In his speech after receiving Governor of the Year Award at Vanguard Personality of the Year 2019/2020, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu said the recognition “is, indeed, a further call to serve the good people of Ondo State”.
I must not hesitate to say here that this Award is, in- deed, a further call to serve the good people of Ondo State. Clearly too, the people on whose behalf I hold the mandate, are the real Awardees. The reason for this dedication is not far-fetched.
The quality of any leadership can only be determined by the quantum of responsibilities and challenges such leadership is made to contend with. It becomes more alluring when those challenges are confronted with courage and determination.
On our part, we did not just confront our challenges, we explored novel means of entrenching a trajectory of growth and development as well as instilling a culture of honesty, integrity, transparency and accountability in governance.
Spurred by the rare trust, our eyes were set on the main objective of service delivery with an unwavering comportment for targets; and our vehicle was the STRATEGIC DEVELOPMENT AND POLICY IMPLEMENTATION COMMITTEE (SD- PIC) which I constituted shortly after my election as Governor in 2016. With eminent and knowledgeable Nigerians as members, the SDPIC developed a Blue- print which served as beacon for us. It is heartwarming that, so far, we have made some modest efforts and in some cases, a number of en- during interventions in line with the Blueprint.
With the first term behind us and on the bend towards the fifth year, we are proud to tell the world that we have raised the performance bar in Ondo State. Let me highlight some of our star projects such as the Ore Interchange Flyover, christened the Redemption Bridge.
The significance of this project lies in the fact that we have been able to stop the carnage and loss of lives that characterised that spot. In addition, the traffic hold up that used to be a feature of Ore whereby motorists keep up to three days while navigating the nodal town has been permanently ended. It is gratifying to note that the length and breadth of Ondo State is now dotted by completed quality roads and many ongoing road projects throughout the State with emphasis on Akure, being a deliberate move to give the city all that is required to be truly called a State Capital. Within this period, we have constructed and completed over 300 kilometers of roads while about 220 kilometers are ongoing in no fewer than 44 construction sites. In the education sector, we renovated, rebuilt or constructed almost 800 primary schools with modern facilities like solar power, toilets, perimeter fencing, computer facilities, furniture items for both students and teachers. We have in the last one year, paid the WAEC fees of students in public secondary schools, while we also paid about N100 million as bursary to students in tertiary institutions.
The entirety of our success story cannot be told today. However, I must not fail to mention that the Ondo-Linyi Industrial Hub, Ore is an uncommon innovation. With an investment inflow of over N20 billion, massive employment opportunities for both direct and indirect jobs abound through the instrumentality of five main foreign investments. Indeed, the Ondo-Linyil Industrial Hub, Ore has been a panacea to youth unemployment in that zone.
We must note, with mixed feelings, the fact that our modest successes are being retarded by security challenges. While receipts from the Federation Account has shrunk significantly, the gains we made in our Independent Revenue otherwise known as Internally Generated Revenue which we were able to move from about N700 million to over N2 billion in a month are now being wiped off. This is due to the unprecedented violence and death being unleashed on our farmers and other innocent souls by herders and bandits. It is simple economics for us to know that this has already been having adverse effect on the State economy in our revenue and on inflation rate. This unpalatable trend has been accentu- ated by the COVID-19 Pandemic which has been having a devastating effect on global economy with Ondo State not being an exception. As against our tradition, one of the effects of the reduction in our revenue is our inability to pay as and when due the salaries and allowances of our valued public servants in the last couple of months. We are determined to reverse this trend by continually looking inwards to improve our revenue.
Our response to this challenge of insecurity has been the decision of the South-west Governors to establish the Western Nigeria Security Network code-named Amotekun Corps. This outfit is designed to support and collaborate with the primary security agencies like the military, police, SSS, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) etc. Let me say for the umpteenth time that Amotekun Corps is not in competition with any of the security agencies but to collaborate by providing local intelligence and guidance on local issues. The outcome of this effort in Ondo State has been tremen- dous and encouraging.
Ladies and gentlemen, just recently, a new but more assuring twist has been added with the flag of the Red Gold Project on an expanse of land covering over 60,000 hectares. This is a project that has a comparative advantage in palm oil production and is intended to boost our production capacity that would ultimately reclaim our lost glory in this sector.
Our intervention in the critical health sector deserves a mention. Aside the upgrade of the status of the University of Medical Sciences with the establishment of two new teaching hospital complexes in Ondo and Akure, we have expanded the frontiers of medical reach by increasing the number of Mother-and- Child Hospitals from two to nine. Our 500 bed hospital facility under construction at the Teaching Hospital Complexes, Akure and Ondo City is another reference point.