Nwifuru: Walking the Talk in Ebonyi

Nwifuru: Walking the Talk in Ebonyi

Benjamin Nworie writes on the developmental strides of Ebonyi State Governor, Hon. Francis Nwifuru, since he assumed office on May 29, 2023.

Ebonyi State governor, Hon. Francis Nwifuru is the fourth civilian Governor of the State.

He assumed office on May 29, 2023. Before his emergence as Governor, he was the Speaker of the State House of Assembly. So, he knows the state political terrain well.

Since Nwifuru’s assumption of office, it has been good news and seasons of approvals and implementation. First of all, his appointments were total departure from the old norm where certain class in the society, mostly the elderly see themselves as best fit to occupy political positions.

In the present administration in Ebonyi, over 90 percentage of members of the State Executive Council are youth who may possibly be occupying political office for their first time. This measure was to inject fresh blood into the system, build and groom leaders of tomorrow.

Above all, one thing fascinating about Governor Nwifuru is his frankness. Hate him or like him, he doesn’t paint issues to be sweet. He reacts to issues frankly and courageously without minding whose ox is gored. Again, this feat was a departure from the past administration in the state, where people’s emotions and expectations were gambled with.

As contained in his manifesto, named Ebonyi Charter of Need, enhancing the welfare of civil servants became his first port of call. Not only that the Governor increased the salaries of civil servants by N10,000 each, he also approved their promotions and further recruitment of 1,454 persons into the civil service in the state.

This was in addition to 195 health personnel already approved for immediate employment.

This measure was a major breakthrough for the civil service that had suffered poor remuneration and no promotions for more than eight years.

Marching his words with action, the recruitment exercise has started. The issue of workers’ salary has become a perennial issue which almost stalled the past administration.

For about 25 years now, no retired civil servant has been paid gratuity in the state.

It was a moment of jubilation in the state when it was announced that the State Executive Council has approved the payment of all arrears of gratuity in the State.

Briefing newsmen recently after the weekly State Executive Council meeting in Abakaliki, the Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Jude Okpor noted that the payment will cover civil servants who retired from 1996 to 2021.

He added that the Council also directed that all issues around those who were yet to receive the payment of their pension which is still ongoing should be resolved without further delay.

According to him, the measure was part of efforts of the State Governor, Hon. Francis Nwifuru in ameliorating the sufferings of the people in the State.

Okpor said: “in furtherance of the resolve of the people-oriented and purpose-driven administration of  Hon. Francis OgbonnaNwifuru to lifting the living standard of majority of Ebonyians through Human Capital development policies, the Ebonyi State Executive Council also approved the payment of arrears of gratuity to retired civil servants from 1996 to 2021 with a cost implementation of over four billion naira.

“Council also directed that all issues around those who are yet to receive the payment of their pension which is still ongoing should be resolved without further delay”.

There was a time in the state, where several political strategies were deployed to whittle down the agitations of workers in the state, including the factionalization the leadership of the Labour Union in the State. Comrade Leo Nkah was conscripted to chair the pro-government chapter of NLC while Comrade IkechukwuNwafor was the authentic chairman of NLC.

But, with his commitment to ensure that welfare of civil servants is one of his priorities, Nwifuru has set a new tone that will redefine the lost glory of workers in the state.

Within 100 days in office, two kilometre roads and 65 duplexes have been awarded to all traditional rulers in the State. The idea, perhaps is to revive the traditional institution in the state and reintegrate them into the governance of the State.

These roads were also part of the rural areas development masterplan which the present administration said was contained in Ebonyi’s charter of needs. The past administration under David Umahi started well on the construction of 10 kilometre roads in each communities but it became a mirage as some of the Local government chairmen either abandoned the projects or didn’t work at all.

This however attracted criticism on the rationale behind Umahi’s penchant for flyover projects in the state while some roads even in the capital city were deplorable.

The critics were of the view that some of the flyovers had no value for now when the State is still confronted with numerous priorities. Observers had contended that critical sectors in the state especially primary education and health sectors were not functional.

In the area of education, the pride of the state, Ebonyi State University was in shambles, coma and moribund. Lecturers were on strike. Infrastructural facilities were decaying. Courses lost accreditation. The entire university was collapsing and the only survival fund which is the monthly subvention stopped coming from the state government.

In fact, at a point, Umahi said he could no longer afford the monthly N200 million subvention and further reduced it to N150 million. But due to the ASUU strike and of course the State government policy of no work, no pay, the issue of monthly subvention was totally stopped.

It was a major challenge for Nwifuru’s administration due to his assurance to make educational institutions very attractive that no one would like to send his or her children to school outside the State. But the only way to start is by reviving the dwindling standard of Ebonyi State University.

Consequently, Council approved an upward review of the monthly Subvention to Ebonyi State University, EBSU from N150m to N200m in retrospect. The Council also approved the release of the sum of N300m earlier promised by the immediate past administration to the University. Holistically, the total sum of N700m has been injected into the university and expectedly, the institution is gradually picking up.

In Ebonyi State, it has been a disturbing issue to tackle out of school children menace which had led to street hawking of many indigenes of the state in major cities across the country. Previous governments had also attempted to tackle this menace but lacked the political will or technical approach to it.

This time, the good news is that Nwifuru has approved one billion naira empowerment fund for the first batch of 500 Ebonyians, after compulsory skills acquisition programmes in various fields.

The Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Jude Okpor said: “To further demonstrate the readiness of the Ebonyi State Government to drive the programme to a logical conclusion, the Exco approved an empowerment package of two million naira each for 1,500 young Ebonyians involved in street hawking and other menial jobs both at home and across the major cities after graduation from the training.

“The approval which will cost the state over three billion naira, is to be implemented in three phases of 500 beneficiaries in each phase.

“Consequently, the State Executive Council approved the sum of two billion naira as initial capital for the implementation of this empowerment programme. The training and subsequent empowerment of the first batch of 500 beneficiaries will commence as soon as all the necessary frameworks are put in place”.

Nwifuru’s administration has also recorded succeses on the area of infrastructure and capital city renewal.

So far, the administration has embarked on the rehabilitation of Alostreet to Unity Square road with some spots maintenance along Nwele Street with concrete pavements.

Also, construction of 41km road from Obubara Junction to Oferekpe — to be split into four Lots;  reconstruction of 19km  Obvudechi – Iziogo road — to be split into two lots; construction of 31. 827km Oferekpe- Agbaja road; construction of 12.81km IshiekeOdomokeEkebiligwe – Isophu – Nworie road and construction of 1.3km Ebonyi Agro Dealers Market road Onuebonyi.

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