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Edo secures World Bank’s support with adherence to rules

By Chijioke Nelson
29 June 2018   |   4:17 am
With a regime of strict adherence to rules and terms guiding the execution of developmental projects, transparency, accountability and a preference...

Practice Manager, World Bank, Hisham Waly (left); Senior Director, Governance Global Practice, World Bank, Mrs. Debbie Wetzel; and Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, at a meeting with the governor at the Government House, in Benin City.

With a regime of strict adherence to rules and terms guiding the execution of developmental projects, transparency, accountability and a preference for mass-oriented projects, the Edo State government has secured a sustainable support of the World Bank Group.

This is coming at a time when frivolous political projects are dominating the landscape and many states, even countries, fail these terms that ensure projects’ impact, costs, cycle and funding are set in stone and measured, while the financial books are open.

The World Bank Senior Director, Governance Global Practice, Debbie Wentzel, attesting to these, said the state has prudently applied its receipts, portfolios, as well as technical support from the bank, which account in part, for the erosion control projects, road projects, sanitation, water, agricultural and policy reforms in institutions spread across the state, designed to engender inclusive growth.

The Bretton Woods representative is impressed with the number of people that have been moved out of poverty, projects’ impact on the environment, reduction in child and maternal mortality figures, gender mainstreaming, among other considerations, underlying the World Bank’s partnership with various states and countries.

According to the bank’s Governance Global Practice, countries and states are encouraged “to build strong institutions and prosper by creating an environment that facilitates private sector growth, reduces poverty, delivers valuable services and earns the confidence of their citizens.”

It is a relationship of trust that is created when people can participate in government decision-making and know their voices are heard.

Wentzel, who spoke when she led the bank’s delegation on a business visit to the state, noted that the bank is willing to consolidate its relationship with Edo State in improving its governance structures for better results.

She was accompanied on the visit by Practice Manager, Hisham Waly; Lead Project Specialist, Chief Bayo Awosemusi; Senior Public Sector Specialist, Ikechukwu Nweje; Senior Operations Officer, John Paul Ngebeh; and Procurement Specialist, Sunday Osoba.

“We are hoping to work with the state in improving governance structures. We want to see how the World Bank can support the state to get better results.

“We will be looking at building the state’s transparency, economic recovery; revenue collection and creating an enabling environment where private sector can thrive better,” she said.

Before her visit, the Country Director of World Bank, Nigeria and Co-ordinating Director for Regional Integration Programme in West Africa, Rachid Benmessaoud, had led the bank’s delegation on a visit to the Governor, Godwin Obaseki.

He was accompanied on the visit by the Country Manager, International Finance Corporation (IFC), Nigeria Office, Eme Essien; Programme Leader, Muna Salih Meky; Programme Leader, Kofi Nouve; Lead Procurement Specialist, Bayo Awosemusi; Senior Private Sector Specialist, Feyi Boroffice; Senior Agriculture Economist, Adetunji A. Oredipe; and Senior Operations Officer, John Paul Ngebeh, amongst others.

“Obaseki has established a flagship effort that has resulted in the Edo-Azura Power Plant where he brought the World Bank Group together and we are ready to replicate the model and build more Azura projects in Nigeria and West Africa,” Benmessaoud said.

He explained that the strong partnership between Edo State Government and the World Bank is highly cherished by his institution, and commended the insistence of the Obaseki administration on transparency and accountability.

“I want to assure the governor that the World Bank will help in addressing the human capital needs by pulling her resources together to support the Edo State government,” he pledged.

Benmassoud’s visit trailed the visit of 11 Executive Directors of the Bretton Woods institution, who were in the state for on-the-spot assessment of the bank-sponsored developmental projects in the state, recently.

Their May visit to the women to Edo State, according to those keeping steps with the activities of the bank, showed an unprecedented interest in the state’s economy.

They include the Executive Directors for Switzerland, France, Italy, Peru, Germany, South Africa (representing Angola, Nigeria and South Africa); Burkina Faso (representing Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa); Zimbabwe (representing Anglophone Sub-Saharan Africa); and United Kingdom and Indonesia.

The Governor, Godwin Obaseki, said: “We have gone through a learning curve with the World Bank, a journey which started over nine years ago and we want to drive this down to the local government councils so that every individual in the state will feel the impact of our government at all levels.”

The governor said that his administration also plans to work with the World Bank in strengthening governance-support structures for optimal performance and deepen the deployment of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the state.

He maintained that what the state needs from the World Bank now is “more knowledge and less cash” so that the state will optimise its resources for the benefit of all, adding that the several visits of the World Bank officials lend credence to his administration’s “commitment to bringing development to our people in the state, with the support of our partners,” and assuring that under his watch, the integrity of partnerships, contracts as well as transparent process will be respected.
“Development partners like the World Bank, operate in an environment where stakeholders abide by rules governing the partnerships, and in which input, output and outcomes are measured from time to time. The World Bank will not take you seriously if all you do is to award ‘political contracts,” he added.

Some of the bank-sponsored projects like the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Project (NEWMAP), Edo State Employment and Expenditure for Result (SEEFOR), covering road projects; agriculture (FADAMMA); water, sanitation and other forms of assistance, which the governor said have accelerated development in a number of rural communities in the state.

The World Bank Executive Director for Angola, Nigeria and South Africa sub-groups, Ms Bongi Kunene, said that with the successes recorded in executing major infrastructural and social development projects in the state, it has become a model for development financing at the sub-national level in developing countries.

Kunene disclosed that the Bretton Woods institution was impressed with the level of work done through its various projects as well as the partnership that birthed the Edo-Azura Power Project.
On the Edo-Azura Power Project, she said: “The Edo-Azura Power project is transformational. It gives us a scope of what we can do together. We are delighted to see solutions.”

Showcasing the achievements of his administration in agriculture to his guests, Obaseki highlighted some of the challenges faced by his government, including illegal migration and human trafficking, explaining that 60 per cent of returnees to Nigeria are from the state.

He said that in the state alone, about 3,300 people have returned home after a painful experience in Libya and elsewhere.

The Governor added that his administration has been reintegrating them into the society through a bouquet of initiatives including creating jobs, mentoring, technical and vocational education, skill development.