Eben Enasco Reporting.

In what seems like plopping containers to store water after the rain has stopped falling, Governor Godwin Obaseki is in hurry to woo the Edo people to vote for all his preferred candidates ahead of the House of Assembly election on March 11, 2023.

The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, came a distant third in Edo State where a seating governor is, after securing 89,585 out of the total votes cast, while the main opposition party, APC, polled 144,471.

Unknown Labour Party, LP, secured the highest votes count with 331, 163 in a PDP-dominated state.

While the number of votes cast did not reflect citizens’ true participation in the just concluded Presidential election, thereby, provoking voters’ apathy, the only hope left for the Edo people is to have complete House of Assembly representatives in the soon-to-be 10th Assembly.

For four years winding down, it has been only 10 members representing their constituents out of the 24 seats according to Constitutional provision after a legal tussle that almost consumed the whole cycle of the state house of Assembly.

This implies that 14 constituents in the Edo State House of Assembly were not represented for four years.

Key among the constituents that failed to have elected members of the Edo State House of Assembly is the two Ovia constituencies. The Ovia South West and North East.

One of such reasons people turned against the governor is the issue of the College of Agriculture, Iguoriakhi in Ovia South West Local Government Area of the State.

In what could be described as a 2018 Democracy Day gift, the Edo State government axed the entire staff of the state-owned College of Agriculture, Iguoriakhi in the Ovia South West Local Government Area of the state.

The 37 years old institution was established by the civilian administration of the late Ambrose Ali in 1981, closed by the military governors, and reopened by the Lucky Igbinedion administration in 2001.

Since then, the school had been running its academic calendar, producing graduates.

The school charged with the responsibility of offering Ordinary Diploma and Higher National Diploma in Agricultural Technology, Animal Science, Crop Science, Agricultural Extension, and Management temporarily closed on August 2017 by the Godwin Obaseki-led government with a promise to revamp the institution.

Apart from the academic qualifications offered by the institution, socioeconomic and commercial activities abruptly brought to a break, living the people there to go elsewhere for their greener pastures.

Even at every protest to see that the government decision is revised, fell on deaf ears.

The only reason offered by the governor for the closure in August 2017, was that the college had poor facilities and standards.

“I shut down the school to enable me to invest money and bring it up to standard. I will revamp the school so that the graduates will be employable”, the governor said in 2017.

He said he is in talks with Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc, Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research NIFOR, and PRESCO Plc., to join hands with his administration to revamp the school, help train students and provide them with employment.

“I will provide allowance to the 261 students in the school and send them to farms for industrial training,” he had promised.

The state government in a letter signed by Monday Osaigbovo, the then Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, dated May 25, 2018, to all the staff announced the termination of their appointments.

In the letter titled, “Restructuring of the College of Agriculture, Iguoriakhi”, the commissioner said following the restructuring of the college and subsequent closure, the government has decided to terminate their services with effect from January 31, 2018.

“You are requested to hand over all government properties in your possession to the permanent secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources immediately.

“Furthermore, I am to add that in line with your terms of engagement, your cheque for January 2018, monthly salary with one month instead of notice is herewith attached”, he said.

The staff in a peaceful protest to the palace of the Oba of Benin said their sacking did not follow due process.

They said over 400 staff in the nominal payroll of the institution including the provost were affected by the sack.

The staff also dropped a copy of their protest letter titled, “Special letter for your intervention into the massive sack of all staff of Edo State College of Agriculture, Iguoriakhi” in the State House of Assembly for onward transmission to the Speaker of the House.

They decried that there was no consultation with the staffers of the institution on the restructuring process and the option of redeployment of staff to other ministries or institutions before the massive sack letters were issued to them.

“The governor did not follow due process in relieving us of our duties and this contravenes the provisions of public service rules.

“By the record of service, majority of the staff had put up to a minimum of ten years in service while others had put in almost 20 years, and that since the governor visited the school on August 7, 2017, and its subsequent temporary closure till date, there is no evidence of any form of infrastructure or administrative restructuring by the governor as against the six months he promised during his visit”, the staff stated.

Now, if over 400 staffers of the institution were disengaged, multiplier effects would have set in
from a father to a child’s financial support that is now bombarded by a single decision taken to stop them from earning to provide for the family.

These 400 disengaged employees were never compensated and a rift had been established.

Those who would have spoken and perhaps seek government consideration were never allowed to represent their constituents in the 9th Assembly amounting to the denial of public services to the people.

If a legislative business is denied the people, development is denied.

Since 2018, the restructuring process has been ongoing and looks like forever.

Although on a recent visit to the Iguoriakhi community housing the institution, the reconstruction is near completion, and by the standard seen, it could look like the reason it was closed down in 2017.

One thing many observers have craved was the redeployment to other government establishments of the over 400 employees dismissed.

The governor, for the larger society, was ill-advised and should have had a second thoughts to have retained them under the worker’s scheme.

But since that wasn’t the case, the multiplier effects, await the decision he made in 2017, particularly as he would be soliciting votes from the families of those he dismissed.

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