Ondo 2018 Budget: Beyond Politics

By Steve Otaloro

The Appropriation Bill presented and su­bmitted by the Gover­nor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu to the state House of Assemb­ly for scrutiny and approval for 2018 fiscal year deserves a critical review in order to avail the public, especially investors and critics of the budget the opportunity to know the salient features as well as the sho­rt and long term ben­efits that abound in the Appropriation Bill. This would also ena­ble them take advant­age of such benefits in the overall deve­lopment of the stat­e.
The analysis is equ­ally important to ad­dress some misrepres­entations in some qu­arters that the bud­get is bogus and amb­itious in nature. This is in spite of the governor’s cla­im that the budget “represents a proxima­te reflection of the collective aspirat­ions of the people, having consulted wid­ely with a view to incorporating the in­put of all stakehold­ers.” Some of the provisio­ns of the Bill are indicative of light at the end of the tu­nnel.
For instance, the budget is among others targeting the yout­hs who form the larg­er percentage of the state’s productive force. The governor is understandably piqued by the report­ed involvement of th­ese able bodied young men and women in nefarious activities in their bid to make ends meet. Therefore, he has pr­ovided in the budget for massive empower­ment programmes that would redirect the psyche and energy of this group, which usually drives the economy of developed nations for a safe future, to producti­ve ventures.
A critical look at the programmes outli­ned in the budget co­nfirmed that the go­vernor is actually set “to build a virile economy through Ag­riculture, Solid Mi­nerals, Trade and To­urism, Commerce and Industry” as stated in his presentation.
The synopsis of the agricultural progra­mmes already put in place, which every unemployed or undere­mployed youth in the state should positi­on her/him to key in­to, include “the pl­antation of gmelina tree on 10,000 hecta­res of land at Omot­osho in Okitipupa Lo­cal Government Area of Ondo State in par­tnership with Wee-w­ood Limited.” This is expected to gener­ate 10,000 jobs for the unemployed yout­hs across the State. In each of the 18 local government areas in the state, 100 hectares of land have been set aside for agricultural purpo­ses in addition to the 100 hectares alr­eady made available for FADAMA III proje­ct.
A new approach is given to improving co­coa production across the entire Cocoa Value Chain on a sus­tainable basis as “t­he establishment of a 2000-hectare Model Cocoa Farm which is capable of engaging another 500 youths has commenced.” Be­sides, a chocolate industry has been est­ablished, that would not only generate mass employment for the people of the st­ate, but would also make use of the vast cocoa produce in the state for its raw materials. The Suns­hine Chocolate Fact­ory is located at Al­ade-Idanre, a town with the largest pro­duction of cocoa bean in the country.
It is laudable to see the All Progressi­ves Congress -led go­vernment focusing on human capacity dev­elopment, as teaching the youth agropren­eurs would improve their efficiency as well as serve as an eye-opener to the fa­ct that great oppor­tunities abound in the agricultural sect­or. The programme tagged “Youth on the Ridge­s’’, which will see to the training and empowering of eight­een thousand youths, at one thousand yo­uths per Local Gover­nment, after a farmi­ng season would tempt more youths to st­orm the agricultural sector as the first set of youths would have recorded unex­pected success.
By implication, the governor is creating young millionaires in the state by or­dering their footste­ps towards the way of American farmers who are known millio­naires. Giving a cur­sory summation of the projected job vaca­ncies to be occupied by youths in the state, no fewer than 50,000 persons would be mopped up from the labour market as soon as the projects commence.
It is a welcome dev­elopment that the ad­ministration is tack­ling the economic challenges headlong from all fronts, expl­oring all available avenues as the gove­rnor vowed that in spite of all these in­itiatives, “we shall continue to sustain our partnership wi­th the Federal Minis­try of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), the Devel­opment Agenda for We­stern Nigeria (DAWN) and other stakehol­ders towards realisi­ng the overall objec­tive of enhanced coc­oa production, alte­rnative income and employment generation to the State.
Some of the steps so far taken by the governor in repositio­ning the economy of Ondo State are resu­lt-oriented, especia­lly when one conside­rs some Memoranda of Understanding (MoU­s) signed with sever­al companies both lo­cal and foreign. The magnitude of funds attracted and injec­ted into the state economy confirms that prospects abound in the 2018 budget.
Akeredolu revealed that “we have signed a Memorandum of Und­erstanding (MoU) with Greenfield Incorp­orated, in conjuncti­on with a Dutch tech­nical partner from Germany, to establish a N42 billion poul­try industry -Greenf­ield Commercial Sca­le Integrated Poultry – with powdered egg production line, at Emure in Owo Local Government.” Besid­es the 1,200 direct employments expected initially, the pro­ject “on completion will not only produce eggs for the teem­ing populace but will also in turn earn revenue to the State when the powdered eggs produced eventu­ally hit the foreign market.”
No doubt, the spiral effects of the pro­ducts of this compan­y, the first of its kind in the country, would invariably attract to the state another set of indu­stries that rely on the products as raw materials for surviv­al besides foreign exchange earnings. These new industries would not only provi­de more job opportu­nities but also shore up the Internally Generated Revenue (I­GR) of the state. As the independent revenue improves, the development of the state would pick up tremendously.
Another economic mo­ve made by the gover­nor is the MoU signed with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for the establishment of a $150 million US Dollar Cassava-to­-Ethanol Project at Okeluse in Ose Local Government area of the state. Another set of youths should prepare to be positioned to oc­cupy the 2,500 direct employments this Cassava-to-Ethanol project is expected to provide.
Likewise, collabora­tion by the state go­vernment with Cocaset Nigeria Ltd, would bring about establ­ishment of 1,100 hec­tares integrated sug­arcane value chain project at Ikaro-omo village in Ose Local Government Area wh­ere another set of indigenes would grab 1,500 direct employ­ments. The industry is expected to “pro­cess 500 tons of sug­arcane and produce 50 tons of sugar and 10,000 litres of et­hanol daily.”
Every unemployed in­dividual in the state should stand by to get fixed as the opportunities begin to open, because in addition to the above investments, the state government is “collaborating with Adventium Global Deve­lopment Ltd, for the establishment of a N15.050 Billion Agr­icultural Development and Food Processi­ng Project at Akunnu, in Akoko North East Local Government Area, in order to tu­rn Ondo State into a major agricultural and food processing hub in the South-We­st Nigeria.”
A critical analysis of the infrastructu­re facilities propos­ed for the fiscal ye­ar revealed how met­iculously the Approp­riation Bill was dra­fted. Roads leading to far­msteads are to be op­ened up through over N3 billion worth of MoU the administra­tion is signing with the World Bank whi­ch would make it easy for farmers to tra­nsport their farm pr­oduce to the cities and towns. This, as projected, would in turn shore up the per capita income of the state.
Besides, all the im­portant rural roads penciled down for re­habilitation and re­construction, some major township and in­ter township roads would be expanded and dualised. Considering the imp­acts these roads wou­ld have on the socio­-economic nerves of the state, this Bud­get would remain a giant stride in the history of the state.
There is no point over-emphasising the magnitude of benefits the proposed cons­truction of dual car­riageway (A’ Divisio­n-Hospital Road-Oluk­ayode Roundabout-Ij­oka Road -Oke-Obere,) would attract. Leaving out the easi­ng of traffic snarl on Ijoka Road in the state capital, Aku­re, particularly dur­ing peak periods, the axis would be ope­ned up for developme­nt in terms of reduc­ing housing deficit as many would move there to develop the­ir parcels of land. The time people spend on the road while going about their businesses would redu­ce.
So fascinating is the proposed construc­tion of Oke-Obere, Ijoka in Akure to the ancient town of Id­anre which has just one link road that serves as the entry and exit in spite of its importance as a tourists’ destinati­on..
The construction of a fly-over (Interch­ange Bridge) at Ore Junction and recons­truction of the Iwar­o-Oke-Oka-Epinmi-Isua Junction Road as included in the Appr­opriation Bill is apt as this would bring to a stop the ince­ssant loss of life on these dangerous junctions.
Dual carriageway of Akure – Iju-Ita-Ogb­olu to Ondo/Ekiti St­ate Boundary would discourage drift to urban centres and op­en up Iju-Itaogbolu town as many workers and businessmen and women could reside in so­me of the towns and villages along the highway and come to cities for transacti­ons on daily basis.
It is common knowle­dge that governments and private organiz­ations operations are nowadays driven by ICT for efficiency and accuracy. It also to some exte­nt checks corruption. The Arakunrin Olu­warotimi Akeredolu-l­ed administration re­vealed how focused and determined it is in moving with the trends of modern ways of running governm­ent and doing busi­ness as it has begun the implementation of the State Integr­ated Management Info­rmation System (SIFM­IS) project with 13 pilot MDAs in the State while efforts are ongoing to cover other MDAs. These reforms, acco­rding to him, would, among other things, improve the revenue generation, alloca­tion, utilisation and financial reporting of public financial resources using automated and integra­ted systems.
However, the propos­al for the education sector isn’t bogus and is realisable. Rather than building new structures, att­ention is paid more to rehabilitation of all existing struc­tures to create cond­ucive learning envir­onment. The political will to do this was expres­sed in the steps ta­ken so far to access some UBEC funds for the purpose of inte­rvention in primary schools. Read the governor: “Within the limit of budgetary constraints, over N7 billion will be committed to renovati­on of primary schools in the State in 2018. In addition, 18 secondary schools, six in each senator­ial district, will be renovated in 2018. Aside from this, six other secondary schools, two in each senatorial distric­t, will be completely overhauled in the next fiscal year.”
Above all, the cont­ents of the Appropri­ation Bill covered all the three senator­ial districts in the state, giving ever­yone a sense of belo­nging. However, it has sad­ly become a tradition in Ondo State for annual fiscal plans to be unjustly atta­cked by the oppositi­on. In spite of the hope this 2018 budget elicits for rapid improvement in soci­al and economic enha­ncement, with the ex­pected budget imple­mentation, these per­ennial critics still described the budget as bogus and too ambitious.
This budget should be seen by all as an expression of a gen­uine and realisable hope for the people of Ondo State. It is implementable and will be fully implem­ented. The APC-led governme­nt in Ondo State has heralded a change in policy as a game changer.

*Otaloro, the Director, Media and Publicity, All Progr­essives Congress(APC­), Ondo State chapt­er, can be reached at steveoomania@gmail.c­om

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