BEING A STATE BROADCAST DELIVERED BY ABIA STATE GOVERNOR, DR. OKEZIE IKPEAZU TO USHER IN NEW YEAR 2019
My Good People of Abia State.
It is with great pleasure and gratitude to God that I welcome you to the year 2019.
I do believe that you have had a wonderful time celebrating the festivities with your families, friends and loved ones. This was also a Traditional Retirement Season in some parts of Abia State and lots of people were in Abia State to celebrate with their retiring kith and kin. While congratulating all those who have retired, I pay special tribute to our Age Grade System and commend all those who have kept it going over the years for their selfless sacrifice in community development.
The year 2019 will be an important year for Abia State. It is an election year and the year we go to the polls to cast our votes for our preferred candidates. I urge you all very importantly to pray for peaceful elections in Abia State. I also urge you all to be vigilant so as to ensure that 5th columnists and enemies of peace do not instigate crisis in our state. Abia is a peaceful State and irrespective of our political differences, we must maintain that heritage of peaceful coexistence.
I therefore use this opportunity to call on all candidates vying for one elective position or the other to ensure that they adhere to the tenets of clean electioneering campaigns devoid of activities that may disturb the peace of the state or stoke embers of crisis. As a people and as a State, we must reject fear-mongering, hate speech, divisiveness and provocation. I am committed to working with security agencies to ensure peace and safety during the elections. As a candidate in the elections, I promise to keep my own campaign clean.
In the just ended year 2018, we witnessed more positive manifestation and germination of some of the seeds we had sown in the early periods of our administration. In my series of communications to you over the last 4 years, I have emphasized the fact that we are building to last in Abia State. We are not ad-hoc planners. Most of the interventions, projects and policies of this administration from inception were intended to yield long-lasting and sustainable impacts. That is why I have remained one of the most communicative Governors in Nigeria today. Because it is important to me that the people we are working for understand what we are doing.
Today, every Abian is now proud to hold their heads high. Our Shoemakers are global citizens and not just local producers. Hardly any Trade Fair or Exhibition holds anywhere in the world without Aba Producers being invited to come and exhibit their products. This is the result of the massive promotional campaign we undertook from the inception of our administration to showcase the ingenuity of the Aba producer and today, the world has taken note and Aba and Abia State is the better for it.
In the last 3 years, I had travelled to China on 5 different occasions to seek new opportunities for our people. Our story is somewhat similar to that of the Chinese and I was seeking partnerships that will benefit our people. The result of my trips to China are now evident. Last year, we sent 30 Shoemakers to China to learn how to use modern machines to make shoes. They have all returned and today, we have imported those same machines they used in China. We are now on the verge of opening the 1st fully automated shoe producing factory in Aba and this factory will take the status of Aba as the premier shoemaking destination in West Africa to new heights.
Similarly, the Ruyi Group, one of the largest industrial conglomerates in the world, has signed agreements to invest billions of dollars in the Enyimba Economic City.
My Dear Abians, permit me at this juncture to inform you that the Enyimba Economic City which we have been promoting has been fully licensed by the Federal Government and all relevant Agencies and the project is set to commence. It is the first Export Free Zone licensed by the Federal Government in the South East of Nigeria.
This project, for which we already have anchor investors signed on, has the potential of creating hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs within the next 10 years. It will revolutionalise the economy of Abia State and launch us into the league of manufacturing and production centres. I therefore wish to on behalf of the Government and people of Abia State, convey special commendation to the promoter of the project, Mr. C. Darl Uzu for his doggedness and faith in Abia State which has made this project a reality.
I also wish to call upon other Abians wherever they are to come and join hands with Government to develop our dear state. The level of massive support we have given to Darl Uzu to enable him realize the Enyimba Economic City Project is proof that as a Government and as a people, we are committed to fully supporting all those who invest in Abia State.
The core investors in the Golden Guinea Breweries Plc Umuahia are also enjoying the same commitment and support from us to ensure the revitalization of the iconic brewery. I have worked with the core investors to break bureaucratic and funding barriers and I am happy to report to you that Golden Guinea Breweries is on the cusp of a full return.
This is the underlying essence of the mission of our administration. We have provided and will continue to provide massive infrastructure and social services and the results are there for all to see but more importantly, we have laid the foundation of a truly prosperous Abia State by supporting investments and promoting the handwork of our people.
Ndi Abia Ndi Nwem, a couple of days ago, I presented the 2019 Budget to the Abia State House of Assembly titled the Budget of Consolidation. We have formulated plans to consolidate on the work we have done within our first four years in office while getting ready for another four years by the grace of God and the endorsement of the people of Abia State.
I will use this opportunity to reassure you that we are resolutely committed to Odinma Ndi Abia. For every action we take in this administration, every policy and every programme, the underlying objective is Odinma Ndi Abia. We promised at the beginning to make Abia State the premier business destination in Nigeria and West Africa and we are on course to fulfill that promise.
The overall outlook for 2019 is positive. With the advent of the dry season, our contractors have returned to our roads and construction work has resumed. We have opened up Faulks Road from one end to the other, a feat that has not been witnessed on that socio-economically important road for over 10 years. We have also completed Old Express Road and we will face other roads with renewed zeal and vigour as we believe that good road networks will enable better performance of all our five pillars of development.
We remain committed to our 5 Pillars of Development. From Education to Agriculture, SME development, Trade and Commerce, Oil and Gas to the various Enablers like security, ease of doing business, infrastructural development, advocacy and social mobilization, we will continue to offer integrated services to the people of Abia State.
Over the years, our state had challenges with managing our payroll which led to delays and backlogs in payment of salaries and other emoluments. I am glad to announce to you that the worst days of salary payment issues are behind us. We have resolved to tackle the issues leading to salary delays head on and we will never look back. All the public sector employees, whose wages are paid by the state government in Abia State, received their December salaries prior to Christmas. I pledge our determination to keep up with the new spirit while assuring any remaining categories of employees, especially those working at state ur parastatals, who may have outstanding payments, for one reason or another that their issue is receiving prime attention and will be resolved shortly so they can smile with their counterparts in other Ministries, Departments and Agencies. We are determined to as much as possible help ailing parastatals to rejig their cash flow and be able to pay their workers as and when due.
Beloved Abians, Let me use this occasion to sound a note of warning to heads of underachieving and underperforming parastatals that in 2019, it will not be business as usual. We cannot continue to commit huge resources to personnel costs without getting commensurate services from the personnel. Some parastatals are performing below capacity while cabals within others have frustrated every effort aimed at reforming the parastatals for efficient services. We will conduct a review and take a tougher stance against some of these individuals and groups in some of our parastatals.
The parastatals mike and retain revenue for their operations, without remitting any money to the Abia State Government yet they are still collecting subventions and owing staff salaries while their less buoyant counterparts in the private sector are thriving and turning in profits. I charge all Heads of Parastatals in Abia State to do an honest internal assessment to give the people of Abia State value for the monies we are spending on them.
I am proud that our policies in the educational sector have continued to pay off. Again, in 2018, for the 4th year running, we retained the 1st Position in the May/June WAEC Examinations. I am also happy to announce to you that our Public Primary School enrolment figures have jumped from 115,000 when we came into office to over 600,000 pupils as at September 2018. This is a remarkable 420% increase in school enrolment and the reason is not far-fetched.
Abia State is arguably the only State in Nigeria that feeds pupils from Primary 1-6 ameal a day in our unique school feeding programme. The Federal Government feeds pupils from Primary 1-3 but Abia State goes the whole hog from Primary 1-6. In addition, we are training and retraining our teachers both locally and internationally to get the best from them while massively renovating our school buildings to ensure conducive learning environment for our pupils and students. These and many other factors have contributed to the stellar performance we have recorded in our educational sector and we are poised to do more in 2019.
I wish to use this opportunity to commend all those who have worked tirelessly to help us drive our vision to the point where it is today and urge them not to rest on their oars but rededicate themselves in this New Year to even greater service.
Abia is our own. Together, let us build the State of our dreams by doing more for our people. The potentials are there. The will is there. With your continuous support, we will do even greater things in 2019.
My dear people of Abia State, I welcome you to 2019. I welcome you to a good year. This is the year that the Lord has made and we will rejoice and be glad in it.
I thank you for listening and on behalf of my family, I say Happy New Year.