By Don Norman Obinna
Prior to his stint as senator for Abia Central, representation had never been at such a life-touching state, apparently drawing from his experience of ruling the state, feeling their pains and working to ease their stress while balancing it with development. Perhaps, Senator Theodore Ahamefule Orji is seeing service in the red chambers as continuation of his social contract with the constituents, the hallmark of men with developmental mind.
Within the past 24 months, scowls occasioned by the economic down turn have been replaced with smiles contrary to detractors who wish and paint gory pictures in their warped propaganda stunt.
No one is left out; not even the hecklers. No wonder everyone is yearning for a glass of chilled wine to commemorate the phenomenal representation of our ebullient Senator Ochendo. This is notwithstanding the verity that by the time he was sworn-in in June 2015, the 2015 Budget was already being implemented leaving him with no input whatsoever.
Instead of using this as an excuse however, Sen. Orji put to good use this inescapable situation with inventive legislation never witnessed in his constituency in the past 16 years. The result is the multiplicity of constituency projects that permeate the entire Abia central senatorial district.
Firstly, he started off with the introduction of a scholarship programme in December 2015; a scheme to produce 480 graduates in two phases. Already, no fewer than 120 indigent students including the physically challenged have benefitted in two batches. The third batch is slated for December 2017.
Excited by this gesture which certainly will place the Abia central youths at the commanding height of their chosen careers in Nigeria and beyond in the next two decades, the Abia Central Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) Youth Leader, Engineer Kingsley commended it in superlative terms.
“With the priority Sen. Orji placed on human capital development, we are going to witness another era of academic and political bulldozers of 1963. In the next foreseeable future, Abia State especially, Abia central senatorial district will produce another (Nnamdi) Azikiwes, (Abubakar) Tafawa Balewas, (Obafemi) Awolowos, (Samuel) Akintolas, (Michael) Okparas and (Dennis) Osadebeys of this world who made Nigeria’s politics and economy thick.”
“When you look at some reasons why he is referred to as the father of modern Abia State, you cannot just agree less. Ochendo is honestly the sage of our time,” he added.
A look at the current rate of children out of school and literacy in Nigeria informed Sen. Orji placing premium on education and youths’ empowerment in his constituency.
Since children from illiterate homes are likely to be illiterates, he considered it enough information to encourage education programmes that target students from poor background; which informed Ochendo’s scholarship scheme covering several segments.
From his time as governor, he placed prime importance on education which led to the improvement in the result of Abia State in West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) which since then has moved progressively. The state moved from second in previous years to first in 2016. This feat however suggests that the very good foundation led by Sen. Orji in youth development is beginning to yield positively.
On infrastructure, he masterminded the rehabilitation of the impassable Umuahia-Ikot-Ekpene Expressway; a Federal Government road. While praising his persuasiveness to ensuring that work commenced on that road, the representative of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) Mr. Abraham Akange who represented the F.G at the flag-off ceremony said:
“Government’s decision to fix the highway was due to the pressure from the National Assembly members from Abia State, especially Sen. Orji and Sam Onuigbo.
“Their pressure on FERMA and the Federal Ministry of Works for the rehabilitation of the road was so tense that an emergency meeting had to be convened by the minister, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, in Abuja where the plan for the palliative work was unveiled and ratified.”
Furthermore, in line with the functions of a Legislator; law making, representation and oversight, Sen. Orji has performed creditably well with the delivery of ample democracy dividends to the people of Abia Central.
Other projects standing to his credit include
• Electrification of Umuhute Azueke Autonomous Community, Umuahia North L.G.A.
• Electrification of Ahiaba/Okpuala Community, Isiala Ngwa North L.G.A.
• Electrification of Nvosi I, Amaku Community in Isiala Ngwa South L.G.A. of Abia State.
• Delivery of 500/11/KVA Transformer to residents of Uwalaka Street, Enugu road, Awkuzu Street, Awolowo Street, Chidiebere Nwoke Street, Amuzukwu layout, etc. Umuahia North L. G. A.
• Delivery of 500/11/KVA Transformer to the people of Okpu ancient kingdom in Osisioma – Ngwa L.G.A. of Abia State.
• Delivery of 500/11/KVA Transformers to the people of Aloma community in Isiala Ngwa South L.G.A.
• Delivery of 500/11/KVA to Afouguri community in Umuahia North L.G.A.
• Delivery of 500/11/KVA to Umuobia Housing Estate, Umuahia South L.G.A
• Solar powered motorised borehole drilled at Amuzu Community, Umunneise in Osisioma – Ngwa L.G.A and Umundara – Ahuwa Oboro, Ikwuano L.G.A of Abia State.
• Umuakanu to Umuagu road with a big Bridge, in Emede Ibeku Autonomous Community, is also being constructed as part of the constituency projects. People are urged to visit these sites to ascertain the verity of these claims if in doubt.
As the Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Sen. Orji was able to attract some other projects through the Ministry of Agriculture. These include:
(a) One motorised borehole drilled and already functioning at Ezuna Erim Autonomous Community, Nsirimo in Umuahia South L.G.A.
(b) Construction of Attah – Emede Nkpuru – Umuakanu Road, EmedeIbeku Autonomous Community, Umuahia North L.G.A. Work seriously ongoing.
(c) Reconstruction/rehabilitation of Umuire – Udide – Umuodudu – Agbo Road, Emede Autonomous Community.
On the law-making front, Sen. Orji has acquitted himself so well. He has sponsored three motions which resulted in Resolutions of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria mandating the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) to publish reports of its investigations into the causes of Air accidents in Nigeria over the years. The Resolution was made on 28th January 2016.
Also on 13th January 2016, as a result of Sen. Orji’s motion, the Senate passed a Resolution calling on the Federal Government to immediately set up the Public Procurement Council in accordance with the Public Procurement Act, 2008.
The Resolution of Senate made on 4th October 2016 on the need to check indiscriminate rock blasting in the FCT and other parts of Nigeria in accordance with International best practices. This followed a motion sponsored by Sen. Orji.
Still on lawmaking, Sen. Orji was rated the 3rd most productive senator of the 8thSenate. (See Daily Trust Newspaper of 13th June, 2016). He has also sponsored 11Bills, one of which has already been passed into an Act by the National Assembly while others are at various stages of the process for passage. They are as follows:
(1) SB. 71 “A Bill For An Act to Make Provision for Freedom from Hunger and The Right To Adequate Food Of Acceptable Quality, Right Of Every Child To Basic Nutrition and For Connected Purposes.” This Bill is now an Act. It was passed into an Act on the floor of the Senate on Thursday 13thday of October, 2016. It is awaiting Presidential Assent.
(2) SB. 72 “A Bill For An Act to Repeal The Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission Act, Cap 117 Laws Of The Federation Of Nigeria and Re-Enact The Nigerian Investment Commission To Provide For the Creation of an Attractive Incentive Framework and a Transparent Predictable and Facilitating Environment For Investment in Nigeria and Related Matters.”This Bill is now for Second reading/debate stage.
(3) SB. 73 “A Bill For An Act To Provide For National Planning Process And For Other Matters Connected Therewith.” Also for Second reading.
(4) SB. 77 “National Emergency Bill, 2016.” Also for 2nd reading.
(5) SB. 78 “Deoxybionucleric Acid (DNA) Bill, 2016.” This Bill is aimed at checking crimes.
(6) SB. 79 “A Bill For An Act To Provide For The Management And Conservation Of Nigeria’s Biodiversity, The Protection Of Species And Ecosystems That Warrant National Protection, The Sustainable And Equitable Sharing Of Benefits Arising From Bio prospecting Involving Indigenous Biological Resources, The Establishment And Function Of The National Biodiversity Institute And For Matters Connected Therewith.” Also for Second reading.
(7) SB. 119 “A Bill For An Act to Amend the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Sharing Contract , Cap D3 LFN 2004 And For Other Matters Connected Thereto.” This Bill has long passed through 1st and 2nd reading or debate stage. It was given to the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources since 1st quarter of 2016 but the Committee, for reasons known to them, decided not to report back to Senate.
(8) SB. 129 “A Bill For An Act To Alter The Provision Of The Constitution Of The Federal Republic Of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended) To Enable The President And State Governors To Designate And Assign Portfolios To Persons Nominated As Ministers Or Commissioners Before Confirmation By The Senate Or The State House Of Assembly.” This Bill was married to many other Bills on amendment of the Constitution and they all will be handled together.
(9) SB. 256 “A Bill For An Act To Provide For The Establishment Of The Nigerian Centre For Disease Control And Prevention (NCDC) And For Matters Connected Therewith.” This Bill passed 2nd reading on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday, 14 – 03 – 2017.
(10) SB. 259“A Bill For An Act To Regulate The Manufacture, Importation, Distribution And Quality Control Of Fertilizer In Nigeria And For Related Matters.” This Bill is for 2nd reading.
(11) SB. 260 “A Bill For An Act To Provide For The Regulation And Effective Monitoring Of Metallurgical Inspection And Raw Material Development In Nigeria And For Related Matters.” Also for 2ndreading.
It is a known fact that legislators perform their oversight functions through committee duties. Sen. Orji is the Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture, member Senate Committees on Police affairs, Marine Transport, Air force and Health. He participates effectively in the oversight activities of all these committees as a very prominent and important member.
The committee assignments have taken him to several cities within and outside Nigeria. In October, 2015, he led a delegation of other Lawmakers to the European Parliament at Brussels, Belgium where he eloquently presented a paper on the role of political parties in constitutional democratic development. In January, 2016, as the Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture, he also led another delegation of lawmakers to Izmir, Turkey to attend an International summit on Agriculture.
It is worthy to note also that in the last 24 months, over 1000 artisans, entrepreneurs (SMEs) and farmers have all been empowered by Sen. Orji with various items ranging from grinding machines, power generating sets, sewing machines, tricycles (KEKE), motorcycles, Buses, fertilisers to ensure the survival of their businesses and their financial freedom.
Not left out also were the physically challenged, widows, the elderly and victims of natural disasters in Amaekpu Ntigha. In several occasions within the last 24 months, Sen. Orji has helped them with donations of millions of naira, hundreds of wheelchairs, tones of bags of rice/condiments ETC. He also made a case for them by persuading NEMA to provide relief materials for them to ameliorate their suffering.
Also various social groups and local organisations have benefitted from Sen. Orji’s responsive representation. One of the examples of such is the renovation to modern edifice the Mbawsi Women social group’s town hall at Umuamainta, Mbawsi in Isiala Ngwa north L.G.A.
During this 24 months of phenomenal representation also, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs had extended invitation for prequalification and direct tendering for works, goods and expression of interest for constituency services for the 2016 capital projects for the design and supervision of Mbom-Ameke-Olokoro-Umuikea roads, 7up/Umuola-Nkwo Elechi Ohuhu road-5km.
There are also consultancy services for training and empowerment in agriculture and other value chain in Abia central by Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. In addition, six youths from the six local government areas that constitute Abia central have been given Federal Government employment while plans are also afoot to add to that number at the beginning of first quarter if the FG’s recruitment policy goes as planned in 2018.
In a town hall meeting in Umuahia, Abia State capital on Sunday 7th May 2017, Sen. Orji while rendering account of his 24 months stewardship at the National Assembly said, “I will not relent until the menace of illiteracy, poverty, hunger and child/maternal mortality are completely eradicated in Abia central senatorial district.”
A typical example of the incredible talents that abound in Abia central is Professor, Maduike Ezeibe of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike, Umuahia,who recently discovers the drug for the permanent cure of the dreaded HIV/AIDS. Against rejection by the F.G, Sen. Orji made a case for him at the senate.
On Wednesday 22 March 2017, while presenting a petition by Prof. Ezeibe, Sen. Orji said, that the attempt to get Min. of Health’s cooperation on the discovery failed. He noted that the petition to the senate was to ask it to look into the case to find out whether Prof. Ezeibe had done anything wrong by painstakingly working to help find solution to a dreaded ailment.
While appraising Sen. Orji’s doggedness, the paramount ruler of Ibeku Kingdom, His Royal Majesty (HRM), Eze Samuel Onuoha summarised the revolutionary deeds of Sen. Orji from inception thus:
“Orji’s contributions to the development of Abia, especially Ibeku land right from his days as the Chief of Staff, Governor and now Senator are unparalleled. He did for us what no Ibeku man or any Abia governor has done.
“He brought rapid development to our land, developed and empowered our youths. We revered him because he is an achiever; our illustrious son who has done us proud.”
Of course Eze Onuoha was perfectly in order in his eulogies when one considers the truism that Abia central senatorial district has become a place of Eldorado. So convivial it’s now home to approximately 25 per cent of the rest of the south east and south-south citizens in just 24 months Ochendo-gislation of wonders. Ochendo is the Iroko that shield not only his people but the entire Igbo land.
–Dom wrote from Abuja