By Monica Ada Chidinma Eze
As Ebonyians, friends and associates continue to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the creation of Ebonyi State and in line with my avowed task and pledge to use this auspicious period in the annals of our State to present to the world the remarkable 21 projects and feats of the fifth administrator of Ebonyi State, Engr. Dave Nweze Umahi that have put him poles ahead of his compatriots. I have in part one of my treatises titled, “EBONYI STATE @ 21, TWENTY ONE (21) FACTORS/PROJECTS THAT PUT UMAHI POLES AHEAD OF OTHER LEADERS EXPOSED (PART ONE)”, stated that late General Sani Abacha will ever remains a milestone in the annals of Ebonyi State been the tool that God used to create the State out of Enugu and Abia States on 1st October, 1996.
I have also in part one of my attempt stated that the State known as the Salt of the Nation has been governed by one military officer (Navy Captain Walter Feghabo) between October 1996 and August 1998 and one police officer (Retired AIG Simeon Oduoye) from 1998-1999 and from 1999 till date, by three democratically-elected civilian Governors; Dr Sam Egwu – now a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria – governed the state from May 29, 1999 to May 28, 2007; while Governor Martin Elechi ruled between 2007 and 2015 and currently by Engr. Dave Nweze Umahi who was sworn in on May 29, 2015 hopefully to conclude his tenure in 2023.
The following topics were treated accordingly in part one that truly exposed Engr. Dave N. Umahi as one of the great keys to unlock the future greatness of our nation –
- How Umahi Redefined governance in Ebonyi State;
- Turned Ebonyi State into one Huge Construction site
- How he changed the status of Abakaliki City from glorified Local Headquarter to a decent and outstanding State Capital.
- Umahi’s Magic Wand in the Health Sector.
- Security and Peace in Ebonyi
- Governor Umahi and his efforts to secure the Igbos in Nigeria
For avoidance of doubt, you can read all the details about part one in any of these media links – http://thecalendarnews.com/2017/10/10/ebonyi-state-21-twenty-one-21-factorsprojects-that-put-umahi-poles-ahead-of-other-leaders-exposed-part-one/
I have treated six major issues in part one of this study as stated above out of the 21 projects that put Umahi poles ahead of other leaders in his class, I will as space will guarantee me present another six projects executed by this enigma that have made him achieve more than what his predecessors achieved since 21 years of the creation of the State.
- The 5,000-unit mega city housing project
Another great feat that Umahi will forever be remembered in the annals of Ebonyi State was the 5,000-unit mega city housing project he initiated. This project to be bankrolled by the Africa Nations Development Programme (ANDP) is yet another milestone by the administration of Governor Dave Nweze Umahi. This housing project that will comprise of 5,000 detached two bedroom bungalows and other facilities such as schools, water, electricity, police station, barracks, hospitals among others is not only a milestone but also a strategic move to put Ebonyi in the league of the most developed states in Nigeria. This project that will be executed by this international body will cost the Ebonyi State Government little or nothing apart from the donation of the land and construction of a two-kilometre road to the site.
Governor Umahi, who laid the foundation for the project in Umuobuna Etiti Uburu in Ohaozara Local Government Area, has pledged that a similar project would be sited at Izzi Local Government before the end of hisfirst tenure in office.
- Steady payment of the salaries of the State Civil Servants
At a time when many other states are finding it difficult to pay workers’ salaries or meet other basic needs as a result of the economic recession in the country, the Umahi Administration, despite Ebonyi’s modest resources, embarks on numerous road projects, flyovers, roundabouts, street lights and hospitals, while also executing a revolution in agriculture, as well as the educational and health sectors. This is in addition to regular payment of civil servants, who also get paid a 13th month by the State Government
While the current recession ravaging most states in Nigeria has made them unable to pay their staff salaries for many months, the administration of Umahi in Ebonyi State has not only increased the salaries of its workers by 5 per cent, but also pays regularly on 15th of every month.
- Welfare of the Pensioners and widows
On the side of welfare for the people of the State, the administration of Dave Umahi recently released over N1.5 Billion for the immediate payment of the pension and gratuity to retired workers from 1996 when the state was created till date and empowerment of 2000 widows across the State. To me, this act can only be described as not only as unprecedented, divine, redefinition of governance but as God’s induced rescue mission to save the lives of our Pensioners and widows through Gov. umahi to put smiles on the faces of various families in Ebonyi State at this critical time of economic downturn in the country. Engr. David Nweze Umahi the amiable Governor of Ebonyi State has by these acts not only redefine governance in Nigeria but has made governance in Ebonyi State both humane and a divine mission to touch the lives of the people of Ebonyi State.
As if the above wasn’t enough, the release of another N400 million for the immediate empowerment of over 2000 widows domiciled across the 13 local government area of the State to the tune of N200, 000 each puts Governor Umahi in a different class among political leaders in Nigeria.
I am glad to note that the widows empowerment programme have been expanded to accommodate additional 2000 widows that will be selected, verified and paid the sum of N200, 000 each from 1st October, 2017.
It is also on record that the N1billion naira budgeted for the empowerment of 4000 eligible Ebonyians is still being disbursed by the Ministry of Empowerment and Job Creation with about 1000 people collecting their grants of up to N250, 000 each while Others who meet the criteria have started collecting their payments with effect from Monday the 21st of August, 2017.
Thanks to God for the conclusion of the work of the Committee on the Verification of the State Pensions & Gratuities from 2nd October, 1996 to 6th June, 2017 and formal approval of the Committee’s Report by the Executive Council of Ebonyi State on Tuesday the 15th of August, 2017 which led to the release of the sum of N1.5 billion for the payment of arrears of pensions and gratuities of Ebonyi workers from 1996 to 2017. It is now left to all eligible beneficiaries to proceed immediately to the office of the Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State for verification in order to ensure that payments are disbursed with dispatch.
These great steps to alleviate the impact of economic recession amongst our people simply show that we have truly a divinely oriented administration in Ebonyi State.
- Setting up the largest Cement Factory in Nigeria and Industrialisation of Ebonyi State, I must state that Ebonyi Sate and her people are truly benefitting so much from the training background of its Governor who is a well qualified Civil Engineer as he is set to embark upon projects that will industrialise the State. In this regard, arrangements have been concluded by this administration with the Bank of Industry to deposit N2 billion to fund small scale industries in the State, which will be made available to any group of people in the state with viable projects. I am happy to note that efforts are being made to assist investors interested in the development of limestone and salt in the State, while the administration is cooperating with a multi-national cement company, Larfage, which is at the final stage of establishing the biggest cement factory in the country in Ebonyi, even as efforts are in progress to see that Nigercem in Nkalagu resume production soon.
- The Abakaliki Ring Road, its benefits and challenges
Umahi’s visionary leadership prowess has made him to remember some hitherto abandoned key projects like the Abakaliki Ring Road that links eight of the thirteen Local Government Areas of the State (Abakaliki, Izzi, Ishielu, Ohaukwu, Ebonyi, Ikwo, Ezza North or Ezza South LGA). A project which infrastructural, economical, social and developmental importance to the good people of Ebonyi State in general and Ebonyi North and Central zones in particular need not be overemphasised. It may shock the reader to know that as far back as 1979 this particular ring road was one of the major campaign promises of Chief Jim Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo to the people of Abakaliki in the then old Anambra State. It is a fact that Jim Nwobodo who later became the Governor attempted to construct this RING ROAD in 1981 and sadly since 1982/83 the completion of the Ring Road Project remained a mirage for over 15 years that various Military Governors/Administrators held sway in Anambra/Enugu States where our people sojourned and even after another 21 years following the creation of Ebonyi State. It is fact also a fact that the first and second Civilian Governors of Ebonyi State are from Ebonyi North and Central Zones respectively whose people are the direct beneficiaries of the Ring Road project but did nothing to actualise it not minding that this project whose economic benefits to us can’t be overemphasised.
Shockingly, it is under Umahi’s administration, the first civilian Governor from Ebonyi South extraction that such a gigantic and multi-dimensional project that will assist to fast track the development of the State is cajoled. For demonstrating sagacity and exemplary leadership by embarking upon the completion of this project that will benefit the Northern and Central Senatorial zones of the State the more simply put Governor Umahi not only a pole ahead of the past Administrators that governed the old Anambra and Enugu States for fifteen years that this project was mooted.
For Umahi to have thought of borrowing money to construct the Abakaliki Ring Road within 2 years in office without minding that his own people are not the direct beneficiaries, then such a man to be commended for genuinely loving Ebonyi people of Abakaliki extraction more than they love themselves, but sadly he is being condemned and frustrated by Chief Martins Elechi erstwhile Governor of Ebonyi State and some other misguided political leaders in the State.
Though as a daughter of Ebonyi State from the Southern Senatorial zone, I must confess that I wish that the Governor can look inwards and borrow money to also develop the OHANIVO-AFIKPO-EDDA RING ROAD as well.
No fewer than 6500 stakeholders across the 13 Local Government Areas, (LGAs) of Ebonyi State have given approval to the $130m loan sought by the State Government in both African Development Bank (ADB) and Islamic Development Bank (IDB) for the construction of 198km ring Roads that cut across 8Local Areas of the State.
Though, with the unalloyed support of the Elders from the State who have asked him to do anything humanly possible to see that this project see the light of the day; I am glad knowing Umahi very well that when he is determined to execute any project no Jupitar will frustrate him in that regard but as a responsible and respected democrat, he id aware that he derives his powers from his people and have gotten approval both from the State Assembly as the representative of our people, the traditional, opinion leaders and the people of the State to go ahead to obtain the $150million Loan from the Islamic Bank and the Africa Development Bank for the construction of the 198km Abakiliki Ring Road but has decided not to take any further step until he is assured that he has the support of the hundred percent of the people of the State.
This is what makes his leadership of the State very unique even as he has obtained over 6500 signatory support to go ahead with the project. The obstacles before him notwithstanding of the construction of 198km Abakiliki Ring Road, he has assured that with or without the loan he will embark upon this project by November this year.
Throwing more light about the importance of this project, the state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Daniel Umezuruike disclosed that the loan will not only enable the governor to reconstruct the over 198km ring roads that cut across eight local government areas of the state but when completed will curb delay in accessing health facilities by rural dwellers and also unlock the development potentials of the local government areas were the ring road cut across, the entire state and its neighbours. “When this ring road is constructed, health will be the number one beneficiary because there are so many of our health facilities in the corridors of this ring road which will increase accessibility to these facilities”.
To the Secretary to the Ebonyi State, Prof Bernard Odo, the importance of the ring roads cannot be overemphasized. He said that the collapsed Abakaliki ring roads have greatly affected farmers and the economic growth of the State as they find it difficult to bring their agricultural produce to the city hence the need to reconstruct the roads. He further emphasised that with the revenue of the State assets which is about 29.78 billion annually, the loan would be repaid between five and seven years.
Governor Umahi on his own part commended the Federal Government for approving the loan for the construction of the Abakaliki Ring Roads which he said would boost the economy of the State when completed. Umahi who noted that the loan would be obtained by the Federal Government explained that it has no interest rate. His words: “We are not the one obtaining the loan. It’s the Federal Government that is obtaining the loan for us on request. I was at the African Development Bank (ADB) and we estimated a total of $150million US dollars. ADB after their own internal Evaluation felt that they should partner with Islamic Development Bank. So, they invited Islamic Development Bank on their own. Nigeria is a member of that Bank with equity Share Capital of One billion US Dollars, and there is nothing religious about this bank other than that the bank doesn’t charge interest. People have not understood the process that we as a State are not the one borrowing. It is the FG that is borrowing and what is required is that National Assembly must give approval”
He stated the Ebonyi State Executive Council and the Ebonyi State House of Assembly would approve the loan request after appraisal by both Banks as the State was prepared to construct the ring roads. The Governor further maintained that the project would solve the transpiration problem being faced by the people. He pointed out that the State has enormous mineral resources and vast land for agriculture that would enable them to pay back the loan.
“We have 13 Local Government Areas and this is one particular project that cuts across 8 LGAs and this project is very viable. Over 10% of our landmass is blessed with solid mineral. This ring road is going to serve as very serious alternative to solve that Transportation problem. So we have multiple means of repaying the loan. We have the capacity. We have the capability,”
- Umahi on the Unity of Nigeria and future of Ebonyi State
Governor Dave Nweze Umahi who doubles as the Chairman of the South East Governors’ Forum emphasised on the need of the unity of the Igbos in a peaceful nation like Nigeria. According to him, “There is no need to continue with hate speeches. There is no need to continue with violent agitations. We have to dialogue and do everything that will make sure we live in peace. We are stronger when we are together. There’s no need of insulting the President. There is no need of insulting other tribes. There’s no need of insulting southern governors. The operation Python dance was to ensure security in the zone”.
He assured all residents in the state of their optimum security, insisting that the proscription of the activities of the Independence People of Biafra (IPOB) was to avert bloodshed and save the lives of about 12 million Igbo people living in other parts of the country.
The first executive governor of the state and senator representing Ebonyi North zone, Senator Sam Egwu in his reaction commended Governor Umahi for his achievements including infrastructural development, youth and widow empowerments and Agricultural Revolution, the Former governor called on the Federal government to be fair in governance and recognition of Ndi Igbo.
“We support our Governor, the Executive Governor of Ebonyi State His Excellency, Engr Chief David Nweze Umahi for his quality leadership style”.
“We support one Nigeria and ” We call on the Ruling Government APC, to know that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander, there should be fairness in governance and recognition of Ndi Igbo” Senator Egwu further asked Governor Umahi to continue with his good work, assuring him of his support and solidarity
Let me conclude this segment of this treatise that will cover 21 special projects embarked upon by this great leader of our time to drive home his efforts to make Ebonyi State the number one State in Nigeria,
In segment three, I will pick up other projects that differentiate this new leader from others in his class.
…Eze is Technical Assistant on Media to Governor Dave Nweze Umahi