ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, SENATOR, DR IFEANYI OKOWA, GOVERNOR OF DELTA STATE, DURING HIS INAUGURATION FOR A SECOND TERM IN OFFICE ON WEDNESDAY, MAY 29, 2019, AT THE STEPHEN KESHI STADIUM, ASABA.
There are no words adequate enough to express my gratitude for the privilege and honour you have bestowed on me to continue as your Governor for another four years.
- The oath of service that I just took is more than an official function or constitutional requirement; it is a covenant between us, a covenant to build a Stronger Delta in which we can freely – and confidently – pursue our dreams of prosperity and happiness in a safe and secure environment.
3. When I took this oath four years ago, it was in a time of general unease. The national economy was in distress, unemployment was high, the infrastructure deficit was intimidating, the education sector was hard pressed, and there was palpable despair in the land. It was a test of our desire, our resolve and our preparedness to deliver the prosperity we promised the electorate.
- I spoke to you then of building a diversified, self-reliant economy that will withstand the shocks occasioned by the physical, social and economic changes that have become a recurring decimal in the 21st century. After a holistic review of past development frameworks and several consultations with various stakeholders, we launched the Delta State Medium Term Development Plan with key strategic imperatives to drive rapid infrastructural development, engender inclusive economic growth, reduce the worrisome high level of youth unemployment and pervasive poverty, and improve the general well-being of all Deltans.
There was a compelling need to elevate our politics and governance to a broader view of the people’s paramount concerns and legitimate expectations. That required superimposing on the old structures the ennobling values of fiscal discipline, prudent management, robust and continuous community engagement, effective and efficient public communication, and excellent public service delivery for the benefit of this generation and the next.
6. Our progress in the four years that just elapsed is nothing short of remarkable. I do not intend to catalogue our achievements here as it is my wish and, I am sure yours too, that this inauguration be brief and devoid of long speeches. I shall, however, briefly recount some crucial milestones.
- WEALTH CREATION THROUGH ENTERPRISE DEVELOPMENT
We have made good our word to unlock – and unleash – youth entrepreneurship through technical/vocational education. Within one week of my assumption of office in 2015, I presented an Executive Bill for the establishment of a Technical and Vocational Education Board to drive our policy emphasis on skills acquisition. The results are gratifying.
As a result of the work of the Board in conjunction with the supervising Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, the six technical colleges in Agbor, Sapele, Ofagbe, Utagba-Ogbe, Ogor and Issele-Uku have been fully rehabilitated, well equipped and fully functional. Consequently, Delta is the first State in the country to have all of the courses offered by its technical colleges accredited by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE). Furthermore, the National Business and Technical Education Board (NABTEB) has commenced the issuance of modular certificate and NABTEB certificates to the graduates of these schools while Trade Test Certificate for practical proficiency are issued by the Ministry of Labour and Productivity. This is to ensure unified standard of certification for the graduate trainees.
With improved linkages and partnerships, all Six Technical Colleges now enjoy a World Bank/SEEFOR funding support. They run vocational programmes thus positioning them as Vocational Enterprise Institutes (VEIs) and for the National Vocational Qualification Framework (NVQF). For the full and effective utilisation of personnel, equipment and instructional facilities, Junior Secondary education (JS 1-3) has been incorporated into the technical colleges. Let me also hasten to add that the vocational education centres in Asaba, Sapele, Ozoro, Agbarho, Bulu-Angiama and Otor-Owhe,Mbiri, Ubulu-uku and Orerokpe are enjoying a new lease of life.
As many of you present here will testify, we devoted substantial resources, time and energy to build a knowledge-based economy and a critical mass of skills for entrepreneurship and business competitiveness. Over 20,000 persons benefited from our flagship Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP), Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP) and similar programmes undertaken by the Ministries of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Commerce and Industry, Women Affairs as well as the Delta State Micro Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency.
In the same vein, we have commenced the process of overhauling the curriculum in state-owned tertiary institutions to include courses in personal development and problem solving. This has been achieved in some of our polytechnics. During the course of my first tenure, the Delta State University received full accreditation for the Faculties of Law and Engineering at Oleh Campus as well as other departments at the Abraka Campus. This was no mean feat as it required the Government to invest heavily in personnel, facilities and physical infrastructure to merit the accreditations.
Less than two weeks ago, I gave approval for the take-off of the Faculty of Environmental Sciences at the Asaba Campus of the University. This was the only faculty not available in the University in its 26-year history. It will be offering degree programmes in Architecture, Building Technology and Quantity Surveying.
ROADS AND PHYSICAL INFRASTRUCTURE
My first term was quite busy with road and physical infrastructure construction of the most vital interest and consequence. Through the Ministries of Works, Urban Renewal and the Delta State Capital Territory Development Agency, we embarked on a total of 455 projects comprising 1,269.42 kilometres of roads and 517.34 kilometres of drainage channels. As at April 30 this year, 263 of these roads, covering 638.23 kilometres of roads and 295.71 kilometres of associated drains have been completed. The Direct Labour Agency also made great strides in the development of road infrastructure during this period.
Consequently, we have advanced rural-urban integration whilst ensuring that our urban centres remain liveable cities with good road network and recreation opportunities. Even much more significant is that our success in this sector not only saved thousands of jobs, it also created several thousand others as well as opportunities for the informal business sector to grow.
When this administration came on board, many of the major construction companies/Government contractors were at the verge of retrenching many of their workers as a result of the slump in the economy. However, we prevailed on them not to do so assuring them of patronage. Today, these companies have expanded and employed more people as a result of our huge investment in road and physical infrastructure.
The last four years was also a period of economic boom for artisans, petty traders and suppliers in the construction industry. With the completion of the Asaba Township Stadium (now Stephen Keshi Stadium), which has been hosting international football matches and other games, the hospitality industry in Asaba witnessed an increased level of patronage and prosperity.
Our primary and secondary schools continue to receive priority attention as over 5,000 classrooms were renovated/reconstructed/constructed in my first tenure. The Delta State Library (a fully equipped e-resource centre) and the Office of the Head of Service were completed and are functioning to optimum capacity. Our quest for organisational synergy among Ministries, Departments and Agencies, cost-efficient bureaucracy and timely, excellent service delivery is in full flight with the commencement of construction of the Central Secretariat Complex, an architectural edifice in its own right. Sooner than later, all the MDAs will be in one location, which will enhance functionality, discipline and reduce cost of managing government business because, they will have one source of power, internet services, among others. The new complex is also fitted with, among other facilities, banking halls and crèche to boost productivity and enhance staff welfare.
2.2 Asaba Airport
- The Asaba Airport, downgraded just before I assumed office, is now a category 6 airport that receives international flights; indeed, the airport is now a major national carrier’s hub in the South-East and South-South geo-political zones. We are stepping up our efforts to transform the airport into a viable and thriving economic hub. To achieve this, we have begun the process that will lead to the concessioning of the Airport to a consortium.
A Transaction Adviser was engaged by the State Government to advise and undertake all necessary steps that would lead to a successful and sustainable concession exercise. We are now at the concluding stages of the process. Two major Consortia have submitted bids, backed up with sizeable Bid Bonds. These bids are being analysed by our technical partners, and sooner than later, a preferred bidder will be selected and announced.
I am confident that when this process is completed, we would have actualised the original intentions for the development of Asaba International Airport, which is to activate an aviation Tank Farm; develop major cargo terminal and the associated logistics facilities; as well as develop the business park.
- Fellow Deltans, you will recall that in 2015, I declared our commitment to the provision of affordable housing for all and sundry. I am, therefore, pleased to report that we have had a successful collaboration with the Federal Government in this regard, through a Special Purpose Vehicle – Family Homes Funds Limited. While the company (owned by the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority) provided a capital injection of N3.8 billion, Delta State Government provided the land and other logistics for a new housing development at Issele-Azagba for public/civil servants in the State.
With 650 new homes already offered to interested persons at prices starting from N3.5m, this project is the single largest housing development in both the South-South and South East part of Nigeria. It represents a fine example of what can be achieved through effective collaboration and cooperation between the Federal Government and a State such as ours.
It is worthy of note that in addition to the provision of the much needed affordable homes for public/civil servants, the Issele-Azagba project created thousands of direct and indirect construction-related jobs for our young men and women who were engaged on site. It also provided significant opportunities for local manufacturers of building and construction products such as doors, windows and iron works to do business and prosper.
As a result of the success of this first phase, we are about to commence the implementation of the second phase of the project, which is expected to produce about 1,500 homes for Deltans with modern facilities in a mixed income community.
Health is yet another sector in which we excelled in the last four years and for which the State was garlanded by multiple organisations. Our State was the first in the country to commence Universal Health Coverage with the establishment of the Delta State Contributory Health Commission in February 2016. The Commission commenced healthcare service access to enrolees on the 1st of January 2017. As at May 15, 2019, the total number of enrolees stood at 530,664 broken down as follows:
· Equity plan 390,394 (Comprising 153,100- Pregnant women and 237,167-U5 and 127 Elderly Persons);
· Formal Plan Enrolees 133,442 (Comprising 47, 331 Primary Enrolees and 86,111 (Dependants); and
· Informal Plan 6,828 (Comprising 4,442 widows, 2,270 Keke Riders and 40 Royal Fathers, 76 other residents of Delta State).
- Providing services under the scheme are 110 primary healthcare facilities, 65 secondary healthcare facilities and 52 private healthcare facilities spread across the 25 Local Government Areas in Delta State. Healthcare service access has also been provided to employees of the State at the Abuja and Lagos Liaison offices.
With a robust and dynamic ICT Platform, the scheme has been able to initiate a seamless e-medical records registration process for all, a treatment protocol support for primary
healthcare centres to aid healthcare service proficiency, an e-pharmacy at all accredited healthcare facilities and an e-billing programme that ensures an effective and efficient service bill preparation and submission process, which engenders accountability.
EASE OF DOING BUSINESS
We have made considerable progress in our efforts to position Delta as the investor’s preferred destination. We established the Delta State Investment Development Agency, the body charged with formulating policies and programmes that will engender an investor-friendly climate and healthy business environment.
Before then, we introduced an electronic-based system, known as Fasttrack 90, for obtaining Certificates of Occupancy to landed property within a maximum period of 90 days. It may be far from the ideal but it is a remarkable improvement from the long delays, sometimes stretching as far as five years or more, previously associated with this process.
To further enhance the ease of doing business in the State, I signed into law, the “Delta State Public and Private Properties Protection Bill, 2018,” which seeks to prohibit forceful entry and illegal occupation of public and private landed properties, violent and fraudulent conducts in relation to public and private landed properties. The law, which came into force in June 2018, prescribes various terms of imprisonment and fines for any person who forcefully and unlawfully trespasses or invades another person’s property. Through this law, we are tackling the Deve (omonile) syndrome that has been an impediment to land acquisition for business and private development. This is a very important matter because access to land is crucial in attracting and retaining private investors.
The agriculture sector continues to enjoy a pride of place in my administration. While the results have been modest so far, I expect it to grow in leap and bounds as the seed we have sown in the last four years begin to mature and yield the desired fruits. Meanwhile, the Delta State Foods Export Initiative is work in progress. We have begun the process of exporting high-quality packaged garri while the State now produces bagged rice known as YAGEP rice. The rice was cultivated, processed and packaged with participation of YAGEP graduate trainees.
PEACE AND SECURITY
The last time I stood on this platform, I promised to take appropriate actions that would enable peace and security in the State. It is a fact of our corporate existence that no real development can take place in the absence of peace. By the special grace of God, the last four years have been largely peaceful. In fact, that is one major reason we were able to achieve much.
The credit for this goes to the Delta State Advisory and Peace Building Council, the Advocacy Committee Against Vandalism of Oil and Gas Facilities, traditional rulers, community leaders, grassroots organisations, and various stakeholders that worked closely with my administration to procure peace in the State.
Going forward, it is my earnest hope and expectation that the cooperation and partnership we experienced in the first term will continue in an even greater measure.
- My renewed mandate is a massive vote of confidence for the work we have done in the last four years. As I said in my broadcast to you soon after I was declared re-elected, this mandate is an invitation to raise the bar of good governance even higher and to surpass my achievements in the first term.
In the next four years, I shall consolidate, strengthen and upscale our wealth creation agenda. The focus remains to liberate the spirit of enterprise in our people through skills acquisition germane to wealth creation and employment generation.
Top on the list of my priorities is the establishment of 19 new technical colleges in 19 Local Government Areas. This will bring the total number of technical colleges to 25, which is one per Local Government Area. To complement these, a fully functional vocational centre is to be established in each of the 25 LGAs while the existing polytechnics will be reformed and repositioned to become hubs for technical manpower development. Towards this end, entrepreneurial courses shall be introduced into their curriculum and made mandatory as a requirement for graduation.
Let me also add that the entrepreneurship training programmes of STEP and YAGEP will be escalated and identified gaps corrected, to make them more robust and cost-efficient. The target is to at least double the number of graduate trainees and, most importantly, strengthen the Directorate of Youth Monitoring and Mentoring to ensure that the enterprise support packages are put to good use for lasting success.
In the agriculture sector, efforts and measures will be intensified to upscale agriculture sector interventions in the following areas:
• Value chain support development for oil palm, aquaculture, rice and cassava will be expanded and strengthened.
• The Foods Export Initiative will be expanded to elicit greater private sector participation and include additional commodities with high potentials for diaspora demand.
• Complete the establishment of agro-industrial park at Aboh Ogwashi-Uku as the cornerstone of agricultural value chain transformation drive.
• Identify, document and secure more agricultural land and make them available/safe for private sector agricultural investments.
• Strengthen Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (DARDA) to become more efficient and very responsive to farmers’ agricultural extension needs and solving farm management problems.
• Train more farmers and expose them to new technologies and farm advisory services.
This administration is unwavering in its pursuit of Health for all Deltans (HeFAD) in line with the Universal Health Coverage mandate of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The Universal Health Coverage will be sustained with renewed vigour. The number of enrolees is expected to grow exponentially. Hence, in the next four years, efforts will be geared at having a well-equipped, functional and responsive primary healthcare centre in each of the 270 wards of the State. Meanwhile the Delta State University Teaching Hospital will be continuously upgraded to make it a true centre of excellence.
Finally, it goes without saying that road and physical infrastructure development will continue to receive priority attention from my administration. One thing that stood out from the various town hall meetings that were held in my first tenure was that the need for roads is huge, very huge. Aside from public finance, it is time we partner with relevant stakeholders/investors to attract infrastructure funding. This administration will not spare any effort to connect our communities, renew our urban centres with network of roadsand recreation opportunities for the benefit and enjoyment of current and future generations of Deltans.
- Fellow Deltans, these are but a few highlights of the Stronger Delta agenda. Details of the agenda will unfold in the course of the administration. Suffice it to say that this administration is poised to build broad-based, good governance structures that will be responsive to the yearnings and aspirations of our people. These necessitate that we continually appraise our structures and processes while ensuring community involvement in policy formulation and implementation, thereby engendering participatory democracy.
We shall remain mindful of the fact that whatever we do without laying a good foundation for our youths would be ‘building blocks on quick sand’. Parents, guardians, teachers and community leaders must rise up to their duties. We must teach them the difference between good and evil, right and wrong. They must be taught the virtues of hard work, civic obligation, love, tolerance, good neighbourliness and respect for elders. We must realise that if we give the wrong foundation to our children today, it goes on to bite the society when they grow up.
Let’s also learn to be helpers to one another. We need to bear one another’s burden. As an administration, we shall continue to do our best but this should, as a matter of exigency, be complimented by our individual and collective efforts. Job said in Job 29: 15-16, “I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame; I was father to the poor.” A little love could turn around the future of your neighbour.
I appeal to all, especially the youth, to be law abiding and refrain from acts inimical to the peace and stability of the State. It bears restating here that the Law to Prohibit Terrorism, Cultism and the Use of Bombs and Other Matters Connected Therewith 2016, is still very much in force, and all residents of the State should be guided accordingly.
On our part, my deputy and I, we pledge to do our best to be deserving of your trust. Indeed, we are resolute in our quest to leave a legacy of a Delta State that is the frontrunner in the federation. All we need are your prayers and full cooperation. The future that we envision requires that we all open our hearts and minds to the values of love, courage, discipline, cooperation and commitment, which are imperative for growth, stability and sustainable development.
It behoves us to explore the limitless possibilities that abound in our State and harness them for the greater good of all. In the same token, we must exigently sheath all political/ethnic cleavages, avoid stereotypes, shun prejudices, sustain and strengthen the institutions that enable peaceful co-existence in order to build a State united in our diversity.
These values constitute the cornerstone for building a Stronger Delta with the three pillars of Prosperity, Peace and Progress.
- Together we can do it. Do it we must
And so help us God.
Thank you for your time and attention.
Office of the Governor