By Peter Okutu
ABAKALIKI – AS States in Nigeria, especially the non oil producing ones grapple with challenges of the present economic situation in the country, the present administration in Ebonyi State has set in motion some economic strategies to enable it survive the period without stress.
One of the fundamental strategies is to ensure strict utilization of viable economic opportunities and partnerships to boost the state’s economy. And one of such partnerships was evoked during the two-day visit of the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Stuart Symington, to Ebonyi State during which he took a tour of some key projects executed by the State government.
They include, construction work at the Afikpo-Abakaliki expressway, three flyover bridges located across the trans-Sahara highway, construction sites of the New Governor’s Lodge at the Centenary city and the Abakaliki Rice Mill among others.
One intriguing aspect of US Ambassador’s visit was his endorsement of Abakaliki rice as one of the best in the world. At the Abakaliki rice mill, the ambassador who was shocked at the nature and processes involved in rice production in the state encouraged the state to sustain the tempo of rice production in the country.
“I am delighted to be here and it has given me the chance to see what you are doing in infrastructural development. Your rice is the best rice anywhere in the world and we commend the governor for putting his government to work in Ebonyi State,” he said.
At a courtesy call on Governor David Umahi at the Government House, Abakaliki, Symington called for sustained developmental efforts in Ebonyi State to open up the area for greater Agricultural and mining activities. He said the government should sustain the prevailing peace and security in the State, noting that no meaningful development can flourish in an atmosphere of rancour.
“The first critical step involves upgrading the economic fortunes of the state, and also setting up opportunities in this area that would welcome investors to the place thereby making it possible for investment. I can not think of any more compelling message than this and I urge the state government to abide by this because it will bring investors to the state”
Responding, Governor David Umahi commended the United States diplomat for his visit to the state and solicited his assistance in attracting investors to the state. Umahi described the visit as an opportunity for the state to re-invent itself economically, adding: “you have seen how Ebonyi State is trying to put together the infrastructure and human development needs of the people.
“Your visit would enable the State explore areas of partnership with the United States government, especially in agriculture. This is the area we need an investment. We need investment in area of medicare and development of agriculture, I assure you of a very healthy environment, Governor Umahi emphasized”.
Meanwhile, the State Commissioner for information and orientation, Senator Emmanuel Onwe, had hinted that the ambassador’s visit would impact the state economically and investment-wise and place the state on a positive light in the global arena.
Reacting to the visit, the chairman of Abakaliki Rice Millers Association, Deacon Joseph Nnuhu, said it was a welcome development, adding that the visit was a pointer of better things ahead for rice farmers in the state.
According to him, if American government through partnership with the State government assist in injecting foreign-based initiatives into the agricultural sector, our production output in 2017 will be very high this year.
“You can get all kinds of rice in Ebonyi. We even have even rice for diabetic patient. It is low in starch; it is better for them than any other rice.
“Our Governor is doing his best in the agricultural sector and more support from foreign partners will give the state a big boost to enable us compete further and overtake any other state of the federation in rice production”.
The U.S. Ambassador was accompanied on the visit by the Embassy Consular General in Nigeria, Mr John Grey and other Support Staff of the Consulate Office. Ends