Upon taking the Oath of Office on 27th January 2016, Governor Yahaya Bello during his inaugural speech stated that the epicenter of his administration would be five (5) important points of impact – areas where the new government would seek to positively affect the citizens of the confluence state.
These five thematic areas of the government – having undergone intense research identifying the gap between the state of affairs in 2016 and the desired state, were then assembled into a concise proposed course of action, named “The New Direction Blueprint”.
Governor Bello placed the five focal areas in order of priority to include EDUCATION, HEALTH, JOB CREATION (YOUTH ENGAGEMENT), INFRASTRUCTURE AND UTILITY, as well as PUBLIC SERVICE AND PENSION REFORM.
With reference to EDUCATION, the Blueprint’s primary purview was to ensure that all Kogites had access to quality education by enhancing accessible and affordable educational services in all tiers.
Bearing this in mind, the New Direction Government of Yahaya Bello in its first term focused on making best use of available and limited resources allocated to education while sourcing the necessary and needed manpower needed to meet the learning requirements of all educational segments in the state.
The administration of Yahaya Bello has constructed 212 new classroom blocks and additional 557 classroom blocks renovated across the three senatorial district of the state.
Also, 21 buildings for computer laboratories, 33,500 supply of set of furniture and 231 supply of computer tables for primary and some secondary schools in the state.
As a leader who believes so much in dialogue, the administration of Yahaya Bello in 2017 through a roundtable discussion abolished various unions in the state’s owned tertiary institutions thereby putting an end to the hitherto incessant strike responsible for academic setbacks in the past.
In the HEALTH sector, successful testament of the administration included drastic reduction in infant and maternal mortality rates within the space of the last four years. Under-five mortality has fallen by over a fifth in four years, from 102 deaths per 100, 000 live births between 2010 and 2015, to 63 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2016-2017.
Under this period, the infant mortality rate fell even faster, from 100 to 51 deaths per 100,000 live births.
This is due to recent interventions – including Healthcare Plus N60 million worth of pediatric drugs and Chlorhexidine Gel for umbilical care were procured and distributed to government hospital where they were administered free of charge on patients.
Maternal health has also been improved through the procurement of over 8,000 pregnancy kits which were distributed free of charge to expectant mothers undergoing ante-natal care in public hospitals.
The Governor also approved the employment and expansion of Village Health Workers from 120 to 200 under the SDGs Conditional Cash Transfer Scheme.
In order to address emergency pre-hospital medical care, the state government distributed 12 referral vehicles (ambulances) to 12 major health centres in twelve (12) Local Government Areas of the state and in 2019, a door-door mobile health service initiative was also inaugurated to take care of those in critical health needs especially in our rural communities across the state.
Youth empowerment and engagement formed the bedrock of the New Direction Government; the administration would boast of a very large percentage of erudite youths at the helm of governance, an unprecedented occurrence which many states quickly began to model.
Thus, JOB CREATION as a way to harness the human resources Kogi has been blessed with, became a major priority.
The government through diverse sectors and subsets including Agriculture, Sports, Information and Communication Technology, Skill acquisition programmes has empowered hundreds of Kogi youths to become entrepreneurs and financially buoyant.
Many have also become gainfully employed and are earning decent livelihood. In 2019, Kogi State was among the only 9 states of the federation that have reduced unemployment figure, according the statistics released by the National Directorate of Employment.
In AGRICULTURE, the Bello’s administration constructed over N4 billion rice factory with the capacity to produce 50 tonnes of rice per day.
The factory situated at Ejiba in Yagba West, has the capacity to produce over 1000 bags of 50 kg of high quality rice every day, and could employ over 5000 people as direct jobs, and more of indirect employments.
Farmers in the state got government’s supports and interventions through APPEAL project, FADAMA III additional financing and Anchor Borrowers initiative, amongst others.
In REVENUES, the Bello’s administration built an ultra modern revenue house and has increased the state’s IGRs from hitherto paltry N300 to N400 million monthly to between N1.2 to N1.3 billion monthly IGRs at the moment.
The New Direction Government incorporated INFRASTRUCTURE AND UTILITIES as the fourth thematic area of the government’s focus and despite paucity of available funds, it has been able to touch the three senatorial districts with tangible road infrastructures completed, and many others flagged off towards the end of its first term.
The government has made the pledge to do more in its second term consolidating on the gains it made in the first four years of the administration.
The government has also put in place the “Project Power Kogi East”, an initiative aimed towards ensuring the electrification of about 200 communities in the Kogi East region currently with low electricity supply which would transit into social and economic development.
More so, the state through the Ministry of Water Resources has spearheaded numerous water projects including potable borehole schemes in diverse communities across the state.
This has given a large number of its citizenry access to potable water.
Kogi state was the epicenter of insecurity especially kidnapping in the country before the coming of Yahaya Bello’s administration owing to its geographical location and lack of political will to confront the scourge in the past. However, the ugly situation of insecurity has been brought under control by the Administration of Alhaji Yahaya Bello through the launch of “Operation Total Freedom”.
Governor Bello’s drive to resurrect efficiency and effectiveness in the state civil service informed PUBLIC SERVICE AND PENSION REFORM as the fifth thematic area of the New Direction Blueprint.
The abundance of recorded redundancy, the proliferation of ghost workers, unqualified personnel and a whole lot of other unlawful practices led to the now famous screening exercise which helped to identify and weed out the individuals causing rot within the system.
The determination of the New Direction Government to give attention to these five areas was birthed out of the desire to bring development to the confluence state and the administration has truly made its mark in its first four years.
Not withstanding these laudable achievements, the administration is even more resolute in its determination to do much more in the second term as it would seek to explore new strategies to achieving sustainable development for Kogi State.
The Governor remains resolute in bringing a holistic change in the confluence State as he commences the administration’s second term in office.
Let’s Do More.
Onogwu Muhammed, Chief Press Secretary to Kogi State Governor writes this piece from Lokoja