Abia State is making studied, calculated efforts and taking bold steps to ensure that it takes its rightful place as Nigeria’s number one state from all angles of evaluation and assessment. The administration of Governor Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu since he assumed office in 2015 has been driving development in the state so that people in all parts of the state feel the impact of government and governance. Thirty years after its creation in July 1991, the people are set to celebrate a government that attends to the yearnings of its people.
The government’s focus is on having an inclusive government that takes care of the needs and the wellbeing of every segment of the society in the state. It strives to run an open door administration where every community gets equal opportunity on developmental issues and every corner of the state gets the opportunity to enjoy the benefits derivable from the government.
The Okezie Ikpeazu administration since 2015 has been spreading the benefits and dividends of democracy to the citizens and communities of the state in infrastructure development, education including artisan vocational education, youth empowerment, security, provision of potable water, and urban renewal.
Abia is geared towards re-building the epicenter of Igbo entrepreneurial excellence so that the state again becomes a veritable investment destination as it used to be in years past. With this in mind, the state’s potentials are being harnessed and integrated into the global matrix and value chain of production, goods, services, trade and commerce. Altogether and as can be attested to, the state investment outreach has attracted over 25 blue-chip investors from various sectors, local and international.
The Abia State government’s clear choice is to resume its position as a premier business destination. As fillip to this, the Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu administration has embarked on an iconic transformational project to develop the Enyimba Economic City, an investment of about N500 billion. About 9,300 acres of land spanning three local government areas has been mapped out for the project. It is targeted to create 1.5 million jobs in 10 years. Already, key anchor tenants have been attracted for the Enyimba Economic City.
The City will provide a serviced area that will integrally take care of marketing, warehousing, logistics, industrial and ancillary services. There will also be residences, schools, hospitals, entertainment facilities, and such others as needed. It would also come with incentives to attract local and international companies. The existing partnership with the Africa Export-Import (AFREXIM) Bank will boost the expectation of being able to take the manufactured goods into the export market, and establish a certification centre to enhance acceptability of the products in the export market.
Abia State is undeniably the Pan-African business hub in Nigeria. The impact made by small-scale business people in Aba, the state’s business epic centre, earned the city the moniker as “Japan of Africa”. The products of these micro-industrial concerns are sold all over Nigeria and abroad. For people from every part of Nigeria and the West-Africa sub-region Aba is still their priority market. It has been a major boost for the economy of Abia state all these years. The state government is working to ensure Aba continues to play that role now and in the future. Just about 100.000 ‘Made-in-Aba’ jobs and another 70,000 ancillary jobs have already been created. Opening Aba for business is a done deal. Vast business opportunities are up for grabs with incentives the state government is providing.
In Aba, Eziukwu Road, beginning from Factory Road down to Okigwe Road roundabout has been fully repaired and given a complete facelift. Milverton Avenue, the hub from where various transport companies conveying people to different parts of the country, has been well constructed as reported. Even Chisco Link road, adjoining Milverton Avenue and Ojike Lane, which is short in length, has also been repaired, and tarred.
Before, the entry of the Okezie administration in Abia State in 2015, there was no single good access road into Aba from all the major entry-exit flanks. All major organized private sector organizations that had hitherto driven growth and employment in the city had exited when brigands took over the city. Major manufacturing firms such Nigerian Breweries, PZ, Lever Brothers, International Equitable Association, and many others had either closed down their operations in Aba or massively downgraded production. Since assuming office, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has tirelessly worked hard to reverse the trend through deliberate actions to save small and medium enterprises in the city from the challenges of lack of power, absence of automation, near zero capital availability and loss of market share for Made-in-Aba products. Because of improved security in the city, there has been massive inflow of investments even by first time investors who had no previous relationship with Aba or Abia. Aba is now home to Chicken Republic, Dominos, Market Place and a digital cinema house. Other similar businesses had closed shop or left Aba over insecurity issues which Governor Ikpeazu has addressed. As at now about 25 blue chip investors are already in the state enjoying the safe and secured environment made possible by the proactive steps taken by the state government.
In the area of infrastructure development, the state government is improving road network round the state with improved access to key commercial areas with the construction and rehabilitation of road networks. Over 180 roads have been constructed with rigid pavement technology, including the complete construction and commissioning of the Nkporo–Abriba highway.
The Collective Interest Group Abia (CIGA), a development advocacy group committed to supporting development initiatives that impact the lives and overall wellbeing of the citizens of Abia state has commended the efforts of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu in uplifting the lives of Abia citizens and the residents of the state.
CIGA spokesman Ogbonnaya Ekwebelem said: “It is commendable that our governor is in the right direction to achieve all his stated strategic objectives which were laid out when he assumed office.
With its mantra of inclusive government, the government has extended development to other communities. For instance, a new bridge has been constructed at Okonu Afia, Ohafia to ease movement for people in that axis of the state. Also, the bridge at Umunneochi has been realigned and powered with solar lighting.
In the provision of potable water to the people of the state, the government is revitalising 52 water schemes in the state. Governor Ikpeazu has promised to install streetlights along roads in Umuahia, Aba and Ohafia. The people believe him and trust him to make the promise a reality.
The government believes so much in the environmental beauty of the state and has been investing resources to achieve optimum results. Massive cleanup efforts have been undertaken to sanitize cities in the state and promote cleaner environment. Mitigation efforts have been undertaken to put an end to perennial flooding in Aba where shacks and illegal installations causing obstruction to the sewage grid including the infamous School Road Aba have been cleared.
In the area of artisan vocational education, the government has embarked on the establishment of trade centres for professional education including carpentry, masonry, tiling, house wiring, plumbing, and others to enhance job creation, skills development and empowerment for the people to be economically independent.
The Governor Okezie Ikpeazu administration in Abia State has boosted vocational education and its skills acquisition program Government with the resuscitation of three moribund technical schools. Already, construction work has started at the permanent site of the Abia Polytechnic, Osisioma. The governor has provided adequate support for the development of the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) ICT Skill Acquisition Centre, Osieke. The centre has commenced the training of youths and the government provided incentives for pioneer students. The first 125 students will receive N25,000 monthly stipends as promised by the governor.
Under the Universal Basic Education (UBE) scheme, the Okezie Ikpeazu administration in Abia State has launched a pilot project to feed 30,000 primary school pupils three times a week in 10 local council areas. The pupils are to be fed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
The ‘Friends of Abia Schools Adoption Initiative (FASAI)’ is being leapfrogged into prominence. The project was launched to mobilize funds for the renovation of dilapidated primary schools. Through this initiative, primary schools in the 17 local government areas are receiving facelift and upgraded to provide a conducive learning environment for both pupils and teachers.
In education, the strategic objective is to promote the emergence of Abia State as an education hub/destination, home to Nigeria’s largest private school hub, the State with the best-managed public education sector in Nigeria and the first-choice education location for South-East and South-South Nigerian families. To achieve this, the government is relying on laid-down strategies. These include: encouraging and promoting private sector investment; reforming public school system to achieve improved quality of outputs; reviewing the school curriculum at all levels with a view to enhancing them without deviating from nationally accepted minimums with particular emphasis on vocational education and special needs learning.
The improved and consistent top performance of candidates from Abia State in national examinations speaks to the quality of the state’s educational system. Outstanding success was recorded in the 2015 May/June West African School Certificate Examinations (WAEC) with students from the Southeast emerging top in the performance chart of candidates. Abia State topped the chart with 33,762 of its 52, 801 candidates getting five credits and above, thereby scoring 63.94 per cent.
Abia State has opened up the space also in the area of youth empowerment. For instance, over 200 former unemployed youths are working with the Abia State Traffic Management Agency. These youths have been taken off the streets and become gainfully employed. As a result, crime rate in the state has drastically reduced
Urban renewal initiatives are also being undertaken around the state. The Abia State government has a robust relationship with Ford Foundation which sponsored the Aba Urban Development Summit. Governor Ikpeazu’s is hastening Aba’s urban renewal drive by providing mapping, planning, and technical support for the development of a new city master plan.
Mr Nwokolo writes from Abia State.