THE 2013 DEMOCRACY DAY SPEECH PRESENTED TO ABIANS, BY HIS EXCELLENCY CHIEF T. A. ORJI (OCHENDO), GOVERNOR ABIA STATE, DELIVERED AT THE UMUAHIA TOWNSHIP STADIUM, UMUAHIA, ON THE 29TH DAY OF MAY, 2013
DISTINGUISHED LADIES AND GENTLEMEN
Just this morning, I made a goodwill broadcast to the good people of Abia State to herald the celebration of our democracy day on this 29th day of May 2013. We are here again this afternoon to continue that celebration with other citizens of our great Nation.
Each year as new events unfold, we find good reason to rejoice in the celebration of new milestones achieved in the building and gestation of the global values of democracy. We equally find time to review the challenges we face in nurturing and growing the institutions and values supporting democracy in our public and private lives.
Our journey into a stable, prosperous polity and society is indeed an annual relay race, and we are making progress towards the desired goals and have good reason to celebrate this day. This year’s democracy day celebration coincides with the second anniversary and the mid-term of our second tenure in office. We arrived here by the grace of your massive votes and support, and it is therefore necessary that in the spirit of global democracy and accountability, I should brief Abians on our score cards and performance in the past 2 years.
Just 3 days ago, the reputable Independent Newspapers Ltd, honored me as the ‘Man of the Year 2012, and distinguished Person in Governance’. I dedicate this coveted prize to all Abians as a symbol of your hard-won democracy. This is because it is standing on your shoulders, that I worked on this anvil and challenged past leadership impunity, and successfully fashioned the new condition of good governance, which many now recognize as the hallmark of Abia State, and of which our people can be truly proud of. It was through your massive electoral support that we were able two years ago to put the final nails to the coffin of despotism and god-fatherism in Abia State. We successfully achieved the consolidation of the elite politics of our State and taking us to the mainstreams of Nigeria’s politics.
In many ways, the obvious advantages and dividends of our wise political moves in our State are becoming evident and it is strengthening our collaborations with the Federal Government of Nigeria. In the past two years with the Federal military and police support, we have clearly demonstrated that we can boldly tackle the challenges of our State’s security and eliminate the menace of kidnapping, which almost crippled our cities and rural areas in the not too distant past.
To date, we continue to make the security of lives and property of Abians the first charge of our Government. This is why Abia is now acclaimed as one of the safest State in Nigeria, and our environment is once again safe for everyone to live freely and aspire for greater things, and for local and foreign entrepreneurs to participate in.
Just a few months ago, I joined other Nigerian Governors for a Trade Mission to Canada to seek for foreign investment in Abia State. We expect our local businesses to benefit from these foreign trip and collaborations to develop Abia State. These are only possible because we have peace and security in the State.
I am aware that many of our citizens still clamor for greater employment opportunities in the Government sector, the Private sectors and as private entrepreneurs. Our Government is working very hard to grow our jobs as fast as we can, so as to accommodate all deserving job-seeking citizens and young entrepreneurs.
This is why in our legacy projects we have sought to address the issue of unemployment and job creation through a re-focus on agriculture as the main-stay of our economy. In collaboration with the Federal Government, we have commenced the building of a 240 ton/day high quality cassava flour plant to be located at Abiriba in Ohafia Local Government. When completed, this industry will provide thousands of jobs and synergy for multiple wealth creation in Abia State.
We are also collaborating with the Private Sector operators to maximize the employment opportunities in our Rubber Plantations in Amoke/Ndiochi Arochukwu, and our Oil Palm Plantations in Ohambele, Ukwa East, Oil processing mill at Mbawsi, and Oil Palm Estate in Ozuitem. These have collectively created over 2,500 jobs as I speak to you.
We are the first State in the South-East and South-South regions to start the distribution of vitamin-A cassava stems to more than 2000 of our farmers. This is aimed at increasing the vitamin content in our people’s diet – that is highly dependent on cassava products. We are equally breeding 450,000 high yield cocoa seedlings and 300,000 palm oil seedling for free distribution to our farmers.
Also our pilot Liberation Farm at Okeikpe has taken-off with initial employment of above 50 settlers and another at Lodu with 75 youth settlers. These will increase to 1000 youth settlers in each location respectively, when the Liberation Farms take off in the 17 LGAs of our State. We expect these to usher in job opportunities, especially for our youth entrepreneur farmers, and also create wealth and food security for our citizens.
Just recently we empowered more than 300 youths to own their vehicles as entrepreneur transporters, or other self-employed artisans, this is in addition to the 4,500 youths who are on monthly welfare salary by Government’s efforts, while awaiting absorption into new job openings.
Our dreams is to leave a lasting legacy of sustainable development, growth and transformation of Abia State and I invite all Abia Youths to avail themselves of the emerging opportunities, especially in agricultural development and other self-employing areas, while collaborating with our Government to achieve the desired goals.
While in the last two years, we may not have accomplished everything we set out to do, we have worked with sincerity, faith and prudence in the service of Abians and our impressive score cards will show for it.
Our Administration in the past two years resolved to take up the hard task of building Abia State on a solid base that can stand the test of time. This process may be slow, but the results will be enduring, and we see this as the only reasonable way to go for the sake of our posterity.
It is in the pursuit of the above dreams, that we are fast-tracking our legacy projects to complete the building of a befitting Government House for Abians in Umuahia and the first State Government funded Secretariat for our Civil Servants, while the old secretariat built by the Federal Government which was in a dilapidated condition has been rebuilt and renovated.
This is because we recognize these projects, including the building of a world class Conference Center – as major symbols of Statecraft, which were ignored over the past 20 years and now need to be in place.
In the past two years, we have forcefully tackled some of the State’s lingering and abandoned infrastructural facilities, especially in Aba where the major road that link the city have been executed, while others are on-going. This is in addition to the reconstruction and construction of many new roads in all areas of our State.
An updated account will show that we have completed more than 50 major road-constructions in various parts of the State. Worthy of mention is the Geometric Access road which supports the performance of the first private power plant in Nigeria, also the Ekeakpara-Osisioma road leading to NNPC depot, the omnibus Milverton Road which is a major access into Aba and the Ukwu mango road, all of which were abandoned since 1981.
It is our wish to continue to do more, as we open up more access roads in the urban and rural areas of the State. It is also interesting to note that we empowered many youths and local contractors along our construction routes, and rehabilitated many federal roads to the tune of N14.7 billion, since we believe it will ease the movement of our people. We are still awaiting the Federal Government’s refund for this commitment.
In the past two years we have also concentrated enough attention in relocating and building new markets to satisfy the commercial yearning of our citizens. We have completed the relocation of the Umuahia Timber Market to a more expansive and convenient location to attract the synergy of other allied industries.
The motor spare-parts market in Ohiya has been opened and is functional, while the construction of the new market in Umuahia Ubani Ibeku is nearing completion, and it is hoped the market will open for business this year. We have entered into partnership with ABIIC Co to build a first class market in Osisioma near Aba, and an Abia Mall to accommodate Shoprite Supermarket etc is being built in Umuahia.
In the past two years, we have also concentrated enough attention in the development of our Healthcare delivery system. This is because we believe that only healthy citizens can enjoy and appreciate the dividends of democracy.
That is why we continue to maintain our state-of-the art Specialist Diagnostic Centre in Aba and Umuahia; a Dialysis and Ophthalmology Centre in Umuahia, and new doctors’ residence and a Chest clinic for tuberculosis in Amachara, – all of which will be commissioned very soon. Also our massive auditorium at the Abia State Teaching Hospital, Aba and a fully equipped dialysis center will soon open to the public.
We have commenced the building of 17 nos of 100 bedded hospitals, each to be located in the 17 LGAs of our State. As of now work has commenced in the following hospitals, Arochukwu, Ikwuano, Obingwa, Ugwunagbo, Osisioma-Ngwa, Amachara in Umuahia North, and Okeipke in Ukwa West. This is in addition to 250 health centers now available in our 291 political wards of the State.
The aim of these efforts and collaborations are to ensure that our citizens enjoy the same special health care attentions they travel to seek for in India, South Africa and other developed countries – and often at unaffordable costs. We therefore expect our citizens to take advantage of these health facilities to improve their health and well-being. Overall, our hope is that affordable health care will be brought to the doors of all our citizens, especially within the rural areas.
My good people of Abia State, our Government is aware of the fact that business and commerce dominate the search for the livelihood of our people. That is why we have also focused on creating the enabling environment for the growth of business, which will in turn create jobs.
This can only be possible through a safe and secured State, and the continuous maintenance of our infrastructures. So far we have been able to sustain our security and infrastructural development despite the growing cost of these services – and in the midst of reducing IGR and inadequate allocation from the Federal resources.
I therefore urge our citizens to begin to live up to their social responsibilities in tax payments, which we have now streamlined to avoid double taxation and for ease of payments through designated banks.
Our Government will continue to do our part to assist the private sector businesses, especially in building local capacity, developing the local market infrastructure and opening up linkages to outside markets – and as your partners in the job creation initiatives. We have continued our giant steps in improving our urban environment of business locations – through environmental renewals and relocation of services that improve entrepreneurship. That is why we have been doing the massive work of the drainage of Aba – from the General Hospital through CKC, Old Court School road to East road, and down to Aba River. This is our attempt to provide a permanent solution to the flood menace of Aba, which once lead to the popular Ndiegoro flood disaster that made Dr Sam Mbakwe, Governor of Imo State to cry publicly for our State.
We are equally working on other big drainage in Aba – from Okigwe road Primary School through Aba Sports’ Club, to Margaret Avenue – down to Aba River. At the same time, the rehabilitation of the internal roads in Ariaria International Market is almost 95% completed and a new market now planned for Ukwa to be located at Umudiofia in Ukwa West LGA, so as to ease the pressure on the central markets in Aba Metropolis.
Our Government has also handed over some schools to the original owners, and this is aimed at improving the standard of education in our State. Meanwhile we have continued to support, rebuild and renovate many of our school buildings to improve the environment for learning, especially the former Annunciation Secondary School, Isuikwuato, the Government College Umuahia, Umuochaiam Girls High School Abayi, Aba, Ndume Otuka Secondary School, Umuahia, and many others.
Another major area of our focus in our Legacy transformational agenda has been in providing adequate housing for our civil service workers and other citizens in line with the millennium development goals. Our gigantic secretariat complexes are at completion stage, and work at the Administrative building of our Ministry of Justice is now completed and at landscaping stage. The Broadcasting House at the Premises of BCA is also completed, with its state-of-the art studio digitalized.
We have also completed the construction of 4 houses at the permanent site of the NYSC camp in Umunna, and a massive theatre hall nearing completion at the Abia State University Teaching Hospital Aba; four more new duplexes delivered at the Commissioners’ quarters, and six court- room buildings renovated at Aba and Umuahia.
Our Housing Estate at Amokwe has been completed and occupied, while the Isieke Housing Estate is progressing very well. The new Amuba People’s Estate being built in partnership with Aso Savings and Investment is on-going, while our partnership with Trade-More Holding Co in the building of a housing estate close to the new Umuahia Market at Ubani Ibeku has commenced. The building of Ohobo housing estate located at the former timber market site has also commenced. These are all aimed at providing affordable houses for our civil servants and others.
We have also not forgotten our promise to revive the moribund Golden Guinea Ltd, Umuahia, and I wish to assure you that this promise is still on course, especially as that project has ability to create massive jobs for our people.
Also in the past year, the Legislative Arm of our government has performed very well, both in legislative out-put and in terms of capital projects. The main legislative complex has been reconstructed and an additional administrative building completed, while a new 24 room constituency offices for legislators is nearing completion, and the residence for the Deputy Speaker has also been completed and occupied.
My fellow Abians, I have taken this pain to keep you abreast of the activities of our Government in the delivery of democracy dividends, not to stress you, but to emphasize that our Government has been able to take the State this far, only through the prudent management of our lean resources, and without recourse to the bond market. This certainly calls for some celebration!
I also wish to use the opportunity to make it apparent to you why our State Infrastructural Development Board and Fund, deserves the support of our citizens through your willingly contributing to your taxes and infrastructure levies to improve our State’s internally generated revenue (IGR), which will assist us further in providing the services that Abians need. This will be your worthy sacrifice to changing the face of our State!
My good people of Abia State, before I end this speech, I need to re-emphasize that our Government will not relent in our sincere approach to solving the many problems of our State. But, no one should fail to recognize the major impediments to the development our State, which revolve around past delayed responses to deteriorating issues and the absence of enduring foundations, which were in the past left to fester and develop to wide ugly gulfs.
That is why our new Government in the past two years commenced the foundation of our legacy projects as a response to achieving the sustainable development and the mending-process, in which a majority of our citizens can be carried along in unity as co-partners in the Stat’s development.
For our Government, I want to assure all Abians that we will not shy away from doing the difficult task of repositioning our State and taking it to the next level, and making the difference. I only ask for your continuous support and patience.
In the next two years to the end of our tenure, we commit to redouble our efforts so as to complete all on-going legacy projects. We also expect to draw from all the strength, and all the experience we have garnered in life and in office to better serve Abians.
I believe that with the confidence that Abians and most Nigerian daily impact on me through the recognition of our modest and honest efforts, which have come in many droves; and the genuine criticisms we receive from many of you and other Nigerians; as well as the strong loyalties of many of you out there, I can re-assure you that I will do whatever is right, and whatever is best to serve Abia State and leave a legacy of sustainable growth, peace, democracy and development.
I am aware of the enormous challenges of governance in Abia State, but our Government has the resolve, the discipline and the focus to turn around our collective fortunes, and leave Abia State better than we found it.
God helping me, I and my Government will not fail Abians, we will not fail our party the PDP, and we will not fail our Nation!
Thank you for listening and enjoy a happy democracy day!