By Obinna Ogbonnaya,
The Ebonyi State governor, Chief David Umahi, by May 29th, 2017 would be two years in office. Within the two years of his administration, there have been numerous achievements and flaws. In the area of road construction, the governor came into the administration at a time the state needed critical infrastructure especially internal roads in the state capital which hitherto was in a deplorable state and serious decay. The governor, on assumption of office, has completed over 39 urban roads within the capital city of Abakaliki.
The federal roads in the state were also in a sorry state prompting the state governor to embark on reconstruction of major federal roads in the state especially the Afikpo-Abakaliki road, the Amasiri/Okposi federal road and the Nkalagu/Nigercem road which are in various stages of completion.
In the education sector, the immediate past administration led by Chief Martin Elechi did not do much to pay its counterpart fund of N2billion to the Universal Basic Education but Governor Umahi’s administration, within his two years in office, has paid the counterpart fund and secured N4billion which it is using to embark on massive reconstruction of schools and equipping of such schools across the state. Currently, the state government has renovated dilapidated ones, completed new ones which were recently commissioned. It also approved the backlog promotion of the state university staff and their gazetting which had, in the past administration, led to several industrial actions.
The administration, in the past two years, declared emergency in the health sector and mapped out funds running into billions to reconstruct the general hospitals in the state, majority of which have been completed while others are still ongoing. Governor Umahi’s administration, to safeguard the health of Ebonyi people, built the first virology centre in the South East from scratch in other to reduce the number of deaths the state was recording from lassa fever and other epidemics.
In the area of Agriculture: Perhaps declared the highest achievement of the administration. The administration mapped out funds running into billions and gave to farmers as soft loans which were used to implement the state government’s rice policy. The plan worked like magic as rice production in the state tripled in the last two years. The state government also procured parboiling machines for its three rice mills. It is also partnering with the federal government and CBN in this area and the partnership is expected to make Ebonyi one of the highest rice producing states in the country. Since the ban on seal of foreign rice in the state, the Abakaliki rice has sustained the teeming consumers in the state and beyond.
The state government, in its bid to ensure youth empowerment and curb youth restiveness in the state, mapped out funds running into millions with which to empower the youths. It plans to give N250, 000 to 5000 youths in the state. The money for this have already been set aside as the ministry of job creation is still working on the modalities for the distribution which is also at an advanced stage.
Security- the government built a security communication centre for security agencies in the state. It regularly gives the police and other agencies financial and logistics support to secure the state. It also renovated the state Police Headquarters in Abakaliki. The governor, at the outbreak of the fulani attacks in the South East, called a security conference where far reaching measures were adopted to ensure the menace does not spill into the state and since then, the state has been very peaceful, armed robbery and kidnapping have been drastically reduced, so also are other violent crimes.
Urban renewal- Abakaliki, until now, used to be called a glorified village due to its dusty roads, dirty environment etc. but the Umahi administration has done a lot to clean up the city to make it a befitting capital. Three flyovers are being constructed on the Abakaliki-Enugu expressway to help reduce traffic in the city. Two other flyovers at Vanco junco and Union Bank junction inside the capital city are scheduled to take off next year. Street lights have been put in most streets in the city for aesthetics and security purposes. Three new roundabouts with water fountains have also been completed even as work on others continue. The practice of dumping refuse on the streets, sewages and other place in the capital are now a thing of the past as trucks now move from door to door and street to street on a daily basis to cart away refuse, making the city arguably the cleanest city in the country today.
Rural electrification: The governments have also embarked on rural electrification by providing transformer and other auxiliary materials to many communities in the state. It has also extended the street lighting programme in Abakaliki to the 13 local government council headquarters and major cities and towns in the state.
The government in August, awarded contracts for the rehabilitation of the sakamoree water line network as well as reticulation of water from Oferekpe to Abakaliki and other communities and cities. The contract also includes re-activation of the juju hill water reservoirs and other reservoirs in the city as well as overhaul of the Abakaliki pipeline distribution network. It is also rehabilitating the Ezillo water scheme. It also awarded contract for a fresh water scheme for Ivo loal government and began rehabilitation and upgrade of the Uburu water scheme. The aim is that when all of these are in place, there will be a complete and proper inter connectivity of all these to ensure that water gets to all communities in the state. Works on these projects have reached advance stage and is expected to be completed next year.
Workers’ welfare could be the administration’s greatest shortcomings. Despite the prompt payment of workers’ salaries by 15th of every month, civil servants in the state have continuously accused the state government of embarking on several deductions in their salary. The governor had, during the flag of empowerment programme for youths in the state last year, announced a five percent increment in workers’ salaries but most of the workers interviewed argued that rather than pay the increment, they commenced deduction of their salaries.
The governor has roundly been criticised for his decision to introduce a new tax regime in the state which ultimately seems to tax everything and everyone in the state in addition to increasing the tax paid under previous administrations. The governor also recently came under serious criticism following his decision to revert to the old salary structure for workers from the new structure approved by his predecessor before he left office.
The recent interferences of the governor in the leadership crisis rocking the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Nigeria Union of Teachers has left many to doubt the sincerity of the administration concerning independence of unions and organisations in the state. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Chairman, Comrade Ikechukwu Nwafor was unceremoniously removed from office and replaced with Comrade Leo Nka following his criticism of the new pension law the governor introduced.
– Ogbonnaya wrote in from Abakaliki..