Obaseki and the verdict from World Bank

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The World Bank has hailed the Godwin Obaseki administration in Edo State for economically developing the state through the implementation of its people-oriented policies and programmes. The World Bank scored the state high on its projects execution and implementation of social investment programmes. It described the programmes as most laudable, impactful and commendable in the democratic history of the country.

The World Bank has given a positive verdict and thrown its weight behind the ongoing developmental drive of the Godwin Obaseki-led administration in Edo State, urging other states in the country to replicate the Edo model. Country Director of World Bank, Nigeria and Co-ordinating Director for Regional Integration Programme in West Africa, RachidBenmessaoud, who led the bank’s delegation on a visit to the governor at the Government House, Edo State, said: “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 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.

In his response, Obaseki expressed the gratitude of the Edo State government to the World Bank for finding the state a worthy partner in their commitment to bring development to all Edo people and residents. He showcased the achievements of the government in agriculture to his guests and said that one of his goals is to replace crude oil with oil palm, as aggressive effort is being made to make Edo State the oil palm hub in the country and beyond. He 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 Edo State.

Edo State Fiscal Improvement and Service Delivery Development Policy Operation Program is the first in a series of two programmatic development policy operations that supports Edo state medium term strategic plan focused on inclusive growth, employment creation and poverty reduction. Edo is one of 36 states in Nigeria’s federal structure,like the average Nigerian state. The World Bank has supported Edo with a number of different operations during this period. From 2012, the collaboration deepened with budget support in the form of a programmatic series of three development policy operations, each for the sum of US$75 million. The Bank began to provide Edo with development policy support due to the progress Edo had made on its own in implementing its development strategy and its commitment to undertake policy and institutional reforms to support its development agenda. The first operation, which was approved in March 2012 and closed in June 2014, supported Edo’s earlier development strategy articulated in the 2009 Edo Vision 2020, which identified high poverty, unemployment, flooding and dilapidated infrastructure as main development challenges. Edo also suffered from weak governance structures, particularly in the management of public finances. The state made appreciable reform gains under that operation in the areas of building a stronger public financial management system, improving institutional arrangements for land registration and strengthening the delivery of technical and vocational education.

Following the successes recorded in executing major infrastructure and social development projects in the state, especially the Edo-Azura Power Project, the World Bank has said that Edo State has become a model for development financing at the sub-national level in developing countries. World Bank Executive Director, Angola, Nigeria and South Africa sub-group, Ms. Bongi Kunene, gave the verdict during a lunch organised for 10 visiting World Bank Executive Directors, at the Government House, Benin City, the Edo State capital. She said that the Bretton Woods institution is impressed with the level of work done through its various projects as well as the partnership that birthed the Edo-Azura Power Project.

Noting that the state is among the two sub-national governments that accessed its budget support instruments, she said the projects executed in the state are not just impressive but meet the expectations of the visiting delegation. She added that the World Bank is willing to “partner with the state on future projects, as long as the projects are in line with the Bank’s focus.” On the Edo-Azura Power Project, she said, “The project is transformational. It gives us a scope of what we can do together. We are delighted to see solutions. We would want to commit ourselves to projects that make sense and are in line with our focus.” She said more of such projects can be executed if governments are willing to cooperate with the bank in granting necessary approvals, allowing for thorough impact assessment and are open to multilateral financing arrangements. Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, on his part said that with the 450MW Edo-Azura Power Project now on stream, the state wants more investors for the Benin Industrial Park and technology innovation hubs. He said the enabling environment to host diverse investors is now available, especially with the provision of power by companies like Edo-Azura Power. According to the governor, “Power is the key to industrialisation and development. We need to extend the benefits of this investment. Now that we have power, what are we going to do with it? The next set of projects are those that have to rely on this key infrastructure we have just created. So, we would be looking at the Benin Industrial Park, building infrastructure to encourage and support manufacturers to come in. We are looking at innovation hubs; we want to use the factor and advantage of 24/7 electricity to encourage technology groups and companies to be located in Edo State.

World Bank predicates Edo’s positive outlook on Obaseki’s steady reforms. The interplay of a positive disposition of the Edo State government to reforms and best practice, her willingness to open her financial books to domestic and international partners for developmental projects that will impact on the largest number of people, and a growing culture of transparency across sectors of the state, explain investors’ attraction to the state, the World Bank Vice President, Africa, Hafez Ghanem has hinted.

At a Dinner reception in Abuja, the Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, said his administration is committed to deepening relations with development partners, portfolio investors and long-term investors for the overall transformation of the state.

He explained that business support structures such as robust infrastructure, digitalisation of government’s processes and procedures and trained manpower have received the desired attention of his administration, as part of effort to usher the state into an era of economic prosperity and new ways of doing things.

The World Bank Vice President’s positive sentiment re-echoes the institution’s Governance Global Practice, which encourages countries and states “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 – a relationship of trust that is created when people can participate in government decision-making and know their voices are heard.”

According to Obaseki, “our established standard that is founded on strict adherence to rules and terms guiding the execution of development projects and respect for the sanctity of contracts, have continued to earn us accolades and more support from domestic and international partners.”The governor shared sector-specific experience with the team of senior World Bank officials.

Under Obaseki leadership, the World Bank supports inclusive growth and poverty reduction by financing projects that boost human capital, support private sector development, raise agricultural productivity, improve access to infrastructure and providing economic opportunities for youth are core to his vision for Edo State.

 

INWALOMHE DONALD

Inwalomhe Donald writes from Benin City, inwalomhe.donald@yahoo.com

 

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