South East Governors’ Forum Secretariat:One Year After

By Michael Udah

The Governors of the five South East States of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo inaugurated a secretariat in the Enugu state Government House, popularly called Lion Building on August 14, 2017.

Led by a Director-General, Prof. Simon Ortuanya, the secretariat has a Deputy Director-General, Mr. Romson Udo and three Directors, namely, Orlando Nweze (Director of Finance and Administration); Michael Udah (Director of Media and Communication) and Chibuike Amaechi (Director of Projects).

Before the inauguration of their secretariat, the South East Governors had been meeting and discussing issues of common interest under the aegis of the South East Governors’ Forum (SEGF).

At the inauguration of their secretariat, the chairman of South East Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, His Excellency, Engr. Dr. David Umahi, FNSE, FNATE charged the secretariat staff to co-ordinate the activities of the forum and provide support and direction to the governors.

According to the paper establishing it, the South East Governors’ Forum “is a platform that offers the various governors of the South East region opportunity to pool ideas and resources together in order to confront common socio-economic challenges and undertake projects that will uplift the well-being of the people of the region”.

The forum offers the collaborating South East states great opportunities for peer learning and synergistic pursuit of political, social and economic issues relevant to them.

The policy thrust of the SEGF includes, but is not limited to, socio-economic issues which revolve around production, distribution and exchange as well as security- the maintenance of law and order and safe custody of people and property. There is also an infrastructural dimension, that is, the provision of capital goods which will accelerate productive activities.

On its part, the SEGF Secretariat which is the technical and administrative arm of the SEGF, provides support for and oversees the day-to-day running of the Forum. As the policy hub providing administrative, research and technical support to the Forum in carrying out its strategic objectives, it effectively engages partners and stakeholders. The secretariat is a resource center which provides reliable and current information in relevant areas of policy making. It also sources funds for the implementation of identified South East regional projects.

The Secretariat primarily focuses on the provision of secretarial services to the SEGF, liaises with development partners with a view to facilitating regional development while formulating policies which make for regional integration.

 

One year after its inauguration, what has the South East Governors’ Forum Secretariat achieved?

There is no doubt that the South East Governors’ Forum secretariat hit the ground running. Shortly after its birth and thanks to the collaboration of the Department for International Development (DFID) – PERL, it fashioned out its vision, mission, mandate and strategic goals. This singular step has fine-tuned and revolutionized the Forum’s perception and approach to issues.

The immediate gain of the foregoing was the hosting of the South East Economic Summit (SEES) in November 2017, just three months after the secretariat was set up. The economic summit themed “Re-positioning the South East for Rapid Economic Development” brought together Government and private sector players whose brainstorming sessions led to the development of such thematic areas as Agriculture, Power, Infrastructure, Health and Media.

The economic summit has provided a road map of sorts which has continued to guide the activities of the SEGF. A few examples will suffice here.

The South East stakeholders Forum on Agriculture held in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital from 6th to 7thMarch, 2018 was in pursuance of the offerings from the economic summit in the area of Agriculture. The same is true of “Learning Alliance on Fiscal Sustainability Plan (FSP) / Open Government Partnership (OGP) and Budget Engagement”, another event which the Secretariat also organized, again in collaboration with UKaid PERL in Abakaliki on March 8, 2018.

In the area of infrastructure, the Secretariat is working to actualize its dream of having a ring road across the South East region which is one way of integrating the zone. Preliminary studies and discussions with prospective investors are seriously going on.

There are serious moves in the areas of Health, skill acquisition/education, power and the like.

The South East Governors’ Forum secretariat has built good relationships with several bodies/partners. The benefits of these relationships are enormous and are positively rubbing off on the South East region. The partners include, but are by no means limited to, Bureau of Public Service Reform (BPSR), e-health Africa, Aka Ikenga, South East Economic Development Company (SEREDEC), Brenthurst Foundation of South Africa and Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission.

It is worth-mentioning that apart from the DAWN Commission which hosted the SEGF Secretariat staff in its Ibadan office when the latter came on a two-day study tour, all the other partners mentioned above have physically met and discussed areas of collaboration with South East Governors. Such parleys were arranged by the SEGF Secretariat.

The South-East Governors’ Forum Secretariat is also coordinating the activities of South East-based knowledge hubs with a view to improving evidence-based regional policy and decision-making in the region. On Ease-of-Doing-Business (EoDB), it (the secretariat) has been facilitating stakeholder consultation and input geared towards boosting business and investment across the South East region.

Other major events organized by the Secretariat of the South East Governors’ Forum within this first year of its existence include a retreat aimed at fine-tuning its corporate plan which was held in Awka, Anambra State in collaboration with PERL – ARC on July 26 this year; a session with Anambra State actors (Ministry of Economic Planning, Budget and Development Partners, Ministry of Local Government, Chieftaincy and Community Affairs and other stakeholders drawn from the communities in the 21 Local Government Areas of the state. This was also facilitated by PERL – ARC, South East Zone. That event which was also held in July (last month) was aimed at strengthening Government processes for managing a participatory/open governance model popularly called the Community Charter of Demand (CCD).  

The CCD was created in and by Anambra State Government, and in line with its commitment to working with various partners to trigger public sector reforms and improvement in service delivery through lesson sharing and adoption, PERL, South East quickly joined hands with SEGF secretariat to give this model a touch of finesse and share it among the four other states (Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo) of the South East region in line with one of the mandates of the SEGF management team to facilitate and conduct peer learning in the region.

Fortunately, this peer learning exercise was jointly carried out in Owerri, Imo state by SEGF and PERL from August 14 to 16. The CCD is a process which allows communities to participate in governance by submitting to the Anambra State Government what projects they want to be executed in their domains so that State Government can include them in its Budget preparation. It brings together traditional rulers, town union associations, women, the youths and all other strata of people (the demand side) as well as Government officials who constitute the supply side.

With the way the Secretariat of the East Governor’s Forum  has carried on thus far and given the support of the Governors of the region and DFID-PERL/ARC, there is no doubt that the South East region will soon be transformed, thus lending credence to our new slogan from marginalization to maximization.

To God be glory!

Udah is the Director, Media and Communication, South East Governor’s Forum Secretariat.

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