Ikpeazu, Abia governor

From PETER OKORE, Umuahia

A long term plan for sustainable economic growth and development of Abia state has been produced by the present administration of the state. It focuses on 12 thematic areas where Abia state has some comparative economic advantages.

Captioned “The 30-year- perspective plan for Abia state”, the document, however, has provision for a- 5-year reviewable period by any sitting government of the state in order to make room for modernizations, if the need arises.

But, to ensure strict adherence to the focus of the roadmap and for realistic implementation of the contents of the Plan to achieve the set – objectives, the plan has an in-built monitoring mechanism.

According to a competent government source, to ensure that implementation of the plan is devoid of any form of political manipulations, neglect or being sidelined by succeeding administrations of the state, the 30-year Plan, in the next few weeks, is expected to be forwarded to the Abia State House of Assembly, under Executive Bill, for legislation and subsequent assent as a Law, by the sitting governor.

To lend credence to the need to domicile this document, the state governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, during the launch and formal public presentation of this blue-print at the Michael Okpara Auditorium, Umuahia, emphasised that if the development plan, which his administration has already keyed-into is seriously followed and sustained by subsequent administrations, Abia would be a centre of attraction and a reference point for other states yet to key- into the programme.

He noted that the 30 years Abia state Long Term Development Plan (ABSLTDP), 2020 – 2050 offers a blue print to sustainable economic growth and development for various administrations, for many years to come.

Ikpeazu , who was represented at the ceremony by his Deputy, Sir Ude Oko Chukwu, lauded the State Planning Commission for collaborating with the Partnership Initiatives In Niger Delta (PIND) and other development agencies for ensuring the successful take- off of the exercise in the State.

He reassured that government will do everything, in its power, to ensure the successful implementation of the plan and legislation which will be incorporated into every section of the State. He urged all concerned to own- up and protect the project.

In his brief remark, the Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Mr. Chris Ezem, described the launch of the Abia State Long Term Development Plan as a milestone achievement and enjoined all arms of Government to buy-into the plan.

Earlier in her address, the Executive Secretary to Abia state Planning Commission and Permanent Secretary, Dr. Nnenna Chikezie explained that the ultimate goal of the 30- year perspective plan is to promote sustainable and stable development in Abia State and to improve the quality of life of the citizenry.

She expressed delight that the present administration has bequeathed to Abians a road-map to sustainable economic growth and development.

”By initiating this plan the administration has envisioned Abia state in the next 30 years and captured the 12 thematic areas in this document”. Mrs. Chikezie commended the state government for recognising the need for effective collaboration with the foundation for Partnership for Initiative in the Niger Delta (PIND), which is the major technical partner in the Abia economic project.

The event featured an overview presentation of the Long Term Plan by Dr. Ebebe Ukpong, goodwill message from the representative of the Executive Director of PIND, Dr. Chuks Ofolue and unveiling of the Abia State Long Term Development Plan by the Governor’s representative.

Indeed, the importance of this Blue-print in Abia and the subsequent move to forward it to the Abia House of Assembly for legislation cannot be over-emphasised. The essence to domesticate this document is probably, to avoid the regrets of the celebrated “Abia Charter of Equity.

”The Charter has as its MOTTO: “Be Your Brothers-keeper (Translated into Igbo language to mean Onyeaghala Nwanneya).” This document emphasised Justice, Equity, fairness and even- development. It provided for a new Abia Capital City and other facilities.

Today, none of those provisions have been seen in place. It was only the era of former state governor, Chief Theodore Orji, who is now representing Abia-Central senatorial district in the National Assembly, that saw the need for “Power shift/ Rotation” in politics, and went ahead to implement it.

Today, the people are happy for it; though not ruling out the fact that some political gladiators are raising eye-brows and pointing accusing fingers on anybody.

It is worthy of note that the Abia Charter of Equity was crafted by the founding fathers of Abia state during the military era. To ensure its durability, the fathers left an injunction (to posterity) that the Document MUST be domiciled in the Abia House of Assembly, as soon as it resumed. By this, the fathers wanted the document to become a law for subsequent administrations of the state to adopt, without fail.

Regrettably, the Abia Charter of Equity has not seen the four walls of Abia Assembly, 30 years after. Today, most of those forefathers, who crafted that document for the good of Abia and Abians, are no-more.

What actually gave rise to the idea og Long Term planning? Following the creation of Abia state in 1991, by the Ibrahim Babanjida- regime, Abia state, like other states in the federation, adopted the National Rolling Plan, which was just a medium-term plan. The plan provided for regular review.

The main objective of the medium-term rolling plan was to consolidate the achievements made so-far in the implementation of the then Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) and addressed the pressing problems still facing the states and the economy.

The Rolling plan, which ended 1998, had its pros and cons. Such ranged from the fact that it was more down to earth and avoided the pitfalls of a 5-year plan, which tended to stray away from reality; to the difficulty in tracing the progress made.

In the effort to drive sustainable Long-Term plan, that is home-grown, particularly in the Niger Delta region, a Consulting Firm; ,the Partnership for Initiative in Niger Delta(PIND) , organised a competition to determine the most suitable states.

From the exercise, Abia state won or the South-East, while Edo won from the South-South states, respectively. Arising, there-from, PIND offered the needed Technical Assistance to develop Long-Term Development plan for Abia state.

However, with the approval of Governor Ikpeazu for the state Planning Commission to provide a Long-Term Development Plan, the process started with the constitution of a technical committee compressing eminent men, women, youths and stakeholders cutting across the various strata of the economy, organisations, institutions, civil society organisation, OPS, policy-makers and other influential men in society, including Abians in diaspora.

After series of Trainings and workshops, a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, was signed between Abia state government and the PINC; thereafter a visionary Committee/Technical Committee was inaugurated.

The committee held three Town hall meetings with all stakeholders from each of the three senatorial zones of Abia state at Ohafia, Umuahia and Aba, respectively. Aside the various Town hall meetings, the Committee also advertised on National Dailies, calling for Memoranda on Abia of Our Dream”, in terms of Socio-economic and Infrastructural development from Abians in diaspora as well as other interested members of the public.

The integration and review of the various reports and drafting of the ABSLTDP by the PINC Consultants formed the Blueprint.

All-in-all it is hoped that the realistic implementation of this proposed 30-year blue-print would change Abia and put a stop to the prevailing cases of abandoned projects, under-development and marginalisation of certain areas of the state or inability of government to tap natural resources that abound in some sections of the state.