During the electioneering campaigns in 2015, one of the promises made by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu PhD was that as a Governor he would hold the hand of the weakest in the society and give them hope for a better tomorrow. The life history of the Governor exemplifies hope, sustained through hard work, preparation and taking advantage of opportunities that abound.
Through deliberate government actions and programmes Governor Ikpeazu has touched lives, impacted communities and created a pathway for the most vulnerable in Abia to find succor.
As a Governor under the platform of the PDP coming from the South Eastern part of Nigeria, the Governor had set an example as a leader who understood the difference between the time for politics and the time for Governance.
From the world go, the Governor knew that he had a mandate to serve the people of Abia state working with key development stakeholders to improve the life of the average Abia man/woman. He tried to set aside ego and pecuniary interest or playing to gallery to ensure that he worked closely with all agencies and interested parties to create a support ecosystem for the massive development of Abia State.
One area the Governor has so far distinguished himself is the domestication of federal introduced – Social Investment Programme. Leveraging the four-component part programme Governor Ikpeazu has ran the most robust and effective Social Investment Programme in Eastern Nigeria if not beyond. Continuously Abia Social Investment Office has remained the reference example to other Eastern States. Hear His Excellency the Vice President Prof Yemi Osinbajo SAN, GCON
“”On each of my visits to Abia State, I see something new, something different and something innovative. I am proud of Governor Ikpeazu and the passion he brings to governance. Perhaps, the greatest thing he has done, in my view, is the wonderful collaboration he engineers between the federal government and Abia State.
The telemedicine project is yet another of such innovations and it is worthy of note that Abia is the very first state in Nigeria to formally embrace this initiative.
From NPOWER to the School Feeding Program, from power generation and transmission to security and infrastructure, Governor Ikpeazu adopts a bipartisan approach in his engagements with the federal government. He brings an added exciting personal touch to the relationship, which translates, into a stronger relationship between Abia State and the Federal Government for the overall interest of the people of Abia State. I am indeed proud of my friend and brother, His Excellency, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu”.
Under the N Power Programme, the Abia State Social Investment Office has successfully placed about 12, 000young hitherto unemployed graduates in the N Power graduate volunteer programme where they earn a monthly salary of 30,000 naira. Some of the employed youths are posted to public primary schools to support the education sector, others are posted to health centres for the health sector and other services the agriculture sector.
This programme injects the sum of 360 million naira monthly into the state’s economy. Another 1670 are been trained at different centres in the state under the N Build Scheme to equip them with different building services skills. This programme runs on the foundation of the state-initiated E4E programme, which emphasizes retooling Abia youths to become not just self reliant but competitive at a time of high technological advancement.
These programmes in addition to others alike have continued to impact positively on the lives of the young people in the state. Even though the federal government pays them, the state played pivotal role by mobilizing the youths during registration and screening processes. The state social investment office continues to play support services to the beneficiaries.
While campaigning to become the Governor of Abia, Okezie Ikpeazu PhD assured Abians that he will return the state as the MSME capital of Nigeria. Aba is one of the cities in Abia that serves as its commercial capital. Aba is a city with largest concentration of SMEs in Nigeria. Through GEEP a platform that delivers small loans to small businesses, the State Social Investment Office has funded about 17,865 small businesses with loan amounts ranging from 50,000 to 100,000.
As further show of commitment to ensure that the issue of access to capital is no longer a major challenge to small businesses in the state the SIP Office entered into partnership with BoI to provide a loan basket of 3billion naira targeting about 30,000 individual businesses. The requirement for accessing the fund was also simplified to make it very easy for rural women with no collateral to access the funds.
This programme has impacted very positively on rural women who run petty businesses and trade. This is not all the Governor has done to improve the lot of businesses in the state at that level. In partnership with the Rural Electrification Agency, the traders at Ariaria International Market will soon enjoy uninterrupted power supply on a regular basis. The pilot scheme has delivered uninterrupted power supply to about 1000 shops for the past 10 months.
Governor Ikpeazu like the Vice President mentioned, seeks for partnership that will touch the lives of the most vulnerable in the society. Upon assumption of office, the state government in partnership with the Vicar Hope Foundation the pet project of the Wife of the Governor launched a free school meal programme targeting pupils in public primary schools. The pilot scheme proved very successful and the programme was immediately expanded. Incidentally the Federal Government launched the Home Grown School Feeding Programme and requested interested states to partner to deliver the foods to primaries 1-3 pupils public primary schools.
Abia having set the template and structures for the success of the programme adopted the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme and expanded the programme to primary 6. Consequently, today Abia is the only state in the country feeding from primary 1 to 6. The impact of this programme has immediately pushed school enrolment from about 150,000 to a little over 300,000 within such a short period of implementation.
The programme engages over 3000 rural women as cooks and injects about 345 million naira monthly into the state’s economy affecting the agriculture and several other sectors. The programme has also enhanced school performance of these pupils supporting the continuous performance of Abia in national and international public examinations.
Governor Ikpeazu has continued to offer hope to the most vulnerable members of the society, pushing people up the social ladder. The next set of people being targeted now is the most poor in our communities who through conditional cash transfer about 17,000 of them will receive monthly inflow of 5,000.
By Chinenye Nwaogu, Umuahia
These social inclusion and intervention programmes continues to provide succor to the citizens of the state especially the most vulnerable.