David-Chyddy Eleke writes that a four year term for the Senator representing Anambra Central Senatorial Zone, Chief Victor Umeh was reduced to just one year because of litigation. Despite all odds, Umeh believes he has several achievements to show for his brief stay in the senate
Senator Victor Umeh was sworn into the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a member of the 8th senate in January 2018. This was after a prolonged legal tussle between him and Senator Uche Ekwunife after the 2015 general election. Ekwunife a candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had been declared the winner of the Anambra Central Senatorial zone, but Umeh approached the tribunal and later moved to the Appeal Court, which eventually sacked Ekwunife from the Senate.
After a very long wait and serial disagreement in the scheduling of a rerun by the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) because of several interests that were hell bent on stopping Umeh from getting to the senate, the election finally held in January 2018. Umeh won and was was sworn-in.
As the 2019 general election holds this weekend, Umeh has approached the people of the zone, with reasons they should vote for him again. In his campaigns, Umeh reels out a long list of his achievements in the 12 months he has been in the senate, always concluding to his constituents that he could do better.
In December of 2018, in less than 10 months in the Senate, Umeh spent N4million to train 151 constituents for a National Directorate for Employment (NDE) programme, in which all the graduands received starter kits at Neni, Anaocha local government area headquarters of Anambra State, for their choice of skills learnt. He said, “Some people have even forgotten that I am just 10 months old in the senate, but because of my experience and knowledge of legislative duties, I did not find it hard picking up. Some people may have argued that my representation was mostly for Ndigbo and not Anambra Central, my immediate constituency, but again that is not true.”
He said beyond the empowerment with a starter kit provided for the graduands by the federal government, through the NDE, and the N4million he expended on their training, “The CBN will empower them with N1million to N10million loan, which they can access as far as you have been trained by NDE. The CBN will provide you with the equipment for the business. Assuming you were trained in block making, the CBN will provide the block making machine which can cost between N1million to N10million, and they keep back the receipt, and once you complete payment, you can now pick up the receipt and it becomes yours. This is what we have attracted for our people.”
Umeh also attracted and disbursed 34 tricycles worth N1million each to youths of the area. The senator said he learnt of the tricycles after he was sworn in at the senate and quickly moved for it, as other lawmakers had long received theirs. He said he was surprised that the officials in charge wanted to bribe him with money to forfeit the empowerment materials, insisting that it was usually the custom among lawmakers.
“I simply told him that; I am Victor Umeh, and that I was here to offer quality, courageous and transparent representation to my people, and that I would take the 35 tricycles. He tried to discourage me by saying that I still needed to move them to Anambra and other inconveniences involved, but I insisted on taking them. These are the tricycles we are distributing here today,” Umeh said.
Umeh believes that education is among the biggest legacy one could bequeath the coming generation. It is the greatest meal ticket anyone can get. Late last year, he also awarded scholarship to 70 indigent undergraduates in the senatorial zone; 10 from each of the seven local government that make up the zone.
Umeh who spoke during the award said it was part of the promise he made a week after he was sworn into the Senate, in January 2018. Though he noted that he had a foundation that has run for 11 years, issuing scholarships to indigent student, in which he just spent N11million on tuition for his beneficiaries, he stated that he decided to undertake additional one to fulfill his promise.
“I made the promise within a week of my swearing in, during a radio programme. I did not make the promise so they will vote for me, but after I had won and was sworn in. We choose 10 persons from each of the local government areas that make up my senatorial zone and our target is to give scholarships to people who cannot afford it and not to people whose parents can afford to give their children the education they need. We will train these people from their first year to their graduation. Beyond that we have been doing this since 11 years now. With these 70 students, I now have over 350 people on my scholarship in various institutions of higher learning in Nigeria.”
One of the primary functions of a senator, even beyond attracting projects to their locality is lawmaking. In this aspect, the senator representing Anamra Central senatorial Zone, Senator Victor Umeh says his fellow lawmakers always marveled at the speed with which he caught up at the senate, despite arriving late.
“When I got to the Senate, I found that there was opening for creation of a federal institution of learning in one senatorial zone each, and in my zone, we already had Nnamdi Azikiwe University, and in Anambra South too, there is Federal Polytechnic, Oko.
“I found out there was none in Anambra North. You see, when you go representing a people, anywhere you see they are not represented, you bring it to national consciousness. That was why I met Senator Stella Oduah because she represents that zone, and we co-sponsored that bill, but I had to drive it from the first reading, through second reading and public hearing and all. Same thing happened when I found out that Igbos were not represented in the nation’s security council, and that the South-east was not accommodated in the rail line. That is what we call representation.”
“I have done three motions only and it can’t be 80 per cent Igbo. The motion I sponsored on the 30th of May, which is the illegal confinement of underage children in the same prison with adult inmates was widely celebrated in my area. It was a national motion, which affects children all over the country. The motion won an award as the best motion among other competing motions in 2018 at the Senate. Because of where I am coming from, I look at issues that affect us as a people. I have also done a bill for the establishment of the Theatre Art Professional Practitioners’ Council of Nigeria, which is a national bill.”
Because of the short period of his stay in the national assembly, Umeh was only able to meet the making of the 2019 budget last year, but even though it is his first, Umeh believes that when the implementation of the 2019 budget starts, the people would have been sure of who their senator is and his capacity to deliver.
He dismissed some of his opponents, who he said used constituency funds to build hotels and eateries in the state, as well as collecting monies meant for projects that were captured in the budget because of wrong capturing that were all fraudulently intended.
“What they did before now was to put projects in the budgets which read like this; ‘N150million for the enhancement of learning in XYZ local government area, and they keep listing local government areas. But you will never be able to find or trace such projects, and the money enters their pockets. But in my case, all the projects I have in the budget are verifiable, and the people can see it, not bogus things like enhancement of learning in primary and secondary schools in Anambra, which cannot be traced anywhere.
“I don’t believe in propaganda. I have 40 projects inserted in the budget of 2019, and by the time the projects are executed, the impact would be felt everywhere.” Umeh said.