By Louis Amoke
Pushing further a transformational vision of Enugu State, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi continues to deploy special focus and an intimate understanding of his turf to address key human development, infrastructure, economic and sundry challenges and perhaps not surprisingly, is indeed changing the Enugu story.
Gov. Ugwuanyi took over the mantle of leadership of Enugu State five years ago, precisely on May 29, 2015, when the country was in recession as a result of drastic drop in the crude oil prices in the international market. Consequently, the state was confronted with paucity of funds coupled with inherited debts and other huge wage bills to be serviced.
The nation’s economic challenges adversely affected the state’s allocations from the federation account, to the extent that there were limited funds to attend to development issues and other sundry needs of the public.
Enugu’s purse grew leaner as federal allocations dwindled to an all-time low – a source of worry the past governor of the state, Barr. Sullivan Chime acknowledged during the thanksgiving Mass to commemorate the end of his administration.
The situation was so bad that 27 states, excluding Enugu State, could not pay workers’ salaries, let alone embark on capital projects. The governors resorted to bailout funds unlike their predecessors who had access to the excess crude oil funds which enabled them to execute sundry capital projects.
Despite all these challenges, Gov. Ugwuanyi remained undaunted and focused in his vision to build Enugu State of the founding fathers’ dream, where everybody irrespective of class, religion or political association is given equal rights to dividends of democracy, in a peaceful and secure environment.
His vision was to lead the state out of the economic crunch and rekindle the confidence of the people, especially the lowly and long neglected in the rural communities, in a viable, participatory democracy.
The neglect hitherto suffered by the majority of the state’s population in the rural areas was overbearing and created a hydra-headed imbalance in the distribution of democracy dividends between urban and rural inhabitants. It was a winner-takes-all scenario, as concentration of development projects in Enugu metropolis became the only barometer to assess performance of a government in the state.
In his inaugural address, Gov. Ugwuanyi, as a grassroots-politician, promised to pay special attention to rural development because the majority of the people reside in the rural areas and deserve a sense of belonging, peace and reward of good governance.
Five years down the line, the governor has vigorously and religiously pursued this lofty vision, closing the urban-rural imbalance in the distribution of basic amenities. Consequently, his administration has constructed/rehabilitated over 600 kilometers of road across the state, mostly in the rural areas.
Gov. Ugwuanyi has ensured an enduring peace in the state, a cherished feat that has made it possible for the state’s political leaders to unite and forge a common force for progress and rapid development. One is therefore proud to say that peace is now synonymous with Enugu State.
In the same vein, the state workers are singing praises and dancing on the streets of Enugu, in appreciation of the governor’s exceptional love and commitment to their welfare and for the existing cordial government-labour relationship.
The most recent experience was the workers’ “Thank-you” visit to Ugwuanyi for being the first governor of the state, since the inception of democracy in 1999, to pay them the minimum wage without rancour.
Beyond this, workers’ salaries are paid on the 23rd of every month and pensions are also paid regularly with or without receipt of statutory allocations from the federation account. Again, Enugu has remained consistent with the payment of the “13th month” salary to workers as Christmas bonus.
There is no doubt that Gov. Ugwuanyi’s rural development policy coupled with his uncommon leadership style has indeed dignified him as a great asset to the people of Enugu State, who in gratitude overwhelmingly reelected him with an unprecedented 95.54 percent of the votes cast, the highest in the history of the country.
As the governor was in a hurry, hitting the ground running to fully actualize his administration’s promises after reviewing the public sector for optimal service delivery, the world was hit with the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic, which brought the socio-economic life of the people and governments to a standstill, forcing government structures across the globe to review their policies and development agenda and focus on health.
Despite this, Ugwuanyi’s administration responded swiftly and expediently to contain the spread of the virus in the state and ensure that the effect of the pandemic does not adversely affect the people and the state’s development programmes. His administration immediately approved and released N350 million to the State COVID-19 Multi-Sectoral Rapid Response Team to tackle the health challenge. In spite of the pandemic’s obvious adverse economic effects, state workers have continued to receive their full salaries, palliatives are being distributed to the less privileged while various degrees of welfare packages were approved for the health workers as incentives to battle the virus.
As Isolation and Treatment Centres for COVID-19 were established and fully equipped in the University town of Nsukka and the ESUT Teaching Hospital Parklane, Enugu, the ultramodern Enugu State Medical Diagnostic Centre in Enugu, completed by the Ugwuanyi administration, was also equipped and designated as isolation and treatment centre to enhance the state’s preparedness and capacity to fully tackle the pandemic should the disease escalate.
In furtherance of all this, the state government is presently carrying out a massive reconstruction and construction of new structures at the Colliery Hospital Enugu, now designated as an Infectious Disease Isolation and Treatment Centre. Importantly, Gov. Ugwuanyi has continued to keep wake at night and also visit state’s boundaries to monitor and enforce Presidential directive on 8pm-6am nationwide curfew and inter-state movement restriction order.
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, his administration had made a mark in the health sector such as the construction and renovation of district hospitals and health centres, especially in the rural areas under the primary healthcare programme; the upgrade of Udi District Hospitals and Polly Clinic, Asata to General Hospitals, after their rehabilitation; construction of 200-bed Igbo Ano Specialist Hospital, to serve as facilities for the ESUT College of Medicine that has been relocated to Nsukka; the launch of the Universal Health Coverage to provide comprehensive health care delivery to residents of the state, among others.
On security, apart from various interventions in enhancing the security architecture to sustain the state’s enviable status as one of the most peaceful and safest in the country, Ugwuanyi’s administration recently procured and donated 100 units of Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing (IVM) patrol vans equipped with communication gadgets to the security agencies to aid their operations in the state. It recruited 1,700 novel Forest Guards (first in the South East zone), repositioned the Vigilante/Neighborhood Watch groups and purchased 260 security vehicles for Community Policing.
Five newly procured IVM fire-fighting trucks were handed over to the state fire service, for the five fire service stations across the three senatorial districts, newly constructed after 56 years, to enhance their efficiency and effective response to emergencies.
On infrastructure, some of the signature road projects include the remodeled ancient, historic and undulating 11-km Milliken Hill-Ngwo-9th Mile road – a tourist attraction and state’s natural roller coaster; the state-of-the-art 12-km Opi-Nsukka dual carriageway with a spur to the UNN gate; the Ebonyi River Bridge, Ikem; the 31-km Udenu Ring road with two high-tech bridges; Iva Valley road, Enugu; the 8.8km Nkalagu-Eha Amufu road in Isi-Uzo LGA, neglected for over 35 years; the 26.66 km Ukpabi-Nimbo-Ugbene Ajima-Eziani road in Uzo-Uwani LGA and the 22.443km Neke-Mbu-Ogbodu Aba-Obollo Etiti inter-community road linking Isi-Uzo and Udenu LGAs being constructed by the state government in conjunction with the Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP-2).
Others include the newly inaugurated 10.5-kilometer Nike Lake junction-Harmony Estate-Amorji Nike-Adoration Pilgrimage Centre linking the ever-busy and thickly populated Abakpa Nike with Emene satellite town in Enugu East LGA; 8.2-kilometer Inyi-Akpugoeze road in Oji River LGA, the Ituku Road in Awgu LGA, etc.
The first phase of the Enugu State Secretariat annex in Nsukka satellite town is nearing completion while the construction of the Nsukka Township Stadium and more internal roads are ongoing, in keeping with the governor’s inaugural address to equip and modernize the University town of Nsukka as the second largest town in Enugu State.
In achieving all these landmarks, the Enugu metropolis is not left out as numerous roads and other infrastructure were rehabilitated in line with the state’s urban renewal drive.
The first Enugu State Customary Court of Appeal Headquarters complex and other ongoing infrastructural development projects in the State Judiciary are standing tall as among the legacy projects of the Ugwuanyi administration.
On education and empowerment, over 5000 primary and secondary school teachers have been recruited in the last five years while 897 classroom blocks and other school projects have been constructed, renovated and/or equipped with learning tools.
While landmark interventions are being witnessed in the state-owned tertiary institutions, it is pertinent to note that the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Enugu, under this present administration had its first convocation after 11 years.
On empowerment, 3600 genuine traders were assisted with N50,000 each to grow their various businesses. 750 youths were empowered in skills acquisition under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Scholarship was offered to 680 indigent engineering students of Enugu State Polytechnic, Iwollo and the IMT, Enugu. The same scholarship was awarded to 22 indigent post-secondary school students who are presently studying at Mewar University, India. 1000 youths (additional 1000 underway) were engaged to clean up the state.
The economic indices of Enugu State have remained favorable in the eyes of observers as the state’s ratings have been outstanding in the last five years, such as the second most advanced state in Nigeria towards the frontier of global good practices with regards to Ease of Doing Business, by the World Bank Group and the 9th best performing state in terms of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) for the year 2019, among other achievements.
From the above highlights, it is undisputable that Gov. Ugwuanyi has performed creditably and has remained committed to his solemn mandate to continue to reward ‘Ndi Enugu’ with peace and good governance as well as build Enugu State of the founding fathers’ dream. Happy Anniversary! Enugu State is truly in the hands of God!
*Amoke is SA (Media) to Governor Ugwuanyi of Enugu State