Home Edo Modern Governance and Development: The Oshiomhole Example (I)

Modern Governance and Development: The Oshiomhole Example (I)


Ernest Omoarelojie

On assumption of office on November 11, 2008, a number of individuals and groups placed the Oshiomhole administration under immense pressure. Among other things, they wanted the governor to place emphasis on the establishment and funding of more state-owned industries. Arguably, they took that position on the belief that it will curtail the seemingly intractable and endless unemployment challenge facing the state. Apparently, they were also concerned that if not checked, the consequences youth unemployment will be dire especially when some unscrupulous individuals and groups, politicians in particular, engage them as ready-made fuel. They also wanted him to begin the process of revamping old industries, including (but not limited to) Bendel Breweries, Edo Line, Ehor Fruit Juice Industries and Ewu Flour Mills. For them, the industries represent a culture of some sort for the state and its people hence they should not be left to die, just like that. However, while they talked about these wishes so passionately, they somehow ignored some important lessons some of us forgot to take away from the outcome of their existence over the years, particularly as it affected the finances of the state. Indeed, they forgot the fact that governance in this new era has no business with creating or funding businesses even in the name of employing people. Government should only concern itself with creating the enabling environment for enterprise to flourish. From inception, that is the path the Oshiomhole administration chose to tread, convinced that states are simply not molded to run commercial businesses.
At least, that is what recent history show as the prime reason for the failure of public business funded and run by the state, all of which ended up comatose. They became conduit pipes through which their managers milked state finances dry.
From all indications, the choice to run a modern government which places more emphasis on the provision of basic infrastructure and creation of an enabling environment for investors, seems to have paid off handsomely. Indeed, it made commendable strides that have been acknowledged even beyond the shores of our great country. For instance, for expanding the state’s economic and investment drive and prudently managing its meagre resources in raising the ante in infrastructural development, the administration has received plaudits from several respectable international bodies, including the European Union, UNICEF and World Bank. As a mark of their appreciation, each offered to partner with the state in specific areas of development. Like never before, the partnership yielded more evident dividends, enabling the administration to spread more basic infrastructure, hitherto unavailable, to every nook and cranny of the state. In particular, it gave a five star performance in the construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of projects that opened up the state to both local and international investors. This is evident in, for instance, the location of industries in and around the state capital as well as other far flung interiors of other senatorial districts with thousands of people in their employment. The Azura Independent Power project, Yongxing Steel Company and Time Ceramics are but a few of them.
Located on the outskirts of the state capital, the Azura IPP is a world class 450 MW open cycle gas turbine generating plant with a cumulative 2,000 MW capacity. Though it is expected to be completed in three phases, work is already ahead of schedule. However, it is projected to generate about five per cent of the nation’s over-all power generating capacity. Uniquely, the plant that sits on a 100 hectare piece of land employs an average of 342 workers daily and has since acquired virtually all its operation requirements, including Certificate of Occupancy,  power purchase agreement with the federal government, gas transportation agreement with Nigerian Gas Company and among others, gas sales purchase with SEPLAT. It is a huge investment made possible by the administration’s infrastructure-driven development agenda.
The Yongxing Steel Company which also sits on the outskirts of Benin City is a Chinese concern that specializes in the production of twisted steel rods for the construction industry. It has since commenced full production and has over 300 people in its workforce. Yet, a stone throw away is Time Ceramics, an international industry which produces tiles and allied products for the building sector. Others include Presco Oil and Atlantique Marine Engineering Services.
Most of the industries source a major part of their raw materials locally. They made the point that the state’s investor-friendly atmosphere, essentially tied to the network of quality roads, is the real reason they opted to make their host communities their abodes. One of such roads is the one that connects Utese, Egun, Azagba, Uwusan and Obagie to Uyimwendi in Ikpoba Okha local government area of the state. An elated Oshiomhole also re-emphasized this point when he paid a scheduled visit to some of the companies.
“Development comes to a place when industries are located near them. But some people who do not understand modern governance questioned me about building roads to villages. They think we should build roads only in the big cities. But I told them that we must build roads in villages and communities like the roads to Utese, Egun, Azagba, Uwusan, Obagie, Uyimwendi and the one connecting many other communities. Like one of the company managers told me, road is the major incentive they have because now it is easy for them to bring raw materials and carry their products to the market.”
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