RE: ABIA OF BLIND LEADERSHIP
-John Okiyi Kalu
I watched the widely circulating video made by one Dr Kenneth who goes with the alias of “Liborous Oshoma Gcfr” and my initial thought was that the child who did not attend his father’s burial will always exhume him from the legs.
Since then I’ve called and discussed with the maker of the video on the issues raised, lack of balance and perspective in his material. We agreed to do a joint physical review on the state of road infrastructure in the State before and during the Ikpeazu-led administration as well as the administration’s going forward plan to do more in the midst of obvious financial challenges.
While we wait for the joint physical review, it is important that I respond to some of the issues raised, especially for the sake of those who may have been sucked in by the seemingly persuasive presentation of Liborous without due consideration for sacred facts.
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu rightly complained about the poor state of federal roads in the state which unfortunately threatens to asphyxiate and cut off the commercial hub of the state, Aba, as well as cut off inter-LGA access within the state. The painful part is that most visitors to the state, including Liborous, form their opinions on the state of infrastructure in the state along with the performance of the Governor from their ugly experiences at those federal roads, and consequently, close their eyes to the extensive works done with state roads by the administration.
To date, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has completed 97 verifiable State road projects and I dare inform that it is a record number within the state and region. In addition, he has worked on several federal roads to ensure palliative maintenance of those roads without refund of even a Kobo from the federal government. He constructed alternative state roads to bypass terribly bad federal roads in the state, including Ekwerazu-Nto Edina Road which is the only motorable link between Abia, Akwa Ibom and Cross River States today.
For the purpose of clarity, permit me to take up the issues raised in the video in itemized manner:
1. I do not know the Abia State Government official who called Liborous “unprintable names” but certainly not from my office which is the information clearing house of the state. As democrats, we see constructive criticism as an integral part of democracy and have since 2015 encouraged citizens’ participation in governance through feedback. Suffice it to state that the first contact Liborous had with my office was when I reached out to him on Saturday after watching his current video.
2. While Liborous is right to state that Abia is an oil producing state and receives 13% derivation payments, he obviously does not know that as at today, Abia has only 4 active wells from where she has never earned up to a billion naira in any particular month. In fact, in one particular month the state received Twenty Nine million naira (N29,000,000.00) only as derivation payment and the records are there for all to see. It is therefore obtuse to compare Abia with states that receive billions monthly from derivation with a straight face and boldness. Indeed, the Monthly derivation payment to one of the states he mentioned is higher than the total allocation of at least 3 South East states put together.
3. Obviously, the road leading to Ukwa West that Liporous referenced is the Aba-Port Harcourt segment of Enugu-Port Harcourt Federal Highway. That particular road is among the terribly bad federal roads mentioned by Governor Ikpeazu as requiring urgent intervention. The same segment of road was awarded by the federal government to a Chinese company since 2014 with absolutely nothing done at the Abia end to date. The contractors have abandoned the project to work on another segment in a neighboring state since then with untold hardship to our people.
On our part, we have done more than 4km of a new State road link for our people from that axis through the Uratta-Ugwati Road in Ukwa area. We have also executed the following road projects in the area from our meager 13% derivation payments, in addition to other key development projects:
A. Rehabilitation/Asphalt overlay of failed portions of Umungede rtoad in Owaza.
B. Rehabilitation/Asphalt overlay of failed portions of Ezeogwu Road in Owaza
C. Rehabilitation/Asphalt overlay of failed portions of WELL 9 Road (Palm Groove) Phase 1 & 2 in Owaza.
D. Rehabilitation/Asphalt Overlay of failed portions of WELL 9 Road (Umuegwusi/Umuagalaba Road junction in Owaza.
E. Rehabilitation/ Asphalt overlay of failed portions of WELL 9 Road (Uzoururu Umuokeudu junction) in Owaza
F. Rehabilitation/ Asphalt Overlay of failed portions of Obehie/Owaza Road in Owaza
G. Rehabilitation/Asphalt Overlay of failed portions of Ahia Orie Umuokpara Road in Owaza
H. Rehabilitation / Asphalt Overlay of failed portions of Umuagalaba Road (Owaza) in Owaza.
It is important to note that following the critical appeal of Governor Ikpeazu, the contractors handling the Osisioma segment of the Enugu-PH Highway (Arab Contractors) and Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene Federal Road (Hartland) have remobilized to site this week. The Federal Controller of works in the state has also visited the Governor to detail out planned intervention with other federal roads.
4. On “AMA-Mmogh“ area of Aba, it is on record that our administration is the first to construct 3 key roads in the area using rigid pavement technology: Agharandu, Onyebuchi and Ibadan Roads, all connected with the garment cluster in the area. Ibere Street has partially been reconstructed, too.
In addition to the above, I make bold to state that since the creation of the earth no other administration has put in place a more profound plan to recover that area that is famous for Ndiegoro flood disaster of the 80s that made late Governor Sam Mbakwe weep. The Ikpeazu administration has commenced work on a N27.4b watershed management project that includes total reconstruction of Ngwa and Obohia Roads as well as the proper channeling of storm water in that particular area that is at the sump of Eastern Aba city through a massive underground tunnel that is expected to end frequent road failures in the area. The internationally vetted and approved contractors, Hartland and Tunnel End, are currently implementing palliative works along Obohia and Umuagbai Roads to create alternatives to the busy Ngwa Road before full reconstruction of the ever busy road that leads to Ahia Ohuru market and our garment cluster. In addition to that, the State Government has awarded Ohanku Road for reconstruction after years of unconscionable tying of that road to a non performing NDDC contract. Just in case Liborous missed this and needs reminding, NDDC is a federal agency.
5. ABSUTH road is under construction with more than 95% of the drains completed along Club 25 Road in Aba. With the onset of dry season construction window, we have mobilized the contractor to return to site and complete the project within this window. Before now, this administration rehabilitated the Udeagbala end of the road which takes very heavy tonnage as a result of the activities of the manufacturing concern located there. In due course, we shall link up Udeagbala and Club 25 Road to provide another smooth entry/exit road from Aba.
6. On Port Harcourt Road, Aba, it is important to state that when we came on board in 2015, that road which was in a very bad condition was tied to a federal contract and we had a running battle with the contractor before we forcefully vacated the contract two years ago and commenced work there with massive double drains already completed end to end for the first time in known history. We suspended work along that road because of the need to link up the new drains with the watershed management project of the Ndiegoro area. This administration will not execute a road project without proper channeling of storm water to avoid early failure. We also learned from our experience elsewhere in the city and decided to integrate the project with the greater watershed management project that includes Uratta through Port Harcourt to Umuagbai and Ngwa Roads to Waterside River. We hope to complete the work, along with full reconstruction of Ngwa Road, Ohanku and Obohia before the end of our tenure in office. We care too much for the sustainable wellbeing of our people to execute “Ozigbo Ozigbo” road projects to impress the likes of Liborous and the do-nothing political opposition in the state who lack the courage to call out the federal government on the parlous state of federal roads in our state.
After the reconstruction of proximal Osusu Road using rigid pavement (cement) technology, we have awarded Omuma Road for full reconstruction with a defined path for storm water management through Osusu and Eziukwu to Waterside. We are applying the principles of integrated road construction to ensure total recovery of Enyimba City within the pendency of our administration and will NEVER sacrifice quality for speed, or waste the limited resources of our state on hasty unplanned interventions.
7. According to Liborous, “Most of the roads at the Local Government Areas of the state, like Aba North, Aba South, Osisioma, Ugwunagbo and Obingwa LGAs have all been taken over by water and frog” but a visit to the mentioned LGAs will show otherwise. The Ikpeazu administration is the first state government in history to construct an asphalted road in Ugwunagbo LGA (Umunka-Ugwunagbo Road) since the earth was created. Likewise, we have completed at least six (6) road projects in Osisioma LGA including MCC-Samek, Umuode, Omnee, Adaelu, Chima Nwafor, Umuojima, Osokwa Umuejie, Kamalu etc with other ongoing road peojects in the area. I dare any living Abian to contradict me that no other administration In the state has done more roads in the LGA than the Ikpeazu administration. In Obingwa, we have completed Ekwereazu, Agalaba Phase 1, Ukaegbu, Ehere, Umuola, Obikabia, Ebenma Egege, Umuobiakwa roads etc with many others such as Ururuka ongoing.
8. “The Umuahia, Bende, Ututu to Ohafia and Arochukwu Roads is a nightmare“ assertion of Liborous is true. What he obviously missed is the fact that it is a federal road under a failed subsisting federal contract. One would have expected Liborous to know this simple fact and at best call for urgent federal intervention as Governor Ikpeazu did. I personally wish to join Governor Okezie Ikpeazu in calling out the federal government to end the sufferings of our people living in that axis. It is “criminal” to ignore the long suffering of the people of the area by abandoning that project for so long.
Furthermore, I call on federal legislators representing the area to courageously stand up at the National Assembly and call for the full funding of the already awarded but poor performing contracts for the reconstruction of that federal road.
9. According to Liborous, “Osisioma flyover, Obohia Road, Ohanku Road, and Eziukwu Road have won awards as the roads that has taken the longest time to build”. Interestingly, Osisioma Flyover is the first of such structures to be built in Abia since the earth was created and it is at about 90% completion level. While the project was started in 2017 with a planned 2 years completion duration, it suffered delivery set backs due to funding constraints and the fact that we have only 5 months construction window. The good news is that the administration is determined to deliver the project before the end of this year and work is ongoing as I write this response.
While we launched the reconstruction of Obohia Road in April of this year, it is a fact that we have long completed work at Eziukwu Road and adjoining Ojike Lane. I challenge Liborous to visit the state and stand in the middle of those roads to make live videos, if he cares for truthful advocacy. We are also working on the famous Milverton Road that is linked to Eziukwu and Ojike roads and will open the area to full traffic only after the completion of the Milverton project within this dry season window. Those with elementary knowledge of construction and the area in question will not disagree with the decision of the government. If we open Eziukwu and Ojike without completing Milverton the already done work will certainly be negatively impacted.
10. I don’t know the unnamed government source that gave Liborous his information that former Governors of the state travel at the expense of the state. I leave those involved to defend themselves but suffice it to state that state sponsored local and international travels is at the lowest ever under Ikpeazu. Since 2015, Governor Ikpeazu also cut his salary and that of his appointees by more than 50% to save money for other areas of need. He not only wears Made in Abia clothes but also eats only Made in Abia rice in Government House Umuahia. It will be strange and malicious for anyone with rudimentary knowledge of Abia’s political leadership history to accuse Governor Ikpeazu of financial recklessness.
11. While we have challenges with payment of workers in our state parastatals who are statutorily not paid by the state government; the fact that all workers directly paid by the state government are up to date with their salaries should not be ignored. Also, the fact that the new minimum wage has since applied should not be glossed over. Abia currently pays better than any state in the region, per salary level, and has the highest wage bill in the region.We have long moved to support ailing parastatals to pay workers regularly and ultimately clear their outstanding wages. In the same Nigeria where Liborous lives, states are experiencing challenges with revenue inflow with some already cutting wages as a result of the economic challenges associated with the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic and the devastating EndSARS protests across the nation. For instance, while in June 2020, total allocation to the state amounted to N1.9bn, the state government still managed to pay wages of over N2.3bn in same month and executed other projects during the pandemic.
12. According to Liborous, the state government approached AfDB for some facilities including the N27bn for watershed management. The fact is that the World Bank availed the state the N27.4bn for the watershed management project in the Ndiegoro area of Aba and the project is ongoing as I write this response after we fully paid our counterpart funding. It was AfDB management that invited the Governor to their headquarters and he seized the opportunity to discuss critical support to the government and people of Abia State. The automated shoe factory in Aba (ENASCO) which was funded directly by the state government is currently at test production stage and we have gone ahead to start exploratory work on a new automated garment factory that will be located within the same area. Our team is currently in Bangladesh and Turkey thereafter to review available equipment, and in due course, we hope to launch this as further boost to our SME development agenda that has seen Aba being rated as the SME capital of Nigeria. The launch of our SME Microfinance Bank is a further testament to the determination of Governor Ikpeazu to boost MSMEs in the state and create jobs. It is this same agenda that gave rise to Governor Ikpeazu’s envisioning of the already licensed Enyimba Economic City which is expected to create more than 600,000 jobs within a period of 10 years. Only a transgenerational leader like Governor Ikpeazu will seek to solve the challenges of today and tomorrow in his state.
13. That Liborous affirmed that the administration has embarked on many road projects in urban and rural Abia speaks to our desire to solve as many road nfrastructure challenges as possible. Our major limitation remains funding and the short construction window available to our state which receives the second highest annual rainfall In Nigeria.
14. We will not fall into the temptation of comparing ourselves with other Igbo states that are obviously at different development stage with us. Suffice it to say that properly schooled development analysts understand that in a Federal Republic, different states pursue different development paradigms based on the leader’s understanding of the current state of development, needs of the people and vision for the future. We correctly analysed the development stage of our state, her challenges and future outlook before arriving at the 5 pillars of development that emphasize human capital development through appropriate engagements in Education, Agriculture, Industry, Trade and Commerce as well as Oil and Gas development. We also identified factors that wiii enable the development of these pillars to include (i) Security (ii) Education (iii) Health (iv) Infrastructure (v) Ease-of-Doing Business and Tax Reforms. We are religiously pursuing these pillars and the enablers in the hope that we will leave Abia much more better than we met it. Other states are free to pursue the development of their state via another route.
Finally, I dare agree with Chimamanda Adichie that “The risk of the single story, the one perspective, is that it can lead us to default assumptions, conclusions and decisions that may be incomplete, and may lead to misunderstanding…” Adichie also makes a connection between single stories and the impact of power in our lives. Hear her: “Operating from the context of a single story can prevent us from a more complex, nuanced view of a situation.”
It is on the above note that I wait for the agreed date of engagement for Liborous to visit Abia and review all that I have stated in this response and hopefully make another video that is reflective of the true situation without the usual suspects accusing him of being compromised by the state.
Chief John Okiyi Kalu is the Honorable Commissioner for Information, Abia State