Christopher Isiguzo and Gideon Arinze write on the five years of the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi despite the Covid-19 challenge
Last Friday, May 29, 2020 marked exactly five years in office of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, having won his second term with a record 95.54 per cent, probably the highest in the nation’s history. That election had pitted him against the candidate of the main opposition party, the All Progressives Party (APC), Senator Ayogu Eze.
That victory largely described as landslide, a clear indication of the level of confidence reposed in him by the people of Enugu State, no doubt, further propelled the governor of the Coal City State to hit the ground running with signature projects, which today stand him out as one of the best in not just the Southeast zone but the country at large.
In the last one year, the governor has true to his promise, consolidated on some of his first term achievements spanning through infrastructure development, improvement in workers’ welfare, and dispensation of genuine leadership to the people, rural development, healthcare delivery, massive turnaround in the education sector, improved security of lives and property and perhaps, the most important, the administration had made peaceful coexistence, its cornerstone.
Ugwuanyi had told the crowd of expectant faces during the 2019 Democracy Day at the Michael Opkara Square, that “The laudable goals we have achieved appeared impossible at that time owing to the realities on the ground: huge debt profile of the state pressing down our neck and huge salaries and pension arrears confronting us.”
Most recent among his array of achievements is the ongoing construction of a pedestrian walkway at the ever-busy Enugu Main Market, Ogbete. When completed, the project is expected to deal with the age-long challenge of traffic congestion, worsened in part by human activities.
Ugwuanyi has not hidden his passion for workers’ welfare. In line with this, the governor had since approved the payment of 30,000 Minimum Wage in line with the report of the Joint Committee for the negotiation of consequential adjustment of the wage.
That move was a clear testament to the fact that the worker-friendly governors knows too well that civil servants need to be encouraged in other to work well. Apart from the minimum wage, civil servants in the state have taken the fact that salaries are paid promptly completely for granted. Their 13th month salary has also become a new normal in the state.
For the education sector, immediately after inauguration, the governor had approved the sums of N 1.5 billion, N244 Million and N200 Million respectively for payments of required counterpart funds for the Universal Basic Education, UBE scheme for the construction and renovation of primary and junior secondary schools in the state.
His efforts in the education sector has witnessed the recruitment of over 5000 primary and secondary school teachers in the past five years while 897 classroom blocks and other school projects were constructed, renovated and in most cases, equipped with learning facilities. State-owned higher institutions have also witnessed massive turnaround.
On infrastructure, no fewer than 600 kilometers of roads have either been constructed or rehabilitated across the state under the the present administration. Some of the major projects include the remodeled ancient, historic and undulating 11km Milliken Hill-Ngwo-9th Mile road and the 12km Opi-Nsukka dual carriageway with a spur to the UNN gate.
There’s the Ebonyi River Bridge, Ikem; the 31km Udenu Ring road with two high-tech bridges; Iva Valley road, Enugu; the 8.8km Nkalagu-Eha Amufu road in Isi-Uzo LGA, neglected for over 35 years; the 26.66km Ukpabi-Nimbo-Ugbene Ajima-Eziani road in Uzo-Uwani LGA and the 22.443km Neke-Mbu-Ogbodu Aba-Obollo Etiti inter-community road linking Isi-Uzo and Udenu LGAs being constructed by the state government in conjunction with the Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP-2).
Others include the newly inaugurated 13km Nike Lake junction-Harmony Estate-Amorji Nike-Adoration Pilgrimage Centre-Orie Emene road, constructed across the thick forest of Umuchigbo community, linking the ever-busy and thickly populated Abakpa Nike with Emene satellite town in Enugu East LGA; 8.2km Inyi-Akpugoeze road in Oji River LGA, the Ituku Road in Awgu LGA and the Amurri road in Nkanu West Local Government Area.
The first phase of the Enugu State Secretariat annex in Nsukka satellite town is nearing completion while the construction of the Nsukka Township Stadium and more internal roads in Nsukka town are ongoing, in keeping with the governor’s inaugural address to equip and modernise the University town of Nsukka as the second largest town in Enugu State.
Enugu metropolis was also not left out as road projects including the Holy Trinity Street and Bishop Michael Eneje Street, Independence Layout, Enugu; Mount Crescent, GRA, Enugu; Orofia Street, off Nza Street, Independence Layout, Enugu; Dental School – Tipper Garage road, Trans Ekulu, Enugu; Loma Linda- Timber Shed road, Maryland, Enugu; Nwafia Street, Independence Layout, Enugu; Mbanefo Street, New Haven, Enugu, among others.
In the area of security of lives and property, which remains the primary responsibility of a responsible government, the administration recently procured and donated 100 units of Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing (IVM) patrol vans equipped with communication gadgets to the security agencies to aid their operations in the state.
The state government also engaged 1,700 novel Forest Guards and repositioned the Vigilante/Neighborhood Watch groups and purchased 260 security vehicles for their Community Policing operations. The forest guards work across the communities in the 17 councils of the state and this has greatly reduced the farmer-herder clashes in the state.
His efforts in the line of security – making sure that the atmosphere in the state is conducive enough, in addition to his investor-friendly policies for businesses to thrive – informed the World Bank Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria report, which decorated the state as the third best state to start a business in Nigeria after Abuja and Lagos.
The Governor has also ordered the installation of 25-units of 60 KVA and 10 units of 200 KVA generating sets to power street lights within Enugu metropolis. The streetlights hardly go off.
Also, because of his zero tolerance for waste, the governor complimented the efforts of the Enugu State Waste Management Authority (ESWAMA) by constituting a special task force to arrest the menace of indiscriminate waste disposal to restore the scenic aesthetics of the coal city.
The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country has perhaps not posed so much challenge to residents of Enugu State in view of the manner the state swiftly responded to it. At the moment, the state has recorded 18 cases, the third in the Southeast zone. While Ebonyi and Imo State occupy the first and second positions respectively. This is in spite of the state’s position as the headquarters of the zone.
The achievement didn’t come easy as it took the commitment of the administration to ensure that efforts were made at checkmating the spread of the disease. The state had approved and released N350 million to the State COVID-19 Multi-Sectoral Rapid Response Team to tackle the health challenge.
It established Isolation and Treatment Centres in Nsukka, at the ESUT Teaching hospital, Parklane and the ultra-modern State Medical Diagnostic Centre while presently engaging in the construction of new structures at the Infectious Disease and Isolation Centre at the Colliery Hospital Enugu. The Governor has also continued to keep vigil at the state’s land borders to monitor and enforce the nationwide curfew as well as the interstate movement restrictions.
Although there are rooms for improvement, the achievements of Ugwuanyi in the past one year and by extension the past five years are clear pointers to the fact that by 2023, when his second term as governor must have come to an end, the state shall have witnessed an all-round transformation.