Advancing socio- economic development through Okowa’s SMART Initiatives (1)
Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, since assumption of office in May 29, 2015 has taken giant steps in tackling myriads of socio-economic and developmental challenges in the state, in his readiness to deliver the dividend of democracy to Deltans.
Amidst cheers and jubilation from the marmot crowd that attended the swearing –in ceremony at the Cenotaph in Asaba, Okowa told his audience that, “ as a government, we are committed to the building and consolidation of a state in which there shall be more employment opportunities, a flourishing agriculture and agribusiness sector , effective health and educational systems, renewed urban infrastructure and enhanced security and peace to bolster economic growth and development.”
Three months down the line, even when expectations are high, hope has risen in the state and governance is rekindled in various developmental policy initiatives so far taken. To achieve the set goals, Okowa compressed his programmes into a five point agenda which is encapsulated in the acronym SMART.
The SMART agenda means Strategic wealth creation projects and provision of jobs for all Deltans, Meaningful peace building platforms aimed at political and social harmony, Agricultural reforms and accelerated industrialisation, Relevant health and educational policies and Transformed environment through urban renewal.
As the administration consolidates amidst global economic uncertainties, a lot have been achieved in terms of policy initiation, realisation and actualising as contained in the state’s SMART scheme.
Agriculture and industrialisation:
Having acknowledged that Delta State has tremendous potentials in agriculture, Governor Okowa within the space of three months set up six new schemes to grow the agro-industrial sector of the economy, namely; Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurial Programme (YEGEP), Skill Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP), Production and Processing Support Programme (PPSP), Tractorisation, Extension of Microcredit and Agricultural Loans and Development of Agro-industries.
The policy objectives of these programmes are aimed at creating jobs and wealth, to diversify the economy, engage the youths in productive enterprise, nurture entrepreneurs and leaders, promote communal peace and security and develop database of employment and unemployed youths for planning purposes.
Wealth creation and employment generation
The job creation scheme has since kicked off as no less than 600,000 youths from different parts of the state have obtained application forms for the skills , trade training programmes that will take place in accredited skills acquisition centers and vocational workshops across the state. Upon successful completion of the training, participants will be assisted with a starter pack with which to start a small-scale enterprise under the strike supervision of the state government.
According to Governor Okowa, 6000 jobs will be created in every six months in the state following this work plan on job creation scheme, which translates to 48,000 jobs to be created in the next four years of his administration.
In pursuance of this objective, Okowa had said: “I shall engage the youth in farming by encouraging cluster farming, supporting
and promoting out-growers associations. Robust and focused agricultural extension services will be put in place to support the farmers. Input provision, mechanisation and cooperative farming will be aggressively pursued… It is my earnest desire to encourage and create the enabling environment for commercial farming to drive through the private sector and public-private-partnership. I will ensure the active participation of the local government areas in the development of agriculture, by this, the revenue of the state would have improved.”
Peace and security
Acknowledging that no society can grow with peace and security, Okowa has promised to take appropriate measures to sustain, increase, and even introduce new measures to contain and tackle the sources which breed and encourage insecurity. He has said enabling environment would be created for local and foreign investors to come into the state.
To this end, since assumption of office, Okowa has been holding consultation, with critical stakeholders and heads of security agencies, like the State Commissioner of Police, Director State Security Service (DSSS) the Army Navy, Nigerian Customs Service and Civil Defence chiefs. Okowa has also consulted with traditional rulers, chiefs and village heads on ways and means of ensuring that there was lasting peace in the state.
Urban renewal and education
With one week of assumption of office, Okowa sent the Delta State Technical and Vocational Education Board Bill, 2015, and Delta State Capital Territory Development Agency and the Governing Board Bill, 2015 to the Delta State House of Assembly ( DTHA) for consideration and passage. The two bills passed by the House and signed into law by the governor were part of the promises Okowa made to Deltans in his inaugural speech.
The two bills the governor forwarded to the House were part of the strategic plans of his administration to actualise the SMRAT agenda of properity for all Deltans.
Like the Delta State Technical and Vocational Education Board Bill, 2015, passed by the House, its policy is well conceived by the present administration. The objective are aimed at stimulating and encouraging pre-vocational and general technical education in schools not only as a basis for creating early technical awareness, but also to provide suitable orientation for further education and training in technology and provide direct practical skills for earning a living.
Already, construction and renovations works have commenced in Agbor, Sapele, and Ofagbe Technical colleges, out of the existing six technical colleges in the state. The aim is to inculcate in the people of Delta the attitude of respect for and appreciation of, the role of technical and vocational education in society.
Also, the passage of the Delta State Capital Territory Development Agency and the Governing Board Bill, 2015 is aimed at formulating policies and guidelines for the development of the state capital territory, conceive, plan and implement, in accordance with set rules and regulation, projects and programmes for the sustainable development of the programme for the sustainable development of the state capital territory, prepare master plans and schemes designed to promote the physical development of the capital territory as well as tackle ecological and environmental problems.
TO BE CONTINUED
• Prince Efeizomor is the Special Assistant to the Governor on Media (Print)