New Year goal: ‘Time to join hands with Abiodun’

It’s the dawn of a New Year. A harbinger of a renewed hope for all and sundry! “By the circumstances of the recent past, the precarious socio-economic challenges of 2023 had been quite enormous. But not tough enough to make us lose our sense of direction. No matter how dark or thick the cloud may be, there is always a silver lining in the sky. Together, we must unite and work assiduously to make things better for the prosperity of the generality of the citizenry in this new dawn”.

That was the key highlight of the New Year message of Governor Dapo Abiodun to the people of Ogun State in his broadcast on Monday. As he rightly pointed out, it’s been a challenging time for the nation, private concerns, individuals, and businesses. He, however, emphasized more the need for unity of purpose and collective determination to make the state great through the ethos of hard work, diligence, and togetherness as encapsulated in the ISEYA mantra of his administration.

Now is the time to work with the government to meet the aspiration of the people for a better life. Regrettably, the last six or couple of months ago have been characterized by distractions, arising largely from the prolonged litigation that trailed the March 28 governorship election. While the legal crossfire lasted, quite a lot of times, energies and resources had been expended on the defence of the people’s mandate, beginning from the governorship Election Petition Tribunal all through the Appeal Court, culminating in the affirmation of the results declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in favour of Governor Abiodun. Along with it, there has also been a great deal of anxiety combined with the physical and emotional pains of going and coming out of court. For whatever reason, the State can ill-afford any further waste of time on frivolity.

While optimism is high that, by the Grace of God, the Supreme Court will soon lay the matter to rest, it is imperative to appeal to all stakeholders to join hands with the government to consolidate the foundation of success the Abiodun administration has laid by transforming the economy of the state to a leading investment destination in Nigeria and beyond.

And time is of the essence. Fighting six months of legal battle out of a four-year tenure is a great deal of loss to the government and the people of the state. The way out is to give the governor the necessary support for him and his team to redouble their efforts to cover the lost ground. Otherwise, the commitment of the administration to sustain the stability of the economy, and build more infrastructure to attract industrial investments and other basic social needs will turn only out to be a rope of sand.

Beyond rhetoric, the task of building virile and sustainable economic growth is a collective responsibility. The government’s side of the bargain is to be seen leading the charge by creating an enabling environment for industries to thrive as well as the necessary incentive for the youths to be a part of the vision to boost productivity.

For enhanced performance, Governor Abiodun has set out new priority areas to align with the overall agenda of his administration to expand the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This is apart from the current aggressive revenue drive which has earned Ogun an enviable position of a leading state with the highest percentage of IGR to federal allocation, coming next to Lagos in terms of the capacity for self-sustenance without the support of the centre.

The celebrated feat is the outcome of the survey recently conducted by Economic Confidential, measuring the Internal Revenue Generating capacity of each state as a percentage of federal allocation and putting Ogun State on the front roll. Apart from the benefits of reduced dependency on revenue allocation from the Federal Government, the State is now poised to witness unprecedented infrastructure development in 2024.

“Our efforts have not gone unnoticed, as we have been rated the number one state in the country in industrial revolution by Forbes Africa. We have also been adjudged by BudgIT as the number one state in improved internally generated revenue, IGR, and also as one of the two (2) resilient states having generated more IGR than allocations received from the Federal Government.

“As we navigate the New Year, having signed the 2024 Budget named ‘Budget of Sustained Growth & Development’ into law, our commitment to your well-being, welfare, development, and prosperity remains unwavering we will continue to build on the foundation established in the last four years,” he said.

The governor in his New Year broadcast, enthusiastically gave assurance that his administration would redouble its efforts towards meeting the basic needs of the people. His enthusiasm stems from the developmental strides he has recorded in the last four years of his first tenure and the readiness of his administration to do more in his second term.

He noted that 2023 had been a challenging year for many Nigerians as a result of the precarious economic situation in the country. He, however, commended the people for their resilience, steadfastness, and infinite forbearance in the face of all odds. “In 2023, we faced numerous challenges, but together we were resolute, focused, and we emerged united and stronger. I want to express my heartfelt appreciation to you, the good citizens and residents of Ogun State, for your unwavering support, cooperation, resilience, and unflinching loyalty,” he said.

Taking stock of the laudable achievements of the government in the last five years, he added: “We have prioritized the provision of the required infrastructure, particularly in the transportation sector. We have constructed or rehabilitated over 500 kilometres of roads across the state, thus ensuring improved transportation and connectivity. Our commitment to equitable development is evident, as these works are spread across our 20 Local Government Areas in the state.

“We have also embarked on our multi-modal transport master plan, encompassing land, air, water, and rail modes of transportation. The Gateway Agro-Cargo airport project initiated a little over 2 years ago is set to commence passenger and cargo operations in the first quarter of 2024. This world-class airport and economic enabler will provide over 25,000 job opportunities.”

For the transport sector, he stated that Ogun State remained the first in Nigeria to deploy Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fueled buses. This, he said, had resulted in reduced transport fares.

To ensure food self-sufficiency, he disclosed that over 700,000 tree seedlings had been planted in the forest reserves to combat deforestation, while over 40,000 farmers had been empowered to promote agribusiness

On top of all these is the improvement in healthcare service delivery. According to the governor, over 100 primary healthcare centres spread across 100 wards have been renovated and equipped, while Ilera-Dero, a Health Insurance Scheme, has also been established to enhance accessibility and affordability.

As a government that places a premium on the provision of adequate shelter for all, over 3,000 affordable housing units have been constructed across the state to bridge the deficit gap that exists between the demand and supply sides of affordable housing.

Infrastructure is the catalyst that drives industrial growth. Accordingly, since the inception of the present administration, the state government has been pursuing aggressive road infrastructure development across the three senatorial districts. And on this note, the Governor had this to say with a deep sense of fulfillment: “We have constructed, reconstructed, and rehabilitated over 500 kilometres of roads. The 45km Sagamu Interchange-Siun-Abeokuta Expressway, now renamed the Muhammadu Buhari Expressway; the 14km Ijebu-Ode/Epe/ Mojoda expressway; the 19km Atan-Lusada-Agbara tolled expressway which is near completion, and other road projects spread across all four zones of the State, have been newly constructed, rehabilitated, or reconstructed.”

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Though a stable supply of electricity for industrial growth remains largely a growing concern in Nigeria, he has not faltered in his responsibility to improve efficiency in the power sector. “Our Community Electrification Project has improved power supply in the 20 Local Government Areas, while the expansion of the Ogun State Electricity Distribution System will cover more areas especially the corridor from the Sagamu Interchange to Abeokuta (As a phase 1 Project), he stated.

Complementary to this, the administration has also been unrelenting in its commitment to ensuring sustainable improvement in the Ease of Doing Business in the state. As recent evidence has shown, since its inauguration in 2019, the Abiodun-led administration has consistently invested in the automation of business processes to improve the Ease of Doing Business Index in the state. This initiative includes rapid response to permit requests, tax administration, and payment processes. All of these can now be initiated and completed online stress-free.

Provision of security is one of the topmost priorities of the Abiodun administration. As such, it has continued to strive to strengthen the already established Security Trust Fund and also ensure regular procurement of relevant security gadgets, including drones, for security agencies in the state, while also augmenting the allowances and living conditions of security personnel to enhance security and safety in the state.

While a lot still needs to be done to achieve the overall agenda of sustainable economic growth, bridge the infrastructure deficit gap, enhanced healthcare delivery, youth, and women empowerment, and food security, among others, there is expectation that the 2024 budget will sustain the commitment of the administration to the improvement of the welfare of the generality of the citizenry.

Governor Abiodun, signing the budget into law, reiterated his determination to make Ogun State Nigeria’s infrastructure capital. He gave this assurance, while signing the Bill tagged “Budget of Sustain Growth and Development,” into law after it was presented to him by the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Olakunle Oluomo, supported by principal officers of the House at the Governor’s Office, Oke-Mosan Abeokuta.

He expressed delight that the state had continued to grow in leap and bounds in the last five years, stating that the budget was a testament to his administration’s commitment to the irrevocable implementation of its vision.

“When we assumed office on the 29th of May 2019, we were committed to a vision to ensure that we create an enabling environment for investments and investors to strive in Ogun State, believing that that is very fundamental to the economic development of our state and the individual prosperity of our people.

“Today, we have a budget that has become law, that is more than twice our budget when we assumed office. Year after year, we have successfully implemented our budget to the tune of a minimum of 70 percent.

“The economy of our state has continued to grow. We have been accorded the rightful place as the state with the most improved economy in Nigeria, fastest growing economy in the country, one of the two most viable states in Nigeria, one of the two states, whose Internally Generated Revenue exceed Federal Allocation. These have been made possible by the collective hard work and commitment of all of you,” he said.

This is a clarion call on all and sundry to join hands with the administration to take the state to the next level of its developmental agenda.

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