost workers with biometric scheme in the state. Interestedly, Governor Okowa has remained committed to the payment of staff salaries as and when due in the mist of the dark cloud of recession.
Since assuming office, Okowa has defied all the challenges of a recessed economy to post a monthly IGR collection from N3.2 billion to N3.4 billion and he is deploying new strategies and initiatives towards realizing a monthly revenue target of about N7 billion.
Commissioner for Finance , Mr. David Edevbie while briefing the press recently remarked that “ the state during the period under review received a total of N135, 837,642,528.40 as gross statutory allocation, value added tax (VAT), derivation revenue and other capital receipts from the federation account compared with the proportionate budget estimate of N198, 054,151,136.67, which indicates a performance of 68.59% .
“The state government is committed to paying the monthly salaries of civil servants and other workers as well as pensioners as regularly as possible in line with the policy of timely and effective services delivery to the people” , adding that “ on investment, the state has always invested in a number of quoted and unquoted companies, which currently have a market value of N9,675,990,140 comprised of N1,387,349,340.25, and N8,288,640,800 for quoted and unquoted companies respectively . This yielded dividends of N295, 701,047 within the period under review”.
A statement from the commissioner for economic planning, Dr. Kingsley Emu, compliments his finance counterpart when he said, “we shall continue to ensure that funds are allocated to programmes and projects that impact on good governance. We shall continue to observe basic principles of prudent management of public funds and strict adherence to due process and be consistent with our vision of maintaining strict fiscal discipline”, adding that over 17,173 private sector jobs have been created under the job creation scheme.
In line with the realization that road development and construction is the backbone for the achievement of the SMART agenda, Governor Okowa , through the ministry of works embarked on the construction no less than of seventy-one road projects between May 2015 and November 2016 covering a distance of over 282 kilometers of reads and 138 thousand kilometers of concrete –lined drains. The value of projects currently being handled by the state government, including those inherited from the previous administration, is put at about N110 billion. This covers about 381 kilometers of roads.
The state government has equally embarked on urban renewal by working on several roads in key towns and cities across the state. In this regards, a number of roads have been maintained, rehabilitated, reconstructed, or newly constructed. These includes the 7.1-kilometer dualization of Nnebisis road ( from traffic light junction to cable point) Asaba, dualization of Sapele road from Amukpe to AT & P and the reconstruction of old Oleh /Emede/ Olomoro road, Oleh among others. The government has also embarked on the rehabilitation of the Asaba Airport runway and taxiway.
Okowa’s administration has put in place adequate plans to ensure food security through the empowerment of the existing farmers and encouraging new entrants into agriculture through the oil palm development programme. Through this programme, 220,000 improved oil palm seedlings are being raised for distribution to farmer. This scheme is expected to empower 250 oil palm farmers, create 100 regular jobs and 300 seasonal jobs. Equally, the state government has expended the sum of N115 million for the establishment of oil palm nursery site, located at Ejeme Unor and construction of 5 mini oil mills , to be distributed to farmers.
The state government has also approved the sum of N51 million to promote all season rice farming in the state, while 45.3 million has been set aside for the fisheries subsector as 5,000 youths have engaged themselves in aquaculture, cluster fish farms.
Also, the state government has keyed into the CBN Anchor Borrowers Scheme just as 4,000 farmers have been accredited and approved by CBN to participate in the first phase of the scheme while 30,000 farmers have been registered across the selected enterprise of cassava, oil palm, rice and fisheries.
The state government has also expended the sum of N5 million development of grass cutter and goat production as it’s a major viable, profitable and sustainable source of income and to meet the protein needs of the state.Prior to the inception of the Okowa led administration, agricultural extension services was at its lowest ebb in the state. So far, the sum of N35.9 million has been set aside by the state government for re-invigorate the state agricultural development programme (ADP).
Okowa understands that strategic and purposeful good healthcare system is at the heart of any development agenda, hence the wisdom in giving the health sector a priority attention in the scheme of things in the state. Little wonder the state government swung into action on assumption of office with the total renovation, equipping, furnishing, purchase of brand new ambulance, and upgrading of cottage hospital, Abavo to the full status of an ultra modern standard general hospital.
Okowa also embarked on the remodeling /rehabilitation of the renal dialysis building at the central hospital , Warri, renovation and reequipping of children’s ward at the general hospital , Patani, procurement of 9 oxygen concentrators spread across the three senatorial districts of the state, restructuring of Delta state emergency services and payment of all outstanding commitments, purchase of medical /laboratory equipment and infrastrural repair to meet accreditation requirement in college of health technology, Ofuoma, Ughelli.
The state government also embarked on the construction of ultra- modern 400m/daymbr sewage treatment plant at DELSUTH Oghara, renovation and re-modification of central hospital in Agbor, just to mention but a few. In Delta State, maternal mortality ratio has declined, a reflection of the success of the free maternal and free under -5 healthcare programmes which Okowa’s administration has continued to implement in spite of the limited resources at this time.
The challenge of ensuring quality education is one of the preoccupation of Okowa since assumption of office. It’s for this reason that the governor has developed a plan to give adequate attention to basic, secondary and tertiary education in the state with emphasis on technical and vocational education.
To this end, Okowa has executed the flowing project: the completion of the faculty of law at DELSU, Oleh campus, completion of health clinic in DELSU. On going projects at DELSU are ; the construction of lecture theatre at the faculty of engineering, senate/administration building, construction of standard library complex , construction of workshop\laboratory at the faculty of engineering among other projects.
Okowa has also strengthened the state bursary and scholarship board charged with the responsibility of offering opportunities to students to access the state government financial support services which include, student’s special assistance scheme, scholarship to local, overseas/external students, first-class scholarship, physically challenged students and children of deceased civil servants.
Okowa has also taken steps to reposition technical and vocational education in the state with the transmission of an executive bill to DTHA for the law establishing the technical and vocational education board just as the upgrade of the Agbor, Ofagbe, Sapele Issele – uku, Ogor and Utagba-Ogbe technical colleges are still ongoing.
Delta State economic outlook remains positive because it has adequate room to maneuver in both the external and fiscal sector , plus an abundance of material and human resources. The sufficient condition for it to convert the challenges of recession to a base for turnaround and phenomenal prosperity is for all stakeholders to be committed to productive work, driven by an attitude of optimism and confidence as envision in the leadership of Governor Okowa .
*Prince Efeizomor is Print Media Assistant to Governor Okowa