The first 100 days in office of President Muhammadu Buhari and all Governors who were sworn into office on May 29, 2015 has since come and gone. A number of states held elaborate events and ceremonies to mark the event. A number of those events were beamed live on various National television stations for the world to see.
In Abia State, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu chose a different route. He did not celebrate his 100 days in office. Not because he had nothing to celebrate, for there are indeed lots of things to celebrate, but because as a leader who feels the pulse of his people, he understood that the time for celebration was not yet nigh.
Ordinarily, having emerged from the kind of bruising battle that was fought during the 2015 Governorship elections in Abia State, taking time out to celebrate and ululate would have been well within his bounds but by his personal constitution, Governor Ikpeazu is not given to triumphalism. As far as he is concerned, there is a lot to be done. For him, the more time dedicated to actually getting the job done, the better for the people of Abia State.
Thus, the Governor chose to mark his 100 days in office in a unique way that did not cost the state a single kobo outside of the ordinary course of government business. He simply chose to embark on an inspection tour of projects he has commenced and the ones he inherited and continued with.
From Monday, September 21, 2015 to Wednesday, September 23, 2015, the Governor traversed the length and breadth of Abia State literally from one end of the state to the other – from Nneato in Umunneochi LGA, Abia North Senatorial Zone on the boundary with Anambra State to Ibeme in Obingwa LGA, Abia South on the boundary with Akwa Ibom State – it was a grueling schedule but highly rewarding as it afforded the Governor a first-hand assessment of the level of implementation of his directives.
In Abia North Senatorial Zone, Governor Ikpeazu inspected the Imo Dimkpa Bridge in Nneato, the Obolo-Eziama-Osisinkita road also in Nneato and an erosion site at Isuochi Model Secondary School, Isuochi, all in Umunneochi LGA.
From Umunneochi, he headed to Ohafia LGA where he inspected the ongoing Abiriba Ring road and the Okon-Aku Bridge at Okon-Aku Ohafia. Then to Arochukwu LGA for the inspection of the Ndi-Oji, Ndi-Okereke-Ozu-Abam Road and the Bende-Idima Abam Road which are both alternative roads to Arochukwu to avoid the perennially impassable Ohafia-Arochukwu Federal Road.
On Tuesday, September 22, 2015, the Governor commenced inspection of projects in Abia South Senatorial Zone with the inauguration of the Ibeme Electricity project, the first time electricity would get to the community. From Ibeme, he moved to the Old Umuahia-Aba Road known as Ururuka road for an inspection of failed portions of the road under reconstruction. Then to Ukaegbu and Umuola roads, Kamalu Road, Udeagbala road, ENUC road, Oomne Drive and Aba-Owerri Road.
On Wednesday, September 23, 2015, the Governor moved to Abia Central Senatorial Zone where he flagged off the Umuojima Road in Osisioma LGA, inaugurated the Awom-Ukwu, Umusokoro Ikwuano Electricity Project, inspected roads within Umuahia metropolis and finally inaugurated the electricity project from Ohiya in Umuahia South LGA to Ntigha in Isialangwa North LGA.
The decision of the Governor to shun every fanfare and ceremony in the course of these events is a pointer to his serious-mindedness and unwavering focus on the task at hand. At every stop, when people sought to praise him, he mildly rebuked them and re-affirmed that he is not given to praise. What he does, he does not do to be praised but to leave his mark on the sands of time in the annals of Abia State.
I will end with a brief summary of all on-going projects in Abia State some of which have been completed while a whole lot more have December 2015 deadlines for completion.
In Aba metropolis, Ukaegbu, Umuocham, Mcc/Umuojima, Udeagbala, Ehere, Faulks by Samek, Umuola, Kamalu, Oomne, Umule, Ururuka, Ntigha-Mbawsi to Ururuka (Phase 2), Old Express, Echefu , Enuc, 6no Roads (Jubilee, Ehi, Ube, Hospital, Adazi, Azikiwe from Asa to East), Owerri road, Mosque and Aba-Owerri Road. In Umuahia, Agbama Housing Estate Ring road, 5 roads at Low-cost Housing Estate, asphalt overlay of Kaduna street, Abam street, Awolowo road, Niger road, Umuwaya road, 3 roads at Ogurube Layout (ICC road, JAAC road, Ring road) and Dozie way (IBB layout). In the Abia North Senatorial Zone, Abiriba ring road, Bende-Idima-Abam road, Eke-Eziama-Obuzo-Ngodo road, Imo Ndimkpa Bridge, Nneato, and Okon-Aku Bridge, Ohafia.
The Umuahia Regional Water works has been reactivated and pipe-borne water has resumed flowing in Umuahia and surrounding communities again for the first time in over 7 years. The administration is currently reviewing the challenges of the Uturu and Abiriba Water Works with a view to also reactivating them.
The perennial cause of collapse of constructed roads in Aba especially and Abia State in general has hitherto being the blockage of drains which means that rain water, devoid of an outlet percolates on the tarred road for days on end leading to gradual weakening and eventual collapse. Today in Abia State, a comprehensive drainage and storm-water channel desilting exercise is on-going on a massive scale. The tunnels that were constructed several years ago underneath major streets in Aba to carry rain water to the Aba River but which were blocked over time are being re-opened. The Aba River itself is being dredged to open up the inlets of those tunnels and storm water has started flowing into the Aba River from the tunnels as was originally intended by the planners of the city of Aba.
The State has rolled out a scheme known as Education for Employment (E4E) which seeks to reactivate Technical and Vocational Educational Training (TVET) in Abia State. Youths have been identified and tested for their aptitude and skills and are being trained in skills that suit them best. Industries in Abia State have been carried along in the exercise to absorb the youths as soon as they graduate from the training programme.
Governor Ikpeazu, mindful of the need to prudently manage the resources of the state, introduced an Integrated Payroll Verification System which has led to the saving of over N300M within 3 months from monies hitherto paid to Ghost Workers, padding of salaries and other fraudulent practices. Today, Local Government workers in Abia State receive their salaries on the same day instead of the staggered payment and balloting system adopted in the past which led to abuse and short-changing of Local Government Staff. Teachers now receive their salaries on the same day in the three months that Governor Ikpeazu has been on board instead of the previous staggered option. Similarly, Pensioners in Abia State both State and Local Government Pensioners have been verified and their pensions are now being paid into their accounts directly.
The State has engaged the services of reputable consultants to harness the huge Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) potential of the State by raising the State IGR from the N500M collected monthly at the moment to N1.5Billion within the first year of the Ikpeazu administration. This will be achieved by minimal introduction of new taxes but by plugging the leakages that exist in the system at the moment. Government has also harmonised taxes payable in Abia State to minimise incidences of multiple taxation thus supporting the growth of businesses in Abia State.
The Okezie Ikpeazu administration on the 17th of July, 2015, flagged off the construction of the Board of Internal Revenue (BIR) Head Office Complex opposite the Abia State Secretariat along Ndume OtukaByepass, Umuahia.
For sometime now, the streetlights installed by previous administrations in Abia State have ceased to function in most streets in the State. This has multiple implications of affecting night driving, commercial activities, security of the affected streets and general wellbeing. Today, a massive exercise is on-going to reactivate the street lights in major cities in Abia State. Similarly, the Governor has issued a directive that every new road being constructed in Abia State must come with a street light. Still on electricity, the state, through the Abia State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (ASOPADEC), constructed a 33KVA Network New Feeder from Ohiya Power Station in Umuahia South L.G.A to Ntigha in Isialangwa North L.G.A. The Commission also undertook the extension of Electricity to Ibeme and Obrette Isiala in Obingwa L.G.A and the Installation of 33KV/300KVA Transmission and Extension of Low Tension Poles to AwomUkwu, Umusokoro in Ikwuano L.G.A within the last 100 days.
Government identified two Tertiary Health Centres in each of the 3 Senatorial Districts in the State and brokered a Public Private Partnership arrangement with a Private Hospital Management Firm to equip these hospitals, provide drugs and other requirements and charge the normal fees applicable for such service from which the Firm will recoup its investment.
The Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu administration has sent a Bill to the Abia State House of Assembly for the setting up of an Abia State Investment Promotion Agency. While waiting for the passing of the Bill, the Governor has appointed a Special Adviser on Public Private Partnership and Investment Promotion (PPP/IP) whose remit is the setting up of a one-stop investment centre (OSIC) in Abia State to facilitate easy processes on investment inflow into Abia State.
Another critical office that was set up by the Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu administration is the Office of Aba Urban Renewal. The mandate of this office, which it is carrying out, is to ensure that as much as possible, Aba is transformed from its current squalid state to a city of basic modern amenities. The Office is also restoring sanity in the city by ensuring that traders move to their designated markets and buildings originally designated as residential buildings return to their designation.
The State has concluded arrangements to send 40 youths from across the state to the Songhai Farm in Porto-Novo, Benin Republic for comprehensive training in the entire agricultural value-chain. These youths will in-turn return to train other youths on engaging in agriculture as a profitable endeavour and alternative to white-collar jobs.
Indeed, numerous examples yet abound of the level of appreciable impact Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu has made since he assumed office as Governor of Abia State. These milestones listed above are by no means exhaustive. Suffice it to say that Abia is truly on course and Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu is very clear as to his vision for Abia State which is to make the state the premier destination in Nigeria, West and Central Africa for Investors, Shoppers, Workers and Tourists.
To God be the Glory.
Sam Hart, Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Public Communications.