Chijioke Agwu, Abakaliki
The infrastructural transformation of Ebonyi, the youngest of the five states in the South East, has practically turned the state to a construction site. Governor David Umahi; an engineer, is fast changing the developmental narrative of the once rusty state.
Notable Igbo leaders and investors from across the country recently gathered in the state and passed the verdict that Ebonyi was an emerging business destination in the zone. Thrust of the Abakaliki gathering was the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between government and some investors.
Leading the pack of the personalities who stormed Ebonyi were President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo; Ndigbo Lagos Foundation led by Major Gen. Obi Umahi (rtd); CEO, Silverbird Group, Guy Murray-Bruce; CEO, Everyday Supermarket, Dr Charles Dimnwaobi and president, Association of Computer Village Technology Merchants of Nigeria, Prince Tony Nwakeze, among others.
Governor Umahi said the event tagged: ‘Ebonyi Business Forum,’ was part of his drive to provide the necessary infrastructure and facilities that would open up the state for massive investment and speedy development because of the way Ebonyi people were rapaciously neglected and marginalised in the past:
“Since we came on board in 2015, our attention has been to create an atmosphere to instil confidence in our people, lay a solid foundation for the state growth and wealth creation; every of our policy and project since that time till now supported this claim. We were badly neglected in the past and that was why I said I will do things that can hardly been seen elsewhere.”
He commended the Lagos-based Igbo business leaders who were in the state for investment, noting that time had come for Ndigbo to start thinking home investment wise. He said his Government would provide them with every necessary support and assistance needed to help the growth, promotion and protection of their businesses and investments in the state:
“These people have demonstrated the Igbo spirit, to have come home to invest. We have offered to provide assistance to them. We have reduced the prices at the mall due to their interest. We have exposed our industrial clusters to them to build their estate. The biggest edifice at the centenary, we have reserved it for Silicon University, because it is compliant to their vision.
“The international market has been truly made international, and we are happy they are part of it. The shopping mall will start by November 15, 2020. And from that time through December will be bonus for the investors. I will also run the utilities for free during the period.”
Nwodo said with the level of infrastructural development in the state, and the attendant business opportunities, Ebonyi has the capacity to become the next leading commercial hub in the region: “Governor Umahi has changed road construction in Nigeria and given it an Ebonyi character. What he does in terms of making sure that the roads are durable is phenomenal. He has a concrete overlay of an iron backing before putting asphalt on it to ensure that he does not just build a road but that it will last for a very long time.
“What I saw in terms of transformation this time in Ebonyi is surprising. Governor Umahi, I still want to know the secrets. I want land in Ebonyi so that I will be part of this transformation, it will give me peace of mind.”
Nwodo chided some Igbo businessmen for their reluctance to bring some of their investments back to the region, stressing that the situation has slowed down development in the zone. He noted that the time has come for Ndigbo to return home and invest especially now that leaders of the zone like Umahi were working to create the enabling environment.
He insisted that the South East has the potential to become in Nigeria what Bayern is to Germany in terms of business and economic activities.
Murray-Bruce said after seeing the level of development in the state: “I have found everything I want in Ebonyi. This is the best mall I have ever seen in Africa. And we would love to move in before December.”