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Reordering of Edo’s social sector for growth

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Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki. AFP PHOTO / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI

To achieve sustainable economic growth, stable and progressive societies and overall human development, social development plays a critical role.

The demands of a fledging economy are such that the peoples’ lives and status develop as other indicators of economic expansion improve. So, the people are not just touched by economic development, rather they drive its processes.
Development economists often decry instances where this doesn’t happen and have often criticized economies that grow outside the realms of the collective wellbeing of the people, only profiting the few that have access to power and other processes that serve to control or manipulate it.

In Edo State, there is a deep-rooted appreciation of this flaw, which is why the Governor Godwin Obaseki administration has set out to place the people as the anchor for the various economic expansion activities he is pursuing by training and retraining them to meet the expectations of a 21st century workforce, bequeathing competitive education, developing infrastructure and providing structures for accessible and affordable healthcare.

There are several ongoing social projects focused on developing the people and arming them with skills and knowledge to forge better lives, carefully planned by the Governor Obaseki led-administration.

The governor’s blueprint for social development revolves around the idea that economic growth and knowledge acquisition seat side-by-side, working for the benefits of Edo people. So, he has fashioned programmes to improve education outcomes, expand access to affordable healthcare and deepen other indicators of social development.

Remodeling of Ogbemudia Stadium
Already, there is an aggressive drive to encourage youths to participate in sports and other skills acquisition programmes.

Keeping to the promise to revamp the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium to meet international standard, Obaseki has commenced the remodeling of the facility, promising that the initiative will encourage youths to engage in productive activities.

The speed at which the state government has continued with the remodeling work at the stadium is a pointer to the seriousness attached by Obaseki to use sports to build talents. While insisting that the project is being carried out to promote investments in sports facilities in the state, the governor has maintained that the project will be used to curb restiveness among youths.

For Obaseki, youths in Edo must be provided with needed infrastructure to develop talents in different sports activities as it was in the good old days, when youths from the state, made landmark achievements in national and international sports competitions.

On the ongoing reconstruction work at the stadium, Obaseki said, “We want to provide standard paying fields for our young ones whose turn it is to replicate the stories of yesteryears.”

Obaseki stressed that when work at the stadium is completed, idle youths will be engaged to produce the likes of Victor Moses, Austin Eguavoen and Osazee Odemwingie.

20-Mini Stadium and expected impact
Also, to further broaden the scope of sports development, there are plans to construct 20-mini stadia with at least one stadium in each of the 18 local government areas. This has been described by stakeholders in the sports sector as commendable.

Acting Director General, Nigerian Sports Development Fund Inc. (NSDFI), Jide Fashikun, while reacting to the news after the plan to construct the stadia was unveil by Governor Obaseki, told journalists that stakeholders in the sports sector consider the vision of the governor as a step in the right direction.

According to Fashikun, “The vision of the governor is a realistic projection, given our experience so far. Such project, when completed, will reduce youth predilections for crime by as much as 40 percent at the very least.”

The ripple effect of the project would have on youth development and sports in the state is common knowledge to critics in the sports sector. Fashikun, who spoke extensively on the impacts of the project in the state, said developing the sports sector to tackle crime is not just commendable but should become a policy thrust across states in the country.

“The 20 -mini stadium when completed will be translated in becoming avenues through which youths and other persons can be engaged in productive activities in the state’s drive for sports and social development,” he said.

The governor’s vision to spread the distribution of the 20 mini-stadia is part of his administration commitment to development of the sport sector in the state to serve as a means of engaging more youths in productive ventures through which they can also acquire wealth for themselves.

According to Obaseki, “with a well-structured sports sector, most of our youths will be engaged and the tourism sector will receive a major boost. We are committed to the development of the sector with our blueprint that will deliver 20 mini-stadia, soon, to serve as platforms for discovering and honing sporting talent.”

Solving age-long pension headaches
Governor Obaseki has also created a system that helps migrate workers in the state to the contributory pension scheme. This is better appreciated in the context of what obtained in the past, when workers, especially local government workers, had to lay siege at Ring Road in protest for payment of their pension arrears.

But being that the governor understood their grievances and with expert knowledge of the pension system in the country, having served on the committee on pension reforms, he said during one of the meetings with pensioners, “We didn’t want to have challenges in the payment of pension anymore. So, we moved from the old system to the contributory pension scheme. You have a governor who understands the pension problem and the only way to resolve this problem is for us to work together.”

The governor has committed N200m monthly fund to defray pension arrears, accumulated over 20 years period.

A health insurance scheme for all
As part of the robust package to address health challenges in the state, the governor is fine-tuning work on an Edo State Health Insurance Scheme. This, according to him, will help assuage the pressures from dwindling funding from development partners in the wake of reclassification of Nigeria as a middle-income economy from a low-income.
This is as the government plans to construct 500 primary healthcare centres to promote the implementation of the Compulsory Health Insurance Scheme.
Governor Godwin Obaseki, said the refurbishment of 20 health care centres would serve as pilot phase of the project.
A bill for setting up the health insurance scheme has reached an advanced stage in the House of Assembly.
According to him, the administration’s focus on primary health care is to ensure that basic health service is made accessible and affordable. “A pilot scheme will be rolled out soon when 20 primary health care centres will be refurbished in the 18 local government areas of the state. Subsequently, 200 primary health care centres will be fitted with power and water supply,” he said.

Fight against human trafficking: Counting the gains of Obaseki’s multi-pronged approach
In the wake of the mass evacuation of Nigerians from Libya, following news reports of a booming slave trade and organ harvesting in the North African country, the Edo State government which before then had embarked on reintegration programme for some of the returnees, expanded the scope of its intervention in the crisis.

A hotel was secured in the Government Reservation Area of Benin City, Motel Benin Plaza, to house the thousands of returnees from Edo State, as they were being brought in. The aim of Governor Godwin Obaseki’s initiative was to ensure the returnees are assisted to return to the society where they will play major roles in developing the state.

At the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Lagos, and the Port Harcourt International Airport, members of the Edo State Task Force Against Human Trafficking were on hand to receive the evacuees for onward transfer to the hotel in Benin City for the commencement of the reintegration programme.

In April 2018, Senior Special Assistant to Governor Obaseki on Anti-Human Trafficking and Illegal Migration, Comrade Solomon Okoduwa, gave the number of returnees received by the state government since the first two batches of returnees were received by the state between 7th and 15th November 2017, to be 3, 165.


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