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BRACED Commission Retreat: Obaseki Ties Successes in Civil, Public Service Reforms to Investment in Quality Infrastructure, Manpower

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By Godspower Eguasa

Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has harped on the need for states within the Niger Delta to prioritize the development of quality infrastructures and manpower to drive effectiveness in the civil and public service, stating that the enviable gains attained so far by his administration in revamping and remodeling the state’s public service are traceable to cutting-edge infrastructures and results-oriented policy reforms that have earned the state a top spot among sub-nationals.

The Governor made the remarks during the opening ceremony of the 3-day strategic retreat organized by Heads of Service in the BRACED States (Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo, Delta) held on Wednesday July 3, 2024, at the John Odigie Oyegun Public Service Academy (JOOPSA), in Benin City.

Obaseki who stressed the need for the BRACED States to prioritize human capacity development within its public service sector, noted that it will help in sustaining ongoing reforms and development in the sector.

According to the Governor, “We cannot rebuild our country if we do not rebuild the institutions and structures that support our country. So, it is important that as we talk about fixing Nigeria, we must fix the bureaucracy that runs Nigeria at every level; federal, state, and local governments.

“When we came into government, it was clear that we had to, like every government, have a roadmap and decide on what is important to us as a people and as a state, and also decide on how to go about achieving those things we said we will achieve as a government.

“In 2016 when we took over, we said we were going to do six things; first and most important was to reform our institutions, the institutions of government. Then we talked about building our infrastructures. So, whatever reforms we intend to make in education, health care, if the institutions are not there and the infrastructures to undertake those reforms are not there, then you will not be able to fix those issues affecting people, like health, education, sports etcetera.

Obaseki further stressed on the need for the BRACED States to adopt a transparent, accountable, and merit-based system in selecting leaders within the civil and public service, which is a key ingredient in achieving effectiveness in the sector.

Obaseki said: “When we took over, something hit me; I just won an election and everybody was lobbying; my man is now in government, we now have our Governor. And I kept having pressure from people asking me; oh, can you make this person a Permanent Secretary? Can you make that person a Permanent Secretary? They were lobbying to be Permanent Secretaries.

“Coming from the private sector, that was a bit absurd. Is there no process? Can anybody just be a Permanent Secretary because they know the Governor? For me, it was an alarm bell that something had broken.

“At that point, I made up my mind that I was not going to appoint anybody as a Permanent Secretary, if you did not go through a process which would involve being tested and interviewed by me, and reviewing your records. That made me realize that a lot of things had happened over the years; that things had broken down, and the starting point was trying to put back the processes that made the service work.”

Governor Obaseki speaking during opening of the BRACED retreat for Heads of Service.

Obaseki, while highlighting the gains achieved so far by his administration in the state’s public service, remarked that Edo holds a top spot among sub-nationals in the area of quality infrastructures and manpower investment.

“One of the things we must consider if we are going to have a civil and public service that works, is that the best must come back or be attracted to work in the public service. There is no shortcut to it. And for the best to come and work for you, then you must treat them well, and pay them as much as they will get outside if they work for other companies or institutions. Capacity building for us is important. The way you attract and hire and eventually retain your people is also key.

“Six years after, I can say confidently, on the continent, there is no sub-national that has the quality of infrastructure we have. Edo State Government is perhaps the only sub-national on the continent that runs a paperless bureaucracy, end to end. And in terms of attracting human capacity, we have a standing rule; if you are from Edo State and you have made a first-class from any recognized university, you have automatic employment”, the Governor remarked.

He further stated that the retreat is meant to critically review the current state of public service in the BRACED States, inspire support for one another, and rebuild the foundations of governance in the sub-region.

In his lecture, the Chairman, Federal Civil Service Commission, Prof. Tunji Olaopa, commended the giant strides of Governor Godwin Obaseki in repositioning the state’s public service through effective policies and reforms, stating that the reforms will serve as a template and case study for other sub-nationals.

Olaopa said: “Your Excellency, I am so very proud of you. In the course of my research and career, I have taken the liberty to do benchmarking studies of governance systems around the world, and I have a book to that effect.

“My last assignment in NIPSS would have been to document your story, but in spite of my new appointment, having related with my sister Precious Ajoonu, the DG of JOOPSA, I think I have a solid mind that can provide intellectual leadership, so that we can systematically carry out a technical rendition of some of the incredible innovations and infrastructural development investments, and all that you have done in this state.

“Also, I appreciate so much the combination of vintage professionalism, unique technocratic excellence and governance, and the indelible legacies that you have littered the entire state with. I have promised my colleagues in NIPSS that I would still render that, so that it becomes a case study.”

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