All praise and thanks to God Almighty who has kept us all alive to witness this historic day. Today, we usher in a new beginning, a new epoch and a renewed opportunity to cement our legacy in the annals of posterity.
My brother Ude Oko Chukwu and I, will not be performing this ceremony today but for the love and support of the people of Abia State, expressed in their voting massively to return us to continue to pilot the ship of Abia State. I therefore begin this address by conveying my unreserved gratitude to the entirety of Ndi Abia and residents of Abia State for this honour you have seen fit to bestow on me. I remain eternally grateful and the onus is now on me to judiciously utilize this opportunity given to me and I give my word that I will not let you all down.
The elections naturally came with some bad blood and animosity but it is the nature of electioneering the world over and I do not take anything that transpired personal. As has always been my belief, we must be able and willing to separate electioneering from governance. Electioneering ends once a winner has been declared and governance begins. I am Governor, not just of those who voted for me, but of all Abians and residents of Abia State. My mandate is for all and I shall do right to all. It is on that note that I wish to once again call on all those who contested the Governorship elections with me to come and join hands with me so that together, we can work for the benefit of Abians.
1ST TERM REVIEW
Beloved Abians, upon our swearing in for our first term in 2015, we set out a number of areas we had identified as keys that will enable us unlock the full potentials of Abia State and enable us play to our advantages. We identified 5 Pillars of Education, Agriculture, Commerce, Industry and Oil and Gas as focal points that we believed if properly harnessed, holds potentials for unlocking the growth and development of Abia State. We also distilled Enablers from these Pillars to include Security, Education, Health, Infrastructure, Ease of Doing Business and Tax Reforms.
I will attempt to give us a progress report on where we are on some of these projects and thereafter, acquaint us on our projections for the 2nd term for the Igbos say that knowing where you are coming from helps you know how to get to your destination.
EDUCATION – It gives me joy to report to you that our state has remained a beacon of educational excellence in Nigeria.
• For 4 years running now, we have retained the 1st position in the West African Senior Schools Certificate Examinations while the students with the best and second best results in the 2019 JAMB results are students schooling in Abia State.
• We have undertaken comprehensive training and retraining of over 1,500 teachers at all levels and partnered with Australian Educators to expose them to international best standards of tutelage. Some of our teachers are about to visit Australia for advanced refresher courses in various subjects.
• We have undertaken the renovation of 304 Primary Schools and 68 Secondary Schools all-round the State in addition to piloting the construction of 4 Model Secondary Schools leading to modern learning environments for our pupils and students. Incidentally, there are still many schools that yearn for attention in our system and that will constitute a cardinal agenda in the years ahead.
• We pioneered the comprehensive feeding of school children in Abia State under our Free School Meal Program that ensures that pupils from Primary 1-6 in our Primary schools are fed one meal per day every school day in Abia State.
• Our Education for Employment Program has ensured that technical and vocational education is prioritized in Abia State leading to the establishment of a Labour Market Information System that has over 35,000 Abia Youths Registered in our Database with skills for different sectors.
Abia State has always been renowned as an agrarian state and the centre of agricultural activities in the Igbo heartland. Our land is fertile and most crops germinate even without assisted soil nutrition. In the four years under review, we were able to:
• Launch large scale mushroom production and training program that is already yielding great results and attracting requests for support from other states. Many young Abians have been trained and are currently engaged in large-scale commercial mushroom production.
• We are also actively supporting rice farmers in Abia State to further boost production and put more of our highly nutritious ‘Abia Rice’ in the market.
• We have in the same vein engaged in a massive Palm planting campaign which has so far seen us planting over 4 Million Tenera specie palm seedlings across the state. Our target is to plant 7.5m seedlings by the end of 2020 and we are on course.
• We have also provided mechanized farming equipment across the state through leasing at affordable rates.
• Still on agriculture, our enhanced poultry and fish production has yielded great results with 100 poultry pens of 2,000 birds each established across the State.
• We constructed a massive 165,000-birds capacity poultry processing plant at Umuosu Nsulu in Abia Central Senatorial Zone. Additional two units for Abia North and South are currently under construction.
INDUSTRY AND COMMERCE
The area of promotion of our local trade and commerce industry is one area we have recorded remarkable impact in our 1st tenure. We launched the Made In Aba Campaign which has opened new local and international vistas of opportunities for our producers and creative industry in Aba. Some of our milestones in this field include:
• The attraction of over N3B in direct orders into Aba leading to the creation of 600,000 new jobs in over 300,000 locations around the state.
• Seamless interface with the Federal Government which has enabled the Aba production hub to be in the centre of every Micro Small and Medium Scale Enterprises conversation in Nigeria and beyond.
• Capacity building for Aba producers by taking them to Turkey, Brazil, China, South Africa, Gambia, Rwanda, United States of America and Egypt to learn modern skills in leather and garment production and opening new markets for them.
• Interface with the Federal Government for the supply of uninterrupted power to 35,000 shops at the Ariaria International Market and surrounding locations.
• Procurement of full automated shoe production line from China in readiness for the imminent commencement of operation of the Abia Automated Shoe Factory in Aba.
• Attracting the setting up of the NIBRA Shoe Factory at Obuaku
• Working with the new core investors to ensure the revitalization of Golden Guinea Breweries Plc.
• We are confident that a combination of these milestones will culminate in decent job opportunities for our youths.
My Dear Abians, in the area of infrastructural development, we have exhibited uncommon determination and focus. Our approach was the opening up of key arteries feeding commercial traffic in and out of the city of Aba. This was key to galvanizing commercial activities in Aba which has a proven positive effect on the overall economy of Abia State. We also tackled major roads in Umuahia, our capital city and key agricultural conveyance roads in our rural areas.
To date, we have completed 76 roads and 5 Bridges while we are active on 96 other roads at various stages of completion along with an interchange at Osisioma. Time will not permit me to reel out all the roads we have done at this juncture but permit me to state that we have been deliberate in our approach to road construction by first understanding the issues surrounding each road before commencing construction.
We were very deliberate about our decision to open up the roads in Aba as they were in-roads that ventilated our markets and businesses in Aba and reopened them to inter-state and international clientele. We also had to creatively work on the Ifeobara pond to solve the flood problem on Faulks Road and Ariaria Market by extension before building the road. Today, the engineering feat recorded there is still a reference point in road construction.
We dredged the waterside at Ogbor Hill, Aba because we knew it was going to be the major recipient of storm water from the roads we would be constructing and if we do not solve the drainage problem, our roads wouldn’t last. We also deployed double drainages on all our roads and the rigid pavement technology. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I am proud to say today that the roads we have done have lasted from the first 100 days of our administration till now and I give a firm guarantee that they will outlive my tenure.
We have equally fared creditably well in promoting our other enablers including Health, Education, Security, Ease of Doing Business and Tax Reforms.
The Health sector is one area we have stamped our mark and rolled out a number of innovative policies .We have resuscitated the long-moribund General Hospital in Aba as well as opened a new General Hospital at Obingwa.
Other General Hospitals at Okeikpe, Ikwuano, Nkporo and Arochukwu are nearing completion. We have acquired and deployed state-of-the art Mobile Hospital Ambulances in strategic locations around the state for Emergency Medical Services. We have interfaced with the Federal Ministry of Health and Global Partners for various Health Support Projects. For our senior citizens, we have rolled out our Free Geriatric Health Program and topped it with our novel Tele-Health Initiative.
In Ease of doing business, I was in Abuja last month to receive the award won by Abia State as one of the 5 most-improved states in Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria presented by the Vice President on behalf of the World Bank. We have continued to develop our tax policies to eliminate touting, crude and sharp practices and to ensure that every tax paid in Abia State gets into government coffers.
Recent World Bank Studies have revealed the nexus between basic education and societies with minimal criminal rate. Therefore, the question agitating our mind as we take a fresh mandate include:
• Do we have schools that need renovation?
• Do we need to monitor proliferation of schools and work out quality of teachers in our educational system?
• In health, while sustaining our strides in the health sector, do we need fully functional healthcare centres in Abia State?
• Do we need a functional kidney transplant centre?
• Do we need to continue the renovation of our secondary health facilities?
• What about sustaining our geriatric free medical outreach?
The answer to the above questions is an unequivocal Yes!! And these and many more will occupy our time within the next 3 years.
Beloved Abians, it is with a high sense of responsibility that I am therefore rededicating my services to you all my employers. And I stand here to pledge that I am ready to do more and I shall give my best to the service of this state. We have taken note of areas we fell short and ran an internal review of our processes with a view towards adjusting our systems to deliver better quality of service. We have noted areas we got it wrong and we are committed to make amends.
The primary focus of our administration for the next four years will be consolidating on the achievements of our first tenure, completing all our ongoing projects and creating avenues for our teeming youths to have jobs and be self-sufficient. We are poised to create over One Million jobs before our tenure is over. Our administration is a trans-generational one. We will meet the needs of today while ensuring we lay solid foundations for the tomorrow of our children.
We will continue to run on our 5 Pillars of Development and their Enablers and they will remain our guiding principle for our policy formulations and plans going forward. Let me also pledge that we will complete all projects that we started before our tenure ends in addition to all the new projects we are determined to execute this 2nd term.
We will touch places we are yet to touch and directly or indirectly, substantial communities in Abia State will feel the presence of our administration before the end of our 2nd tenure.
Abia State has become a better corporate citizen in the comity of States. We are now respected and appreciated as the SME Capital of Nigeria and even beyond as we have taken our advocacy to other African and Western Countries and they have all taken note. The World bank is collaborating with Abia State in the area of Water, Sanitation and Rural Infrastructure. This added impetus will begin to yield fruits before the end of 2019 and our people will be better for it. Even in Foreign Direct Investments, Aba and Abia State is the new prime destination.
ENYIMBA ECONOMIC CITY
Ndi Abia, you have heard me talk over the past few months about the Enyimba Economic City. This will be the legacy of our administration. Our flagship project. The signpost of the size of our vision. Enyimba Economic City is spread over 9,800 Hectres of massive Industrial Area spanning 3 LGAs of Ugwunagbo, Ukwa East and Ukwa West.
650,000 jobs will be created, 300,000 units of urban housing will be built, 1.5M people will live and work there, 2,000 industrial/business units will be established there and an annual value output of $5B will be realized in the city. The pointer to the value of this project is that the Federal Government of Nigeria has invested into it by taking 20% equity worth N100B. The ripple effect of that project on the rest of Abia State is better imagined. This project will succeed. This is my pledge to Ndi Abia. So help us God. I would like to at this juncture, thank President Muhammadu Buhari for looking beyond partisan political lines to give his full blessing to this project. As a people, we are eternally grateful. Thank you Mr. President.
May I also wholeheartedly acknowledge the Hon. Minister for Industries, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah who I proclaim a worthy Abian for his painstaking efforts in ensuring the realization of the Enyimba Economic City Project.
Some of our other exciting projects are:
• The NIBRA Shoe Factory, Obuaku, Ukwa West LGA for which foundation stone has been laid and NEXIM Bank has committed $10Million.
• The Abia Automated Shoe Factory, Aba for which the equipments required have already arrived Aba.
• The Heritage City Project, Owerrinta, Isialangwa South LGA – the first Smart City in Abia State with facilities for light-manufacturing, education hub, services, residential area and Diaspora Village where Abians in the Diaspora are invited to take up allocations and commence development.
• We are developing the Umuahia Agro-Industrial Cluster to handle cassava, oil palm, cocoa, Rice and cashew processing in the 1st phase with potential of creating over 1m jobs along the value chain.
• We will prioritize aesthetic mordernisation of key landmarks in the city of Aba and Umuahia and improve on our environmental sanitation outlooks.
I would therefore love to use this opportunity to call on our brothers who have been blessed with the wherewithal, residing in other parts of Nigeria and in the Diaspora to start looking towards establishing solid investments here in Abia State.
It is an established truism that there is no place like home and with the work we are doing to industrialize the State, I assure you that now is the best time to set up businesses in Abia State.
Beloved Abians, I acknowledge a number of challenges that have dogged us for some time now chiefly the issue of outstanding wages and other emoluments to certain categories of workers in Abia State. I want to assure you that we have taken steps to address the challenge head-on and it will soon be a thing of the past. I wish to commend the affected workers and pensioners for their patience so far and assure them that we are not unmindful of their pains while assuring them that a solution is imminent.
We have also devised means to ensure that we re-organize under-performing parastatals and agencies that owe staff salaries. We need the cooperation of all citizens to place Abia State where it needs to be. Some difficult decisions will be taken in terms of security, civil service reforms and systemic reorganizations and I ask for the understanding of those who may be adversely affected by the fallout of some of our reforms.
Let me at this juncture express my appreciation to all those who have worked tirelessly to support our administration from inception till date. We will forever owe a debt of gratitude to the immediate past Governor of Abia State, Senator T.A. Orji, Ochendo for his fatherly guidance and his insistence on equity when it mattered most. Abia has joined the league of egalitarian states that enjoy peace between the State Government and Federal Elected and Appointed representatives. In the same vein, we have enjoyed relative peace between the Governor and his Deputy, the Legislature, the Judiciary, Elderstatesmen and most importantly, profound peace between God and his children, UmuAbia.
My Deputy, Rt. Hon. Ude Oko Chukwu has been a dependable ally and brother and I could not have chosen a better running mate. I thank the other Senators and Members of the House of Representatives from Abia State for each doing their best to attract projects to Abia State which has helped the State to develop. Mr. Speaker and Members of the 6th Abia State House of Assembly have been partners in progress. I thank you. My Lord the Chief Judge of Abia State and Members of the Judiciary have stabilized the polity and ensured law and order.
I thank our Party, the Peoples Democratic Party, for availing us of their platform to contest elections and serve our people. I thank the founding fathers and Elders of Abia State for standing by our administration and for their invaluable parental guidance. I thank all the Political Office Holders who have worked with us in different categories from inception of our administration till date.
I also wish to thank our Traditional Rulers, the Clergy, My Lords Spiritual and Temporal, Abians in the Diaspora, Captains of Industry, Our Chambers of Commerce, Security Agencies, the Academia, The State Head of Service, Permanent Secretaries and all categories of workers in Abia State, Women and Youth Groups, Town Unions and indeed, Abians of all persuasions.
Last but not the least, I wish to thank my dearly beloved wife, Dcns. Nkechi Carol Ikpeazu and my children for giving me a calm home which has enabled me focus and concentrate on my assignment.
Let me also pay tribute to our comrades with whom we started this journey who are no longer with us today. I say may their souls continue to rest in peace.
Distinguished Abians, as you all know, I have made it a point of duty to maintain a steady line of communication with you my employers to keep you updated on what we are doing with the mandate you gave to us. I have held 64 Live Radio Phone-in Programmes and 26 Town Hall Meetings across the State and abroad to explain what we are doing and elicit your feed backs. We shall sustain and even improve upon this practice that enables us connect directly with the grassroots in our 2nd Term.
My beloved brethren, all thanks and praise to God the Father Almighty. And may He keep us in His grace and guide us on this journey. May He, through us, do wondrous things for his people in Abia State that His name may be glorified forever and ever. Amen.
I thank you all for listening. This is the beginning of a new season. Abia ga na adi mma ruo mgbe ebighi ebi. Ya maara unu mma. Obughi mu ji onwemo…
Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, Ph.D
May 29, 2019