My good people of Abia State
It is with gratitude to God that I address you on this 1st day of the year, 2018.
We return all the glory to God for the year 2017 and collectively as a state, pray Him to grant us a more fulfilling 2018. We witnessed a number of challenges in the year 2017. From an economy in recession which affected our revenue projections to what would have been a crisis of unimaginable proportions as a result of the confrontation between separatist agitators and federal forces that was averted through the wisdom of God. 2017 was also the year the Lord averted a constitutional crisis in Abia state and put an end to litigations challenging my undeniable mandate to preside over the affairs of Abia State. It was no doubt, a challenging year for us as a State but God proved beyond all doubt that Abia is indeed, God’s Own State. For all that God has done for us and will yet do, I say to Him alone be all the glory.
As we begin our journey into 2018, I wish to call on all Abians and lovers of Abia State to put our dear State in your prayers for God to grant us peace and stability for these are the prerequisites for meaningful development. I reaffirm my commitment and that of my team to give our utmost best for Abia State and work towards making life better for Ndi Abia.
We have made appreciable progress on all the areas we set out to make our mark – especially in our 5 Pillars of Development which we enunciated upon assumption of office and the enablers. Our State has remained tops in Educational parameters in Nigeria and we are determined to sustain that momentum and do even more in 2018.
Our comprehensive, integrated Healthcare Delivery Framework will take more shape in 2018. We will strengthen our Secondary Healthcare Centres by ensuring that every Local Government Area has a functional and better-staffed General Hospital, which will serve as outreach base to our Primary Health Centres and minimize the distance and stress involved in accessing Tertiary Hospitals. We recently launched our Healthcare Outreach to the aged and vulnerable groups in our society, a novel programme, which will be strengthened and positioned to touch more lives in 2018. We shall also commission our Specialist Hospital for child and maternal care, which is designed to ensure that no child is lost at birth in Abia State from 2018.
On the 5th of January, 2018, the 1st Batch of 30 Shoemakers out of a proposed 100 from Abia State will depart for China to undergo intensive training in automated shoemaking technology. They have all secured their Visas and are ready to depart Nigeria. Upon their return, we will procure the full range of equipments required to set up an Abia State Automated Shoe Factory in Aba. These youths will form the nucleus of the workforce in the Factory. This Factory, which shall be commissioned before June 2018, shall enable Abia State consolidate its status as the pre-eminent destination for leatherworks in Nigeria and shall serve as an enabler of the diligent work the manual producers have been doing over the years. It is important that I highlight the fact that 3 of the youths traveling are not from Abia State but are resident in Aba and are fully involved in shoemaking. This underscores our commitment to ensure a fair deal for every resident and tax-payer of Abia State irrespective of origin. Already, one of our recently inaugurated Commissioners, Mr. Thadeus Izuogu is from Imo State. He is expected to coordinate the interests and participation of other Nigerians that are resident or doing business in Abia State. Our administration will not discriminate against anybody living and going about their legitimate business in Abia State. If you pay your taxes to the Abia State Government, then you are to all intents and purposes, an Abian and you will be entitled to anything due to Abians.
The prognosis indicate that 2018 will be better than 2017 in terms of our business climate. We must take full advantage of the Federal Government Executive Order No.3 which underscores the need to patronize Made-In-Nigeria as a priority. We remain grateful to Ford Foundation and TBWA Concepts for placing Abia and our Small-Scale Manufacturing Skills on the World Map through CNN Adverts. The provision of steady power to some parts of Ariaria International Market through the Rural Electrification Agency will catalyze rapid development and enhance the economy of our artisans.
On road construction, in 2018, we are going to consolidate on gains already achieved in the number and quality of roads we have so far built. I have no doubt that Abians who returned for the yuletide from their various domiciles were pleasantly surprised to witness improved road infrastructure in their localities. From Nkporo to Abiriba, Osisioma to Ugwunagbo, Bende to Arochukwu and indeed, in all parts of the state, we have kept faith with our promise to deliver quality, sustainable roads to the people of Abia State. All the roads we have so far built have withstood 2 seasons of heavy downpour and it is our firm commitment that we will deliver durable roads to the people of Abia State.
It was this commitment to quality and durability that ensured that we constructed a 6.5 Kilometer underground water drainage system at Faulks road, Aba to evacuate stormwater away from the Ifeobara Pond into the Aba River. The design also extends to Ariaria Market thus ensuring that upon completion, Ariaria International Market will never again, experience the flooding associated with the Ifeobara pond. This exercise, although very expensive, will ensure the durability of that road upon completion. In the same vein, work has commenced on the Port Harcourt Road, also in Aba. This road is designed to have 6 lanes with a dedicated BRT Lane for Bus Transit on the stretch of the road. The road will be completed in the next 18 Months. We also have our Rural Roads Project which involves the construction of 10 Kilometers of Roads in each of the 17 LGAs in Abia State. We are currently active in 6 LGAs and within the next 18 months, all of those roads will be ready for commissioning. Our road infrastructure drive is deliberately thought through. We consider quality roads as an enabler to drive Trade and Commerce in Abia State. It is also designed to drive our Agricultural expansion projects as the rural roads we are building are all designed to bear high traffic for the transportation of farm produce from the rural hinterlands to urban centres.
Ndi Abia Ndi nwem, 3 days ago, I flagged off our One-Ward-One-Project Initiative at Amakama, Umuahia South LGA. This initiative will see our administration commit 10 – 15 Million Naira on a project of high impact in each electoral ward in Abia State. Our target is to enhance trade and commerce through the installation of street lights in our rural markets to extend trading hours and put more funds in the hands of the rural dwellers. We will also assist each ward realize a project of specific importance to them. We are committed to ensuring that every community in Abia State feels the touch of Government in the course of our tenure. If we have not gotten to your community yet, rest assured that we are on our way and we will surely get to you. Let me use this medium to invite President-Generals of all Registered Town/Welfare Unions to turn in their proposals for community-based projects for Government attention.
On the 22nd of December 2017, the Office of the Wife of the Governor put together an event that gave me enormous joy. It was a day women doing great things in fields requiring Special Skills were honoured and encouraged for their resilience and drive. That event touched me greatly and I promise that going forward, we will pay more attention to the empowerment of our women as they play a major role in the stabilization of households. We will henceforth be deliberate about ensuring that our women and vulnerable groups are captured within the basket of all our programmes going forward as it is my belief that they are faithful implementers of plans and visions by their very nature.
Beloved Abians, I am proud to announce to you that our administration has re-established a robust working relationship with International Donor Agencies who are all keen on working with us to move the state forward. We have kept faith with payment of counterpart funding in various sectors which has unlocked hundreds of millions of dollars in hitherto trapped funds for the development of Abia State.
From the Health sector to Education, Environment to Finance and beyond, we are partnering with relevant international development partner organizations for the development of Abia State.
Another issue I would love to touch on briefly is the issue of salaries and pensions in Abia State. I make bold to state that no Governor is more committed to the payment of salaries and pensions than I am. When we received our bailout funds from the Federal Government, I set up a Committee made up of our fund managers and the Labour Unions to manage the disbursement. I did not tell them what to do. They worked out a modality for the disbursement of the funds and oversaw its implementation. Our novel concept earned us commendation from the ICPC in a period when other states were being accused of diverting the funds.
Again, in the 2nd tranche of Paris Club Refund, N5.7 Billion was released to Abia State and I handed over the entire amount to Abia State workers. No other Governor did what I did. Irrespective of other areas crying for funds to ensure rapid development, I gave 100% of the money meant for every sector of Abia State to workers alone. That was a signpost of my commitment to the welfare of workers in Abia State. Another batch of the Paris Club Refund has been released to Abia State and again, I have directed the release of a substantial portion to offset salary and pension arrears. Presently, all Ministries have received their December 2017 Salaries. I am aware that some Parastatals are in arrears of 2 Months. I am optimistic that with the release of additional N3.2B, most of the issues will become history. I urge the public to continually verify the true status of workers salaries in Abia State before passing comments.
Dear Abians, our administration has spent over 70% of all its revenue till date on workers alone. I therefore ask that as you criticize government on this issue, also be kind to acknowledge our efforts. When you receive your payments, do not join those who are not aware of our efforts to criticize government and say that we are not paying you. Remember that we are Igbos and one of our ancient norms is that we do not soil the stream from where we fetch drinking water.
I restate my commitment to the welfare of workers in Abia State and call on them to be fair in their criticism of government. I must commend our Students and Teachers for maintaining the 1st position in WAEC for the 3rd Consecutive Year now. To encourage them, we have set up the Primary Teachers Continued Education Centre in Umuahia and I re-affirm my commitment towards clearing outstanding salaries owed teachers in the months ahead.
Beloved Abians, as the year progresses, politics will begin to dominate the discussion in the State. I pledge my commitment to a strong democratic process in Abia State devoid of bitterness and hate. We may not agree on all issues, but it is important that we conduct our disagreement in a civil and decent manner. Abia is God’s Own State. From our State Anthem to our Logo, we have institutionalized those virtues that distinguish us and I urge us to uphold them as our guiding principles in all our endeavours.
To all those who lost loved ones in 2017, I pay my condolences and pray God to grant you the fortitude to bear the loss. To all those who suffered calamities in 2017, I say ozoemena. A new Year is laden with opportunities for a fresh start. As you make your plans for 2018, I pray God to exceed your positive expectations. I have no doubt that 2018 will be a great year for us individually and collectively as a state and I urge you all to be positive and upbeat. You will have course to celebrate in 2018.
This is the year the Lord has made, we shall rejoice and be glad in it.
I thank you all for listening and I wish you a successful 2018.