The commissioner says President Muhammadu Buhari will visit the state to lay the foundation for the airport and commission other projects completed by the Governor Dave Umahi’s administration. INNOCENT ODOH was there.
We understand that you will host President Muhammadu Buhari in Ebonyi state to commission some projects and flag off others. Can you talk us through this process?
As players under a presidential government, Ebonyi state government under Chief David Umahi intends to invite President Buhari to commission a number of projects that the governor has been able to accomplish in the last six years. Recall that in 2016 Mr President came in the first tenure of our administration to flag-off some projects in the state even when we were in the opposition and of course that underscores the inclusive politics or the non-partisan governance that our governor is known for.
So, Mr President will graciously honour an invitation to commission some of those projects. For us in Ebonyi state, we feel it is an opportunity to appreciate Mr. President for the collaborations and the cooperation we have enjoyed with the All Progressives Congress, APC-led Federal Government even before we joined APC.I want to say that the International airport is more than 60 per cent complete, the equipment and every other machine is already on ground. But the President is coming to lay foundation to it and formalise the foundation laying ceremony. We are looking at this International airport as a money spinner that will provide the need of our people and create wealth. We are looking at the Ethiopian air business model, we are looking at an international airport that will have competitive value with Abuja and Lagos international airports such that investors within Nigeria and outside the shores of this country can fly to Ebonyi state without having to land in Abuja or Lagos.
These projects have also gulped a lot of funds when the state is not oil producing. So, how were you able to generate funds to finance these projects?
Part of the secret is zero tolerance for waste, zero tolerance for corruption, emphasis on selflessness and passion in governance. I have not seen a leader as passionate as the governor, who thinks ahead.
Because of these laudable achievements, the Federal Ministry of Finance Budget Office, made an assessment of the states that owe money and in the whole of the South East, Ebonyi state is the least indebted and one of the three least indebted states in the whole federation.
The SFTAS of the World Bank gave Ebonyi state over N3 billion grant for fiscal responsibility, transparency and accountability in budgeting. In Ebonyi, we have what is called citizens participation in budgeting more than any other state, so, we have got no debt profile.
The governor is keen on monitoring and evaluation, any projects he gives you must be done with specification and you must sign a guarantee that it has to be done within record timeand you don’t achieve more than 10 per cent of gain of the whole projects including taxes.
The President’s visit appears to coincide with the APC convention, so is his visit to commission the projects a way to endorse the Governor for Presidency of 2023?
The coming of President Buhari is at a time we got a number of things to demonstrate to him that our dear governor has accomplished his mandate for eight years. So, if you think that it is coincidental with the convention that is holding very soon, that is good. For me, Nigeria needs a person like Governor Umahi to really take Nigeria to the next level. All of us in Ebonyi are praying that Nigeria will get a person with capacity, capability and passion of Ebonyi state governor and so it is very good for us to have Mr President at this point so that he can join others to acknowledge the wonderful strides of the governor.
The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has just won the Anambra state governorship election, which many had thought that the APC will make a strong showing. What is your take on this?
The Anambra election won by APGA is a reflection of the wish of the people and Mr. President has congratulated the winner of the Anambra election. The chairman of the South East Governors Forum has also congratulated the winner. It is not a bad sign for the APC because we cannot hold back the will of God and the will of God has reflected in the will of the masses.