Special Assistant to the Ebonyi State Governor on Solid Minerals and chairman of the Ebonyi State Task Force on Mining, Evangelist Nwakaego Jacintha Nworie, has declared that, just as the Egyptians were drowned in the Red Sea as they were pursuing the Israelites in the Bible, all the opposition elements in Ebonyi State have been drowned in the same Red Sea.
Nworie, who also declared that darkness has been uprooted in the state, said Governor Dave Umahi has performed so well that, if there were to be room for a third term, the people of Ebonyi would gladly vote him in.
In this interview, the governor’s aide speaks on a number of issues, from what is happening in the state’s mining sector to infrastructural development, security and the 2019 elections, among others.
What is happening in the mining sector in Ebonyi State?
In recent times, people have been hiding under cover to exploit us by doing so many things at night. They have been involved in illegal mining activities in the state but, since I came onboard as the chairman of the task force, we have been clamping down on illegal mining activities in the state, with the help of our dear governor, Apostle David Nweze Umahi, the hardworking governor and David of our time. He is a man who, in less than three years, has taken Ebonyi State to enviable heights in the country. Before now, nobody knew us with regard to mineral deposits, but today we are discovering and recovering all our stolen deposits. Those who hide to mine at night are no longer having a field day because our governor has mandated us to go after them and ensure that such illegal mining activities are brought to an end. Before now, it was not like that, but today, our governor has, in his magnanimity and doggedness, moved the ministry to an enviable height in the state, such that other ministries now depend on us.
When you say people are hiding under cover to tap the state’s solid minerals at night, what kinds of minerals are you talking about and where are the people coming from?
The mineral deposits that the ministry is investing in now are lead, zinc oxide, coal and many other mineral deposits that I cannot mention here.
So, who are these people that have been secretly mining and sabotaging the economy of the state, are they indigenes or outsiders?
Most of them are Chinese and some of them have run away; but some came to dialogue with us, choosing to do it the normal way. One particular company came back to ask the state what it could do to be in the limelight as a mining company in the state. We told them to let the state know of their presence and their activities. If you come to Ebonyi State, you find that there are many open mining sites and these have claimed many lives in the state. Some of these companies don’t bother about personal protective equipment for their workers neither do they even care about the reclamation of the land. What most of them are interested in is just how to get the mineral deposits, not minding the dangers their activities pose to the environment and the people.
But, right now, the state government is dialoguing with the Federal Government to come together as a committee and see how the Federal Government can partner with us as a state to have joint efforts that would modernise mining in an organised manner in Ebonyi State. This will ensure that the rules and regulations guiding mining activities are adhered to so that our people will no longer be extorted and exploited without giving back to them.
Yes, the licence is given by the Federal Government but what about the land usage, the policy and the law of the state? As a state, we have a law that must be obeyed. Before you come in to mine in our state, you must get what we call Community Development Agreement (CDA). Some of them don’t have this document to mine; they will just come and meet families that have deposits in their land and start mining. Some of them don’t even have the Federal Government lease to mine or to purchase.
Though I have some of them on my list, I won’t mention their names because some of them have realised their mistakes and apologised through letters to the state government, asking for forgiveness. Most of them are really coming up to do the needful.
Gov. Umahi is three years in office. How has the journey been so far?
This is a man we call Apostle. He is not just apostle by mouth; he came under divine mandate. Remember that anything divine is from above. God’s hand is in it. This is a man who is a dogged infrastructure engineer; construction is his familiar ground. This is a man that started as a businessman. He came onboard as a party chairman in 2007. He came onboard again as a deputy governor in 2011 and today he is the governor of the state. The experience he has gathered from that 2007 till date has been so immense and invaluable. Within three years, he has done so much on road construction. If you see the thickness of the asphalt roads, you would understand why we said that his mandate is divine. The commissioner for works has made us proud, learning what his master, the governor, is doing in the state.
None of the 13 LGAs in the state is left out in this massive road construction projects. He has constructed three gigantic flyover bridges in the state within these three years. In the area of electricity, the governor has done well. He has provided streetlights everywhere in the state. In fact, there is no darkness in Ebonyi State; the governor has uprooted darkness in the state. Every nook and cranny of the state now has streetlights, courtesy of our governor, Akubaraoha, David Nweze Umahi. In fact, I will tell you that in the area of empowerment, the governor has empowered thousands of youths through the Ministry of Empowerment and Job Creation, headed by Uchenna Orji. Before now, you would find Ebonyi youths hawking goods all over the streets of Lagos, but today the story has changed. The scourge has been brought under control. There are certain youths he gave a token of N250,000 to start small-scale businesses, with a promise that anyone who turns the N250,000 to N500,000 would get N1 million. Widows are also not left out. The governor’s wife has touched so many widows in the state.
How did you get onboard the Umahi government?
I am a pastor and I have never been into politics. I have lived for over 18 years in Lagos but, when the governor was elected, he appointed me as the state liaison officer in Lagos and from there I was redeployed to the state, where I started going through political tutelage. When I came into politics, it was like going into a strange world, but my governor gave me a word that I stood on and I conquered. He told us during one of the executive council meetings that we were apostles and we needed to magnify our offices. That word challenged me as a minister of God and I prayed to God, who reminded me of His words in Philippians 4:13, that, ‘I can do all things through Christ that sent me.’ Today, he calls us his exco-members, his destiny helpers, because, as a governor, he cannot succeed without good disciples. In fact, he is not just a governor; he is a lecturer. He is a professor in leadership; that is what we call him because when you go to him with one idea, you would leave with 10 ideas. Anytime we go to him, we must carry paper and pen because we must get something from him as we are leaving him. He is called by God. He is a pastor and an engineer.
How has the governor fared in the areas of health and education?
We have 13 general hospitals in the state. Before now, they were dilapidated, but they have all been renovated. A lot of things are going on in our health sector. The governor’s wife, Her Excellency, Deaconess Rachel Ogonnaya Umahi, is in charge of VVF and the campaign against female genital mutilation. In health, the governor has done tremendously well. In education, the governor has equally done very well.
There have been reports of killings in persistent clashes between a community in your state and a neighbouring community in Cross River State. What is the governor doing to bring lasting peace to the two communities?
I don’t know about killings, all I know is that there is no state that has not encountered one kind of misunderstanding or another with border communities. As a matter of fact, our governor has been given an award as a peace ambassador. Before now, there was a tragedy that happened in Ebonyi State, popularly referred to as Eziulo and Ezza crisis. In fact, they deserted a particular community in Ebonyi State but when our governor came onboard, he restored peace there and reinstated the people, giving them new life and hope. In fact, he restored life and peace in Ezza and Eziulo; our governor is a man of peace.
What is the strength of opposition parties in the state? Does your governor not feel threatened by the gang-up by the opposition parties against him as we approach the 2019 general election?
We don’t have any opposition in Ebonyi State. I am confidently telling you that we don’t have any opposition in Ebonyi; what is opposition? Opposition is when you don’t know what you are called for. Our governor is called by God to change the history of Ebonyi State, to rewrite our story and he is just doing that. Recently, the President, an APC member, visited our state and even slept there because he knows good things. Our governor is a man of God. He told us that once you win an election, the citizens come first, before your party. It does not matter whether you won on the platform of PDP or APC; what matters is that you deliver democracy dividends to the people. Our governor has a good relationship with the Presidency because he knew what the Bible says, which is that you must honour the people in authority.
So, opposition is silent in our state because our governor is doing what he is called to do. Our governor has about 5,000 technical assistants drawn across parties, APC, PDP, and Labour, among others. He did that not because he didn’t know they were from other parties outside his own party but because he is the governor of the state. For peace to reign, the moment you win, you must carry everybody along. What is opposition when he has carried everybody along? But, we still maintain our party, the PDP.
A few days ago when your governor held a world press conference in Abakaliki, somebody drew his attention to the fact that robbers bearing AK-47 were robbing residents of the state in broad daylight. Is Ebonyi State safe?
That is fake news. As a matter of fact, we have a very rugged man as senior special assistant to the governor on internal security, and he is working in collaboration with the security agencies in the state. Ebonyi is safe and secure as far as property and life are concerned. So, when you hear people say robbery, it is a distraction. Recently, I invited one of your colleagues to Ebonyi State and when he came, he was surprised at what he saw.
The whole streets are lit; when you come to Ebonyi in the night, it is like day. There is light everywhere, so where will those robbers go and rob? People rob in the dark; how can you rob in broad daylight? We have our Neighbourhood Watch that the governor mandated the SSA on internal security to pilot its affairs.
Where do you see the PDP government in Ebonyi in the next one year?
As long as Umahi remains the governor of the state, under the PDP, in the next one year, things will only get better. Let me tell you, right now, people are saying that Ebonyi State is the Dubai of Nigeria. Some see the state as the America of Nigeria while others see it as the London of Nigeria. What am I saying? The governor once told us that, for you to succeed in his government, you must have a vision, a mission and a passion to drive the mission that will give birth to your vision. In fact, our governor wants us to be articulate because he is highly articulate. So, one year with David Umahi is like 10 years. In less than three years, the history of Ebonyi State has been rewritten by this man, born in the land of Umunaga, Uburu.
The economy seems to be distressed right now and Ebonyi is among the states that receive the least allocation from the federation account. It appears also that the state is not owing workers’ salaries; how has the governor been able to achieve all that?
Remember that in the book of Matthew 25, there is this story of people that God gave different talents. He gave some five talents, some two talents and the other he gave one talent. At the end of the day, the one he gave one talent went and buried it. When the master came back, he gave the master the one talent that was given to him. Our governor is the one that received five talents and he utilised it. He knows how to utilise the resources given to him; he is a good manager. Ebonyi State civil servants are hailing our governor.