From PETER OKORE, Umuahia
In a bid to grapple with the challenges of the post-COVID-19 pandemic era, Abia state government has empanelled a 10-man Economic Development and Management committee to produce a blue-print on steps to be taken in pursuit of a stronger economy for the state. The team, which is made up of eminent Abians with proven pedigrees in economic and financial management, has already started work by calling for Memoranda from well-meaning Abians and stakeholders, just as the Government has renewed her commitment to the full implementation of the recommendations there-from.
This also comes as the state Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu has assured the people that he remains determined to continue to govern Abia State with the highest standards of patriotism, and has solicited for the continued support of the people of the State.
In a release to mark the fifth anniversary of the emergence of Ikpeazu as governor of Abia State, issued in Umuahia, by the Chief Press Secretary to the state governor, Sir Onyebuchi Ememanka, the governor noted that since the beginning of his second term in office, he had concentrated on efforts to deal with the challenges of infrastructure, especially, in the state capital city, Umuahia and the commercial city of Aba.
According to the release, which show-cased Ikpeazu’s scorecard within one year: “In Umuahia, the administration has completed the reconstruction of the first phase of Aba- Road, a major entry- point into the state capital, Umuahia, with a solid dual carriageway that proudly welcomes one into the capital city. Work has also started on the second phase. Currently, the re-asphalting of major roads in Umuahia town is in progress.
“The plan is to have one solid stretch of road from Ubakala- Junction, through Isi- Court, Aba Road, Isi- Gate, Umuwaya Road, all the way to the Uwalaka Road- Junction at the former Gariki(now hosting the Umuahia Shopping Mall). This stretch, upon completion, will have functional solar-powered street lights operating through the night to ensure smooth vehicular traffic and give the capital the desired aesthetic look.
“For the very first time since the creation of Abia State in 1991, the state-owned Broadcasting Corporation of Abia State, BCA, has been hooked to the National Grid. In the same way, this administration has completed an Injection sub-station, designed to provide power to the corporation and thereby saving the huge money the Corporation used to spend on diesel, since inception.
“Incidentally, this sub-station will also assist to power the street lights around the adjoining Ogurube layout in Umuahia”.
This is a feat past administrations of the state battled in vain to achieved and, failure of which had led to the corporation spending huge sums of money on plant maintenance and frequent breaks in transmission.
“We have rebuilt the first phase of Eziukwu Road, making it possible for our people to connect Eziukwu Road to Okigwe Road, something that has been impossible for several years. Work is ongoing at the adjoining Ojike and Milverton Roads. It is important to note that the Eziukwu Road project is designed to run to Cemetery Road through the Market there. We plan to ensure that the entire stretch of Eziukwu Road is rebuilt to the first-class standard. Work on Osusu Road has reached advanced stages and we commit to complete it”.
According to Ikpeazu, “we have completed the first stage of the work on the Obikabia – Obikabia Road Project. Today, it is possible to drive smoothly from Obikabia Junction in Obingwa LGA all way down to Umuene Junction in Isiala Ngwa South LGA. This completed segment is over 30km and makes it easy to connect the Enugu- PH highway around Umuikaa Junction straight from the Ogbor Hill area.
This road has opened-up several rural and farming communities. The second phase of the project, which will connect Umuene to Umuikaa Junction and Umuene to Obikabia or the Isiala Ngwa Junction, will commence shortly. The flyover project at the Osisioma Interchange is fully on course and is expected to be completed and commissioned this year”.
The governor also hinted that work is also ongoing on several other roads in Aba, including Opobo Road, Immaculate Road, Aba Owerri Road, the Osisioma – NNPC Depot – Ekeakpara Road, most of which have major drainage components. Efforts have been intensified towards the maintenance of existing roads through the state’s “Zero- Pothole-Initiative.
Ikpeazu further reassured the residents of Aba that the N27.4 billion project for the reconstruction of Ngwa Road, Uratta Road, Port Harcourt Road, Obohia and Ohanku Roads when commissioned, will permanently change the infrastructural landscape of the city for the better. He urged residents there to co-operate with the contractors handling the projects.
On Trade and Investments, Governor Ikpeazu remarked that Abia remains the destination of a business choice, with Aba leading the way. He paid special tribute to the Aba Business Community for their resilience and determination to keep Abia state on the map of economic development through private-sector- driven enterprise, especially, at this difficult period of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ikpeazu thanked the people of the State for their patience and understanding as the government faced the difficult decision to lock down the state and enforce several other measures designed to protect people of the state at the time. He, however, urged the people to continue to take their health very seriously and obey those protocols designed to ensure personal and collective safety, pointing out that his administration has put in place enough measures to manage any cases of the corona-virus disease in the State.
On Education, the governor is proud that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and national lockdown, the Radio Classroom initiative of his administration, which will run till schools reopen, has continued to keep the children busy daily to bridge the knowledge gaps occasioned by the closure of schools, to a reasonable extent.
On the proposed food security for the state, the governor challenged Abia citizens and residents to, more than ever before, embrace agriculture as a sustainable means of economic survival. His words: “With the effects of COVID-19 which have shattered most economic forecasts on a global scale, we as a people must re-engineer our plans and look towards agriculture as a viable alternative”.
He stated that his administration has commenced the construction of Small and Medium-scale agro-allied industries in four local governments, namely, Umuahia- North, Isiala Ngwa-North, Obingwa and Ugwunagbo as pilot projects with plans to extend the same program to all the 17 local government areas of the State. The structures for Bende and Ohafia LGAs are almost completed. The Agro-allied industries are embarked upon based on LGA’s with crops/ crops of comparative advantage.
Governor Ikpeazu also used the occasion, to salute the Abia workforce for their hard work and resilience. He assured them that the current situation where salaries and pensions have been reasonably stabilized will be sustained. He, however, cautioned that the downturn in the economy, occasioned by the effects of COVID-19 pandemic, could create fresh challenges of cash-flow for the government. He, nevertheless, gave his words that his administration will work hard to meet up with all obligations to the workers.
On the hardship afflicted on the citizenry generally by the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Ikpeazu thanked the people of the State for their patience and understanding and urged them to continue to take their health very seriously and obey those protocols designed to ensure our collective safety. He assured Abians that his administration has put in place enough measures to manage any cases of the disease in the State.
For instance, Abia state government has commissioned a 100-bed Isolation Center with a full complement of medical equipment at the Abia State Specialist hospital, Amachara, in Umuahia South Local Government Area of the state. This facility is a donation to the state government in partnership with the CACOVID, the Private Sector Coalition Against Covid-19 and the Access Bank, Plc. The facility is for the treatment of Coronavirus patients. Aside from this facility, the state would have three molecular labs to join the league of those testing for Coronavirus within their States.
With these in place, the strategy of government as governor Ikpeazu put it, is to keep the virus away from the State and its environs as well as be able to nurse patients back to life. He further stated that the facility will boost the State’s capacity to deal with the pandemic.
“As we mark the first anniversary of our second term in office and our fifth year in the service of Abia state, I make bold to state that, even in the face of daunting challenges, we have made tremendous progress in every facet of governance. Evidence abounds that we shall finish stronger in our quest to stabilize governance in our state. I thank God Almighty for His grace upon our people and our State. My vision for a stronger Abia remains intact”, he said.