ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, SENATOR, DR IFEANYI OKOWA, ON HIS SIX YEARS STEWARDSHIP AS GOVERNOR OF DELTA STATE, ON MONDAY, MAY 31, 2021, AT THE EXCO CHAMBERS, NEW GOVERNMENT HOUSE, ASABA
My Dear Good People of Delta State
Gentlemen of the Press
Exactly six years ago, we began the journey of building a smart, strong, and resilient Delta State where every citizen is empowered to pursue his/her dreams of success and happiness. To achieve this goal, we formulated the Delta State Medium-Term Development Plan (2016-2019) encapsulating policies and programme priorities designed to accelerate infrastructural development, reduce the worrisome high level of youth unemployment and pervasive poverty, stimulate and sustain inclusive economic growth, and bind the diverse ethnic nationalities into a unified, coherent force.
2.The Delta State Medium-Term Development Plan 11 (2020-2023) is building on the foundation that was laid in the first term. In a nutshell, the Plan is anchored on six strategic imperatives namely;
Adopt cross-sectoral, multi-pronged approach to job and wealth creation with strong emphasis on skills training and raising entrepreneurial leaders, to combat the scourge of youth restiveness, and drive the economic diversification business and competitiveness of the State;
Promote civic engagement in our communities and create the peaceful atmosphere necessary for development to take place;
Make agriculture regain its pride of place in the economy through private-public sector partnership in the agricultural sector, and development of the agricultural value chain;
Lead in the provision of Universal Health Coverage and cutting-edge technology for broad-based and excellent service delivery essential for a healthy and productive populace;
Build an educational system that will produce thinkers, innovators, leaders, and managers that will excel globally; and
Partner with relevant stakeholders/investors to attract infrastructure funding.
3.With great joy and gratitude to God, I am pleased to report that we have made more progress than was thought possible. We can even begin with this stadium where we are presently gathered. For over a decade before my assumption of office, this facility was decrepit. However, within three years of this administration, it was fully rebuilt and transformed.
4.This stadium and the other achievements, which I shall shortly highlight, were made possible because of this administration’s philosophy of corporate governance anchored on strict adherence to fiscal discipline, prudent management, judicious allocation of resources, and continual appraisal of our structures and processes. But for our unwavering determination to stand firm on these themes and values, the economy of the State would have been in shambles by now.
5.Since 2015 when we came on board, this administration has been confronted with two major crises; the economic recession in 2016/2017 and the COVID-19 global pandemic that practically grounded the economies of the world. However, we were able to stay afloat because we limited our expenditure to revenue limits, prioritised the funding of programmes/projects based on their socio-economic value, and strengthened the Economic Intelligence Unit in the Ministry of Economic Planning as the due diligence outfit of the government. I am aware that the new prudential guidelines may not have gone down well with some people but it was for the greater good of all; as responsible leaders and citizens, it behoves us to always put the collective interest above our personal interests.
6.The Public Finance Management Bill and the Audit Bill, which are in the final stages of legislation are expected to solidify the regulatory foundations for sound public finance management in the State. These instruments will help to achieve a more robust planning and budgeting system aligned to overall macro-economic framework, medium-term sector strategies, and performance-based budgeting. They will enhance transparency, as well as strengthen statistical capacity to improve data collection and management for evidence-based planning and performance evaluation.
Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Development
7.With the goal of Prosperity for All Deltans, we knew from the onset that we had to take swift and decisive actions on the issue of youth unemployment. The large army of unemployed graduates and secondary school leavers, aside from wallowing in abject poverty, was a clear and present danger to the peace and security of the state. As an administration we were clear what needed to be done; equip these young people with the requisite technical know-how, vocational skills, values, and resources to become employable and self-employed. To drive this process, we established the Technical and Vocational Education Board and created a Special Purpose Vehicle, the Office of the Chief Job Creation Officer.
8.After six years, we can be proud of the progress we have made in this regard. The Technical and Vocational Education Board has been integrated into the new Ministry of Technical Education created by this administration, while the Office of the Chief Job Creation Officer is now known as the Job and Wealth Creation Bureau by Law of the government. Meanwhile, other interventions in the sector have come on stream in the second tenure of this administration.
9.Currently, we have the following streams of youth empowerment and entrepreneurship development programmes, each with a defined target audience. They are; Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (for ages 18-35;); Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (for ages 18-35); Graduate Employment Enhancement Programme (GEEP; targeting urban clusters of job-seeking graduates); Rural Youth Skills Acquisition (RYSA) programme (for ages 18 – 35); Girls Entrepreneurship Skills Training (for ages 18-30); and Women Entrepreneurship Skills Acquisition Programme (WESAP).
10.Similar entrepreneurship development programmes are on-going in the Delta State Micro, Small, and Medium Development Agency, as well as Ministries, Departments and Agencies. Overall, at least 100, 000 persons have been trained and resourced by this administration to start their own businesses. The impact of these programmes is already being felt with hundreds of MSMEs springing up across the State, leading to poverty reduction and improved living standards for our people.
11.In 2020, the National Bureau of Statistics released two major statistics, first on Poverty-Population ratio among states in Nigeria, and second, on unemployment rate in the country. Both statistics took cognizance of both the national average and prevailing averages across the 36 states. In both instances, Delta State recorded appreciable improvement and growth, both in terms of number of people rescued from poverty and those saved from the unemployment market.
12.Delta was adjudged to be the second least poor state, coming only after Lagos, Nigeria’s business hub. The report revealed that Delta achieved a score of 6% on poverty-to-population ratio. This means that only six percent of the population survive on the breadline of less than $1 per day; by implication 94 percent of Deltans live above $1 per day. This achievement is better appreciated when juxtaposed with the fact that Delta State was the 12th poorest state in Nigeria as at 2010.
13.The impressive poverty reduction ranking is the outcome of an interplay of factors including efficient public resource management, sound economic policies, and effective sector interventions. Even more gratifying is that our youths are imbibing the principles of skills acquisition and entrepreneurship as a viable employment option. They are now looking beyond and outside their academic certificates for employment and livelihoods, as owners and managers of skills-based enterprises.
14.Moreover, the job creation programme is also impacting positively on the growth and development of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSMEs) sector in the state. By providing services as training centres, facilitators and mentors to the job creation programme, hundreds of small and medium enterprises have been stimulated and supported to upgrade their technical, entrepreneurial, and managerial capacities, increase visibility/ patronage, improve the quality of their services, and achieve enterprise development.
15.Meanwhile, our investment in technical and vocational education is paying off. Products of these colleges are thoroughly equipped with the knowledge and skills to function as wealth and job creators, in addition to possessing employability skills. The six existing technical colleges were fully rehabilitated and equipped in our first tenure, while nine new ones are currently under construction in nine local government areas of the State in our continuing efforts to expand the provision of technical education in the State.
16.Similarly, in addition to the existing twelve vocational education training centres in the State, this administration has given approval for the establishment of five new ones at Evwreni, Umutu, Kokori, Ashaka, and Oza-Nogogo.
17.It is no longer news that the Government recently established three new universities; the University of Science and Technology, Ozoro, Dennis Osadebey Univeristy, Anwai-Asaba, and University of Delta, Agbor. On a day like this, it is pertinent to restate the rationale for
the establishment of these universities. It is simply to broaden access to university education for many of our bright students who, unfortunately, are unable to gain admission even when they are qualified. To cite an example, in the 2019/2020 academic year 25,896 candidates from the State chose Delta State University as first choice. Out of this number, 22,358 qualified but only 4,854 candidates could be admitted.
18.As I said while inaugurating the Project Management Committee for the three new universities, our people place a premium on quality education. To deprive them of that is to rob them of their joy today and hope for a better tomorrow. Hence, it is incumbent on us as an administration to broaden access to university education for our bright students, especially in the fields of medicine, engineering, law, ICT, and architecture. Fortunately for us, the institutions that were upgraded have facilities that only need to be renovated and upgraded in some instances. Also, they have a pool of qualified academic personnel that were underutilized. To cite an example, the former College of Education, Agbor (now University of Delta), had 140 lecturers with Phd servicing a total student population of 1, 234.
19.We took this decision for the overall good of the State because the gains from having these universities far outweigh the costs. And as an administration, we are careful to preserve the results of our entrepreneurship development programmes in curbing youth restiveness, which can easily be eroded if thousands of secondary school graduates are left stranded; not because they are not qualified but simply because there is not enough space in the existing public universities to accommodate them.
Road and Physical Infrastructure
20.We have constructed road and physical infrastructure of the most vital interest and impact. Through the Ministries of Works and Urban Renewal, Direct Labour Agency, DESOPADEC, Delta State Capital Territory Development Agency, and Warri, Uvwie and Environs Development Agency, we have embarked on a total of 799 road projects comprising 1,577.8 kilometres of roads and 908.8 kilometres of drainage channels. As a result of the Asaba Storm Water Drainage project, residents of Asaba and the capital territory are enjoying the rainy season as the massive flooding that used to overwhelm the city is now a thing of the past. Very soon, residents of Warri/Effurun metropolis will experience similar joy when the Storm Water Drainage Project in that axis is completed.
21.This administration is particularly proud of its achievements in road construction in our riverine communities. It amply demonstrates our political will to bring development to every part of the State, no matter how remote. Notable among these roads is the 20.29 kilometres Obotobo 1- Obotobo 11 – Sokebolou – Yokri Road in Burutu Local Government Area. It is not just the length of the road that makes this project unique; it is that the road is located right beside the Atlantic Ocean with all the human, material, ecological, and financial implications that this difficult terrain presents.
22.Consequently, we have advanced rural-urban integration whilst ensuring that our urban centres remain liveable through growth and renewal. Even much more significant is that our massive investment in road and physical infrastructure has created hundreds of thousands of indirect jobs while stimulating and sustaining growth of the informal sector. Undoubtedly, it has been a period of boom for artisans, petty traders, and suppliers in the construction and allied industries.
23.In terms of physical infrastructure, our primary and secondary schools continue to receive priority attention with the construction, reconstruction, renovation, and equipping of 8,617 classroom blocks and administrative buildings. This year, a brand new and fully furnished secretariat complex for the Council of Delta State Traditional Rulers was commissioned. The traditional institution is an integral part of our governance process; they are vital to the consolidation of peace in our communities, policy implementation, and the erection of broad-based and accountable leadership and governance structures that engenders participatory democracy.
24.Without doubt, the flagship physical infrastructure project is the Central Secretariat Complex, which is nearing completion. An architectural edifice, it is only surpassed by the Federal Secretariat Complex in Abuja in terms of size and layout. When fully operational, it will save the government billions of naira in rented property while optimising functionality, ensuring discipline, and reducing cost of managing government business because there will be one source of power, internet services, among others. As you may be aware, the new complex is also fitted with, among other facilities, banking halls and crèche to motivate staff and boost productivity.
Health for All Deltans
25.The policy in our health sector is driven by the philosophy of Health for all Deltans (HeFAD) in line with the Universal Health Coverage mandate of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. In February 2016, we became the first State in the country to launch the Universal Health Coverage scheme with the birth of the Delta State Contributory Health Commission. As at today, the scheme has 906,768 enrollees; providing primary and secondary healthcare services under the scheme are 471 accredited public and private healthcare facilities. In terms of health infrastructure, this administration has renovated/upgraded 209 Primary Healthcare Centres across the State.
26.Our improved health infrastructure, proactive approach, and well-trained health personnel gave us the leverage in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. We regret the loss of lives during the pandemic, especially of our frontline health workers. The transparent nature of our governance approach caught the attention of CA-COVID, which adjudged Delta to be the most organized and transparent among the States in the distribution of the palliatives during the lockdown occasioned by the pandemic.
27.As the curve flattens out, I still encourage us to continue to adhere to the safety guidelines and protocols so that we can forever banish the virus from our shores. I also urge us to be open to take the vaccine as they are made available.
28.Let me at this juncture congratulate the state contingent to the recently concluded National Sports Festival (Edo 2021) for doing us proud. For the third consecutive time, Delta took the first position, thus cementing our leadership role in sports. My congratulations also go to the Chairman and Members of the Delta State Sports Commission, coaches, trainers, and support staff for their hard work and dedication.
29.I have briefly touched on some key milestones in our six-year stewardship. Going forward, we shall intensify our efforts to complete all on-going projects. We shall continue to uphold the time-honoured principles of fiscal discipline, transparency in governance, efficient resource mobilization, effective public communication, and excellent service delivery.
30.It is our prayer and expectation that the resources we need to implement our programmes will continue to flow in notwithstanding the myriad of challenges currently confronting us as a nation. Of course, as we enter into the last lap of this administration, political activities are expected to heat up, but we shall endeavour to stay focused on our goals in order to leave the legacy of a Stronger Delta standing on the tripod of Prosperity, Peace, and Progress.
31.Thank you all for your time and attention.
32.God bless Delta State.
33.God bless us all.
Office of the Governor