By John Mayaki
EDO State is more than ever before becoming a cynosure of not only all who have eyes for enduring development, but also for organisations and institutions that are concerned with the business of human and infrastructural development anywhere it is genuinely taking place. The reality of this was evident in the recent visit of the officials of the Bank of Industry BoI, to the helmsman in Edo State, Governor Godwin Obaseki.
In his remarks during the visit, the Managing Director of the bank, Mr. Kayode Pitan, cut to the chase and said that their bank sees in the State Government of Edo a dependable partner and as such remains committed to working with it to complement its development efforts. The MD noted specifically that the bank was ready to support the medium and small-scale enterprises in the state and other major companies. “We are putting together a package to raise substantial funding from 500 billion to one trillion for us to move forward what government is doing,” he revealed.
BoI’s partnership with the state, Mr. Pitan observed, has been on for some years. The renewal of the corporation, as he explained, was predicated on the need to expand the frontiers of development. Said he: “Part of the reason for our coming here is for us to show we can move this partnership to a higher level. We want to see how we can expand the scope of what we are doing in Edo State. We would like to know the areas of emphasis of your administration and how we can partner with the state to help industrialists, the market women, people who have small businesses and how to work to move the state forward.”
That request of BoI to know the prioritised areas of development of the government he heads was all Governor Obaseki needed to fire on all cylinders. He was comprehensively articulate in his presentation.
Not one to speak tongue in cheek, the governor first clarified that the state’s collaboration with the BoI as the MD recalled had not yielded the full expectations “for several reasons”. He acknowledged that the progress the state had made in the last eight years was due to the efforts of “the visionary leader we had in the person of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who worked on key challenge of expanding the political space, because everything starts with politics. Without a stable political environment, it will be difficult to have economic growth.”
He moved on to outline what stands Edo State out as a viable investment destination: “As you know, Edo State is so strategically located within the context of Nigeria and that’s why it’s called ‘the Heart Beat’. With a landmass of approximately 20 million square kilometres, over 70 percent of it is arable. We have swamp, rain forest and Savannah. So, in reality, there is no crop that we cannot sustain in Edo State in addition to our water bodies. We have about 263 mining licences which span a whole variety of solid minerals. We have approximately 4.2 million people with an annual growth rate of three per cent, which is typical of Nigeria.”
He spelt out to his visitors that, “in terms of GDP” rating among the states in Nigeria, Edo is about “the sixth and our goal is to push to be among the top three in the next four years. Our state capital, Benin City, is one of the top 10 cities in the country in terms of population and the one key advantage we have is that we are a nodal state and a logistic hub. Because of our location, you cannot go from the Western part of Nigeria to the East or Southsouth without coming through Edo State. There is also an access to the North. From our logistic standpoint, we are right there as a node.”
As for infrastructure, the governor did not fail to regale his audience with how his state set the pace. With the deep understanding of one who was not out to impress, he pointed out that “Edo State is perhaps the only city that has the connectivity in terms of national road infrastructure. Other infrastructure like the electricity network and transmission network follow the same pattern. So, you have the lines transmitting power from generating plants from Delta into Benin and from here it’s distributed across the country. The gas network also follows the same trend. We have a gas hub, Oben. It’s the largest gas aggregation and distribution point in the country and it’s in Benin”.
Moreover, his administration, he explained, prioritises investment in infrastructure, “considering all the key advantages we have. For us as a government, our role is not to be involved in business. Our role is to create a suitable environment that enables businesses and industries to thrive. The other advantage we have is manpower, better than any other country in the world”. He added, “Our other core advantage is electricity, using gas to drive electricity. On the large end is Azura power plant, and it’s due for completion by March next year. So, between the first and second quarter of next year, we would have 900 megawatts power”.
He has a point to emphasise about electricity as it concerns the progress of the state: “When you think about electricity generation, that it cost you a million dollars a kilometre of gas line and a million dollars a kilometre of transmission line, it therefore makes economic sense that when both intercepts, it’s an ideal place to generate electricity. In addition, we are one of the very few states whose gas is onshore – the bulk of the gas in Nigeria is either in the swamps or offshore. We then have an opportunity to locate generating plants right on the gas fields to generate electricity.”
If anyone has any doubt about the focus of his administration, the governor made it clear that under his watch the state is becoming one-choice stop for manufacturers and industrialists. According to him, “We have seen a lot of people, including some of the biggest manufacturers in Nigeria today, now locating and setting up warehouses and parks in Edo, from where they can quickly distribute their products to the other parts of the country. We intend to create trailer parks and hubs. The Shippers Council has come to find a location for that. Our development drive also involves creation of zones in the area of solid minerals. The Honourable Minister of Solid Mineral Resources is coming to help us drive the workshop on solid minerals.”
No stone, Governor Obaseki to his visitors, would be left unturned in improving the fortunes of the state. He said that his administration was making meticulous efforts to maximise the use of the resources and opportunities available in the state.
Mr. Mayaki, is Acting CPS to Governor Obaseki of Edo State.