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Umahi: Killings in South-East not justifiable

Chief Dave Umahi is the Chairman South East Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State. In this interview, he speaks on Ebonyi State at 25, achievements of his administration and the security situation in the South-East geopolitical zone, among other issues. UCHENNA INYA reports

Ebonyi is 25 years old, what is your assessment of the state?

October 1, 2021, marked an important milestone in our march towards the attainment of the aspirations of the founding fathers who fought for the creation of Ebonyi State and those who fought for the Independence of Nigeria. While we thank profoundly the founding fathers of our nation, we pay special tribute to the vision, courage and boundless energy of our founding fathers, who created the road map towards the statehood that was granted to us on October 1, 1996, by the then Head of State, General Sani Abacha.

May his soul find repose in the Lord! As we commend the efforts of our founding fathers, we also thank immensely our past leaders, especially the governors under the military administrations of Navy Commander Walter Feghabo and AIG Simeon Oduoye of blessed memory and the democratically elected administrations of Dr. Sam Egwu and Chief Martin Elechi for their accomplishments that laid the foundation for the progress we have made in the last six years, and for this, we have great testimonies to share as we mark our silver jubilee. We can say of a truth that the silver jubilee of Ebonyi State is coming at a time tremendous efforts have been made to attain a state of the dreams and aspirations of the founding fathers.

What have you been able to achieve in the past six years of your administration?

Conscious of the promise we made to our people, our Divine Mandate administration has worked hard to resonate our promises in lifechanging projects and programmes for the future of our state, including enduring infrastructure for economic development, access to first-class education, affordable health care services, agricultural revolution, efficient and effective public service and human capital that will transform our economy and bequeath to posterity a greater Ebonyi State. Although our nation has been going through challenges, especially, the scourge of insecurity that has eaten deep into the fabrics of our economy, we have spared no efforts in rising to the challenge of building firmly and decisively on the achievements made in the last six years. We are focused on building an economy driven primarily by private sector, not government.

We are deepening the tenets of democracy and the rule of law; we are leading by example in our fight against corruption and waste. We are committed to the goal of national integration. We are committed to restoring our time honoured value of hard work, honesty, decency, generosity, dignity of labour, transparency and accountability. I commit myself to this task. We commend the manifest sacrifice made by all government functionaries at different levels of governance in the state and the patience exercised by our people as we strive to give our state a new face in the comity of states.

What are the achievements of your administration in the last six years?

We are satisfied that at 25, Ebonyi State has been made a reference point in terms of network of solid roads, including our ongoing ring road project with ancillary works which are meant to connect eight-local government areas. We have a shopping mall described as the microcosm of macrocosm of the Dubai Mall. We have beaten a record as a state with the highest number of flyovers after Abuja and Lagos. We have activated commercial activities through the construction of Margaret Umahi International Market, the Poultry Market, the Auto Spare Parts Market, Building Material Markets and many markets within the metropolis and satellite towns.

We have upgraded our fertilizer blending plant to 80 metric tones capacity per hour to address the fertilizer needs of our people. We have reactivated the state government’s rice milling plants and installed the parboiling plants to make Ebonyi a State with the biggest rice milling plant in Nigeria. We have a brand new University of Medical Sciences which shall be a centre of excellence for the treatment of terminal diseases and we have plans to start the construction of the University of Aeronautical Engineering and University of Science and technology. We have a virology centre that contains with the menace of Lassa fever, the only one in the South-East.

We have got the industrial clusters in each of the three senatorial zones that will create opportunities for businesses. We have an emerging airport that will compete with the best airports in Nigeria. We have made efforts to give our state a good look through beautiful roundabouts, water fountains, street lights across the major parts of the state and local government areas.

The light tunnel named after Mr. President is a concept that gives the state a unique identity as a beautiful state. The Ecumenical Centre is a state-of-the-art edifice which hosts spiritual and social corporate events. The new government house speaks volume of our determination to give our people a sense of self-worth among our contemporaries. We have done quite a lot to transform the psyche and social stratum of our people through different human capital development programmes.

We are developing estates including King David Estate, City Centre Estate, Salt City Estate, Low Cost Housing Estate and we are encouraging investment in estates by developers to enhance the socio-economic condition of all residents of Ebonyi State. We have created three satellite towns in the state. All these are socio- economic interventions that will create wealth and thousands of jobs for our population. We are also committed to providing social amenities including water supply to all parts of the state.

What of security, what have you been able to do in this sector to ensure adequate security in the state?

We are committed to security of lives and property as well as the fight against all forms of violent activities in the state. We have further fortified our security architecture and enabled our conventional security organizations and Ebube Agu Security outfit to police our communities and rid them of banditry. We have a security viewing centre and CCTV cameras that capture the major junctions of the state to track criminals. You can afford to do your business in the state without fear.

In the area of welfare of the people and the civil service that has not witnessed recruitment of workers since you came on board. What are you doing in this regards?

We are restructuring the public service and body polity to ensure efficiency and good governance. We have provided numerous opportunities for the employment and empowerment of our youths and women. Between now and January 2022, we will be recruiting 5,000 people into the work force as well as empowering 3,000 youths and women to go into different businesses. Time will fail me to mention all the modest achievements of our administration. Our mission is that through these numerous life transforming economic facilities, we shall enhance the welfare of our people and empower them to be self-reliant and self-sufficient. It is true that we have so many projects in our hands to conclude before we bow out, we are committed to ensuring their completion, utilization and sustainability, through private sector initiatives.

How can the state surmount some of the challenges confronting it?

As a state that is anchored on Divine Mandate platform, we believe that our efforts to solve the socio-economic problems of the state cannot be complete without connecting to God through prayers. We believe that we can only surmount the challenges of insecurity, scourge of Covid- 19, economic recession, political dichotomy and other dangerous trends of agitations in Nigeria if we demonstrate a deep sense of patriotism and fear of God in all our dealings. At this juncture, let me inform our stakeholders and indeed all Ebonyians that we have intention to dedicate November and December 2021 for the commissioning of our projects and to have our stakeholders and prominent Nigerians visit some of our completed and ongoing projects. We shall also slate a date in November to gather together to celebrate God’s kindness upon the state to mark the silver jubilee of Ebonyi State. It promises to be awesome. We will be inviting all institutions and organizations that helped us in one way or the other in the modest achievements of our Divine Mandate administration.

What can you say about the agitation in the South- East that has turned violent?

Ebonyi people have been so much deprived in the past, turned to house boys and house girls because of this sit-at-home and we are in a hurry to catch up with others. So, we are not going to be sitting down at home. And so, anybody that says sit-at-home, Ebonyi people will not sitat- home. I am calling on the entire South-East to understand this sit-at-home and those who are orchestrating it are our brothers outside this country, who are paid per hour and so, they find it very difficult to feel very comfortable for them to be at work and ask us to sit-at-home.

They are working to be paid to have means of livelihood the same way our people at home are working to be paid to have means of livelihood. If they truly mean it and they want to ask us to sit-at-home, all South-East people, who outside this country should be sincere. Any day they want us to sit-at-home, let them also sitat- home and see whether they will not be repatriated because they will have nothing to pay for their livelihood. So, it is all about deceit. Those who are being killed here in confrontation with security agencies, they are our children, they are our sons and daughters belonging to some of us who are at home.

So, I want us to disregard this sit-at-home. Nobody in the world is against peaceful agitations including agitations at home. We have agitations every day; husbands versus wives, children versus father, even house boys/house girls versus the mother of the house. So, there are always agitations.

So, agitation is natural, it is fundamental but there is nobody who carries a gun to kill another person in the name of anything that would be justified. We condemn in totality the insecurity in South- East orchestrated by our own people, who are tagged unknown gunmen and I appeal on behalf of the governors that this should come to a stop.

We are very mobile people, restricting our people is to destroy us and I am sure that every man and woman in the South- East knows that. We strongly condemn the ugly killing of Dr. Chike Akunyili, a notable medical doctor and we don’t know the reason for that killing and other killings, not less than 12, within the past weeks.

It so terrible and so bad; fear has been inflicted into our people and this is very un-cultural. We appeal to the youth to lay down their arms. I don’t know why there should be insecurity, I don’t know why there should be killings, I don’t know why they should inflict fears in the minds of our people. This is uncalled for and I am warning that the South- East people that the youth may one day rise up against these very few people doing this thing. It is a total war against our people and we are calling that it should stop.

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