By Francis Igata, Enugu
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi on assumption of office, vowed to leave no stone unturned to raise the standard of living of Enugu State people, following the blistering goodwill he enjoyed during the electioneering campaigns.
In the same vein, Ugwuanyi, last Monday, at Nike-Lake Resort Hotel,venue of the Federal Government organized Town Hall Meeting for political,religious,judicial,civil society,socio-cultural groups,charged President Muhammad Buhari to redeem his campaign promises to the people of Enugu.
Accompanied to the Town Hall Meeting by members of the State Executive Council, the governor revealed that the appeal became imperative, following the sustained poor power supply in the country. Ugwuanyi said the situation was discouraging investments even as he urged the Federal Government to make substantial investment in the Ugwuoba Gas Field in Oji River Local Government of the state.
His words: “I recall the President’s campaign promise to revive the coal mines in Enugu and utilise it to generate electricity. Coal is a major energy source in some countries of the world and we have it in abundance in the state. If this is done, it will directly or indirectly create jobs for millions of Nigerians.
“Work at the Ada Rice Farm Irrigation Project started by the Federal Government in the state in 2007, has since stopped at the site. This project is critical and important to the state government, following efforts to diversify the economy and make the country self-sufficient in rice production.
“Of very critical importance to us is the Ada Rice Farm in Uzo Uwani Local Government Area. The project has the capacity for low gravity irrigation and has the potential of expansion to cover 10,000 hectares.
“Unfortunately, only 1,200 hectares of irrigable land have been fully developed. The Federal Government started the rehabilitation of the project in 2007. Sadly, progress in this regard has stalled.
“The Federal Government should re-evaluate the project to make it fully functional,to provide employment and boost economic activities in the area”. Continuing, Ugwuanyi regretted that some Federal Government agencies in the state were indebted to it and contributed to its financial stress.
Ugwuanyi said: “The government of the state will in this regard appreciate the intervention of the Federal Government to ensure the payment of huge debts owed the state by some federal agencies and establishments in the state. “They are the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) and the Federal College of Education, Eha-Amufu, which owe N2.3 billion, N10 billion and N190 million respectively in tax returns.
“These institutions have continued to owe even though the state government provides infrastructure and other ancillary supports to them.”
The governor, however, hailed the Federal Government for providing bailout funds to states, saying that it had assisted them to wriggle out of some financial challenges.
He said,”While we commend the Federal Government for providing the bailout funds, we do humbly appeal for the release of more resources to the states to enable them discharge their ever increasing responsibilities.
“We request for Federal Government’s intervention in the rehabilitation of its roads linking the south-east states. They are in deplorable condition.
He also called for the economic encouragement of the zone to stem capital flight by localising skills acquisition among the youths to increase productivity.
“I thank the Minister of Information and Culture for bringing this meeting to the zone. I am convinced that the presence of these ministers will help usher in the new vista of development for Enugu State and other parts of the Southeast region.”
Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed, while reacting to some of the issues raised said the Federal Government was not unmindful of the sufferings of Nigerians, assuring that the difficult times would not last.
He said the Federal Government would evenly develop all parts of the country, adding that no region would be short-changed.
On the deplorable condition of the roads in the zone, Mohammed said the Federal Government had mobilised contractors to begin work on some of them adding that the rains might have hindered the progress of work on the roads.
Agitations in S-East
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chief Chris Ngige, flayed the Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar regime that jettisoned the National Constitutional Conference crafted under late Gen. Sani Abacha which provided for rotational presidency, arguing that it would have quelled the strident agitation for Biafra Republic by different separatist groups in the south-east geopolitical zone.
The former governor of Anambra State revealed that rather than adopt the NCC which Gen. Abubakar met as Abacha’a successor, he back-tracked and amended portions of the 1979 Constitution which is responsible for the country’s woes.
He was answering a question from the former Minister of Information, Chief John Nnia Nwodo who complained that the country was not only moving too slow but needed to be restructured in line with the recommendations of the 2014 National Constitutional Conference, NCC.
“The agitation for restructuring did not start now. It has been there for a long time. No democratic regime in the history of this country has been able to create states. Apart the First Republic when the Mid-Western State was created, all other states created were under the military era. The six geopolitical zone structure is not even in the 1999 Constitution”, Ngige said.
“But the NCC recommendations under Abacha which I consider as excellent made provision for rotational presidency and residency rights. Late Abacha crafted a wonderful constitution but Gen. Abubakar back-tracked. Instead of using what Abacha did, he went and amended portions of the 1979 Constitution which is responsible for the country’s woos.
“The NCC convoked by former President Jonathan is suspect because the members to the conference were not elected. So, there is no sovereign element in the outcome of the conference. The only sovereignty rests with the National Assembly where you have elected representatives from all parts of the country”.
Defending the position of the present administration not to touch the 2014 NCC recommendations, Ngige said: “If by tomorrow, President Muhammadu Buhari decides to set up a constitutional conference, the Igbo should go to sleep because whatever gains they make there will not be taken away by anybody.”
He asked the Igbo to stop wallowing in self- pity over the political problems facing the race, saying that the people should “put on their thinking caps” on how to solve their problems.
Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe, also said that the Buhari administration inherited a bogus debt of N67 billion under the guise of procuring seedlings and over invoice of Fertilizers by the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.