Demystifying Governance In Edo

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By Innocent I. Edemhanria

There was wild jubilation in Benin City as well as other parts of the state when Comrade Adams A. Oshiomhole was affirmed the duly elected governor of Edo State 19 months after the April 14, 2007 gubernatorial elections. Okada riders, traders, civil servants, market women, artisans, both old and young all trooped to the streets to celebrate the November 11 Appeal Court pronouncement.

When the comrade governor took the oath of office, he pledged to pursue people-oriented programmes that would put food on the table for the populace and engender massive infrastructural development. He sought the support of all to enable him accomplish this mission. The comrade governor made a lot of promises to the people of Edo State during his electioneering campaign to seek the people’s mandate. The people gave him the mandate to rule the state having examined his capacity to deliver on his pledges given his antecedents and achievements as a labour leader.

Less than two years into the administration of the comrade governor, the people are beginning to look out for key success factors to justify the mandate given to him, tangible evidence that will tell well of the governor. At the end of his administration, the people expect that the Comrade Governor will deliver on his mandate even though there was an initial financial setback to the fortune of the state occasioned by the global economic crisis. Thank God now that the finances of the state has improved beyond what it was in 2009, so the governor must make frantic effort to use the resources at his disposal to better the lives of the people of Edo State and write his name in gold.

On assumption of office the governor started well by constituting asset verification committee to establish the assets and liability of the state. The committee which was headed by Oseni Elamah, Special Adviser to the Governor on Fiscal Governance and Project Monitoring, did a good job and made some shocking revelation – the water board scandal is still fresh in our minds. But it is surprising to note that up till now, the State Government has not released a white paper on the findings of the committee report.

The governor went ahead to physically visit some failed project sites and some oil producing communities to see for himself the true state of affairs to enable him make informed decisions, this was widely publicized and received commendation from the people as they trooped out to hail the comrade governor where ever he visited to show their support for him. Still, some promises were made during those visits of the governor.

The 2009 budget of Edo Sate which the comrade governor tagged “Budget of a New Beginning”, gave a lot of promises to Edo people, where the governor identified major developmental challenges which his administration need to confront and listed them as –  poor infrastructure; unemployment; poor agricultural output and a primitive rural economy; perennial flooding problem; a decadent public school system; poor and inaccessible public health facilities; insecurity of lives and property; absence of potable water; a chaotic transportation system; electricity challenges; hostile operative environment for productive activities in the real sector; and a top-heavy, poorly trained, ill-equipped and thus under-performing public service and high over-head cost.

In order to maximize the impact of the limited available resources, the comrade governor went ahead to give areas of priority attention, which are roads; drainage rehabilitation, flooding and erosion control; primary and post-primary education. Indeed, many of the roads in Edo State are in need of urgent attention. The people of Upper Erhunmwunse, Upper Siluko and other areas in Benin City, the oil producing communities in the state as well as countless number of other communities in the state without access roads are waiting for the comrade governor to provide them with good roads.

Our school system sure needs some attention, particularly public primary and post-primary schools as identified by the comrade governor who has taken a bold step to stop the collection of illegal and outrageous levies been collected  by some principals especially during enrolment period. This is just the beginning of the redemption process; a lot still need to be done in the  area of physical structures, personnel, provision of appropriate learning materials and so on, more to the schools in the rural areas so that those people living in the villages can feel the impact of government as well. It is understandable that the governor could not achieve much in 2009 with respect to Education because of the UBE crisis, but now that the crisis has been resolved, it is expected that this administration should move quickly within the provision of 2010 budget to raise the standard of Education in the state and subsequently increase budgetary allocation to Education in line with UNESCO standard. Already, the renovation work currently going on at Edo Boys High School, Benin City, Idia Colleges, Benin City, as well as others is highly commendable, all in a bid to ensure that public school students learn in a conducive environment.

The Youth Employment Scheme of the comrade governor is highly commendable, just now, there is high rate of unemployment in the country and Edo State has her fair share of the situation. Some have argued that the upsurge in crime rate in the state as well as other parts of the country is as a result of high unemployment. The comrade governor has made genuine effort at solving the unemployment situation in the state even though many have noted the meager stipend for the beneficiaries of “EDO YES” scheme.  Edo State Government need to take a step further by reviving some of the state owned corporations and set up more, if possible through Public Private Partnerships (PPP). This will also help to absorb some unemployed citizens of the state, curb crime upsurge and improve revenue profile of government.

The struggle by the Comrade Governor to give a new lease of life to majority of Edo people and the determination to develop urban cities in the state is highly commendable. The removal of structures on the right of way which preceded the full blown physical development of Edo State Capital and the beautification of king Square, the flag off of road construction across the three senatorial districts of the state among others stand out clearly.

The comrade governor has also done well in some other areas like the inaugural town hall meeting which the state government organized to rub mind with the people of the state in 2009. It is expected that such initiative should be a continuous one where the good people of Edo State will have opportunity to interacting with government of the day.

The planned citizens’ identity card project which is intended to generate databank of residents and citizens in order to enhance the capacity of the state government to plan effectively, is a bold step in the right direction. This novel idea has pitched Edo State high in the drive for information and communication technology. It is hoped that this project if fully implemented will to an extent help to tackle security challenges in the state and improve the capacity of the state government to plan for the welfare of Edo people as well as for the infrastructural and economic development of Edo State. It will equally help the National Population Commission that is responsible for the census of citizens as the population of the citizens of the state will come out clearly.

Many have criticized the comrade governor for his aggressive tax reform policy, in a bid to enhance the finances of the state. But governor Oshiomhole has continuously argued that his initiatives will only be achievable if the people cooperate with him in his effort to raise the internally generated revenue of the state to complement the monthly allocation from federation account. In my opinion, if this whole process will translate to good roads, improved health care services, improvement in the standard of education, access to potable water, greater employment for our people and such like, then it is worthwhile.

Many have also criticized the over 100 percent increment in school fees payable by students of Ambrose Alli University, (AAU) Ekpoma, describing it as outrageous and capable of causing the withdrawal of indigent students from the university. Though the state government has stated clearly that such an increment is needed to make radical changes in the infrastructural development of the University and make it comparable to any higher institution in the world, in my opinion, government should look for a way of balancing public opinion with its decisions.

An area we expect the Governor Oshiomhole to put his energies is the need for a legal instruments to institutionalize good governance in the state. There is need to domesticate the Fiscal Responsibility Law and Public Procurement Law which are operative at the federal level in the state. Some states have already done so, it is important that Edo State should follow suit. As it were, we need strong institutions that will outlive this administration and ensure checks and balances in the system, if such institutions are not in place, the sustainability of the developmental effort of this administration may not be guaranteed. The issue of corruption in government centers around procurement- contract award, purchases, supplies and such like. Beyond this, it is also necessary to ensure fiscal discipline in the management of public funds.

It is a great opportunity, therefore, to call on Edo State Government to institutionalize good governance practice in the state by putting in place such laws as the Public Procurement law, Fiscal Responsibility Law and even Access to Information Law.

*Innocent I. Edemhanria is Programme Officer of Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ).

Email – aneejbenin@yahoo.co.uk   

 

By Innocent I. Edemhanria

There was wild jubilation in Benin City as well as other parts of the state when Comrade Adams A. Oshiomhole was affirmed the duly elected governor of Edo State 19 months after the April 14, 2007 gubernatorial elections. Okada riders, traders, civil servants, market women, artisans, both old and young all trooped to the streets to celebrate the November 11 Appeal Court pronouncement.

When the comrade governor took the oath of office, he pledged to pursue people-oriented programmes that would put food on the table for the populace and engender massive infrastructural development. He sought the support of all to enable him accomplish this mission. The comrade governor made a lot of promises to the people of Edo State during his electioneering campaign to seek the people’s mandate. The people gave him the mandate to rule the state having examined his capacity to deliver on his pledges given his antecedents and achievements as a labour leader.

Less than two years into the administration of the comrade governor, the people are beginning to look out for key success factors to justify the mandate given to him, tangible evidence that will tell well of the governor. At the end of his administration, the people expect that the Comrade Governor will deliver on his mandate even though there was an initial financial setback to the fortune of the state occasioned by the global economic crisis. Thank God now that the finances of the state has improved beyond what it was in 2009, so the governor must make frantic effort to use the resources at his disposal to better the lives of the people of Edo State and write his name in gold.

On assumption of office the governor started well by constituting asset verification committee to establish the assets and liability of the state. The committee which was headed by Oseni Elamah, Special Adviser to the Governor on Fiscal Governance and Project Monitoring, did a good job and made some shocking revelation – the water board scandal is still fresh in our minds. But it is surprising to note that up till now, the State Government has not released a white paper on the findings of the committee report.

The governor went ahead to physically visit some failed project sites and some oil producing communities to see for himself the true state of affairs to enable him make informed decisions, this was widely publicized and received commendation from the people as they trooped out to hail the comrade governor where ever he visited to show their support for him. Still, some promises were made during those visits of the governor.

The 2009 budget of Edo Sate which the comrade governor tagged “Budget of a New Beginning”, gave a lot of promises to Edo people, where the governor identified major developmental challenges which his administration need to confront and listed them as –  poor infrastructure; unemployment; poor agricultural output and a primitive rural economy; perennial flooding problem; a decadent public school system; poor and inaccessible public health facilities; insecurity of lives and property; absence of potable water; a chaotic transportation system; electricity challenges; hostile operative environment for productive activities in the real sector; and a top-heavy, poorly trained, ill-equipped and thus under-performing public service and high over-head cost.

In order to maximize the impact of the limited available resources, the comrade governor went ahead to give areas of priority attention, which are roads; drainage rehabilitation, flooding and erosion control; primary and post-primary education. Indeed, many of the roads in Edo State are in need of urgent attention. The people of Upper Erhunmwunse, Upper Siluko and other areas in Benin City, the oil producing communities in the state as well as countless number of other communities in the state without access roads are waiting for the comrade governor to provide them with good roads.

Our school system sure needs some attention, particularly public primary and post-primary schools as identified by the comrade governor who has taken a bold step to stop the collection of illegal and outrageous levies been collected  by some principals especially during enrolment period. This is just the beginning of the redemption process; a lot still need to be done in the  area of physical structures, personnel, provision of appropriate learning materials and so on, more to the schools in the rural areas so that those people living in the villages can feel the impact of government as well. It is understandable that the governor could not achieve much in 2009 with respect to Education because of the UBE crisis, but now that the crisis has been resolved, it is expected that this administration should move quickly within the provision of 2010 budget to raise the standard of Education in the state and subsequently increase budgetary allocation to Education in line with UNESCO standard. Already, the renovation work currently going on at Edo Boys High School, Benin City, Idia Colleges, Benin City, as well as others is highly commendable, all in a bid to ensure that public school students learn in a conducive environment.

The Youth Employment Scheme of the comrade governor is highly commendable, just now, there is high rate of unemployment in the country and Edo State has her fair share of the situation. Some have argued that the upsurge in crime rate in the state as well as other parts of the country is as a result of high unemployment. The comrade governor has made genuine effort at solving the unemployment situation in the state even though many have noted the meager stipend for the beneficiaries of “EDO YES” scheme.  Edo State Government need to take a step further by reviving some of the state owned corporations and set up more, if possible through Public Private Partnerships (PPP). This will also help to absorb some unemployed citizens of the state, curb crime upsurge and improve revenue profile of government.

The struggle by the Comrade Governor to give a new lease of life to majority of Edo people and the determination to develop urban cities in the state is highly commendable. The removal of structures on the right of way which preceded the full blown physical development of Edo State Capital and the beautification of king Square, the flag off of road construction across the three senatorial districts of the state among others stand out clearly.

The comrade governor has also done well in some other areas like the inaugural town hall meeting which the state government organized to rub mind with the people of the state in 2009. It is expected that such initiative should be a continuous one where the good people of Edo State will have opportunity to interacting with government of the day.

The planned citizens’ identity card project which is intended to generate databank of residents and citizens in order to enhance the capacity of the state government to plan effectively, is a bold step in the right direction. This novel idea has pitched Edo State high in the drive for information and communication technology. It is hoped that this project if fully implemented will to an extent help to tackle security challenges in the state and improve the capacity of the state government to plan for the welfare of Edo people as well as for the infrastructural and economic development of Edo State. It will equally help the National Population Commission that is responsible for the census of citizens as the population of the citizens of the state will come out clearly.

Many have criticized the comrade governor for his aggressive tax reform policy, in a bid to enhance the finances of the state. But governor Oshiomhole has continuously argued that his initiatives will only be achievable if the people cooperate with him in his effort to raise the internally generated revenue of the state to complement the monthly allocation from federation account. In my opinion, if this whole process will translate to good roads, improved health care services, improvement in the standard of education, access to potable water, greater employment for our people and such like, then it is worthwhile.

Many have also criticized the over 100 percent increment in school fees payable by students of Ambrose Alli University, (AAU) Ekpoma, describing it as outrageous and capable of causing the withdrawal of indigent students from the university. Though the state government has stated clearly that such an increment is needed to make radical changes in the infrastructural development of the University and make it comparable to any higher institution in the world, in my opinion, government should look for a way of balancing public opinion with its decisions.

 

An area we expect the Governor Oshiomhole to put his energies is the need for a legal instruments to institutionalize good governance in the state. There is need to domesticate the Fiscal Responsibility Law and Public Procurement Law which are operative at the federal level in the state. Some states have already done so, it is important that Edo State should follow suit. As it were, we need strong institutions that will outlive this administration and ensure checks and balances in the system, if such institutions are not in place, the sustainability of the developmental effort of this administration may not be guaranteed. The issue of corruption in government centers around procurement- contract award, purchases, supplies and such like. Beyond this, it is also necessary to ensure fiscal discipline in the management of public funds.

 

It is a great opportunity, therefore, to call on Edo State Government to institutionalize good governance practice in the state by putting in place such laws as the Public Procurement law, Fiscal Responsibility Law and even Access to Information Law.   

 

*Innocent I. Edemhanria is Programme Officer of Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ).

Email – aneejbenin@yahoo.co.uk   

 

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