Friday, October 26, 2012

Bayelsa’s Restoration Agenda Unrivaled - SSG


Edmond Allison Obuh, a Professor of Agricultural Economics, is the Secretary to Bayelsa State Government. In an interview with LEADERSHIP WEEKEND at a recent forum in Abuja, the SSG explains some policy directives of the Bayelsa State government as well as why the state’s restoration agenda remains unrivaled in the country.

The secretaries to state governments met recently in Abuja with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). What was the essence of the forum?

The retreat was planned as part of the 52nd Independence anniversary celebration of Nigeria. Given the depth and the quality of the deliberations we had for the two days we were here in Abuja, I cannot but conclude that it was not a jamboree.

What specific challenges did the Forum attempt to address as regards effective delivery of the civil service?

First of all, the office of the secretary to the state government doesn’t directly supervise the activities of the civil service as such. The officer that is directly responsible for that is the head of service. As you are aware, the offices of the secretary to the state government and head of service were merged in one and along the line, it was during Babangida era that the two were separated, so it is the head of service that is directly responsible for supervision of the civil service.

The secretary to the state government does that indirectly through the office of the head of service. Having said that, maybe it is true the civil service is not effective but this is relative because it varies from one state to the other. In some states, the civil service is quite effective, for instance, in Bayelsa state, even though it is a young state, I will not say that the civil service is not effective. I think what the civil service needs is just encouragement, capacity building and the required motivation and I am sure that in the case of Bayelsa state, the civil service will be able to compliment the efforts of the executive in the implementation of government policy programs.

Talking about policies and programs of government, how far has the Bayelsa State government been able to impact on the masses of Bayelsa?

Our administration is just about 6 months old. As you are aware, Hon Henry Seriake Dickson is the man at the helm of affairs in Bayelsa. He was sworn-in precisely on the 14th February, 2012 after the elections and it is too early in the day to say we are creating impact. Even though, the initial actions we have taken, policy pronouncement that we have made and programmes that we have set in place indicate that there is hope for some positive changes, we leave the assessment of the impact for the members of the public perhaps when we have been able to stay on for one year.

So what has been the main thrust of your administration then?

The main thrust of the administration is restoration. We see our administration as one that is here to carry out a restoration agenda. Restoration in the sense that over the years, the government of Bayelsa State derailed from the dreams of its founding fathers and what we are trying to do as an administration is to see how we can restore that dream and make sure that we bring it to realization.

Taking about policies and programmes that we have initiated as we are probably aware, we are embarking on free compulsory education at the primary and secondary level. As we speak, we are renovating and rebuilding all primary schools, we are starting with primary schools because our resources are also dwindling and so we want to bite the much we can chew. We have started the renovation of primary schools and then the rebuilding of the ones that are very dilapidated.

We have also introduced something that is novel in the history of Bayelsa State and that is to encourage headmasters to stay in their respective schools and supervise the teachers and the pupils. We have decided to build two bedroom flats as headmasters’ quarters and are joining the two bedroom flats and four rooms that could accommodate at least some of the teachers. That project is on all over the state, we are also introducing new uniform and the distribution of free uniforms will commence.

We are also embarking on the retraining of teachers. You may have heard some weeks ago, we made announcement that all primary school teachers in Bayelsa State will have to go through another retraining programmes just to make sure that we sharpen their teaching method to be able to teach effectively.

Before I left for Abuja, that programme was on and one of the aspects is that we threatened that at the end of the training, there will be examination and those primary school teachers that will not be able to pass will probably be asked to leave teaching. But what we will do perhaps is even though they fail, we are a government that has human feeling, maybe we will subject them to further training for a while to be able to meet required standard.

Why is education taking these proactive measures in Bayelsa State?

Apart from levels and standards, this administration believes in Adam smith’s dictum that says that the most important resource of any nation are its human beings so we believe that we should train Bayelsans to such an extent that they will be competitive not just in Nigeria but internationally. So, we give education, human resources development and capacity building top place priority.

We believe that even if we have all the infrastructure around the state and the human beings are not properly educated that is to say they positive mind change, we will not be able to bring about peaceful and sustainable development. I am emphasizing peaceful development because we are talking of development that takes place in an atmosphere of peace and unity and then we are talking of sustainable development in the sense that development that will endure beyond administrations.

These are the areas where we are focused on and we believe that key resource that should be developed to bring peaceful and sustainable development is the human being and that is why we give education first place priority.

The second priority is infrastructure because infrastructure in bayelsa state is very limited. We have designed a number of roads, the three senatorial roads that has been abandoned for almost four to five years. Work has started in the three of them, Julius Berger is handling one, and a Chinese company is handling the other one and so on.

The other area is agriculture; we believe that a nation, society or community that cannot feed itself is vulnerable to the manipulations of who would be in position to supply or feed them and so we want to make sure that we revolutionize the agriculture in the state.

You know that Bayelsa State is a riverine state and we believe that we should be able to produce enough fish not just to feed the population but to export to other parts of Nigeria and the world. So, we are embarking on robust agricultural development programmes.

One of the first things we have done is to see maybe we can transport the sun-high concept to the state. I had the privilege of leading a state delegation to Republic of Benin to understudy what the sun-high regional centre is doing there. We have also invited the founder and the director over to Bayelsa State and he has inspected the sites and as we speak, we are at the level of signing the necessary contract agreement.
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