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Infrastructural upgrade remains key in Ebonyi State’s development agenda—Umahi

In this interview with editorial leadership of Champion Newspapers, the Ebonyi State Commissioner for Information and State Orientation Hon (Barr) Orji Uchenna Orji speaks on reasons the state governor Engineer Dave Nweze Umahi is committed to increasing his pace in the area of infrastructural development of the state. He also cleared issues as they relate to the stand of Ebony State on ranching and the much anticipated visit of President Muhammadu Buhari  to Ebony noting that the remaining periods of Umahi’s administration will be fruitful in fulfilling his vision of enthroning Ebonyi to the  global stage.  Excerpts

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Honestly, the governor is very systematic and methodological in the way he approaches governance in the state. He started with massive and aggressive infrastructural development, urban renewal and preparing the state for investment. Also, he has continued with human capital development that will drive the investment in the state.  So, some pockets of communal clashes we had in the past; he has nipped them in the bud and of course the problem of IPOB and ENDSARS the governor has continued undeterred towards making sure that he raises the human capital of Ebonyi State in all fronts”

 

 

There is this much talk about Ebonyi State and cattle ranching which some people have extended to include the extension of funds to the state by the federal government. Honourable Commissioner sir, what is the true position of things?

Not at all. Ebonyi State is not into ranching and we don’t have a comparative advantage in that area. We have a comparative advantage in agriculture and solid minerals among others.  Even though ranching is part of agriculture, we don’t have a comparative advantage on that. So, we would not negotiate for ranching. The governors’ position on this is clear and he has severally made his position known and clear at various times and that is the fact that Ebonyi State is not and will not go into ranching.  The recent misquotation and misconception drawn from what Special Assistant to the president  Garba Shehu said has been cleared by the governor. He has made his position known and Garba Shehu has also retracted that very statement credited to him. He did that in writing. But what is very clear is that our governor is up and doing in ensuring that he attracts all intervention funds from federal government, donor agencies and development partners that will transform the lives of the people in Ebonyi State.

However, the so called N6 billion that the state got from the federal government is a solid mineral development intervention fund.  The governor really made this clear that the policy is that individuals would be the once to access the money and not state government and so why Ebonyi State government is interested in having individuals in the state access the money, the money has not come to the coffers of the state government and would not come to the coffers of government in line with the policy of the federal government. It is still with the relevant agency at the federal level which is meant to be accessed by the individuals for solid mineral development. So it must be noted and made known to all and sundry that there is nothing like N6 billion for ranching in Ebonyi State.

For the sake of emphasis, you are confirming that there was no N6 billion giving to the state for ranching?

As I said earlier,  Garba Shehu has retracted his statement and our governor has issued a statement on that.  The said N6 billion given to the state for ranching is absolutely untrue and the misconception is absolutely irresponsible and of course it is being exploited by enemies of progress to blackmail Ebonyi State government. We are most undaunted in our decisions and determination to give our people the best.  We are doing that transparently and we are showing probity and accountability in whatever we do. So, by all standards and in all records you will not see any such money credited to the state.

Last time that we had discussions on solid mineral, we talked about the cement industry; is there any further development in that area now? We ask knowing that it is one of the projects which will benefit the people of Ebonyi in terms of job creation.

As a matter of fact, Cement production and solid mineral development is under the exclusive list. I did tell you that we have done our beat;  that is as a host state in getting the host communities to sign a Memorandum of Understanding  (MoU) and ensuring that there is an enabling environment to work , guaranteeing adequate security , access roads and the process of tax holidays. We are waiting for the investors and federal government to round off whatever is holding the commencement of the production of cement in Ebonyi state. We got the solid minerals and Ebonyi should have the highest quality of that solid mineral base and we have got no problem from outside. So, there is need to really untie the bottleneck at the federal level and that way we will move forward.

We are optimistic and hopeful that very soon all these will happen. Some companies are already on ground and I know they have the capacity to start production once the bottleneck is untied.

On per security, Ebonyi State seems to be enjoying relative peace now. How did the governor manage to stabilize the state? Can this translate to more investments to the state?

Honestly, the governor is very systematic and methodological in the way he approaches governance in the state. He started with massive and aggressive infrastructural development, urban renewal and preparing the state for investment. Also, he has continued with human capital development that will drive the investment in the state.  So some pockets of communal clashes we had in the past; he has nipped them in the bud and of course the problem of IPOB and ENDSARS the governor has continued undeterred towards making sure that he raises the human capital of Ebonyi State in all fronts. In the area of civil service, he has decided to inject a workforce of about 5,000 numbers of persons.  He has also decided to ensure comprehensive overhaul of primary and tertiary educational institutions.  He has also decided to ensure how to empower the people economically; both youth, women and widows and people of all works of life. And of cause by creating an environment whereby Ebonyi State is a construction site, getting Ebonyi people involved both in semi- skilled and unskilled Labour.  We are beginning to see a lot of engagements of our youths and women in governance processes. And I can say that people are identifying where they have comparative advantage and where they have skills. So, what is the governor is doing.  He is deploying the facilities like the shopping mall to the people by getting the people to purchase the stores permanently and he will give them C of O. Also, the international market is part of it.  It has been given to individual market men and women to own forever. And this is going to help. He is already mapping out a lot of places, given same to some specialized traders for them to own and build as market. He is also building a lot of markets and given it back to the people with C of O so that no successive government will come and take it back from them. Of course you must have heard that recently the governor did donate the African’s biggest university of medical sciences to the Catholic Bishop Conference.  The idea is to allow private sector to drive some of these critical facilities created by our dear governor.

So, these facilities are expected to be a center of excellence for the treatment of cancer, heart diseases, liver problems and others. It is going to be a center of excellence for the production of dialyzers and other ancillary health activities that will be going on. So with the private sector that is full of integrity and discipline managing that facility, we can be sure of creating more jobs in the system. We are thinking about 10,000 to 16,000 number of jobs to be created; both direct and indirect jobs. That is what the governor has started to do. Also, some of our specialized schools, technical and gifted schools, the governor has also handed over to missionaries to manage and that will bring about good and proper management, discipline and accountability. We know that government in Africa and all over the world has not been good in business management. Their duties are to create enabling environment for business to thrive, build the necessary infrastructure and hand it over to corporate individuals to manage. So we are looking at Public Private Partnership (PPP) in driving the management of some of these facilities that the governor did create. And in some cases he will give it out to individuals like we have what is called the industrial clusters.  It is a cluster that is built to warehouse so many business activities especially agric related activities both secondary and tertiary level of agricultural development and individuals have opportunities to access and buy and it will be theirs. By this gesture he will enhance the vision he has for self-reliance, self sufficiency on the side of the people of Ebonyi State.

We learnt that the president will be visiting Ebonyi very soon. What will be the take out of his visitation and projects likely to be commissioned?  Are there lessons or any plus to learn from by looking back to the President’s recent visit to Imo State?

The president will be coming again for the second time to our dear state. In the first place the president came to Ebonyi State to lay foundation for some of the projects that we have completed now. As a matter of fact he slept over in Ebonyi State thus making it the first state he visited and slept over in the whole federation apart from his home state, Kastina. Now many years after in the second term of our dear governor and being in the same party with him, you can understand how enthusiastic we are in receiving his Excellency. Also let me say that his coming will afford us the opportunity to showcase to the world the wonderful strides of our state and our dear governor. It will afford us the opportunity to have the president commission a number of our projects.  Not less than 20 projects will be exposed for commissioning.  I start with the Africa’s biggest shopping mall; the microcosm of Dubai mall. If you have been to UAE you will certainly understand. I also need to mention the four way light tunnel that is sitting on a 96 pan that is linking to our different facilities which is named after our dear president Muhammadu Buhari. It is the biggest tunnel in Africa. You may ask me why am I emphasizing that? It is actually the face of Ebonyi .  Immediately you arrive at the tunnel, you will be asking yourself questions as to whether you are in Dubai or better still am I in Uk?.  Honestly, even if you are sleeping or not , before you reach there , you will need to confess these.  So, that very light tunnel is linking to the shopping mall I have mentioned, it is also linking to the country’s most beautiful and biggest ecumenical center, bigger than national ecumenical center in Abuja.  It is linking to the international market which is the single biggest market in the entire South East Nigeria. And it is along the Trans Saharan Expressway, very close to the light tunnel. It is also linking us to Africa’s most beautiful Government House, brand new government house different from the one that the governor renovated. And this government house is called the Three Arm Zone.  It is housing the governor’s lodge, the governor’s office and the presidential lodge, with the Nigeria’s biggest executive council chamber.  When I say these you may think I am joking but honestly that is the true position. And this Government House complex was built within two years.

Now, he (Buhari) will also need to lay foundation for the construction of the Ebonyi State international airport which is under construction nearing about 70 percent completion.  But he needs to lay the foundation so that by next year and by the power of God and the ingenuity of the chief servant of Ebonyi State, the airport will now be commissioned and the first plane will land in Ebonyi State.

The governor thinks that the airport will be a very strong alternative to Lagos and Abuja  International Airports so that our importers and exporters within the South East will have to land in the airport before going anywhere. Also, the airport has got a lot of facilities. Again, the president will also commission some very critical roads done with concrete pavements. I need to let you know that the governor of Ebonyi State has done nothing less than 500 kilometers of  federal government roads and 1,500 state roads most of which were done in concrete pavements.   I need to also tell you that the president will commission Africa’s most beautiful flyovers. There is no flyover in Abuja or Lagos that you can compare with the flyover in Ebonyi State in terms of beauty. Then, aside Lagos and Abuja in terms of number of flyovers,  Ebonyi is next with about 14 number of flyovers. So these are the things the president will be commissioning when he visits the state. Among others, is also the Africa’s biggest university of medical sciences now under the management of Catholic conference of Bishops.  It is a beauty to behold. We have also  the school of nursing and midwifery  that is the best in the South East and one of the best in the federation. Mr. President will also see that and many others. I have not told you that we have a fertilizer blending plant that has 80 metric tons capacity per hour and that is presently used in the presidential rice programme of President Mohammadu Buhari.  These and more are all the things Mr. President will see and the whole world will also see it.

 

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