MY GOOD PEOPLE OF ABIA STATE, DISTINGUISHED LADIES AND GENGTLEMEN!
I am very pleased to address you today, as we celebrate the 52nd Anniversary of our Nation’s Independence, which has become an annual ritual of remembrance and assessment of our journey so far.
Each year of our celebration has become a unique opportunity to appraise our collective journey and all the issues that impact on our politics and economic growth. Despite what remains to be achieved, it can be said that our collective journey into Statehood, Nationhood and Political Leadership, remains a story in courage, as we all struggle to meet the aspirations and expectations of Nigerians, as well as keep our Nation and our communities united under one country.
In our Nation and in our States, the needs of our people have been growing, even as challenges of resources fail to meet all the expectations. But what should also be paramount in our assessment of the Nation’s achievements should be the sincerity and devotion to service, which each leadership brings into the political enterprise.
This requires that our leaders be the change agents and also have the courage to take the painful decisions of laying the foundation that create the enabling environment for the sustainability of growth of our States. The results and eventual assessments are not just for now, but for future generations.
Our Government is committed to being the change agent that will take the painful decision to laying the foundation that will rebuild Abia State for posterity. I know that this has been the less travelled route, which also tests the loyalty and commitments of disciples, but that is the only reasonable route, if we must guarantee the future of our State for our young generation.
That is why our Government has embarked on our legacy projects, to lay the appropriate foundations and create the enabling institutions and values that will support a virile socio-political community to guarantee the emergence of a new Abia State. I challenge Abians to come on board to make this foundation stronger, for a faster realization of our collective dreams.
I see this year’s independence anniversary celebration, not just as a time for stock-taking of what we have achieved, but essentially of a re-evaluation of the potentials of our people and our State. Through-out the Nation and the State, our citizens must begin to move away from the anachronistic belief that Governments can alone do everything to develop our Nation and our State. Everywhere, we must all be willing to renew our community spirits of readiness to partner with Governments, in monitoring and developing our communities, cities and the State.
Here in Abia State, I see a huge potential and capacity of our people in building an enduring and sustainable economy, which is what is required to strengthen the security of our State.
Partnering with our Government, our citizens can become the champions that propel our hard worn battle with kidnappers and general insecurity in the State, and through that further solidify the necessary environment for business development and creation of new jobs for our citizens, especially the youth. I also believe that our citizens, and our youth, can commit to doing more to help preserve our environments and in rebuilding our cities.
These are some of the untapped potentials of our people that can assist our Governments perform optimally in many areas, including the creation of an educational economy through our on-going International Conference Center, which we all crave for in the State. Our concern for the good health of our citizens, which is the first principle of a sustainable development, will be taken care of through the growing medical facilities and diagnostic centers which we have built all over the State. All these and many others, are parts of our legacy projects, which have come to be our strategy for sustainable development in this State.
This strategy will define whether our Government merely serves the present instincts of our citizens, or whether we are able to build the institutional foundation that will serve our State for generations. That is why we consistently seek our citizens understanding, patience and collaboration, so that we can successfully pursue our projects to good conclusions.
As we also seek to address the major infrastructural needs of our people today, especially in our prominent city of Aba, Enyimba, we will expect that our people will not only partner with us, but also share our dreams of rebuilding Aba and Abia State. That is why our Government has taken a little more time to properly re-evaluate the physical, economic and environmental problems of Aba Metropolis. We consulted with our citizens and reached a solid plan to now implement necessary changes in that city.
I certainly share with many of our citizens, the frustrations you have been going through in Aba, as a result of the rains and the impact on deteriorating physical infrastructures, especially roads. We have now resolved that as soon as the rainy season subsides, Aba dwellers should expect Government’s aggressive repair of Aba roads, and new construction in the city that will follow.
Our enhancement of security will also continue in Aba and the entire State, despite the enormous costs that this entails. We believe that progress in other areas of our socio-economic and political realm; will depend on the level of success we achieve in the security of lives and property of citizens in the State.
We have also drawn up a blue-print to permanently tackle the issue of flooding in Aba, and will aggressively pursue the opening up and desisting of all drains in Aba, so that all flood water will begin to find their channels down to the Aba River. We equally intend to dredge and clean up the Aba River, so that we can begin to apply it for economic purposes of hospitality industries and its value chain activities.
It is for the above purpose that our Government has resolved that all houses that are built on water channels, or those obstructing the easy passage of flood water, must be prepared to go. We are very determined to see through this policy, while implementing it with reduced pain on house owners. But I expect that anyone found to be involved in such infractions, must be ready to make some sacrifices for the general good of rebuilding Aba for all Abians and for all our Igbo brothers that have found Aba as a melting point for riches and attainment of their lives’ expectations. The truth is that no good thing comes easy in life, and rebuilding Aba is a challenge we all must face bravely.
Also the erection of buildings in any of our cities must be according to approved plans, and this will now be adequately enforced and monitored. In these process, errant public officials that in any way collude with or abate the erection of illegal structures, will face serious sanctions, including dismissal from office.
While our Government is committed to building great cities, legacy government monuments, roads, maintenance of our staff and in developing our State economy, we want our citizens to understand that in addition to other sources of fund available to Government, all these projects are financed through taxes paid by taxable citizens. This is one of the inviolable contracts binding Governments and citizens, especially in a democratic governance.
Our Government however, pledges to our citizens that we will continue to prudently manage our collective resources for the general good of the State and our citizens, as well as ensure the provision of expected democratic dividends for all our citizens.
Towards the above, our Government has listened to the suggestions of citizens on the creation and management of our State resources. We are anxious to now review and standardize our Internal Revenue realization policies in Aba and elsewhere. This will give it the human face our citizens will support with confidence, and a willingness to pay. It is against this background that we have commenced the implementation of a New Abia State Internal Revenue and Collection Platform.
In this new Platform, all those involved in the present revenue collection of the State, have been given notices to wind-up and vacate their activities with effect from the end of December, 2012. They are to leave the new accredited Government Revenue Consultants, to begin to do their job. This era will herald an end to double taxation and all other unsavory burdens that have been weighing down on our tax- paying citizens, and making the tax system unhealthy and unfair.
This systematic tax revenue collection platform is fair, equitable and with a human face, and will take-off by the beginning of January 2013 fiscal year. From that period, composite tax demand notices will be issued to all landlords, factory owners, and other taxable property holders – with very clear details of all payable taxes. Such taxes will be payable only on a yearly basis, and through the accredited Government Bank Accounts in selected Banks. This approach is to ensure that our citizens are secured from multiple taxations and other unwholesome activities that the paying public has complained against.
Our Government is equally concerned with the operational environment of our traders, residents and other organized private business sectors in the State, especially Aba, Umuahia and other major towns. We know the impact that constant electricity supply has in the boosting of trading, manufacturing, promotion of artisanship and other levels of entrepreneurship. That is why we are still working hard with the Federal Government’s Ministry of Power, to maximize the output of the Ohiya Power Plant.
These efforts will be further consolidated by the coming on stream of the NIPP Projects in Alaoji and the Geometric Power Plants in Aba. When these happen, as expected within the first and second quarters of 2013, energy supply in Aba and its environs will be adequately boosted for improved business in Aba and use of residents in other areas of Abia State.
We need to remind our citizens that the maintenance of our environments is not only for its aesthetic beauty, but also for its health implication, preservation of our historic relics, and the creation of jobs in the urban areas.
We will continue to maintain constant refuse disposal from the points of designated accumulations, to enhance the environmental situation of Aba and other Urban Areas, by providing more trucks, servicing of old ones, and ensuring the welfare of our workers in this vital service area.
But we also need the cooperation of our residents, factory owners and landlords, in ensuring environmental cleanliness, and in using provided refuse bins, instead of deliberately dumping refuse into gutters and drainages. It is said that cleanliness is next to Godliness, and Abia State, as God’s Own State, should begin to live-up to the full meaning of its name.
I need to recall that a few years ago, our State and all our citizens were not only battling with kidnapping, insecurity of lives and property of our citizens, especially in Aba City; we were also battling the flight of businesses, capital and labor from our cities to other safe areas. It was sad to see new old jobs eroded in our cities and desperate youths seeking for just any kind of job to maintain a healthy life.
Today, we have fairly won the war on insecurity, and still aggressively sustaining it at a great cost. But I am very concerned that unemployment is still high in our State and our cities. This is why we have keyed into the Federal Government’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda, and very soon, we expect new jobs to be created in our State in the agricultural sector. I expect our youths and all idle city dwellers to see a good reason to migrate back to the rural areas, and be ready to adopt new mind-sets that embrace agriculture for self actualization.
In this era of new choices, our youths cannot only create wealth and gainful employment, but they have the chances of emerging as young agro-entrepreneurs, who will benefit from the numerous financial incentives and inputs that our Government has been rolling out, including the disbursement of the N1 billion agricultural loan now available to eligible farmers.
Both the State and the Federal Government are doing everything to ensure that agriculture is made a lucrative and attractive business for those that take the pain and work hard to remain in the profession, especially our youths.
We are also concerned with the state of our pensioners and existing work-force, and will ensure that they receive their due payments and on a timely basis. This is why we are anxiously doing everything to increase our internally generated revenue through taxes and other revenues. We seek the cooperation of our citizens in achieving these feats, but more especially, we encourage our parents and young people to continue to value and seek quality education, which has been credited for providing citizens with an escape from crushing weight of poverty, all over the democratic world.
Our Government will continue to support good and quality education of our citizens, and that is why we recently handed back some schools to their original Mission and other Individual Owners – who indicated their interests to partner with Government in providing both moral and qualitative education, under a standard set up by our Government.
We all know that Abia State was founded on the ideals and reasons of the perceived distinction of a unique people, who were willing to apply their ingenuity to build a great State of their own. This is why I am using this occasion of the celebration of the Independence of our Nation, to remind Abians that they should never forget to make that individual difference that will ensure the vision of a greater Abia State becomes a reality.
I call on all Abians to join hands with our Government, so that we can succeed in transforming Abia State to match all our dreams. We must learn to make sacrifices for this State; we should always engage in activities that do not just support hard work, honesty and the ingenuity that Abians are known for, but at all times, promote the values and attitudes that support democracy, individual creativity and the collective confidence to make Abia State greater.
This means that our individual political disagreements should never be a reason to destroy the very values of peace, harmony and mutual respect, which are pre-requisites to developing Abia State.
We should never forget that the legitimacy of our nascent democracy and the coherence of our democratic ideology, rely heavily upon a belief in reason, not violence, as an instrument for our collective and individual social development and fulfillment. No Government can do it alone, without the commitments and supports of citizens.
Today, I and my Government have renewed our willingness to make the optimum sacrifice in laying the foundation for the future greatness of Abia State. I am confident that Abians will support and cooperate with us in this endeavor, so that together, we can turn the ingenuity of our people into the full enrichment of all of us.
It is only then that future celebration of our Independence anniversaries will have intrinsic meaning for all of us and the new generations of future Abians.
God bless Abia State and our hard-working people!
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!