John Nwokocha is the Abia State Commissioner for Information Culture and Tourism. An experienced journalist whose appointment has received wide commendations, Nwokocha in this chat spoke on a number of issues that are germane to the development of the state. Excerpts:
What is your view on the security situation in the state which for some time has been on issue of great concern to both the people and government?
The security situation in Abia State has improved tremendously. Government has evolved strategies to check crimes, especially kidnaping and other violent crimes. The state now is security friendly and beckoning on investors to come and invest.
Residents and visitors to Aba and Umuahia are now free, going about their businesses. Kidnapping phenomenon is now a thing of the past. Right now people move freely in the streets, going about their legitimate businesses. The government has and is still assisting the police to ensure security through the intensive fight against criminals. Just last week government gave four Hillux Vans to the new commissioner of police to help the command in the fight against crime and criminals. Government is being proactive towards improving the security.
The focal point now is about boosting the economy of the state. We urge investors to cash on this opportunity and invest in the various untapped resources that abound in the state. We are saying that we will guarantee the security of investors.
Businessmen and investors should confidently come to Abia now and invest. In fact, in our effort to diversify and broaden our revenue base, the government is moving with full force into the tourism industry. Government is interested in development of this sector.
Abia state is Lucky to have been blessed with many tourist potentials. To harness this sector effectively, we are working to develop a tourism master plan tourism is the mainstay of many economies in the developed and of course, some developing world, so we want to tap the ones given to us by God. Residents and visitors To Aba and Umuahia are now free, going about their businesses and Kidnapping phenomenon is now a thing of the past
The state has the highest number of tourist potentials in the country and we are working hard to develop them. We have embarked on the enumeration of all the hotels in the state; we are making a compendium of the hotels and their standards.
It is going on and it will assist the government to monitor and know the quantum of revenue accruable to it through this sector which will help it to improve the IGR. The government wants to fully develop the tourism industry to create jobs for the people and enhance the revenue of the state. If fully developed, the tourism potentials in the state can make Abia the richest state in the country.
The government is planning to build a 5-star hotel in the state capital to boost the image and revenue of the state. The development of Azumiri Blue River Resort is in progress Government has reached advance stage in Memorandum of understanding (M.U) with an Italian firm for the development of the river to an international tourist centre. Also, a foreign firm has been contacted to lift the Arochukwu long Juju into an international tourist centre, and as part of the effort to develop the tourism industry, we are preparing for the celebration of World Tourism Day.
It will be celebrated here in Abia on Monday, September 28, 2009. We are going to celebrate it at Amakama cave because we want to move close to nature and develop it as a tourism destination. We will showcase something that will make Abians proud.
The government will stop at nothing to see that this sector is developed because it is a veritable avenue of upping the stateâ€™s IGR.
How would you describe governmentâ€™s efforts in developing the state?
You know that this government is just two years plus. In the life of any human being two years is very insignificant to begin to judge somebody. Why not wait when that person he completed his constitutional mandated period before you begin to criticize.
We should be fair to this government. Under two years, in the midst of all the distractions, tribunal cases, he has been able to deliver to the extent has done. I think he has achieved great heights. Abia is refreshingly different today. The climate is refreshingly different and inviting.
What is your reaction to the allegation that government has no political will to develop Aba?
Government has not neglected Aba . The governor has Aba very dear to his heart, and you can see the effort he has made there. Government wants to turn Aba to an international market for people from the entire world to come there.
To this end, a master plan for Aba will soon be made, and with this all illegal structures will give way for Aba to be rebuilt. All illegal structures will be demolished no matter who owns them. Nobody is above the law, and nobody is above government.
In recent time the governor has been getting awards and receptions where he donated money whereas people in the state are complaining of hardship which stems from non payment of salaries of teachers and L.G workers what is your reaction?
First, the avalanche of awards are eloquent testimony of recognition of the achievements of the governor, being popularly called Ochendo. The executive governor of Abia State Chief (Dr) T.A Orji is affecting lives positively in Abia State .
Suffice it to state boldly that he is being commended by the people. In point of fact, all the communities in Abia have awards for the governor in appreciation of what he is doing for them that is the extent to which he is being rated with respect to good governance.
Indeed, Abians score him very high and are proud of their governor. Perhaps, not many know that Orji has brought stability in Abia polity which is a key factor in democracy. Also, perhaps, not many know that Orji is a man of diverse parts-highly intellectual, gifted orator, and possesses a charmingÂ human relations with his infectious smiles.
Above all these awards are not localized as they transcend the frontier of Abia. Proof A: The October 21, 2009, Grand commander in electronic media award by AIT. Now to the question of non payment of salaries of L.G workers and teachers. Some L.G areas are oweing their workers.
The governor has charged the LG bosses and administrators to pay the workers or the state government would pay them and sanction the chairmen.
There is now a breath of fresh air and a feeling of satisfaction with this step taken by the government. The prevailing peace in Abia supercedes the delay in payment of salaries. And this is why the workers are hailing Ochendo rather than agitate. Because they know it is not in his agenda to owe workers.
CouldÂ you please explain further on plans to construct Aba roads which you disclosed recently?
Beginning from the end of October the Abia state government has resolved to embark on massive reconstruction and construction of roads in and around Aba. Let me serve a notice to political saboteurs with the pre-occupation of destroying roads by creating holes, disrupting work and kidnapping personnel of the construction companies that government has zero tolerance for them.
The relevant ministry has been mandated to map out the key roads in Aba, as work will take off soon. Only reputable firms would be awarded jobs with agreement to deliver in record time and quality work done. Again, let me state that Aba is not neglected. Itâ€™s an important ancient city. My ministry has a tourism carnival in the offing for Aba to reassure our people particularly, the business community that the government is carrying them along
What are we expecting from your ministry this time around?
We are planning a huge tourism carnival â€“ Miss Tourism 2007 reception- Adandigbo 2009, and the greatest cultural festival, Ugwuabia.Â These activities would create colourful and joyous atmosphere and jell with the prevailing peace and security for relaxion and as a catalyst to boost economic and commercial activities and usher us to the Xmas period. Abia beckons on you.