Orji Uchenna Orji is the Commissioner for Information and State Orientation and the acting Commissioner, Human Capital Development and Monitoring, Ebonyi State. He speaks on the achievements of the administration of Governor Dave Umahi.
This is the first year into the second tenure of Governor Umahi. What are his achievements so far?
We have constructed the highest number of roads ever built by a state government in the last five years and this is made up of 25 kilometres of concrete roads done in each of the 13 local government areas with bridges, over 800km concrete roads within the satellite and urban towns and over 300km federal highways. Apart from dualising the Abakaliki/Enugu and Abakaliki/Afikpo federal roads, the state government is dualising not less than 23km roads along the locations of each of the flyovers that are being constructed in the state.
The governor’s zeal to lift the face of Ebonyi can be seen in the way he renovated the old Governor’s Office, the Old President’s Lodge and the Old Government House premises before he commenced the construction of the brand new Government House, housing Nigeria’s most beautiful Governor’s Lodge, Presidential Lodge and Governor’s Office; a three-arm concept that is better visited than described.
We have made the list as the state with the highest number of modern water fountains in Nigeria and Africa’s biggest fountain. We celebrate a state with the biggest light tunnel in Africa, 29 span, four-way tunnel with beautiful state-of-the-art facilities, including water fountains on top and underneath, linking the old Government House with the Ocho-Udo Centenary City, the shopping mall, and the Ecumenical Centre.
The state is building the biggest shopping mall ever built by any government in Nigeria and the biggest international market in the South East, one of the most beautiful international markets in Nigeria, with a target of raising indigenous importers and exporters and attracting foreign and local investors to boost the economy of the state.
What is the situation with the airport project?
The governor is building an international airport that is set to be one of the three biggest in Nigeria, fashioned after Lagos and Abuja airports, sitting on 4km-by-4km land and 3.5km runway. This cargo airport is going to be a revenue spinner like Ethiopian Air business. This will promote international trade, attract multinational investors, be a feeder facility to our commercial ventures and other going concerns in the state. It will create thousands of jobs and wealth for the immediate communities and the state, in addition to land value and businesses activities that will appreciate in the area.
Other achievements of the governor are that, within three years in office, he reconstructed the state’s township stadium, called Pa Ngele Oruta Township Stadium, and made it the best in the South East with a modern guest house for accommodation of athletes and a glass sporting state box. He commenced the construction of a world class stadium that will be one of the biggest in Nigeria with sporting facilities that will keep investors and residents physically fit to go about their business. It will promote tourism, stimulate talent development and generate revenue through sporting events. It is expected to be a frontline stadium in hosting national and international sporting events and games
The State Christian Ecumenical Centre, located at one end of President Muhammadu Buhari four-way light tunnel, has a 20,000 sitting capacity main hall and state- of-the-art facilities, including lobbies, reception units, lifts, world-class mobile stage, escalators and many more. The ecumenical centre is a multi-functional edifice that also hosts national and international conferences and corporate social events. It also generates huge revenues for the state.
The governor has commenced the construction of 189km ring roads to connect the nine local government areas within Ebonyi North and Central, in partnership with the African Development Bank. He has concluded all processes with the World Bank and Federal Government to construct not less than 46km roads in each of the local government areas in the state under the Rural Access and Agricultural Market Project.
In which other sectors has the state invested?
Under the Umahi administration, not less than 53,000 farmers are profiled yearly to benefit from the state and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) agricultural programmes. With the state government-owned rice milling plants totalling 24 metric tonnes capacity per hour, the parboiling plant totalling 32 metric tonnes capacity per hour and the over 1,500 individually-owned rice milling clusters, Ebonyi State is a leading rice processing state in West Africa.
Part of the efforts of this administration to boost agriculture include reactivation of the 40 metric tonnes capacity fertilizer blending plant built by his predecessor and the establishment of another 40 metric tonnes capacity fertilizer blending plant to provide the NPK fertilizer needs of the South East and South South. This facility is the biggest in southern Nigeria. It has been playing an active role in the Presidential Agricultural Initiative of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, for which the state government remains grateful.
The cassava value chain has been greatly enhanced with the introduction of hybrid vitamin A and C cassava stems and procurement of four-number five tonnes per hour cassava processing plants for starch and flour.
This administration has also established the largest mushroom farms in Nigeria, a glass agricultural showroom and exhibition house for all our agricultural and solid mineral products and a waste-to-wealth recycling plant, called pulverisation plant, that is of 200 metric tonnes capacity per hour, the only one in the South East and one of the biggest in Nigeria.
What about security?
The establishment of smart city security system in the major junctions of the state with CCTV mounted to monitor road users and track criminals to their hiding place is the present administration’s initiative to reduce insecurity to its barest minimum. The governor introduced, recruited and trained 4,000 Neighborhood Watch members to add value to the security architecture of the state.
The security agencies have been motivated by the provision of over 100 Hilux jeeps and other security gadgets and the provision of social amenities in the barracks and headquarters of the agencies, including internal roads, water supply, streetlights, landscaping and parameter fencing of their premises. Today, the state’s police command has the most beautiful parameter fence and the most sophisticated security gate among the states of Nigeria.
In the area of education, he has embarked on massive construction of school blocks in each of the wards of the state. There is now free and compulsory education for out-of-school children, where he injected not less than N7 billion for teaching equipment and pupils’ scholarship.
He introduced special education, including a vocational college, King David Gifted School, Adult School and Agricultural Vocational Institute. The schools are doing a lot in the area of raising capacity for artisans, entrepreneurs, craftsmen, technicians and other talent development initiatives. That is why, today, there is low insecurity in the state. We have the lowest incident of capital flight, there’s increase in school enrollment, street hawking has been reduced.
In 2017, the Education Index of National Universities Commission showed an improvement in the state’s education system with a student from Ebonyi State emerging as the best JAMB candidate in Medicine and Surgery. Also, a local government area in Ebonyi State produced the highest number of undergraduates among the 774 local government areas in the country in the same year 2017. WAEC education index since 2017 has Ebonyi as one of the best 10.
The governor has empowered 3,000 youths and women with N750m and Ebonyi indigenes who were hawking in the streets of Lagos have been empowered with N130m to go into enterprises of their choice. Over 53,000 farmers were given facility of N250,000 each to engage in farming and this has made them profit not less than N500,000 each annually. Under the state government’s Second Address Scheme, 5,008 clergymen and women have received N500,800,00 grant to go into farming and related businesses.
Also, N4 billion was set aside for the empowerment of civil servants in the state, and wives of officials of security agencies were trained and empowered with N80.6m while 400 Ebonyi youths and women of very low means of livelihood, including those in Onitsha, Anambra State, were each given a brand new tricycle worth over N260m. Over N400.3m grant was given to 4,300 widows to go into trade and over 50 women have each been empowered with brand new electric tricycles.
We have a community empowerment programme where over 140 autonomous communities were given N10m each to go into social development projects and the traditional rulers of the various autonomous communities in the state received donations of brand new sports utility vehicles. Farmers received empowerment of 96 buses to provide transport services to farmers.
The Family Succor and Upliftment Foundation of the wife of the governor, Mrs. Rachel Umahi, through the campaign against female genital mutilation, has drastically reduced the harmful practice to the barest minimum. Ebonyi was the first to pass into law the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Law. The First Lady’s regular visit to hospitals and her regular settlement of hospital bills of the less privileged and the monthly stipends to the poor worth over N58m are all geared towards changing the status of the less privileged.
The state government has made great impact in repositioning the tertiary health care system through the construction of the Lasser Fever Centre, COVID-19 Centre of Excellence, the State Hospital Emergency complex and ultra-modern College of Medicine, among others. Today, we are set to have a Centre of Excellence for critical heath issues such as blood and heart diseases, liver and organ transplant and many terminal diseases, which used to take Nigerians to India and the Western world for treatment. Work on the project is at advanced level.