By the help of Almighty God, as a people and Government, we have successfully navigated the stormy waters of 2016 and have sailed into 2017. As we have now been ushered into Year 2017, it is my sincere prayer that this New Year will usher in better tidings to all of us, as well as bring greater development to our dear State.
Without doubt, 2016 was a challenging year in the history of our dear country. It was a year that tasked our individual and collective resolve as a country and as a State, but the Nigerian Spirit in us has helped us to survive it all. Here in Ogun State, we have every cause to thank God Almighty for helping us to surmount our challenges and come out stronger. As the saying goes, “tough times never last, tough people do”.
The past year also witnessed the hosting of the 40th Anniversary of the creation of our dear State. The event, which was graced by the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhamadu Buhari GCFR; the Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo GCON; other top Government officials and eminent Nigerians, afforded us the opportunity to appraise the development of the State in the last forty years and chart a course for further development.
It is pertinent to understand that it does not augur well for us as a State to wallow so much in the past. Rather, we can only look back at Year 2016 with a deep appreciation of the challenges we went through and have a better understanding of what needs to be done in the New Year to cushion the impact of the economic downturn on our people. It is important that we understand that the beginning of a New Year is an opportunity for us to reflect and do some soul-searching: look at where we are coming from; what we have achieved and the goals we hope to further attain; as individuals, and, collectively. It is equally important that we make a collective resolution and set targets for the development of our dear State.
I dare say that in Ogun State, we have fared better in all socio-economic and development indices, compared to what was and is still obtainable elsewhere in the country. Without mincing words, our attitude in this New Year should be such that makes us to see the glass as being “half full rather than half empty”. The synergy that exists between the government and the good people of Ogun State has placed the State in such an enviable position among all the States in Nigeria. The same synergy has afforded our dear State relative peace which has made room for progress and development. Even as we enter into 2017, our Administration will further request for more cooperation and the understanding of our people.
As an Administration, we have not shirked our responsibility of providing quality leadership to the good people of Ogun State and therefore limited the impact of the national economic challenges on our people. The contracting economy, occasioned by the dwindling federal allocations, combined with a current lack of economic diversity, has neither dampened the enthusiasm of our Administration in the provision of essential services to our people nor hampered the various development projects in all the senatorial districts of our dear State. It is our pledge that we will not rest on our oars; rather, we will continue to seek better ways of bringing the dividends of democracy to not only the indigenes of our dear State, but also, to all who have made Ogun State their home. I want to assure you that the best is yet to come!
The secret behind the success story of our Administration is not far-fetched. As a responsive Administration, we are being guided by the words of that famous theoretical Physicist, Albert Einstein, that “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”. No doubt, we have been able to achieve all that we have achieved because our Administration has been proactive by looking inward and re-engineering our State’s finances. Ogun State, as at today, is second only to Lagos State in terms of the ratio of IGR to Federal allocations. We are able to pay the salaries of our workforce as and when due, we are still able to undertake development projects like renovating the existing infrastructures while at the same time building new ones.
More importantly, we have not allowed the economic situation to affect the quality of our various development projects spread across the State, with a bold imprint of Ogun Standard stamped all over them; and, neither has it affected the ability of our Administration to meet its financial obligations.
Ogun State Government, under our administration, has set an ambitious vision of growing the GDP of the State from $20 billion to $100 billion within the next 10 years. One of the strategies towards achieving this aim is to attract investments into the State. To make this happen, we need to put infrastructure in place. As an Administration, we appreciate the place of infrastructure in the drive for investment and industrialisation. This is why we have embarked on massive infrastructural development. To some of our people, they do not see reasons for these projects, but development does not come into a State without first developing the infrastructure. At the commencement of our massive road construction and redesign across the State, even our critics never believed we could have achieved what we have. Today, these projects have opened up Ogun State as the investment destination of choice in the country. Indeed, Ogun State has emerged the fastest growing State economy and is now the industrial capital of Nigeria by all indices, giving further proof of our actions. We have been able to attract over 110 new industries in the 5-years of our Administration who have individually invested between a minimum of $200 million and in excess of $2 billion in some instances.
The on-going Abeokuta-Sagamu Interchange 10-lane road will be another signpost of our Ogun standard stamp. The road is designed in such a way that it has two dedicated lanes on each side for articulated trucks. Apart from the fact that this will reduce road mishaps often caused by these articulated vehicles, the dedicated lanes will also stretch the life span of the road. The road has already attracted more investors into the Sagamu Interchange corridor of our State. I have to state that the entire corridor is almost fully occupied by multinational companies that want to take advantage of the benefits that the road will provide. These multinationals will provide more employment opportunities for our people and spur the socio-economic development of their host.
In another but related dimension, we also realised that in order to achieve massive industrialisation, we need to support road transportation with rail tarnsportation. There is need to move heavy machineries, merchandise, and large numbers of people with ease. We have therefore conceived an Inter-city rail network. This will make Ogun highly competitive thus attracting more Industries, Commerce and Real Estate development.
The ground-breaking ceremony for the proposed light-rail project will take place this month. The design and feasibility studies have already been concluded. The first phase of the proposed Ogun Light Rail Network is approximately 102.3km and consists of two lines:
- Abeokuta (Panseke) – Sagamu Interchange – Sagamu Town (49.8 km)
- Ogere Town – Sagamu Interchange – Berger (52.5km)
This first phase of the rail line was selected to take advantage of the existing traffic on the Lagos to Sagamu section of the Lagos– Ibadan Expressway, which is the busiest road in Nigeria with an Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) of over 40,000. This phase also connects Abeokuta, the State Capital to the rapidly growing industrial zone of Sagamu and commercial zone of Ogere.
In the same vein, let me assure our people that preparations have reached an advanced stage for the construction of our International Airport. This Airport will ease the movement of people, goods and services in and out of Ogun State.
As part of our efforts to develop the economy of our State, we are also keying in to the potentials provided by Agriculture and Agro-Allied industries. Agriculture will not only ensure food security, but provide huge employment opportunities for our teeming youth. We are exploring an Agro-Politan development strategy which emphasises the localisation of the entire value chain that Agriculture provides: Grow-Process-Store. This ensures that millions of our citizens engaged in the Agricultural value chain are able to prosper wherever they are.
Closely related to this, is our Reforestation Project. We already have two sites at Awowo and Imeko. Apart from the fact that the projects will go a long way in improving the quality of our environment, it will also boost our forestry development plan and promote investment in the Timber industry. Since most of the people who will drive the Agriculture and Forestry sectors are mostly rural dwellers, the year 2017 will witness huge rural road construction. We will take advantage of the opportunities provided by the World Bank through the Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP) to ensure easy access to farm produce and mobility of dwellers to modern facilities such as pipe borne water, electricity and qualitative health care delivery.
In the area of health, we have concentrated on Primary Health Care as it is the nearest to the people. Among such of our approaches are the Araya, which is a community based health insurance scheme; and, Gbomoro, which is directed at pregnant women and children between ages 0-5. All these are geared towards ensuring that our people enjoy affordable, sustainable and efficient health care. Our community based Health Insurance Scheme is designed to provide access to health services for those who could not afford, and have therefore, been excluded from the formal insurance scheme. In fact, our Araya Programme has become a template for National Primary Health Care Scheme. In October 2016, the Federal Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Centre for Disease Control, USA, conducted a performance review of HIV/AIDS management in Nigeria and rated Ogun State as the best in HIV/AIDS Service quality improvement in Nigeria.
As an Administration, we remain unwaveringly committed to ensure that all Children of school age have access to qualitative and affordable education irrespective of religious, tribal and gender differences or financial status. Our Commitment will not only be restricted to the Primary and Secondary levels of education. Our Tertiary Institution will also continue to receive adequate attention to drive our industrialization agenda. Our efforts have continued to yield bountiful rewards, while our Students and Teachers are winning local and International awards, our Institutions too, have not been left out. Just recently, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye was adjudged as the Best State University in Nigeria based on its achievements in Infrastructure development and management as well as academic staff among other measures by the Institute for Governance, Research, Leadership and Technology.
My dear good people of Ogun State, let me assure you all that the commencement of all our new Projects will not in any way affect the completion of on-going Projects spread across the three Senatorial districts. By the grace of God, I assure you that we will not leave any Project uncompleted. In fact, we are determined to leave Ogun State better than we met it. We will finish strong, and finish well. This is our commitment. Even as we remain committed to the fulfilment of all our electoral promises aimed at achieving socio-economic transformation of Ogun State and making lives better for our people, it is also important to remind you, as we have said before, that there will be challenges along the way. No doubt, development has its attendant challenges. It is, therefore, important that all of us should continue to work together as stakeholders and play our parts. This is the only way for us to take our dear State to the desired heights.
As part of our efforts towards providing a conducive environment for Public Private Partnership (PPP), we also played host to a number of National Events; some of which are the first ever National Drum Festival to make an in-road into the potentials of Culture and Tourism as a viable source of income; the 3rd Ogun State Investors Forum, tagged Emerging Economic Powerhouse with three thematic areas of focus: Environment, Agriculture and Transportation, to further position our dear State as the best investment destination. We also hosted other National events such as; the Joint Tax Board; the National Council on Finance and Economic Development (NACOFED); the National Council on Industry, Trade and Investment; and the House of Representatives Parliamentary retreat for the Committee on Constitutional Review.
However, it is important that as we record successes at the macro-economic level, we do not forget to reward our people who have contributed to these successes. As a people friendly Government, our Administration on Wednesday, 28th December, 2016, disbursed the sum of 13.1billion naira for the payment of backlog of gratuities from November 2012, to February 2014; Cooperative deductions as well as Severance Allowance to Political Office Holders who served between 2007 and 2015. This was in fulfilment of the promise of our Administration to pay these monies whenever we receive any bullet-fund from Abuja. Although, the Federal Government recommended that a minimum of 25% of the total package or maximum of 50% of the Paris Club loan refund be used for payment of Workers’ salaries and emoluments, our Administration has decided to expend not only the 100%, but added an extra 2.5billion Naira. We did this because of the importance we attach to the welfare of our workforce. You will all recall that we entered into an initial agreement with the Labour Unions for the payment of a month of arrears of the Cooperative deductions after every three months, while a sum of N200m is to be released monthly to settle gratuities. The recent payment, no doubt, far outweighs the agreement. We did all this, because we believe that no one who has served Ogun State should be denied his or her entitlements irrespective of political, religious, ethnic or gender differences. We also believe that when workers are paid their entitlements, it will percolate down, even to the market women and create a positive ripple effect on the State’s economy.
At this point, I urge all Nigerians, irrespective of your ethnic leanings or political affiliations, to join hands with President Muhammadu Buhari, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in the fight against corruption. We have learnt, by experience, the effect of corruption on the economy of our country. Let us, therefore, support the Federal Government to defeat the cankerworm of corruption. It is in doing so that our march as a nation is guaranteed on the path of peace, progress and prosperity.
On a final note, let me state that we are continually encouraged by the co-operation of our people and are ever re-energized to do what you have mandated us to do. We remain accountable to the good people of Ogun State who are the essence of our Administration. We thank you so much. To our Public Servants who have demonstrated a high level of professionalism, resourcefulness and creativity, we say thank you. To our traditional and religious leaders who have continued to pray for us, we say thank you; to all Civil, Human Rights Organizations and Labour Unions whohave constructively engaged us, we say thank you; to the Security Agencies who ensure that our people go about their daily businesses without fear of harassment and that we all sleep well at night, we say thank you; to the press who provide us the feedback and reports on the implications of some of our actions, we say thank you; and equally important, to all opposition groups, who continue to keep us on our toes, we say thank you. Again, to the Organized Private Sector and all corporate bodies who have found in us a worthy partner by investing in our dear State, we fully appreciate you.
New Year Broadcast Delivered By The Governor Of Ogun State, His Excellency, Senator Ibikunle Amosun Con Fca, On Sunday, 1st January, 2017.