… Education, Health, Infrastructure Get Lion Share
… Prioritises Capacity Building, Hiring Professionals Into Civil Service To Boost Efficiency
By Ikhili Ebalu, Benin City
The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has presented a N153.4 billion budget proposal to the Edo State House of Assembly, for the 2021 fiscal year, representing a 9.7 percent increase from the revised 2020 budget.
Obaseki, who presented the budget to the Assembly sitting at the old Legislative Chambers in Government House, Benin City, said the budget comprises N94.8 billion for recurrent and N58.6 billion for capital expenditure.
The governor said the document christened ‘Making Edo Great Again (MEGA) Budget,’ is exclusively pinned on robustly responding to the dislocations caused by the coronavirus pandemic, whilst building a workforce of the future.
According to him, “The main driver of this growth is increase in allocation for salary payment and pension contributions to cater for new hires occasioned by the ongoing civil service transformation project.”
Obaseki said the impact areas for 2021 fiscal year include education, which will gulp N20.8 billion; human capital and civil service reforms, N6.1 billion; pension and gratuities, N12.8 billion; contribution to the State Health Insurance Scheme, N1 billion; health sector, N10.3 billion and physical, urban and regional planning, which will gulp N9 billion.
Other critical sectors, according to the governor, include roads and transport infrastructure, which will receive N14.8 billion; economic growth and employment enablers, N7.6 billion, while administration gets N8.7 billion.
He said the N153 billion receipt expected in 2021 fiscal year would accrue from FGN/FAAC, N71 billion; Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), N36 billion; Grants, N9.8 billion; Loans 15.3 billion; Capital Development Fund Receipts, 13.8 billion, while the state will have an opening balance of N7.5 billion in the fiscal year.
He added: “With the collaboration of this Honourable house, we have designed a unique instrument through which the state government can attract private sector funding targeted at key development projects. This was done in a manner that does not place a heavy burden on the state government’s balance sheet. Our combined efforts have thus led to our ability to syndicate N25 billion of private sector funding, of which N13.8 billion will crystalise in FY2021.”
Stressing that the budget would address challenges in critical sectors of the economy, the governor said the 2021 budget is primed at strengthening the state’s healthcare system across board, sustaining gains in the education and social sectors, providing needed stimulus to drive food security, supporting the weak and vulnerable in the society and actively engaging the youths.
“It is pertinent to note that these targeted investments are on the state’s most valued resources – its people. As a government, we strongly believe that to truly build and sustain a vibrant and productive state, we must first boast of a thriving, capable population, particularly the youths, buffeted by the right systems to sustain their existence and livelihoods,” he added.
On the achievements in the outgoing year, Obaseki said, “We recorded improvement in the agricultural sector with the incursion of new investors to the state, in furtherance of our vision to make agriculture the mainstay of our economy.
“With the very transparent land management system emplaced with the operations of the Edo State Geographic Information Service (EdoGIS), a lot more investors are taking advantage of our rich and fertile land to do business, growing investment in commercial farming.
“I am pleased to inform you that the Edo Oil Palm Initiative in which we partnered with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has taken off with the allocation of over 40,000 hectares of land for cultivation to six firms.
Noting that the state has made tremendous progress in its industrialisation drive, Obaseki said the state’s industrialisation policy is targeted at opening up the space for investment to facilitate big-ticket projects to site in the state so as to create wealth for the people and diversify the state’s economic base.
He noted that the commissioning of CCETC-Ossiomo Power Plant will be the catalyst for the state’s industrialisation, as the project would make ready and reliable electricity available for manufacturers, adding, “We are on course on the Benin River Port and Edo Enterprise Park projects, as the Edo Production Centre shows us signs of things to come. At the centre, which enjoys 24-hour electricity, we have seen the explosion of the Edo enterprising spirit.”
“The Edo Modular Refinery was the cynosure of all eyes this year as our partners on the project made immense progress and are on course to commission the plant, which would play a significant role in recalibrating the state’s economy.
“This project offers us a chance to be a leader in building modular refineries with the fabrication yard at the facility, we would also benefit from the increased economic activity in the state’s oil and gas scene, leading to more tax and growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP),” he noted.
Reviewing the education sector in the outgoing year, the governor said, “because we were forced to shut down schools for an extended period, the government had to devise innovative ways to engage children and ensured that they continued to learn while at home.”
According to him, “Owing to the reforms, which we had commenced through the Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation (EdoBEST) programme, we were able to transition to e-learning using the EdoBEST@Home platform.
“Working with our partners and telecoms companies and utilising our EdoBEST technology platform, virtual classrooms were created and teachers were able to teach children while they were at home. This our response through the EdoBEST@home initiative has been applauded globally and it has earned Edo State an award as one of the 5 top education accelerator countries in Africa, in the league of Egypt, Rwanda, Mozambique and Sierra Leone.
“Training of teachers is the key to educational reforms. I am pleased to inform you that the National Council of Colleges of Education (NCCE) has given approval for the establishment of the Edo State College of Education, with three campuses in Abudu, Igueben and Afuze, catering for the three senatorial districts of the state.”
Receiving the 2021 budget proposal, Speaker of the Assembly, Rt. Hon. Marcus Onobun, commended Governor Obaseki for prioritizing the welfare of Edo people, assuring him of the support of the House in his quest to make Edo great again.
Giving a vote of thanks after the budget presentation, Majority Leader of the House, Hon. Henry Okhuarobo, said the governor has shown himself to be a focused leader by presenting the budget only a few weeks after his re-election.
He said: “You have shown to our generation, particularly Edo youths that you are a dependable leader. We hope and pray that in the nearest future, your name will be remembered like other great Edo leaders like Samuel Ogbemudia and Ambrose Alli.”