In this chat, the Abia State Commissioner for Information, Mr. John Okiyi Kalu, defended government policies and performance in the state. According to him, Ikpeazu has piloted the affairs of the state well.
Abia is dirty and stinking, particularly the Emelogu area in Aba. I was there and the stench was unbearable, yet people live there. What is the government doing to avoid epidemic?
Emelogu is a dumpsite and we have directed ASEPA to move the dumpsite from there. As at today, we are doing surface waste management. We collect from homes and centres, you need to push them somewhere. You need to have a dumpsite where they will be disposed. I understand that ASEPA is having challenges with getting dumpsites.
I learnt that ASEPA is not working because workers are being owned. Don’t you think it is part of the challenge?
No, I’m not aware of any salary challenge at ASEPA. I’ll come back to the issue of salary to tell you where we are with salary payment. It is fallacious for people to say we are owing workers. So, I am aware that they have challenges in identifying dumpsites. But we have examined where they have the Emelogu dumpsite and we have asked them to quickly locate an alternative place. Once they do that, they will move the dumpsite from that place.
Let’s talk about workers being owned. What’s the true position?
With regards to salary payment, you have to understand that the workers that the state government is directly responsible for their salary are the ministries, departments and agencies of the state government. They have all received November salary and they are starting to receive their December salary today being Friday, December 14, 2018. We are not owing any of them. We have also started paying them their 2017 leave allowance. I challenge you to go round the ministries, departments and agencies that the state government is responsible for their wages and find out if there is anybody we are owing even for one month. With regards to parastatals, by the law setting them up, they are empowered to generate revenue and use the revenue to run their operations. They don’t remit one kobo of their revenue to the state government account. What the state government would do for them is to support them with subvention. And the subventions are not necessarily meant for salary payment; it is to support their operations.
Why did the state government abandon the Osisioma flyover project?
We have not abandoned the fly over project. We have not abandoned any of the projects started by this administration. The rainy season has just ended and our contractors are back on sites, including the fly over. Osisioma flyover was meant to last for two and half years. If you go back to the day it was flagged off, you will hear the governor say that we expect to deliver it in two and half years. That project was started in January 2017 and this December 2018, which is two years. We are still within the duration of that project.
We learnt that Faulks Road is being reconstructed at N1.4billion per kilometre. Is that not too high?
Those are some of the nonsense you read from lazy opposition. I need to point out that the Faulks Road project is triple headed. There is the flood control component, which is aimed at making sure that Ukwu Mango area no longer floods. To do that, we excavated the Ife Obara pond, created intermittent pumps along the way and constructed drains that will pump excess water from Ife Obara all the way to waterside.
When people say a project is costing a certain amount, they should also look at the scope of that project. It is disingenuous to compare five kilometres of road done in my village Abiriba with five kilometres of flood control and road reconstruction project of the scope seen along Faulks Road. We do not have money to do roads with N1.4billion per kilometre. We won’t even contemplate it. So, I’m confirming to you that that story is fallacious.
People are complaining of all manner of levies in Aba and Umuahia from cart pushers to landlords. Why is it so?
There are two ways to look at it. I’ve personally discovered that there is a bit of lawlessness at Aba with the unions. Do you know that people just wake up on their own, find a role for their men and start chasing people about for all kinds of revenue? When they see us, they run away and come back next day. Number two, these unions like the NURTW and the keke unions etc levy their members on daily basis which they collect.