Advancing socio- economic development through Okowa’s SMART Initiatives (1)

By Victor Efeizomor   |   26 August 2015   |   12:40 am  


Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, since assumption of office in May 29, 2015 has taken giant steps in tackling myriads of socio-economic and developmental challenges in the state, in his readiness to deliver the dividend of democracy to Deltans.

Amidst cheers and jubilation from the marmot crowd that attended the swearing –in ceremony at the Cenotaph in Asaba, Okowa told his audience that, “  as a government, we  are  committed to the building  and consolidation  of a state in which  there shall  be more employment  opportunities,  a flourishing  agriculture  and agribusiness  sector , effective health  and educational  systems, renewed  urban  infrastructure  and enhanced security  and peace  to bolster economic  growth  and development.”

Three months down the line, even when expectations are high, hope has risen   in the state and governance is rekindled in various developmental policy initiatives so far taken. To achieve the set goals, Okowa compressed his programmes into a five point agenda which is encapsulated in the acronym SMART.

The SMART agenda means Strategic wealth creation  projects and provision  of jobs for all Deltans, Meaningful peace  building platforms aimed at political and social  harmony,  Agricultural  reforms  and accelerated industrialisation,  Relevant  health  and educational  policies  and Transformed  environment through urban renewal.

As the administration consolidates amidst global economic uncertainties, a lot have been achieved in terms of policy initiation, realisation and actualising as contained in the state’s SMART scheme.

Agriculture and industrialisation:

Having acknowledged that Delta State has tremendous potentials in agriculture, Governor Okowa within the space of three months  set up six new  schemes to grow the  agro-industrial sector of the economy, namely; Youth Agricultural  Entrepreneurial Programme (YEGEP), Skill Training  and Entrepreneurship  Programme (STEP),  Production  and Processing Support  Programme (PPSP), Tractorisation, Extension  of Microcredit  and Agricultural Loans  and Development  of Agro-industries.

The policy objectives of these programmes are aimed at creating jobs and wealth, to diversify the economy, engage the youths in productive enterprise, nurture entrepreneurs and leaders, promote communal peace and security and develop database of employment and unemployed youths for planning purposes.

Wealth creation and employment generation

The  job creation  scheme   has since kicked off  as  no less than 600,000  youths  from different parts of the   state  have obtained  application forms   for the skills , trade training programmes that will take place in accredited skills acquisition centers and vocational  workshops across the state. Upon   successful completion of the training, participants will be assisted with a starter pack with which to start a small-scale enterprise under the strike supervision of the state government.

According to Governor Okowa, 6000 jobs will be created in every six months in the state following this work plan on job creation scheme, which translates to 48,000 jobs to be created in the next four years of his administration.

In pursuance of this objective, Okowa had said: “I shall engage the youth in farming by encouraging cluster farming, supporting
and promoting out-growers associations. Robust and focused agricultural extension services will be put in place to support the farmers. Input provision, mechanisation and cooperative farming will be aggressively pursued… It is my earnest desire to encourage and create the enabling environment for commercial farming to drive through the private sector and public-private-partnership. I will ensure the active participation of the local government areas in the development of agriculture, by this, the revenue of the state would have improved.”

Peace and security

Acknowledging that no society can grow with peace and security, Okowa has promised to take appropriate measures to sustain, increase, and even introduce new measures to contain and tackle the sources which breed and encourage insecurity. He has said enabling environment would be created for local and foreign investors to come into the state.

To this end, since assumption of office, Okowa has been holding consultation, with critical stakeholders and heads of security agencies, like the State Commissioner of Police, Director State Security Service (DSSS) the Army Navy, Nigerian Customs Service and Civil Defence chiefs.  Okowa has also consulted with traditional rulers, chiefs and village heads on ways and means of ensuring that there was lasting peace in the state.

Urban renewal and education

With one week of assumption of office, Okowa sent the Delta State Technical and Vocational Education Board Bill, 2015, and Delta State Capital Territory Development Agency  and the Governing Board Bill, 2015  to the  Delta  State  House of Assembly ( DTHA) for  consideration  and passage. The two bills passed by the House and signed into law by the governor were part of the promises Okowa made to Deltans in his inaugural speech.

The two bills the governor forwarded to the House were part of the strategic plans of his administration to actualise the SMRAT agenda of properity for all Deltans.

Like the Delta State Technical and Vocational Education Board Bill, 2015, passed by the House, its policy is well conceived by the present administration. The objective are aimed at stimulating and encouraging pre-vocational and general technical education in schools not only as a basis for creating early technical awareness, but also to provide suitable orientation for further education and training in technology and provide direct practical skills for earning a living.

Already, construction and renovations works  have commenced in Agbor, Sapele, and Ofagbe Technical colleges, out of the existing six technical colleges in the state. The aim is to inculcate in the people of Delta the attitude of respect for and appreciation of, the role of technical and vocational education in society.

Also, the passage of the Delta State Capital Territory Development Agency and the Governing Board Bill, 2015 is aimed at formulating policies and guidelines for the development of the state capital territory, conceive, plan and implement, in accordance with  set rules and regulation, projects and programmes for the sustainable development of the programme for the sustainable development of  the state capital  territory, prepare master plans and  schemes  designed to promote the physical  development of the  capital territory  as well as tackle ecological and environmental problems.

• Prince Efeizomor is the Special Assistant to the Governor on Media (Print)

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