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My Vision Is To Transform Lives In Delta State—Edevbie  

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He was three times commissioner for finance in Delta State and Chief of Staff between 2019 and 2021. At the national level, he later became the Principal Secretary to President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua. In this virtual interview, Chief David Edevbie speaks on various issues including why Deltans should trust him for the number one job in the oil-rich Niger Delta State. ROLAND OGBONNAYA presents the excerpts

Why should Deltans trust you with the number one position in the State?

Delta State is at a very delicate stage of its journey and cannot afford any reversals or slow-down in the pace of development. The previous administrations have laid down social, economic, and infrastructural foundations for the State’s sustainable development. It would be unfortunate at this point if political power were to pass into inexperienced hands lacking the capacity to manage the State’s diversity or having a sufficiently deep understanding of how to build upon the accomplishments of the past. I have worked very closely with all the Chief Executives of this State since 1999 and played critical roles in developing their plans and implementing their projects, so I am very conversant with what has been accomplished and what remains undone. I have exceptional familiarity with the successes and in-depth knowledge of the prospects and challenges ahead. Delta State needs to creatively attract funding to tap its vast human and natural resources and fund a clearly defined future vision. My academic background and experience working for nearly four decades in senior positions in the private sector locally and internationally and in the state and federal governments have equipped me for the job. My track record speaks for itself, and even my fiercest critics concede that I am fit for the job.

 

You mentioned attracting funding to Delta State. In an era where contractor debt stands at an all-time high, how do you hope to accomplish this? How can you restore investor/contractor confidence?

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I have worked in various capacities across several global financial institutions, directly identifying and managing vast investment portfolios and projects. So I am very conversant with the intricacies and processes involved in securing foreign investments. The relationships established both internationally and locally during that period and in my personal and professional endeavours after that, which I have nurtured over the years, will be vital in attracting the required funding. On the issue of contractor debt, I am not aware that it is at an all-time high, but I have managed huge public debt relative to revenue before and can do so again. When I served as Commissioner for Finance in Governor Ibori’s administration, I established a monthly cash budget system that gave contractors confidence and certainty in the payment system. The system was devoid of lobbying, and contractors were paid on a first-come, first-served basis. In essence, contractors didn’t need to have a personal relationship with me or anyone else before they got paid; hence their works certificates were as good as physical cash.  Banks lobbied contractors to fund the State Government projects because of their confidence in our payment system.

Accumulation of contractors and bank debt signal a liquidity problem that could adversely impact government programs and projects and other adverse effects on the overall economy. For example, a delay in payment to a road construction company may delay payments to its vendors, leading to even disproportionate delays further down the supply chain, thereby limiting fund circulation. This results in a reduction in overall consumer spending and the gross domestic product. Delayed payments also translate to delayed receipt of related taxes that could be channelled towards executing other government projects/programs and so on. In certain instances, the government and its contractors have had to adjust contract pricing to make up for anticipated payment delays leading to additional costs to the government.

To rebuild contractor confidence, firstly, it is critical to prevent further accumulation of contractor debt, and consequently, realistic budget estimates, especially regarding revenue projections, are imperative.

Secondly, we will ensure accurate real-time reporting of a contractor and other debt by way of fully automated (i.e. end-to-end from procurement approval to settlement) public financial management (PFM) processes.

Finally, a minimum of 10% of annual budgets and monthly revenue receipts will be set aside to settle all contractor arrears to completely defray them before the end of my administration.

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What is your view on governorship rotation?

Despite our diverse ethnicities, we are all connected as one people. If a child in Akugbene cannot read, that should matter even if it is not my child. Suppose a senior citizen in Utagba Ogbe cannot afford basic human necessities because of unpaid pensions or otherwise. That makes every one of our lives poor, even if it is not our grandparent. That fundamental understanding that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers will make Delta State excel. Ethnicity should not set us apart, but unfortunately, not everyone thinks this way, mainly because there is a high natural tendency for politics to be tribal. In my opinion, this is very unfortunate, especially when championed by those who should know better.  However, to manage this reality, our party, the PDP, was compelled to adopt the concept of zoning to ensure a sense of equity, fairness, and justice, where nobody feels shortchanged. I fully understand it as a necessary evolution to the future society where our artificial differences will countless.

Successive administrations have been accused one time or the other of arbitrary citing of projects for ethnic or political reasons or otherwise. What is your take on that?

Such sentiments are bound to arise in a State as diverse as ours, whether true or otherwise, especially when expectations are not appropriately managed. In my view, what is missing is a statewide development master plan. That is why I plan that a medium/long-term development master plan backed by appropriate legislation will be implemented within the first one hundred days of inauguration. The master plan will be developed with the input and collaboration of key stakeholders across ethnic and other demographic lines to ensure that it is a product of all. With a master plan in place, project selection and implementation should become more objective and easy to track, monitor, and evaluate.

With the current spate of insecurity across the country, how do you hope to implement your plans?

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Insecurity remains a significant threat to development nationwide. If the menace is not addressed quickly, all developmental efforts would be in vain. An effective security architecture must be put in place to create a safe, peaceful, secure, and enabling environment for our development agenda to be delivered. Also, a thriving economy where the majority of the people are gainfully employed is an antidote to insecurity. Consequently, I will adopt a two-pronged approach towards tackling insecurity. Firstly, the immediate approach will involve collaboration with the Federal Government and other stakeholders to re-engineer our State security architecture, emphasising local control of security apparatus to ensure greater efficiency in intelligence gathering, evaluation, and speedy utilisation. An all-inclusive security regime is driven by an enhanced public/private sector security trust fund providing sustainable funding for the security architecture, including the deployment of state of the art ICT equipment such as drones, CCTV, etc., for real-time surveillance at security flashpoints, etc. I will ensure that relevant State security laws are strengthened for greater effectiveness. Secondly,  the long-term approach, which will involve rapid industrialisation of the State that will create jobs on a large scale engaging majority of the populace in meaningful enterprises with a spin-off in youths shunning vices that are currently plaguing the State

Can you please expatiate on your industrialisation plans?

My industrialisation plan aims to make the State a massive production and manufacturing hub underpinned by domestic and foreign direct investment anchored on public and private partnerships. The strategy involves enacting investor-friendly legislation and providing requisite infrastructure, including reliable electricity and suitable road and transportation networks for industrial clusters to be set up across the State. The Aboh-Ogwashi Agro-Processing Park and the Kwale Industrial Parks initiated by the current administration and the Warri Industrial Business Park initiated by the Uduaghan administration will be completed.

You mentioned the provision of reliable electricity and suitable road and transportation networks for industrial clusters. How are you going to provide reliable electricity given the electricity challenge plaguing the entire country?

 

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Reliable energy supply is a sine qua non for the development of the State and Nigeria at large as it is at the core of every human enterprise. Therefore, it will be my number one priority. I plan to leverage the State’s natural gas endowments and other renewable energy sources to provide accessible, affordable, and regular power supply to catalyse diverse economic activities. In this regard, a 500MW Power Plant will be developed within 36 months to boost the State’s power supply for domestic and industrial use. Energy hubs will also be created in each of the three senatorial districts to ensure that rural communities not previously connected are linked to the power grid.

What about the road networks. You will have some big shoes to fill if given the mandate after Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, who has been nicknamed the Road Master. Do you believe you are up to the task?

I commend Sen. Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa for his performance in road infrastructure that has earned him the Road Master nickname from Deltans. It is a worthy accomplishment. However, my plans extend beyond road construction to ensure high-quality intermodal transport over land, water, and air. The Cabotage Act will be exploited, fostering investments in water transportation, rail, and gas-powered coaches, etc., to reduce dependence on vehicular transportation. We will pursue expansion and upgrade of the Osubi Airstrip and partner with the Federal Government to fully operationalise the Warri and other ports in the State.

Well, many State Governors and other civic societies have tried to engage the Federal Government on a myriad of issues with little progress. Why do you think it will be any different if given the mandate?

I worked for late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as his Principal Secretary, so I understand the intrigues and intricacies of the politics at the centre. Also, as Commissioner for Finance in Governor Ibori’s administration, I played a vital role in prevailing on the Federal Government to commence 13% derivation payments.

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However, it was incorrectly limited to onshore oil production. This vexing issue has remained outstanding ever since. This restriction and the failure to review the revenue allocation formula every five years since 1992 to the detriment of the States and Local Government Councils has in part led to the ongoing struggle for collecting VAT by States. States need to adopt more novel thinking to make the required advances in engagements with the Federal Government. Similar cases will spring up soon to further deepen our constitutional framework and jurisprudence.

Asides from reviewing the revenue formula at the federal level, shouldn’t the States look inwards to grow their IGR?

Well, they go hand in hand. For instance, when the States win the VAT collection struggle (laughs), it should increase the IGR of most States in the long run as competition will drive growth. Nevertheless, the States also need to innovate on their other IGR sources continuously. For example, in Delta State, I will implement a complete restructuring of the Internal Revenue Service to ensure professionalism and performance-driven promotions and remunerations. In this regard, the staff of the Internal Revenue Service may need to be excised from the mainstream Civil Service. This is also part of my vision for public sector reforms. I also expect our industrialisation efforts to contribute immensely to internal revenue through numerous sources.

Aside from your industrialisation plans, what other job creation plans do you have for Deltans?

The current administration’s job creation and empowerment programs have been mainly adjudged successful, so it only makes sense that one should build upon it. And this means adopting a multi-faceted approach to combating unemployment rather than relying on a single silver bullet.  For instance, ICT is an area that not only creates employment but sustainable wealth. I will therefore place a lot of focus on investments that deepen our ICT ecosystem.

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Why the emphasis on ICT?

Obviously, the global drive to transition away from fossil fuels presents a threat to our State’s economy, largely dependent on oil revenue. ICT is not just an economic growth pole; it also offers an opportunity for harnessing the impressive energies of our youths. Therefore, our investment strategy must be tailored to use ICT to leapfrog the various sectors into the 21st century. My ICT programs will encourage creativity, innovation, and the deployment of skills to create a productive and sustainable knowledge-based economy.

Nigerians believe that agriculture is the pathway to Nigeria’s independence from an oil-dominated economy. Do you agree?

Well, the goal is a diversified economy that is not dependent on any single sector, so agriculture provides a ready route for diversification. But we must seek to grow beyond just being primary producers of raw materials by investing heavily in value addition to our agriculture output. For example, agriculture will serve as a feeder to our planned industrialisation. Overall, I plan to foster the cultivation of the State’s vast arable land to achieve food security, develop agriculture value chain and exploit the agriculture export potential estimated at $10billion annually. Agriculture will be boosted by employing modern farming techniques, providing requisite infrastructure, credit facilities, training, research, processing, and marketing opportunities in collaboration with the private sector.

What are your plans in respect of the creative industries?

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Edebvie

The plan is to foster, protect and promote the creative industries to grow and harness the economic and cultural benefits spanning cultural heritage, the arts, media, creative services, and design. Collaborations with industry stakeholders such as Netflix Nigeria etc. will spark a creative economic boom. I also plan on establishing an Entertainment Trust Fund to provide further zest to the sector.

You earlier hinted at public sector reforms. Can you expatiate on that?

The public sector needs to be re-engineered to attract capable and experienced personnel locally and from the diaspora. I will prioritise policy formulation and implementation using a multi-sectorial approach whilst implementing a robust Management Information System for digital service delivery. Within the first 100 days, we will conduct a Best Value Review of the organisational structure and management of the entire public service.

On the issue of unpaid benefits to Contributory Pension Scheme retirees, how will you clear it?

This is a very delicate issue that needs to be addressed urgently. The current policy of the Pensions Commission bars retirees from accessing their Pension Fund Account until it is “fully funded,” i.e. until the accrued rights/benefits are remitted therein. This has inflicted severe hardship on affected pensioners, as they are left empty-handed with no means of livelihood after they are removed from the payroll. I plan to immediately tackle this with various financial techniques, including issuing Bonds or Promissory Notes or a mix of both.

What informed your plan to constitute the State Executive Council with at least 35% women and 25% youths?

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I believe many demographic-sensitive issues are either completely ignored or not critically examined daily. For instance, the menace of police brutality and other sensitive matters brought to the fore during the recent nationwide #EndSARS Movement could have been resolved earlier if proper attention had been paid to the youths. Issues such as sexual misconduct, menstrual hygiene management, gender discrimination, etc., also need to be critically examined; hence, a survey of female needs will be conducted within the first 100 days in office to guide the development and implementation of policies and legislation to protect the female populace. With more voice in the government, these arguably marginalised groups should be able to push through their yearnings.

What do you think about the current state of the health sector and how the Covid-19 pandemic has been handled?

The world, in general, was not prepared for the pandemic, so I believe the government of the day did its best, especially considering the number of casualties compared to other countries. Nevertheless, more investment needs to go into the health sector, especially in research and pharmaceutical manufacturing capacities, as the African continent waited for cap in hand for vaccines from the West.

My aspiration aims at increasing life expectancy from the present 54 years to at least 70 years by providing affordable and quality universal health care with ICT support to ensure easy access. We will build, renovate, upgrade, equip and adequately staff primary health centres in all 500 wards in the State and ensure that health services are rendered to our people in the riverine communities.

Can you briefly tell us about your plans regarding the education sector, which I believe many Deltans will want to know your views?

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My vision is to transform lives through education, recognising its essential role as a primary driver of development that will strengthen and deepen our democracy, ensuring leadership accountability and representation along with economic benefits. We will work closely with relevant stakeholders to develop and revise policies and programs to achieve the global sustainable development goals for education 2030. We will focus on access, equity and inclusion, quality, and positive learning outcomes using modern methods and ICT. We shall continue to provide free and compulsory primary and secondary education with appropriate infrastructure. We will recruit teachers where necessary, ensure regular training and retraining, and incentivise them with good emoluments.

Can expatiate on your plans on housing delivery and access to homeownership for Deltans?

In collaboration with the State-owned Delta Trust Mortgage Bank and other private sector players, about N10 billion in mortgages should be made available to taxpayers annually at single-digit interest rates. Developers, suppliers, and informal workers must be duly registered and regularly pay their taxes. The program will be strictly regulated, ensuring that participation is appropriately distributed.

Strict due diligence and repayment compliance will be implemented. Applications, processing, and approvals will all be visible online to ensure transparency in the sector. This will not only boost homeownership but will also boost the State economy and IGR.

The State, again in collaboration with the private sector, will provide land and basic amenities such as water, power, waste management, security in the form of sites and services, estates schemes, etc., utilising paved roads to create employment and longevity.

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Group Calls For Protection Of Journalists In Bayelsa, Imo, Kogi States

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The Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has urged for necessary measures to protect journalists and other media workers during this weekend’s off-cycle elections in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi States.

The group sent the request to the federal and state governments, as well as law enforcement and security agencies, stressing that the role of journalists in disseminating information about the electoral process is critical to ensuring free, fair, and transparent elections.

In a statement issued ahead of the elections in Lagos and signed by the Communications Officer, Media Rights Agenda, Idowu Adewale, MRA also urged journalists to be cautious and to use its existing hotline (08138755660) to report any threat or attack they may encounter during the process, as well as any obstacle.

Adewale said in the statement: “Given the pattern of heightened attacks on journalists and the media during previous elections, including the recent 2023 general elections, as well as the tense political climate in the three states in the lead-up to the elections, measures must be taken to ensure general security during the elections and provide adequate protection for journalists covering the elections.”

“Access to information allows citizens and other members of the public to have the information they need about political and electoral processes, facilitating effective public participation in elections,” he says.

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“Journalists and the media play an important role in ensuring residents and other members of the public have access to information and may participate in the process.

“As part of efforts to preserve the integrity of the polls, it is also critical that the safety and well-being of these interlocutors be assured and safeguarded.”

Lamenting the increased number of attacks on journalists in the run-up to the off-cycle elections, as well as earlier this year in the run-up to the general elections, he emphasised that “a free and vibrant media is fundamental to a healthy democracy, and journalists must be able to carry out their duties without fear, coercion, or violence.” During this vital phase, MRA stands ready to assist them and assure their safety.”

 

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Police Nab Husband, As Mother Of ‘Mummy Be Calming Down’ Boy Takes Own Life

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Men from the Edo State Police Command are said to have detained Mrs. Toluige Olokoobi’s husband after he allegedly murdered her.

Olokoobi was the mother of Oreofeoluwa Lawal-Babalola, the tiny boy whose video went viral in 2020 after he pleaded with his mother, “Mummy be calming down.”

Oreofeoluwa rose to prominence on social media after a video of him crying in an attempt to confidently appeal to his mother, who chastised him, went viral.

The film inspired Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who used it to deliver an Eid-el-Kabir appeal to Muslims and Lagos people in general to remain calm during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Following that, the youngster and his family met with the governor, who praised his bravery and poise.

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While little has been heard about the family in three years, heartbreaking news broke on social media on Tuesday that the boy’s mother had committed suicide.

According to an X user, Olokoobi committed suicide in Benin, the capital of Edo State, for unknown reasons.

The X user, who stated that he was present at the site on Monday afternoon, went on to say that she had refused to disclose her difficulties with anyone before committing herself.

“The woman in the viral Mummy Calm Down video has just committed suicide here in Benin,” he stated in an email.

“She refused to discuss her problems with anyone.” She abandoned three children for her husband, including the well-known Mummy Calm Down boy.”

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Meanwhile, confirming Olokoobi’s death in a chat with BBC Pidgin, the spokesperson of the Edo State police command, Chidi Nwabuzor, said her husband has been arrested and detained for questioning.

Nwabuzor said the husband reported the matter to the police.

The police spokesperson quoted the husband to have said that “he came home from the market when he saw his wife hanging with rope on her neck”.

Nwabuzor said she was rushed to the hospital and then to the mortuary after she was confirmed dead. (Adapted from a Vanguard report).

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Anambra: CP Aderemi Adeoye Decorates Promoted Officers With New Ranks

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The Anambra State Police Command Headquarters Conference Hall was a hive of activity Thursday as CP Aderemi Adeoye took turns decorating around 18 promoted officers of the command with their new titles.

The delight of some of the officers whose wives assisted the CP in decorating their husbands with their new ranks knew no bounds, as their husbands duly saluted their wives and the CP for their new positions and responsibilities.

Obi Innocent, one of the officers elevated to the rank of Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), whose wife joined CP Aderemi Adeoye in adorning him with his new rank, said it was wonderful that the Inspector General of Police thought him worthy.

CSP Obi Innocent, the officer in charge of the Legal Department at Zone 13, Police Zonal Headquarters Ukpo, stated that his new rank was a call to service and that he would do his best to uphold the charge given to them by CP Aderemi Adeoye to respect and protect the citizenry’s fundamental rights in the discharge of their new assignments.

Charity Akharame, who was honoured with the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) and was the only female officer among the 18 promoted officers decorated with new ranks, said it was not an easy feat but she was grateful to be among those who were decorated with their new ranks.

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DSP Charity Akharame, the officer in charge of stores in the Anambra State Police Command, recalled how she began as a Police Constable and worked her way up to her current position as Deputy Superintendent of Police.

She stated that as a very disciplined police officer, she would follow the Police Commissioner’s directions regarding respect for all and sundry in the fulfillment of her constitutional obligations.

Jane-Frances Obi, one of the spouses of the officers elevated to the level of CSP, stated that being the wife of a police officer was not an easy assignment. As a result, she recommended any lady who is married to a police officer to be patient and understanding because the job is quite demanding.

Jane-Frances Obi, whose husband is Innocent Obi, the officer in charge of the Legal Department at Zone 13 Ukpo, believes the promotion is a reward for years of being patient, understanding, and standing in for them when they are not present.

Meanwhile, Emenike Chinenyenwa, who was decorated with the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) and presented a vote of appreciation, expressed deep gratitude to the IGP and the Chairman of the Police Service Commission for considering them worthy of being adorned in their new ranks.

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ACP Emenike, the officer in charge of Medicals, stated that the elevation comes with increased responsibility and that they will work harder in their new tasks.

CP Aderemi Adeoye praised the current promotion winners in his remarks, noting that two aspects make the police career very interesting and eventful. He stated that one is for promotion and the other is for positions.

CP Adeoye, on the other hand, urged the newly honored officers to develop more empathy, compassion, care, and dedication in the performance of their jobs.

The police chief insisted that newly promoted officers must first recognise that they share the same humanity as others, and as a result, they must treat all people with dignity and protect their fundamental human rights at all times.

CP Aderemi Adeoye stressed that without the enormous roles of spouses, they wouldn’t have been successful in their careers. He therefore congratulated all the promoted and prayed that God gives them good health to enjoy the new ranks and the energy to discharge the responsibilities of their new offices.

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  • Source: Independent

 

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