Despite the prevailing economic crunch in the country occasioned by the decline in the prices of crude oil at the international market, the present administration in Enugu State appears determined to leave lasting footprints on the sands of time with the array of on-going projects by the government. Christopher Isiguzo and Linus Okechukwu, in Enugu, report for Thisday.
The euphoria that greeted the victories and ascendency of President Muhammadu Buhari and a crop of governors across the country after the general elections in March and April did not last very long. On assumption of duty, most leaders figured out that falling oil prices had not just adversely affected revenue but had also left them with little room to manoeuvre or indulge in political brinkmanship or grandstanding.
Public Servants were being owed a backlog of salaries and some governors also had to grapple with the issue of settling loans accumulated by past administrations. The ecstasy that permeated every nook and cranny of the country after the elections soon gave way to serious discussions about creating viable economic pathways through which the machinery of the states could be run efficiently and effectively.
Though the bailout from the federal government went a long way to alleviate the sufferings of public servants in many states, the harsh economic realities imposed on the country by fluctuations in crude oil prices was hardly a topic to gloss over, as continued reduction in the revenue accruing to the federation account created more retrogression and difficulties to economic growth.
Like other states, Enugu State also has its peculiar challenges. The new administration under the leadership of Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi inherited a debt of N32.27 billion in owed salaries, pensions and gratuities to public servants. Beyond owed salaries, some roads in the outskirts and within the metropolis needed to be fixed, health, education, child trafficking and illegal adoptions were among vital issues that needed to be addressed.
So right from the start, Ugwuanyi knew he was saddled with the onerous responsibility of managing the state at a time characterised by dire economic conditions and uncertainty. His ability to come off victorious depended heavily on his leadership acumen.
In his inaugural speech at the Michael Okpara Square on May 29, Ugwuanyi was not cagey about the strategic development plan his administration had mapped out for the state. Of particular importance were the construction, renovation and maintenance of roads across the state. It did not come as a surprise to many who had longed for significant policy statements on roads.
The governor began to work on roads as early as his first week in office. While assessing the state of government facilities, he declared that due to their socio-economic value, the Abakpa Nike and Nike Lake roads, Opi-Nsukka dual-carriage way, Amankwo-Ameke-Amah Brewery Junction, 9th-Mile By-pass, Ohom Oba junction-Imilike Ani-Ezimo Agu- Imilike- Ogbodu Aba- Obollo Etiti- Amalla-Obollo–Afor-Udenu Ring roads would be reconstructed.
Other roads that he also considered for either renovation or construction included the Enugu road in Nsukka, Nsukka Junction-Umuezebi-Post Office Roundabout-Odenigbo Roundabout-Ogurugu Road–Ikenga Hotels Junction, and Obechara Road Junction-Umuakashi-Mechanic Village-Ikenga Hotels Junction.
After a meeting by the State Executive Council in October, approved contracts for the construction of the roads were awarded. The Commissioner for Information, Dr Godwin Udehele, told newsmen after the meeting that funds had also been approved for the maintenance of roads in Enugu metropolis so as to ameliorate difficulties and pains caused by traffic congestions and accidents partly actuated by potholes. Also, to improve vehicular movement, the Ogui-New Haven, Achara Layout, Garki, Abakiliki Road and Abakpa Junction roads are being renovated.
Even the entrance to one of state’s main markets, Ogbete Main Market road project, has been completed just as the rehabilitation of Airport Roundabout/Orie Emene/St. Patrick’s College/Eke-Obinagu road projects is on-going. The administration has also embarked on the construction of drains, culverts, earthworks, asphaltic wearing course at Ugwogo Nike Ikem road.
The governor’s decision to tackle road-related challenges is not out of sync with basic economic considerations. Besides, experts have often pointed out that cities need good roads to snake their ways through the crooked path of uncertainty and difficulties to economic prosperity. For one, bad roads affect transportation of goods and services and hamper movement. Leaving roads in poor conditions and impassable states create further complications which are not without economic consequences.
Apparently excited by the commencement of the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the road projects, the people of the state have literally rolled out the drums to celebrate what they describe as the return of the good days. They commended Ugwuanyi for his quick response to the problem of roads in Enugu metropolis, saying it is an indication of his sensitivity to the plight of the people.
A senior medical officer at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Ituku-Ozalla, Dr. Chukwujama Ejifor, who was visibly elated by the news of the award of road contracts, praised the governor for his timely intervention, saying the governor’s action has further endeared him to the people.
Ejifor said, “The governor’s move is laudable because the roads touch on the hearts of our day-to-day life. Look at the Abakpa junction traffic gridlock when you are coming into town from Abakpa,Trans-Ekulu,Onitsha axis. Although the road is a Federal Government road, it is only a people’s governor like Ugwuanyi that will quickly rescue people from the time and economy sapping gridlock dotting that axis of the metropolis.
“This development serves as a pointer to his ability to adopt a maintenance culture for public facilities and utilities. The roads in the metropolis were a serious sore point following the substandard materials used for the construction by the immediate past administration.
“This administration is responsive to the people’s plight. It is the small things that make a big difference in governance. The confidence reposed in the governor has not been misdirected because we voted him overwhelmingly knowing his pedigree of performance. We expected nothing less.”
Other vital areas for the economy, such as electricity, security and health are not left out. For instance, with regards to electricity, the governor has commissioned the 15km Inter-Town-Connection (ITC) 2.5MVA Injection Sub-Station at Ezi-Nze in Udi Local Government Area that will provide electricity to communities across Udi, Uzo-Uwani and Igbo-Etiti local government areas.
With that project, the government is committed to supplying power from the Adada Dam project and opening up business activities in these communities. Upon completion, the dam will power the greater Nsukka water scheme that has remained uncompleted for decades. Apart from that, electricity, water and other ancillary services are provided at the new State Secretariat Complex built by the past administration of Sullivan Chime.
Pertaining to the economy, Ugwuany has constituted an Economic Advisory Committee to advice government on the best economic policies that will engender sustainable growth and development for the state and help it to navigate the adverse effects of the country’s economy. He also set up a committee on Nsukka Urban Renewal as part of his vision for the development of new cities in the state.
Security has also received a huge boost. The governor bought vehicles for security agencies in the state to facilitate their operational efficiency. Under Ugwuanyi’s watch, the state has commenced the process for house numbering, identification and complete street signage under Public Private Partnership. This is to facilitate proper identification of streets and houses for security and easy identification of places in Enugu Capital territory.
As for the health sector, the governor has laid the foundation for a 100-bed Ultra-Modern Specialist Hospital at Amalla, Orba in Udenu Local Government Area. He equally donated N5 million to the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Ituku/Ozalla, in support of open heart surgery for children and paid the hospital bills for 21 indigent patients who were held back after treatment due to their inability to pay their bills at the Enugu State University of Science and Technology Teaching Hospital, Parklane, Enugu.
Agriculture and education have also received considerable attention. Ugwunayi has approved the release of funds for the active participation of the state in the implementation of the N2 billion staple crops processing zone (SCPZ) agricultural programme of the African Development Bank /Federal Government of Nigeria. The fund will be used for the rehabilitation and expansion of the Adani irrigation scheme, provision of infrastructure, feeder roads and schools among others.
He also procured 20 tractors for mechanised agriculture and obtained 10 Braille machines, jaw readers, desktop computers and other accessories for visually impaired students of the College of Immaculate Conception (CIC), Enugu. Still on education, he constituted an eight-man Administrative Committee on the Completion of Enugu State Basic Education Board (ENSUBEB) projects in the primary schools. This will ensure that modern learning facilities and a conducive environment are created to enhance learning. In addition, there is the renovation and equipping of the sickbay and two classroom blocks at Queen’s School, Enugu.
Housing is another area that the Ugwuanyi administration has paid a great deal of attention. He facilitated the payment of 30 per cent equity contribution for Enugu State civil servants between grade level 01 and 10 for the purchase of 100 units of one-bedroom flats at Elim Estate, Ibagwa Nike, Enugu.
Ugwuanyi ensured the quick resolution of the six-month judiciary workers’ strike in the state. he constituted an 11-man Committee on Local Government Staff Audit and Biometrics Data Capturing Exercise to audit staff and other related matters in the local government councils; embarked on the on-going renovation of the Magistrate Court, Enugu, and the resolution of the impasse between Rangers Football Club players and the management of the club over the arrears of salaries of the players and other incentives.
Many in the state believe the Ugwuanyi government has achieved a great deal within a short period. And the governor says he is poised to do more.