Wednesday, 15 July 2015

WE ARE EXPLORING NEW FRONTIERS OF DEVELOPMENT FOR ENUGU ~ GOV. UGWUANYI

Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi
Like every state in the Nigerian federation, the major obstacle to human and physical development of Enugu State is paucity of funds which became more pronounced in the drop in the monthly statutory allocation coming from the Federation Accounts caused by fall in global oil prices.

Coupled with inadequate Internal Generated Revenue (IGR) and rising wage bill, the state is in dire economic situation that task the ingenuity of a government that desires to make positive impact on the lives of the citizens. Although unlike many of its counterparts, the state is not burdened by unpaid workers’ salaries which in some states are as heavy as 8 months, for the state to function, new methods of doing things have to be devised to make it economically viable. The new government under the leadership of Rt. Hon. Chief Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has therefore started to put measures in place to block all avenues of waste in government expenditures, strengthen the economic base of the state to boost government finances and prioritize spending to have maximum impact on the people who according to the governor ‘invested their votes in us.’

Rt. Hon. Chief Ugwuanyi and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had during the campaigns that heralded the April 11 gubernatorial election, pledged to create a new lease of life for the people of Enugu at a time that the state government was embroiled in a controversy over management of public property and allegations of executive recklessness. The State House of Assembly was at a loggerhead with the governor, Barrister Sullivan Chime and towards the end of the last administration, governance was almost brought to a standstill with the legislature under lock and key and rumours of impeachment filling the air. But the Ugwuanyi administration decided to put the past behind and it and chart a new course of socio-economic development and the first step to achieve these aims was taken few days after the May 29 inauguration with the setting up of a 15-man Enugu State Economic Advisory Committee.

Governor Ugwuanyi and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had during the campaigns that heralded the April 11 gubernatorial election, pledged to create a new lease of life for the people of Enugu at a time that the state government was embroiled in a controversy over management of public property and allegations of executive recklessness. The State House of Assembly was at a loggerhead with the governor, Sullivan Chime and towards the end of the last administration, governance was almost brought to a standstill with the legislature under lock and key and rumours of impeachment filling the air. But the Ugwuanyi administration decided to put the past behind and it and chart a new course of socio-economic development and the first step to achieve these aims was taken few days after the May 29 inauguration with the setting up of a 15-man Enugu State Economic Advisory Committee. 

According to the governor who spoke at a media briefing last week, the committee was set up “to advise and guide the state government on the best economic policies that would help engender sustainable economic growth in the face of the present dwindling revenue.”
The committee was made up of high calibre personalities and these include the Vicar- General of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu, Monsignor Obiora Ike, who recorded successful entrepreneurial feats in the Diocese; former Minister of Power, Professor Barth Nnaji; Deputy Senate President, Chief Dr. Ike Ekweremadu; industry giant and Chairman of Innoson Group of Companies, Chief Innocent Chukwuma; former Economic Adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the current Director of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), Professor Ostia Ogbu and Chief Chilo Offiah.

Other members of the committee headed by the Catholic cleric are former Aviation Minister, Ambassador Fidelia Njeze; a Civil Society activist, Chief Mrs. Loretta Aniagolu; Dr. Chikelu Mba; Mr. Kelvin Emeka Onah; Mr. Emeka Odo; Princess Ngozi Nnaedozie; Mr. John Okoye and Mr. Ikechukwu Chioke.

While inaugurating the committee, the governor implored the people to think of new ideas on economic issues and provide quality advice on what needs to be done to enhance the fortunes of the state. The economic and development experts are to work mainly on three important areas: promoting balanced and sustainable economic growth; promoting and engendering adequate employment for the people of the state and promoting a system of fair income distribution among the different income groups in the state.

“Here in Enugu State, our administration is already looking inwards with a view to sourcing other ways of raising our internally generated revenue to enable us deliver on our electoral promises,” the highly optimistic Ugwuanyi emphasised at the press briefing. In line with this economic revitalisation drive, the governor also vowed to sustain the level of peace in the state, a move he considers the greatest panacea to industrialisation and poverty eradication – since attracting foreign and even local investors depend absolutely on his government’s ability to make the state peaceful and attractive to people who wish to do business in the state.

In his own words: “No investor would wish to come and put his money in a troubled place where there is very high risk on his investment. So the first thing we are going to do to attract the needed financial input from outside is to maintain the peace of the state.”    

The governor, an insurance broker-turned politician disclosed further that all the stakeholders in the state are being told the importance of a peaceful atmosphere to development.

He said: “Even though we are a very peaceful people, we are continually drumming it into our people that no matter what, we must continue to maintain this peace for our state to move forward and we are happy that we are getting results. We can say with all the emphasis at our disposal that our state is very safe for investment and on our part as a government, no effort is being spared in creating the infrastructure backbone that is needed to facilitate easy operation and quick returns on investment in our local economy.”

In line with the provision of infrastructure backbone, the governor disclosed that there was a renewed effort to modernise the university town of Nsukka and rehabilitate the notorious Ninth Mile corner, which is known for traffic gridlocks that keep motorists on the road for several hours when coming into the state.‎

In line with this economic revitalisation drive, the governor also vowed to sustain the level of peace in the state, a move he considers the greatest panacea to industrialisation and poverty eradication – since attracting foreign and even local investors depend absolutely on his government’s ability to make the state peaceful and attractive to people who wish to do business in the state.

He said: “No investor would wish to come and put his money in a troubled place where there is very high risk on his investment. So the first thing we are going to do to attract the needed financial input from outside is to maintain the peace of the state.”

The governor, an insurance broker-turned politician disclosed further that all the stakeholders in the state are being told the importance of a peaceful atmosphere to development.

Hinting on the propelling factors for the development plans, he said the urban renewal plan for Nsukka was in fulfillment of his promises during his inaugural address, when he said the university town deserves a face-lift to bring it to standard with other university towns in the country.

And as part of efforts to curtail frivolity and profligacy on government funds and ensure that resources are properly managed, ‎the governor disclosed that he has been keeping contractors on their toes. He does this, for instance, by paying unscheduled visits to ministries, schools, hospitals, local governments and other venues, where government projects are ongoing to ensure compliance and completion of projects.

But knowing full well that the success of the administration depends absolutely on a stable government, Governor Ugwuanyi is ensuring cordial working relationship with critical stakeholders; the political class, the media and the people of the state.

He said: “We have the people with us; our people know that we are committed to working for the progress of the state and we will not relent in doing that; we will ensure that we bring prosperity to the people of the state.”

He expressed high hopes that given cordial relationship with major stakeholders in and outside the state, especially the federal lawmakers, the government will be able to attract developmental projects to the state at the federal level. Critical among such stakeholders, in Ugwanyi’s view is the media. The governor enjoined the media to portray the immense investment opportunities that abound in the state and noted that by underscoring the peaceful nature of the state to foreign investors, his drive to attract investors to the state would be made easier.

In this era of renewed optimism of economic revival, with which the new administration hopes to turn the fortunes of the state and its people around from the despondency of the past, only the delivery of these promised dividends of democracy can make the people satisfied that it is not business as usual with politicians and their fake promises.