Wednesday, 18 May, 2022

thenewnigerian

The State and the working Governor


The creation of Ebonyi state, salt of the Nation on 29th May 1996 with Abakaliki as the capital has yielded the fruits of indigenous political engineering for genuine development.

The first to mount the saddle in the governance of the state was Navy Capt. Walter Feghabo (Rtd). His administration laid a good foundation for the take-off of the young state. He was succeeded by AIG Simeon Oduoye (Rtd) who presided over the transition of the state from military to a civilian administration in 1999. Dr. Sam Ominiyi Egwu became the first elected Governor on the 29th of May 1999.

His eight years of administration provided the much-needed tonic towards the holistic transformation of the state. Chief Martin Nwanchor  Elechi was sworn in on 29th May 2007 as the second civilian Governor of the state. He governed for another eight years and brought the further transformation of the state.

On May 29th, 2015, Engr. David Nweze Umahi was inaugurated as the third Executive Governor of Ebonyi State, within a few years of his administration there has been an uncommon transformation taking place in all the indispensable sectors in the state.

Ebonyi has come a long way, from being the least in terms of infrastructural as well as Human Capital Development, fast forward to the present,  is celebrated all over due to the Development strides of the Engr. David Nweze Umahi led  administration.

Many still doubt the stories they hear about the State, labeling it mere media hype. There are also those who have taken the time to travel down to Ebonyi to see things for themselves. Below is an excerpt from a critique turned believer, Mcginger  Ibeneme (MBBS)

He went to Medical School here in Abakiliki, Ebonyi State. He knows the terrains and won’t easily forget the red dust that covered the roads. It was a shock  finding, years after he had left the ugly experiences behind,  only to travel back to EBONYI State

Finally, Hope Comes to Ala Igbo as he excitedly writes.

 

On the 24th April 2020, a driver set on a journey to Ebonyi State from Ore in Ondo State southwest, Nigeria. An indigene of Ebonyi who takes passengers to and fro the state regularly, due to the national lockdown at the time he could not find passengers promptly so he camped in Parks for about 11days. On that faithful day, he had a few passengers that were trying to move back to their home state from Lagos, the lockdown had closed sources of income and hunger pangs pushed them to begin their journey towards home.

They beat all the interstates checkpoints over a four days travel until they got to the Enugu – Ebonyi border near Nkalagu were the active state border surveillance team picked them up and moved them to the quarantine center at the stadium. Their samples were collected and dispatched to the Virology Laboratory at Alex Ekwueme University Teaching Hospital Abakaliki 2.

A day later the test results showed that the driver was positive to COVID 19, marking the index case in the state.

By the 28th of April, the NCDC constituted a five-man Technical Support Team of RRT to the state to cover Case Management, Infection Prevention and Control, Surveillance, and Risk Communication, led by a FELTIP graduate. A consultant Public Health Physician and British trained MPH holder was put in charge of IPC , whereas I was to take care of Case Management.

 

I was happy to work in my former abode Abakaliki having done medical school at Ebonyi State University Teaching Hospital, and worked in then FMC and EBSUTH. I knew a lot of people and some people in government were personal friends including the Workaholic Commissioner for Health who is now commissioner for Grants.

But I had a grouse in my heart against the Governor. It was in the wake of his altercation with the press and I had made several scathing posts on social media against him. I meant to avoid him but to somehow get enough first-hand information to write stinkers against him as soon as I left the state.

So I engaged my guys often on things happening in the state and how the Governor performed. Surprisingly they mostly said he was doing well especially on infrastructure. “Yes I know about that but they are mostly white elephant projects I argued” . He was autocratic and arrogant. Well, my friends didn’t think so except a few appointees who only complained that money is not flowing like before …”. Well, that part doesn’t interest me. What is exactly is Dave doing?

Dr. Ben Umezuruike (not the commissioner, he’s from my state Enugu) tried so hard to tell me about the lofty dreams of His Excellency and how he has gone far in actualizing them, I still argued strongly about his attitude and how possibly he was doing all those projects probably just to be able to siphon funds which are normal with our politicians. However I noted that Ebonyi had the lowest debt margins and received the lowest allocation in the whole southeast, but the projects I saw were everywhere. The transformation I witnessed was just not adding up to my initial view. When I raised the issue of the International Airport with a friend, he tried to give me an insight into the thoughts behind the building of the international airport. I would still not have it. How could Ebonyi be building an airport amidst poverty? How many people travel from the state? Who would use the airport when Anambra is building, Enugu has upgraded, Calabar has, Asaba has? But when I grasped the ambitious development drive of the governor and the strategic citing of his projects, I had a rethink.

This geared me in a lot of ways to travel around the state to see things for myself while also doing my job. I can only say that alas there is hope for Igbo land , ironically from a look down on,  Ebonyi state.

 

The government has embarked on a gigantic intentional development journey targeting export and trade of agro products and minerals , import of products, industrialization in food processing and packaging, and health tourism.

The Ebonyi International Shopping Mall.

This explains why he is investing hugely in healthcare infrastructure, international market, international shopping mall, ecumenical/ international conference center, international airport, modern motor parks, agriculture hubs, exotic city beautification, and landmark tourism spots.

A while ago I made two controversial posts on my social media pages :

  1. Dave Umahi should be made the governor of the whole southeast, the others can be Local Government Chairmen at best
  2. After witnessing the scope of development happening simultaneously in Ebonyi you may be tempted to ask your state Governor “ where the hell is all our money ?”

I am gonna try to justify these statements with some details of what I saw or found out or was told in Ebonyi State.

I took my time to interact with different persons to garner my information, commissioners, other state actors , transporters, ordinary citizens in the streets, opposition politicians, etc and I drew my own conclusions.

Working in the field with the tireless commissioner for health and the state epidemiologist, exposed to me first hand the healthcare structures of the state. Interacting with the commissioner for information gave me in-depth data and principles behind many of the projects. This commissioner is petit but restless, he never goes home from work and any opportunity is for image-making. He loves to talk about the works of his principal.

However, the state official that won my heart over is the SSG. I knew this gentleman when he worked at the state university but never really got close to him. He was at some point the commissioner for border security,  but is built to be SSG. A seasoned technocrat with erudite diplomatic dispositions, humble calm, and firm. The SSG is incorrigible.

I never asked him direct questions or tried to engage him exclusively to obtain information. We merely met in the line of our duties and he was able to within that window expose me to the manifesto of the government. It became obvious to me that some of their failings were actually acts of sabotage by some appointees who are only out for their pockets or too indolent or unfit to do their job. The man is a treasure to the state, nobody else has as much passion and grip of the agenda of the governor as he does.

Long before the index case, the NCDC routinely sent advance teams to Ebonyi to assess the level of preparedness for the advancing epidemic and they gave a high score to the state.

The state structure was five isolation (treatment) centers for confirmed cases, holding centre for sample collections, quarantine centre for holding persons of interest for the period of 14 days, and an active border and community surveillance.

The idea is to try as much as possible to stop the entry of the disease into the state by picking any cases up from the border and isolating them from the community.

This worked well for a period leading to the arrest of the first 10 cases all persons entering into the state from outside. However along the line, there was a surge, occasioned by the relaxation of lockdown and before we knew it, the cases were climbing again. The state however continues to test much more than most other states, they ambitiously generate over 100 samples per day and pursue case surveillance and contact tracing dutifully. In fact, the support of the state government to the laboratory has helped the neighboring eastern states in their own testing. Naturally, NCDC identifies with the state and promptly comes to their assistance. I guess the Governor wanted to achieve the same feat the state did with Lassa which turned it to a center for excellence together with the Specialist Hospital Irrua.

  • L171 wards have a primary healthcare system
  • 13 LGA has general hospitals, some by the last government. Umahi completed and equipped all.
  • State-owned teaching hospital cratering terminal diseases targeting health tourism.
  • Emergency hospital at AEFETHA
  • Completed construction of college of nursing and midwifery
  • College of health Mgbo In Ohaukwu LGA
  • Training and retraining of health officials

The Governor set up a committee whose charge was to prepare Ebonyi to be a centre of excellence for curing COVID19. They selected places for isolation at Fetha 2 , Unity square and Nkalagu, and suggested equipment, and by the 24th day of March 2020 index case landed.

He released and rolled out programs and proclamations on regulations and precautionary measures that the government would adopt to avoid escalation of the disease in the state. He also identified and sent people to control the borders headed by the commissioner for border security where returnees and persons of interest are picked up, placed in quarantine, and tested to ensure they are not coming in with COVID, the first 10 cases were people who had returned.

At the ward level he established Health Watch comprising of 296 health-watch areas in the state for active surveillance and information gathering, sensitizing the people, making sure all precautionary measures were being applied and the compliance to the government directive of no social gathering etc manned by a task force financed and supervised by the state Task Force

At the DC level, all 39 have a task force that ensures all exit and entry points are manned, the host communities sensitized led by the coordinator of that DC.

At the LGA level, all state appointees headed by the LGA chairman also have a task force ensuring the compliance of the other task forces to make sure government regulations are enforced.

The States Anti Covid19 task force is headed by the Governor himself. Different sub-teams were created to oversee markets, essential services spots, public institutions headed by the Governor, Information dissemination and management headed by the commissioner for information through what they called the situation room which provides information and updates day and night.

The Governor sent a bill that was passed and called CoronaVirus Law and related matters 2020. Law number 005 to ensure that regulations and precautionary measures have the proper legal backing.

Ebonyi is the first State in the South East to have a quarantine and treatment centre . The virology lab helps as it is  the only lab in the South East. It has been the center of excellence for Lassa and that was what the governor tried to replicate with covid19 . He supports the lab with materials and moral boosting tools.

The government later decentralized the quarantine centres into 39 quarantine centers called Holding / Observation centers, one each for all the DCs. The idea is that returnees from hot zones are taken closer to their homes and quarantined for 14 days after initially testing negative. This is in part a fall out from the tension and outcry by individuals who do not understand the full intentions of the government but felt victimized in coming home to their own state. Being closer to home helped a lot to allay their fears. Being under the care of familiar persons if not relatives helped so much in calming things down.

On the other hand, it helped to relieve the pressure on the prior sole quarantine center which was at the stadium. While this place was big enough to admit large numbers of persons it had the challenge of crowd control at night as the sleeping areas were not as spacious as the sitting areas. Also, the conveniences were not adequate for the crowd that trooped in. I guess that the state was overwhelmed by the number of people that turned out.Once people got wind that the state took returnees in and kept them somewhat comfortable they opted to come home, by all means, to escape the hunger that most people experienced during the total lockdown. I remember the case of a family of 4 , a man, his wife, and 2 kids who returned from Lagos and were picked up near the border. He was a phone accessory dealer at Ajegunle who had to run home with his household after prolonged lockdown and threatened by hunger. He tested positive along with his wife and 1 of his sons being the only pediatric case at that time They were treated and discharged.

 

At the holding centres, samples are taken and sent to the virology laboratory for processing. This greatly also reduced the logistics of safely moving around large numbers of persons at a time. If anybody tests positive he or she is quickly and safely moved to the isolation center, while people who tested negative were discharged at the completion of the quarantine according to the latest NCDC / WHO guidelines.

The case management of the positive cases is handled in partnership with Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital Abakaliki (AEFETHA). The synergy of the state with the Federal Teaching Hospital is very obvious in this regard as most of the senior health officials of the federal teaching hospital are part of the response. The CMD practically runs the show hand in hand with the tireless commissioner for health. You would notice that even the CMAC and his deputy are all involved. The state case management team is led by Dr Nnenna Ajayi, a consultant in infectious disease. Dr Sunday Ucha is permanently on call.

The stadium quarantine centre is overseen by a Medical Doctor who is also the Commissioner for grants in the state and also a former Commissioner for health.

When my team sent by NCDC  arrived on 28/06/2020 we went into aggressive capacity building in the areas of surveillance, case management, IPC and Risk Communication and Social Mobilizations. We trained Healthcare workers, Security officialS,  traditional rulers, the clergy, staff of the quarantine facilities, market officials, border patrol personnel, government officials, and transporters.

  1. 8am – 6am curfew 
  2. No social gathering 
  3. Social distancing 
  4. Compulsory face mask outside the homes 
  5. Non harboring of POIs without notifying government 
  6. Informing of any suspected cases 

Being an engineer, Dave Umahi came into the leadership of his state with determination because Ebonyi State was adjudged to be one of the poorest states in southern Nigeria, both in infrastructure and poverty levels. So he came with a vision to improve the outlook of the State during his tenure. I can say this now because how else can you explain a state that embarks in hundreds of multibillion projects dotted everywhere at the same time, at different levels of completion?

Healthcare;

Dave has almost completed a brand new teaching hospital after the state transferred its teaching hospital to the federal government. This project at Uburu is targeted at housing centres for the treatment of terminal diseases like cancer, kidney diseases, transplants, high tech fertility, cosmetic surgery, and neurosurgery. The idea is to annex health tourism to Ebonyi state. This informed why he is overzealously building tourist structures from the city to the suburbs. He has also completed a Nursing and Midwifery school and also improved greatly, the School of Health technology. So the state plans to also train all cadres of healthcare workers to feed the international teaching hospital.

I visited the general hospitals sited in each local government which was completed and equipped and they were marvelous. The first was the Abakaliki general hospital Enenwevu which was upgraded and equipped to serve as a 150-bed isolation center already now admitting patients.

When it comes to roads the governor has developed a blueprint to link all the communities to the city via standard road networks. This is intended to help bring both people and agro products to the international market already completed. This would apparently boost agricultural output and supplies. He is building 25km roads per local government making it 325km roads linking all the 13 local governments to one another and to the state capital. This also includes the construction of bridges, 13 in all with 5 already completed. And they are no ordinary bridges. Dave Nweze’s government has also, in addition, built over 1500km of the road in the capital city, opening up areas that were previously slums. In fact, as someone who lived in Abakaliki for almost 20 years, I could hardly recognize certain areas! Ukwu Akpu used to be a slum but now inhabited by the rich also, kpirikpiri which was the run-down zone of Abakaliki has become totally urbanized, Mgbukobe, Azuiyiokwu, down Izza road.  The road type is novel too as he uses mostly concrete of 8 inches thickness with a 50-year guarantee extracted from the contractors. The solidity of this Construction works deserves a mention as, since 1999, Nigerian states resorted to building extremely poor quality roads that do not last but a few years before being washed out.

This working governor has also built several federal highways that had totally collapsed or required upgrading. Abakaliki Enugu Highway and Abakaliki afikpo highways are being dualized, Abakaliki Itigidi Highway and others totaling about 500km according to records. All the roads leading into the state have been or are being built. The LGA chairmen are also encouraged to do projects in their domains and they’ve adopted the concrete road system.

The state government proposed what they call Rural Access Road Projects which helped them secure a partnership with the world bank in building all the farm access roads linking the farms to the markets. This has helped in enhancing the economy of the state and trading of farm produce.

They also have what they call Ring Roads which are constructed to link the 39 Development centers and 3 senatorial zones which is about starting.

Urbanisation

The miracle of Dave Umahi is actually how he has turned sleepy Abakaliki into a marvel. During my days in the university at the state university, we called it Dust of The nation in mockery of the state slogan Salt of the nation, due to the dusty state capital back then. Today no state capital in southern Nigeria, not even Calabar and Enugu could geek at Abakaliki and this is no exaggeration.

The city is made aesthetic by beautiful road networks with portable flyovers.  Presco junction and Spera Indeo junctions have transformed into wonderful landmarks. The exceptional thing about Dave Nweze’s flyovers is that they’re not only a marvel to behold but very sturdy, all moving equipment is permitted to drive over them including tractors and cranes.

A modern look in the horizon for Ebonyi

There are four-way tunnels linking landmark structures in the city centre. With huge beautiful light bubbles at night giving the city a beautiful and radiant look at night time. They connect to the shopping mall which is the largest government-owned mall in the country with over 3000 shops, the ecumenical centre which is also the biggest government-owned ecumenical center in the country with 15000 capacity (bigger than the national ecumenical center Abuja),

The tunnel also leads to the international market which is the biggest in the South East warehousing over 5000 marketers.

The airport is fashioned after Abuja and Lagos and is a cargo airport. The intention is that as the international market opens to export and import and the teaching hospital has opened for health tourism, the airport would Carter for direct flights into and out of the state both ferrying goods away and bringing investors and tourists into the state. It sits in a 4/4 square km land with a runway of 3.5 km . Now this one interests me most because it was my major grouse just like many out there. I called it a white elephant project considering that Enugu and Calabar already have airports, why would Ebonyi invest huge sums into such a project? Information is key! The airport is targeted to help appreciate property in that area, provide direct and indirect jobs, create unrestricted and direct access in and out of the state making it easier for the target population to come for businesses and services while also helping to push the state up the ladder of development. It would also help drive the hospitality industry in that axis making the state a complete package for tourism and trade.I was convinced that whereas this is futuristic, it is also very strategic. The Governor is said to have already started making contacts with partners and investors as he took a team of Ebonyi businessmen to China and other countries to negotiate bilateral deals of export and import into the state. They intend to export farm produce and minerals mined in the state while importing other items from these countries.

Dave indeed does not wish Ebonyi to lose any spot in the trade value chain hence he is providing both the infrastructure and transportation.

Also to add to the tourism capacity of the state, the Governor has gone far in the construction of a state of the art sports stadium which would attract sporting events to the state.

Abakaliki is the cleanest capital city today in the country, it has thirteen water fountains all working perfectly on a daily basis scattered around the state. The biggest water fountain in Africa is located near the light tunnels. The intent obviously is to keep tourists and investors spellbound to the extent they would keep coming back and to stay respectively.

The state has created an enabling environment for investors and tourists in order to lunch the state into the committee of most developed states.

The biggest fertilizer plant in the southeast and south south of Nigeria with an optimal production capacity of 80 metric tons per hour which has the capacity to Carter completely for the fertilizer needs of the whole region has been built by Umahi. Confronted with the growing poverty rate and the embarrassing position the state occupies in the poverty index of the country, the Governor created a ministry of human capital development with full autonomy to push the ladder. He created a vocational college to train artisans, craftsmen, and technicians and also train people in different entrepreneurship. Graduates are supported by the state with grants and tools to start their trade. He also established what they call King David Gifted school which harvests the best brains at the secondary level between primary 6 and JSS 3. The strategy developed by the state for human capital development is 4 ways and holistic: financial empowerment, mental empowerment (ie training and retraining), and psychological empowerment ( provision of amenities that give the people modern life experiences) and moral empowerment through moral education to the people. It strives to make the people self-reliant through the provision of key empowerment programs. About 3000 people have benefited from this trading and were given N250,000 to take off. Also, about  5000 clergymen and women were empowered with N100,000 each to take up side jobs to reduce the burden on their communicants, they call it Second Address System , the state partners with the clergy to create moral empowerment while empowering the clergy and their communicants psychologically, mentally and financially, a symbiotic relationship.

The second address system also applies to civil servants to create multiple sources of income, the state gives them training and grants to this effect.

Also worried by the huge numbers of Ebonyi people who mostly do menial labour in other states the human capital development ministry moved out to train and empower this population, 500 Ebonyi people living in Lagos has so far received grants to improve their trades and they plan to do more as soon as the pandemic wanes. They call it a “street to skill empowerment program”. The state also shared 400 tricycles and gifted them to some people to boost transportation and create jobs. Recently the state procured 50 electric-powered tricycles given as empowerment to women. The street lights are powered without fail at 6pm to 6 every single day and this seemingly is only found in Ebonyi State.

I can go on and on but all of this is simply good work in progress.

In conclusion, the good governor Dave Umahi is working.

#PraiseNigeria

 

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