Barr. Uchenna Orji is the Ebonyi State Commissioner for Information and State Orientation as well as Acting Commissioner for Human Capital Development and Monitoring. In this interview with UCHENNA INYA, he speaks on governance in the state, among other issues
It is almost five years the present administration in Ebonyi State came on board. What has the government been able to achieve?
The administration of the governor of Ebonyi State, Engr. David Nweze Umahi in the past five years has been a blessing, an inspiration and a source of hope for the people of Ebonyi State. Recall that before Umahi came on board, we suffered inferiority complex. We had human capital deficit, our infrastructure was in great shambles. When he came on board, he had to develop a blue print for the economic development of our state. In the road map to the development of Ebonyi State, he had to prioritise urban renewal, infrastructural development and solidity, power, security, health, education and empowerment as well as housing.
As a matter of fact, in the area of urban renewal and generally infrastructural development, the governor has done fantastically well. He has brought novelty in road construction; he not only enhanced network of roads in Ebonyi State, he has also embarked upon construction of road with concrete rigid pavement, which is eight inches. This is novelty in the history of Nigeria, of course it has 50 years guarantee. I must tell you that each of the local government areas of the state has benefited from this concrete road; not less than 25kilometers concrete road.
The metropolis in the satellite towns have also benefited from the road infrastructure. I am sure that a total of not less than 500kilometres of roads in the metropolis have been done; some in concrete, some in asphalts, but predominantly in concrete as the governor believes that Federal Government roads within Ebonyi State are to be used by Ebonyians and so should not treated as if we don’t have any stake. The governor has also embarked on the reconstruction of Federal Government roads. The Enugu/Abakaliki Expressway has been dualised, Afikpo/Abakaliki federal road has been constructed and is being dualized as I speak with you. Other federal roads within the satellite towns have been constructed.
All the roads leading from Cross River to Ebonyi or from Abia to Ebonyi or Imo to Ebonyi or even Benue to Ebonyi are in good condition, courtesy of our governor. The governor did not only do all these things; he also ensured that any local community that has the issue of roads gets it and he has built roads and bridges to connect them. In addition to this, the governor had to do something that has never been done in the history of Ebonyi State through construction of flyovers. In the history of South-East governance, I can say that it is only in Anambra that we have something like a flyover, but it is not as solid as what we have.
It is not as strong as what we have in Ebonyi State, it is not as beautiful as what we have in Ebonyi State, it is not as long as what we have in Ebonyi State. So, the governor has done three flyovers plus one overhead bridge, plus also what we called President Muhammadu Buhari light tunnel. This light tunnel is very long, very huge and of course that is the first of its kind in Nigeria.
We are seeing eight new flyovers under constructions across the state, which when completed, will make a total of 11 flyovers. What is the rationale behind these eight new flyovers?
The governor declared that in the road map that he needs to connect the major junctions of the three senatorial zones of the state; coming from Enugu, Abia and Cross River, you have to meet very gigantic flyovers. So, the governor introduced the construction of another eight flyovers in those major junctions and as I speak with you, the eight flyovers are going on simultaneously with not less than 23kilometres dual carriage ways for each of these points. The governor believes that environment is very critical. He has to make the environment very attractive. He had to embark upon construction of water fountains in the major junctions of the metropolis and the satellite towns. We have not less than 12 water fountains that can beat any water fountain anywhere in Nigeria.
The state government is constructing an international airport and new stadium. What is the reason for it?
The governor has assured that the international airport will be next after Lagos and Abuja. That airport, when operational, will have the propensity to create a number of jobs. You know what is happening in
Ethiopia; the country’s major source of revenue is air services. So, a lot of jobs and wealth would be created, when the airport is constructed; of course our land will appreciate and investors will come. Our importers and exporters will have no business with Lagos; will have no business with any other airport, they will fly straight from any part of the world to Ebonyi State. It will encourage even our brothers in Diaspora to really look inwards and help our state to develop.
Yes, the governor is embarking on the construction of an ultra-modern stadium complex that will be one of the best in Nigeria. That stadium will have a lot of ancillary programmes and activities going on, sporting activities and so on. That will attract a lot of investments and social activities that will also create jobs and keep the people busy and develop our sporting sector.
What has the government been able to do in the health sector?
Health is also in the priority list of the government of Ebonyi State. From the point of his emergence in 2015, the governor declared a state of emergency in the area of health. When he started, he commenced the completion of the construction of the 13 general hospitals. As I speak with you, the 13 general hospitals are almost being completed. The governor also had to ensure that the primary healthcare system is really revamped both in quality and in quantity across the 64 development centers and 13 general hospitals of the state.
The governor is building a tertiary hospital that is going to be the biggest and one of the best in Nigeria and that is the Ebonyi State Teaching Hospital that is located in Uburu, which also houses the Ebonyi State College of Medicine. A unique and special thing about this tertiary hospital is the uniqueness of the ailments that it is addressing. It is addressing cancer issues; it is addressing all those rare terminal diseases that are dreaded. The governor believes that the era of going to India to treat cancer cases, to treat tuberculosis, to treat liver problems and intestinal issues, is over. He also is engaging world-class experts that will man these facilities.
In the area of security, what has the state government been able to do to ensure security of lives and property?
The governor has really motivated security outfits in Ebonyi State. He has also ensured that the security architecture of Ebonyi State is sophisticated. That is why apart from establishing what is called the Neighbourhood Security Watch, which has over 4,000 members trained by the regular conventional security outfits, the governor also motivates the regular security outfits by ensuring that they are given the necessary facilities and also ensured that their premises are put in good condition in such a way and manner that they can comfortably feel that they are in an advance state.
The Ebonyi State Police Command, I can tell you that it is the most beautiful as I speak with you. The perimeter fencing is like no other in Nigeria. If you come in, you will see it by yourself. The premises have been tarred and of course, there is light, there is water. The basic amenities have been provided. This is in addition to security vehicles and other gadgets that have been provided. The state has CCT camera, a kind of smart city system whereby whatever that is happening at the major junctions of Ebonyi State is being viewed on the screen and this helps to reduce insecurity to the barest minimum.
I need to also tell you that if you go the Army barracks, which is very expansive, the governor has tarred all the roads there. Every other security agency; the Department of State Services, Civil Defence Corps, Immigration and Correctional Service, which is the former Prisons Service have got a larger chunk of this patronage. A Correctional Centre is being built by the governor for inmates and it will be the best in Nigeria. It has school and educational facilities.
You also double as Commissioner for Human Capital Development and Monitoring, which is mainly in charge of empowerment. Can you tell us who and who have been empowered?
So far, 3,000 women were empowered with N750 million. The governor went to Lagos and saw our people there and empowered 520 of them after training with the sum of N250,000 each and that is N130 million. The governor also went to Onitsha, Anambra State and saw our people who are wheelbarrow pushes and okada riders. He came back and rolled out a tricycle empowerment programme and 400 tricycles were procured at the sum of N650,000 each, which is about N260 million.
The governor gave 140 numbers of the tricycle to women and youths in Onitsha. He also gave 260 numbers to youths and women here in Ebonyi State. The governor also rolled out an empowerment programme for widows and gave 4,300 of them N100,000 each, which is over N400 million. He has also trained pastors in the state on agricultural programmes and empowered them with over N500 million. The governor also ensured the training of 403 numbers of wives of security officials across the state with six benefiting security outfits. They were given N200,000 each and that is over N80 million. All these are grants.