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Governor Yahaya Bello: Making a difference in Kogi State, Nigeria

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When a mention of Kogi State, Nigeria is made in the media, lots of insinuations, innuendos and undercurrents play out, especially in the social media about the unassuming and modest Governor of the State, Governor Yahaya Adoza Bello writes Babawale A. Ọmogbolahan

The gap-toothed, ever-smiling and comely Governor of the Confluence State means different personality to different folks. Just like the different persons touching different parts of an elephant will describe the gargantuan animal based on their perspective of it, the personage of the youngest governor ever democratically elected in the history of Nigeria is not different from the elephant syllogism – Governor Yahaya Bello is the elephant of Nigeria’s political space.

The case with Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello, GYB as he is fondly called, is that of a celestial kismet that cannot be undermined regardless of whatever shenanigans, whether ethereal or terrestrial done to circumvent it. His becoming the All Progressives Congress, (APC) eventual candidate in the 2016 gubernatorial election in the State was purely divine. There is no denial of the incontrovertible fact that Kogi State is one of Nigeria’s best-kept secret with goldmine and fortunes. The Governor has in the last five (5) years turned around, and still improving, the fortunes of the State. Since he assumed office, the Gateway State to the Federal Capital Territory has achieved unprecedented Midas touch different from what the State was known for.

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Kogi State was known to be the least developing despite being the most endowed naturally among all the States of the Federation. With over 42 mineral resources available in the State before the ascendancy of Governor Yahaya Bello, Kogi State was described as backwardly and retrogressing in the committee of States. Despite being strategically located and viable for prosperity, the State was economically comatose, socially torpid, business-wise sluggish and politically volatile as killings, maims and arsons were the other of the day. The emergence of Yahaya Bello was a blessing in disguise to Kogites as he swung into action immediately he was sworn into the office by putting up a blueprint that would put the State on a path of steady progress. His landmark achievements can be seen in security, economy, finance, investment drive, infrastructures, health, education, politics, Diaspora engagement, women empowerment among others.

SECURITY

Before he assumed office, insecurity in the State was at the apex. Robbery and kidnapping were perpetrated with reckless abandon. Travellers who usually would pass through the State to link the northern part of the country were under constant siege. From Ibillo to Ogori Msgongo, Lambata to Okene, Kabba-Bunu to Lokoja, Idah through Ajaokuta among other routes were nightmarish for commuters on transit. As if that were not enough, the State was notorious for being the headquarters of the Boko Haram insurgents. The State Capital, Lokoja was used as a base by the religious extremists to hatch their nefarious activities. As a matter of fact, Kogi State was where the Boko Haram vampires produced their IEDs. And this had gone on for years before Governor Yahaya Bello’s forthright leadership came to dislodge these criminals.

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Today, Governor Yahaya Bello has changed the security narratives. He provided over 200 utility vehicles for security patrol against criminal activities in the State while over 500 motorcycles were provided for security operations to allow security agents access to the hinterlands where most of the heinous crimes are committed. The Vigilante servicemen and women use the motorbikes to access difficult terrains where criminals reigned as terror lords since those locations are inaccessible. Aside from this, Gov. Bello’s administration procured sophisticated gadgets for Operation Total Freedom (OPT) established by the administration to stamp out criminal activities in the State.

This heavy investment in communication gadgets and training of security operatives, the introduction of the Security Whistle Blower Policy exposed a lot of the criminals. The Vigilante Service Operation (VSO) and the domestication of the Criminal Justice Code were all instrumental to the excellent security of lives and property in the state. The OPT gesture further stimulated the gathering of Intelligence as it became seamless and properties that were proceeds of crime were destroyed to serve as a deterrent to others. Statistically, criminal activities in the State dropped by over 92 per cent complemented by the zero tolerance of the Governor towards any form of criminality and his insistence on not negotiating with bandits! A synergy geared towards complementing the efforts of the Federal Government on security architecture saw the construction of Army Forward Operation bases at different places across the state to enhance the security of lives and property.

POLITICS

Sequel to the emergence of the then opposition party, All Progressives Congress, APC, the State was sharply divided along ethnic lines and even religious colouration which was further exacerbated by the disunity the politicians planted in the minds of the people against one another. However, on the assumption of office, the first three appointments of the Governor immediately after his inauguration on January 27, 2016, were spread across the three Senatorial Districts in the State. In his first term, HE Hon. Edward Onoja from Kogi East who is today the deputy governor became the first Chief of Staff (CoS) in the State to emerge from a different political zone from that of the Governor.

Unlike what was obtainable with the former State leaders before Yahaya Bello, he would go-ahead to alter the status quo. His Chief Press Secretary (CPS) was appointed from the western part of the State while his Special Assistant (SA) on Media was appointed from Kogi Central. It was a new dawn in Kogi State, a fresh beginning and a break from the norm. It was time to jettison individual differences, reshape the mentality of the Kogi people. The people were glad to have a unifier, rallying point as Governor. Projects were distributed across the three Senatorial Districts of the State and the institutions of government were ushered into a new path of growth and development. All appointments under his administration were spread across the state – a situation which has helped break down the barrier of ethnic chauvinism.

HEALTH

One other sector in the State which has received a huge commitment from the State Governor is the health sector. Quality healthcare has enjoyed tremendous support from Governor Yahaya Bello. Aside from the about-to-be-completed state-of-the-art Medical Diagnostic Centre in the State that will arguably become the best in the country, lots of other health benefit programmes have been going on in the State, one of which is the Healthcare Plus concept that has been applauded as one chef d’oeuvre intervention health scheme across the Federation.

The Healthcare Plus was an intervention mechanism introduced to help pregnant women and nursing mothers. The former Minister for Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole described the scheme as one of the best healthcare policies in the country at large as it were. The program has made it possible for pregnant women to have access to no-cost medical services across the State. This was conceived to confront the huge number of child and maternal deaths which was prevalent not in Kogi State but across the country. This is notwithstanding the provision of free maternal and new-born healthcare services including referrals where and when necessary.

The Governor Yahaya Bello-led administration in Kogi State has embarked on a massive revamp of the entire health paraphernalia of the State some of which include renovation, remodelling and re-equipping of 21 existing Primary Health Care Centres (one per Local Government) with solar-powered boreholes and electrification to help the success of the Healthcare-Plus Programme. It also is stated that the Healthcare-Plus was a microcosm of the Governor’s State Health Insurance Scheme (SHIS). The administration has done lots of recruitment, training and re-training of Health Workers on various specialities.

Some of the other intervention programmes of the Governor include but are not limited to the following;

  • Completion of the hitherto abandoned Confluence Advanced Medical Diagnostic and Imaging Centre (CAMDIC). New equipment paid for and additional equipment was recently procured to serve the masses
  • Remodelling of the College of Nursing, Obangede with a deserved facelift. The old College of Nursing, Obangede, a Mono-technic health institution in the State has been approved to be converted to a Polytechnic with the introduction of new courses such as Dental Nursing and Midwifery
  • Renovation of State’s Zonal Hospital in Kabba (Kogi West), Idah (Kogi East) and Okene (Kogi Central). This has made it easy for people to access quality healthcare without necessarily besieging the medical facilities at the State Capital
  • Construction of a Cottage Hospital in Kpareke, not forgetting the massive renovation and construction of new hostels and Clinic at the School of Nursing, Obangede.
  • Construction of an administrative block at the School of Health Technology, Idah to ensure the smooth running of the institution

AGRICULTURE

Agriculture has witnessed massive and unprecedented revolution under the present administration in the Confluence State. The State Government under Governor Yahaya Bello’s honcho ship keyed into the Agricultural Renaissance Policy of the Federal Government which was aimed at ensuring food sufficiency and promotion of non-oil sector wherewithal for economic transformation. Today, Kogi State has become the agricultural hub of Nigeria with the provision of a conducive environment and necessary support by the State honcho to make the sector the driver of the state economy.

Governor Yahaya Bello-led leadership has succeeded in encouraging the youth to key into farming through orientation, sensitization, mechanization, subsidy inputs, fertilizer, continuous training and many other supports. In the State today, many youths can boast of a career in farming and are proud to be called farmers contrary to what was obtainable in years past. This has, in effect, drastically helped in changing the mind of the youths across the 21 Local Government Areas in the State to engage in agriculture.

ECONOMY

Recognizing the daunting task ahead of him at the inception of his administration in 2016, the Governor needed a blueprint that would gear the State to the path of economic el-dorado. The Governor would therefore reposition the State’s Bureau of Public/Private Partnership (BP3) to engage the private world in businesses that were hitherto used as conduit pipes to defraud the State. Today, the Bureau has been able to facilitate some blue-chip deals that have added value to the State as well as elevate her respectability in the business community. Governor Yahaya Bello has used the BP3 initiative to improve Kogi State’s acceptability in the business world and the international community.

The State’s Tax Reforms under the Yahaya Bello Administration has impacted positively on the finances of the state. Suffice to state without equivocation that without the reforms, it would have been impossible to survive the many undercurrents, especially when the country herself slid into recession. The State would have been worse off having been wrecked with financial depression occasioned by the reckless borrowing and stealing of the past. On assumption of office, the Governor granted the State’s Board of Internal Revenue autonomy. It became the Kogi State Internal Revenue Service (KSIRS). With the construction of a new Revenue House aside from the aesthetic beauty to State Capital – Lokoja, competent hands were employed to drive the State’s tax reform that would later increase astronomically the revenue base of the State using a digital application.

Kogi State as of today has moved from that State with a ridiculous paltry monthly Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of N350million from the previous administration to N1.3Billion. The massive result in the revenue base of the State was a corollary of a purpose-driven leadership of a youthful governor with a clear vision of repositioning the State holistically.

POWER

The bedrock of every viable economy is access to power (energy). Electricity plays a very pivotal role in a bid to guarantee industrialization and development. Power is a catalyst to the economic revival and sustenance of every government. This, the Bello-led executive knew and therefore would leave no stone unturned in intervening in the electrification project in the State. Some of the electrification projects the State Governor has embarked upon include the under-listed;

  • Electrification project of Agassa town, located within Okene Local Government Area of the State
  • Completion of the Lokoja(Banda)-Kotonkarfe electrification project which has sparked industrial development to promote production and generate jobs as well as improve the living standards of the people
  • Electrification Project of Abejukolo in Omala Local Government Area
  • Intervention to restore power to Ogori Community in Kogi Central
  • Kogi East before the ascension of Governor Yahaya Bello into the office was 90% in darkness. Today, the story has changed as about 80% of the entire Kogi East now enjoys power for a minimum of 18 hrs per day with the provision of a 33KVA transformer for the Senatorial District.

DIASPORA ENGAGEMENT

Only recently, in a highly-subscribed regular vConference, virtual conference, organized by the United Kingdom Chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC under the leadership of Prince Ade Omole via Zoom, Governor Yahaya Bello was a guest where he held every participant spellbound about his administration’s investment drive to bring Nigerians as well as foreign investors interested from the Diaspora to come and invest in the State. The high-profile hugely-subscribed virtual town hall meeting saw the Governor highlight his stewardship in the last five (5) years as well as what his administration intends to do for the Kogi people in the last part of his progressive leadership.

At the virtual conference which was attended by Nigerians living in Germany, Russia, South Africa, United Kingdom, the United States as well as other countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and America, the Governor listed some of the areas interested investors could come in to take advantage of the State Government’s business-friendly environment to include agriculture, power, mineral resources, culture (confluence), health, education among others.

WOMEN EMPOWERMENT

If there exists any governor or state government that has given prominence to women in politics, no one can rival the numero uno of the Confluence State, Governor Yahaya Adoza Bello. The self-styled, soft-spoken progressive governor shocked the country recently when he encouraged and supported women as deputies to all-male chairmen of local governments in the State. It is to display his uncommon valour for empowering the female folks.

Aside from empowering women as deputy local government chairmen, Governor Yahaya Bello’s ADC and Secretary to the State Government (SSG) are women while the honcho in charge of Kogi State Investment Agency, an independent parastatal of the State Government is under the headship of a woman. All of these moves are pointers to the undeniable fact that Mr Governor is women-friendly.

EDUCATION

One of the focal points of the Yahaya Bello administration is the education sector. This, his leadership has made a serious impact and has continued to make an incursion into the educational sector. The Governor has shown by all standards that he believes the best resource of any society and the bulwark for development is education. If it could work for Singapore and brought el-dorado to the country today, Governor Bello believes Kogi State should not be different. Some of those strides the governor has made in the sector include, but not limited to the following;

  • Remodelling of legacy schools across the State to meet international standards. This is an ongoing task
  • Construction of Library Extension at Kogi State College of Education (Technical), Kabba
  • Ongoing construction of GYB Model Primary Schools across the 239 Wards of the State
  • Completion of the hostel accommodation project at Government Science Secondary School, Icheke, Omala Local Government Area
  • Several construction projects at the Kogi State University, Anyigba as well as Kogi State Polytechnic, Lokoja
  • Restructuring of the Ministry of Education and all agencies under it to guarantee robust and sound education for the Kogi State inhabitants.

INFRASTUCTURAL STRIDES

A look at the nooks and crannies of the State has witnessed quantum road projects by the State’s agency saddled with such responsibility. The Kogi State Road Maintenance Agency (KOGROMA) has taken delivery of modern and state-of-the-art equipment to help deliver world-class projects. The hitherto moribund and obsolete equipment has since been replaced to give the State a befitting infrastructure after years of reckless abandonment.

A list of some road projects executed by the Yahaya Bello administration is hereunder listed. However, it is important to state that these projects are in-exhaustive as there are many others still receiving attention from the State Government;

  • Construction of Ankpa township road
  • Construction and rehabilitation of Ijowa-Jege-Ife-Olukotun road
  • Rehabilitation of Shintaku-Gboloko-Dekina road in Dekina Local Government, Kogi East Senatorial District
  • Construction and rehabilitation of Lokoja township road

In conclusion, Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello has performed creditably well for the people of the State. His progressive and laudable activities have been grossly under-reported by the mainstream media. However, the state media machinery especially the new social media team have tried their best to project a Governor of enviable calibre and his milestones on the socio-political and economic landscape of the Confluence State. The stage is now set for the white lion to roar at the national level.

Energy

Nigeria’s oil and gas sector reform set to become law

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Last week, both chambers of Nigeria’s parliament passed the long-awaited Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which will enter into law once it receives presidential sign-off, which is expected to follow in the coming weeks. Significant reform of the oil and gas sector has been under consideration for well over a decade, and the new bill contains important provisions to generate much-needed investment and revitalize Nigeria’s energy sector, writes Colin Stevens.

The urgency of the reforms has never been greater, as a result of Nigeria’s reliance on the oil and gas sector for foreign exchange earnings and Government revenue (representing 90% and 60% respectively). As private sector investment globally is increasingly channelled into cleaner energy sources, the pool of available investment is shrinking, compounded by the global pandemic. However, for a country such as Nigeria, which has the second largest oil reserves on the continent, to transition away from fossil fuels, significant investment is needed in order to support the development of infrastructure and human capital.

Current administration’s commitment to reform

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As a result, President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has made passing this bill a key priority this term, addressing the roadblocks which, according to a KPMG report, have previously prevented its passing in 2008, 2012 and 2018. The current bill seeks to introduce changes to royalty arrangements and fiscal terms to appease foreign oil producers, as well as address the concerns of the communities where oil is extracted. Foreign oil producers such as Chevron, ENI, Total and ExxonMobil, have all stated that billions of dollars’ worth of investment have been held up due to the slow progress of the bill, providing confidence for local stakeholders that the passage of the bill will lead to a wave of investment.

Another key roadblock which the current administration has managed to navigate was the stance of host communities, who had previously been side-lined during the process and sought to block the Bill’s passage. The Petroleum Host Community Development (PHCD) attempts to address their concerns by providing direct social and economic benefits from petroleum operations to host communities, and creating a framework to support sustained development, via the creation of a Trust, through which communities will claim a 3% share of regional oil wealth generated through production.

Governance reforms

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The need for governance reforms has also frequently been cited as an impediment to inward investment in the sector. Under the new Bill, the existing Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) will transition from a state-owned to a limited liability company, allowing for greater transparency and efficiency. Formal segmentation of the industry into the upstream and mid- and down-stream sectors, with separate regulators, will also allow for clearer oversight. The passage of the bill has been welcomed by the country’s Centre for Transparency Advocacy, which called it “a positive step” towards a reformed energy industry.

Preparing for the energy transition

Before the Bill was approved, commentators were calling for more provisions which explicitly address climate change concerns and pave the way for diversification into sustainable energy production. Environmental provisions including the establishment of remediation funds and requirement for environmental management plans are positive steps, however they only meet, and do not exceed, baseline international standards, and are therefore not seen as sufficiently ambitious.

However, there is clear potential for the Petroleum Investment Bill to generate significant government revenue, which can then be invested in the renewables sector. Initiatives such as the government’s solar power plan, which will see 2.3 trillion naira (approximately €4.7 billion) of the COVID economic recovery fund dedicated to installing five million solar systems, demonstrate a willingness to invest in low-carbon energy production.

The result of these reforms, which to a large extent respond to the major criticisms levelled at Nigeria’s oil and gas sector over recent decades, is increased clarity for potential investors. When coupled with the opening up of the global economy, and a wider commitment to infrastructure investment and sustainable energy initiatives, the passing of the PIB bodes well for Nigeria.

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Nigeria

Nigeria successfully exits recession

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Nigeria’s economy has bucked a global trend and has successfully exited recession in the fourth quarter of 2020, writes Colin Stevens.

According to data from the country’s National Bureau of Statistics, GDP increased by 0.11% in the period October-December, supported primarily by growth in agriculture and telecommunications, which expanded by 3.4% and 17.6% respectively.

While increased global oil prices contributed to the growth, the figures also demonstrate the increasing importance of the non-crude sector for Africa’s most populous nation and the diversification of the country’s economy. Analysts note that the figures may indicate a sustained period of faster growth, as the world watches on to see which countries achieve a V-shaped recovery following the pandemic.

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Growth in domestic product was also supported by the country’s Economic Sustainability Plan, an ambitious set of policies announced by President Buhari’s administration in June 2020 to address the immediate challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Already, the focus on infrastructure and job creation in the agricultural and other labour-intensive sectors have borne fruit, and the Economic Sustainability Plan is soon to enter a new phase, with the installation of solar power in 5 million homes further boosting employment opportunities and access to power.

Femi Adesina, Special Advisor to President Buhari on Media, said “Infrastructure is where Buhari will leave his biggest footprints. Bridges. Rail. Airports. AKK gas pipeline. All to be delivered before the administration exits in 2023.”

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In parallel, a new job creation initiative aimed at the country’s youth was launched in January, providing placements for over 700,000 unemployed young people.

Nigeria’s GDP numbers at the end of 2020 challenged the expectations of international organisations as well as global trends. Countries with larger stimulus packages, such as the USA and Japan, saw lower quarter on quarter growth than Nigeria over the period. In Europe, Spain and Germany also experienced unexpected increases of 0.4% and 0.1% respectively, while France’s GDP fell less than was forecast but remained negative.

This week also saw reports that corruption in Nigeria has fallen dramatically, with BudgIT, a civic advocacy organisation focused on budget and public finance issues, reporting the payment of public funds into personal accounts has declined by 94.75 percent.

While the trend in Nigeria is no doubt positive, risks of further waves of infection and a slow vaccine roll-out threaten the country’s sustained recovery, and are difficult to mitigate. Nigeria’s National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NADFAC) recently approved the AztraZeneca vaccine for the country and has requested 10million doses from the World Health Organisation’s Covax programme. However, it is unclear when these vaccines will arrive and be rolled-out across Nigeria.

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EU

EU supports recovery and resilience in #Nigeria with additional €50 million

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In the margins of the 7th Tokyo International Conference on Africa Development (TICAD), International Cooperation and Development Commissioner Neven Mimica (pictured), signed a new €50 million package to enhance efforts in North East Nigeria. On the occasion, Commissioner Mimica said: “The agreement signed today increases our bilateral cooperation with Nigeria by €50 million, bringing the total EU support to the country to €562 million for 2014-2020. This additional support will be focused on the North East of the country. It will help strengthen early recovery and build conflict resilience in affected and vulnerable communities in the States of Yobe and Borno, as well as improve human development, social cohesion and resilience for over 26,000 vulnerable households and communities in Yobe state.” The projects financed by this additional support will expand the already extensive EU humanitarian and development assistance to the many victims of violence and displacement in Nigeria's North East, while addressing some of the underlying drivers of violent extremism in the country. A full press release is available here.

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