By Francis Igata
As the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State clocked six months into its first four years tenure,stakeholders gathered last Saturday at the Old Government Lodge where they rose in unison to embrace daring efforts made by his government to place the state in a pedestal of economic growth. Apparently determined to entrench and run an all inclusive government to serve as a recipe for the sustenance of the prevailing peace in the state, Governor Ugwuanyi last Saturday,summoned an expanded stakeholders meeting to acquaint them on the programmes and policies of his administration.
The Old Government Lodge brimmed with the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, officials from the 260 wards in the state. Party Chairmen from across the 17 council areas, State Executive members, senators and House of Representative members representing the various constituencies, former ministers, former governors, former deputy governors among other party faithful who thronged the venue to be part of the maiden stakeholders meeting called by Ugwuanyi since taking over the realm of power last May 29.
A close peep at the governor’s principles of governance showed that he operates a government of consultation such that every segment of the stakeholders are carried along in all decisions affecting the people. This is to weed out possible bickering which usually snowball into political warfare. Such situation breeds anarchy, smolders scarce resources which would have been deployed to meaningful ventures that will better the lot of the people and above all, remain a distraction to the government of the day that will have its hand full, building political trenches from where plans for major conflagration will be launched.
Those who have made appreciable personal contact with the governor likens his humane disposition to that of a Vatican Bishop who remains unprovoked when bile regurgitates in times of frayed nerves. It however, did not take the stakeholders by storm when they received notice of meeting knowing the pedigree of Ugwuanyi as one who runs an open, accessible, transparent government with the singular aim of alleviating the suffering of his people.
Setting the tone at the meeting, Governor Ugwuanyi reeled out the remarkable achievements of his administration in the past six months saying, ”Let me first of all announce the good news of the reception of a part of the bailout fund for offsetting outstanding emoluments of workers and retirees. Even though what we have received is small, we are looking forward to receiving the main part of the fund in no distant time.
“Also in line with the interest we have in the welfare of workers, we have continued the prompt payment of salaries and provided electricity, water, and other ancillary services at the New Secretariat Complex. Work has also reached advanced stages at the Workers’ Estate at Ogbeke and we paid 30 percent Equity Contribution to enable interested Enugu State civil servants from Grade Level 01 to Grade Level 10, to acquire 100 units of one bedroom flats at Elim Estate, Ibagwa, Nike, Enugu. The beneficiaries of this scheme have since been selected through an open lottery system held recently at the Michael Okpara Square, Enugu.
LOCAL GOVT ADMINISTRATION
“Early in the life of the administration, we set up an 11-man Committee on Local Government Audit and Biometric Data Capture headed by the Speaker of the Enugu State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Edward Ubosi. Among others, the Committee’s responsibility is to determine the true staff strength of each of the 17 Local Government Areas, the financial implications of the staff in respect of monthly remunerations, Enugu State Universal Basic Education Board, and the Local Government Pensions Board.
“We believe that this exercise will help to arrest the perennial problem of profligacy, corruption, and other sharp practices and also eliminate the ghost worker syndrome. I am pleased to announce that the exercise is already yielding the desired results and will soon be extended to the school system where we have also observed that, the number of teachers in the records, is far above the number we have on ground in the schools.
“An Administrative committee headed by the Deputy Governor, Mrs. Cecilia Ezeilo is already looking into the issue of ENSUBEB projects in our primary schools and related matters. We have nonetheless undertaken the renovation and re-equipment of secondary and primary schools across the state to ensure that our children and their pupils enjoy a conducive environment for learning.
“Soon also, we will, as required by law, apply for a loan to enable us assess the state’s counterpart funds for ENSUBEB which will add value to educational sector in the State. We have also made fruitful efforts to provide and improve necessary infrastructure in our Tertiary institutions just as we intervened to rescue the Institute of Management and Technology,IMT, from the crumbling weight of salary arrears and resultant low staff morale. I am glad to announce that government has decided to make the IMT a degree awarding institution and that the necessary machinery to enable us realize this objective, will soon be in put in place.
“We have also taken decisive steps towards repositioning and revamping the Enugu State Polytechnic, Iwollo through our push for the re-validation of old programmes and the accreditation of five new courses by the National Board for Technical Education,NABTEB. Disturbed by the fact that the Enugu State College of Education,Technical, has not been able to award certificates to its graduands for nine years due to non- accreditation of its courses, the State Executive Council re-validated the approval of a substantial sum of money to enable the institution scale its accreditation hurdles and be in a position to issue certificates.
URBAN AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT
“In fulfillment of our promise to catalyze urban and rural development and develop new cities in the state to boost economic activities, we embarked on the massive development of roads across the state. A few weeks ago, we flagged off the construction of eight major roads across the state. These were: The Ameke Ngwo-Nsude Junction bypass, Ninth Mile Corner Bypass, Dualisation of Opi-Nsukka Road, Abakpa Nike Road,Nike Lake Road,Ohom Orba Junction-Imilike Ani – Ezimo Uno – Ezimo Agu – Imilike – Ogbudu Aba – Obollo-Etiti – Amalla – Obollo Afor (Udenu Ring Road,Enugu Road Junction – Umuezebi- Nru Junction- University Gate Nsukka,Post Office Roundabout – Odenigbo Roundabout- Ogurugu Road – Ikenga Hotel Junction, Obechara Road Junction – Umuakashi Mechanic Village – Ikenga Hotel Junction.
“We are also doing drains, culverts, earthworks, and asphaltic wearing courses on the Ugwogo Nike-Ikem Road. We have completed the hitherto intractable Ogbete Market and gone far with the rehabilitation of the Airport Roundabout – Orie Emene – St. Patrick’s College – Eke Obinagu Road Project, Mbanefo II, New Haven. We also directed the continuous maintenance of roads in Enugu.
“As part of our rural and agricultural development initiatives, we initiated the construction of a 15-kilometre Inter-Town Connection ,ITC, 2.5MVA Injection Sub-Station at Ezi-Nze, Udi Local Government Area just a few days after my assumption of office. This initiative will supply electricity to communities in Udi, Igbo-Etiti, and Uzo-Uwani Local Government Areas. It will also activate businesses in these rural communities and power the Adada Dam Project as well as the Greater Nsukka Water Scheme.
“We procured 20 tractors to be hired to genuine farmers at very low rates. I also directed the release of counterpart funds for the robust participation of our State in the implementation of the N2 billion Staple Crops Processing Zone ,SCPZ, programme by the African Development Bank in conjunction with the Federal Government of Nigeria. The fund will be channeled to the revival and expansion of the Adani Irrigation Scheme as well as the construction of feeder roads and other critical infrastructure that will catalyze agriculture in the State.
“Our health sector is already receiving a breath of fresh air as we have, among other things, continued to sustain our well acclaimed Free Maternal Health and Child Care programme while ensuring the proper equipment and staffing of existing health institutions in the state. We are also on the verge of completing the ultra-modern medical diagnostic centre in Enugu and have initiated the construction of three new Specialists Hospitals in the three Senatorial Zones of the State with the flag off of the scheme at Orba, Udenu Local Government Area of Enugu State.
“The Child rights Act is now before the House as an executive bill and in collaboration with the UNICEF, we have carried out sensitization activities to ensure its successful passage. In response to the persistent complaints of our people, we have taken concrete steps to end touting, illegal collection of fees and undue harassment and intimidation of citizens by unscrupulous persons and others purporting to be working for government agencies in Enugu State. This informed the recent suspension of the collection of fines for traffic offences and the reinforcement of the ban on cash payment of rates or fees to government agencies including ESWAMA and the Local Government Councils. I have also directed the State Ministry of Environment to stop the collection of levies for sand excavation in the State till further notice.
INTERNALLY GENERATED REVENUE
“To standardize, streamline and shore up our Internally Generated Revenue, we have set up a team to design a blueprint for the collection of revenue which we believe will help eliminate corruption and illegal collections. We are already working on the promulgation of a Property Tax Law and other revenue related laws that will regulate revenue collection in the state.
“We have also interviewed some Banks and other organizations with regards to this matter and very soon, we will announce the institution that will drive our IGR enhancement activities. We also have plans to reorganize the system of Land Allocation and related matters in order to plug the loopholes and leakages that we have observed in the process. In the area of industrial development, I wish to inform you that we have resolved all the bottlenecks militating against the take off of the Enugu State Industrial Park and that, in partnership with Enugu Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture and the DFID, we are planning a drive for investors through an investors’ forum that we have scheduled to hold next year.
“Having acknowledged Sports as a major avenue for engaging our youth positively, creating jobs, and marketing our State, we are taking steps to return Enugu to its glorious days as the breeding ground for celebrated sports personalities. In this regard, we have resolved to take immediate steps to reorganize and revive the Rangers International Club- a club that is dear, not only to Ndi Enugu, but also to every Igbo man. We have earlier moved to resolve the impasse between the players and management of the club over unpaid salaries and other entitlements.
“Also in line with our polices on human development, youth empowerment and poverty alleviation, we recently appointed 600 (six hundred) Executive Assistants and we are on the verge of making other major appointments and reconstituting Boards for Parastatals in the state. We are currently lacing their job schedules with local content to ensure enhanced and effective rural development.
LOCAL GOVT ELECTION
“I have also called this meeting to reason with you all, on some very critical issues affecting the third tier of government- the Local Governments. As you know, the tenure of the current Councils will expire on the 4th of January, 2016. However two major reasons have prevented us from initiating the processes for the election of new officials for the Councils.
The first is the on-going local government staff audit and others reforms. Recall that the State Caucus had in its last meeting at the Banquet Hall, Government House, Enugu, agreed that all activities towards the local government elections, be put on hold to enable the Committee handling the exercise, conclude its assignment. It indeed, appears to be a widely shared view among our people, that it will be unwise and imprudent to conduct election for new councils when this very important exercise has not been concluded.
“The second problem is that of low funding for the exercise. The exercise, as matter of fact, is not properly provided for in the current budget. The little appropriated for it is grossly and manifestly inadequate. We therefore expect to address this deficiency in the 2016 budget. We are therefore asking for your mandate to decide on the next and appropriate line of action that we must take in view of the issues we have raised above.”
STAKEHOLDERS APPROVE CARETAKER C’TTEES
After listening with wrapped attention as the governor enumerated the achievements of his administration in the last six months which elicited a thunderous ovation,Deputy Senate President,Ike Ekweremadu,Enugu-West senatorial constituency,Prof. Barth Nnaji,Enugu-East senatorial constituency and Chief Nnia Nwodo,Enugu-North senatorial constituency led other stakeholders from the three senatorial zones in the state,to approve the setting up of a Caretaker Committee at the expiration of the incumbent council chairmen tenure on January 4, 2016. (Vanguard)