By Johnbosco Agbakwuru

THE Federal Government, weekend, explained that it placed embargo on employment because the economy was not in good shape.

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, stated this when he received the Traditional Ruler of Nnewi town, Igwe Kenneth Orizu (III) who paid him a courtesy visit with a delegation, comprising of members of the royal family and leaders of the various quarters of the town in his Abuja residence.

The Minister in a statement issued by his Media Office told his guest that the Government has created small jobs and empowerment programmes, to fortify social safety nets and establish a social protection system.

Ngige, who is a former governor of Anambra state, is also a member of both the Federal Cabinet Committee for Economic Recovery and Economic Sustainability Committee amongst others.

The delegation had earlier pleaded with the Minister to help secure jobs for young graduates from the town.   

Responding, Ngige said, “The Federal Government placed embargo on employment because the economy is not in good shape. But, we have the Home Support Programmes like Conditional Cash Transfer and others. Such money is meant for the poor in the society.

“I have been making sure that Nnewi town gets its due through my foot soldiers in the community. Nothing is too small but I assure you that we will do more.”

Ngige, however pledged to ensure that people from the town were given jobs when the Federal Government lifts the embargo on employment.

He also noted that a change of Management had taken place at Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital (NAUTH) Nnewi, and therefore assured that they were going to put more interest in the Hospital.

He said, “In fact, there are oxygen plants being shared for the 36 states and state capitals. I put the one for Anambra State in the Nnewi Teaching Hospital. I have spoken with the Acting Chief Medical Director and he told me that he will take the Oxygen Plant to the Permanent Site of the Hospital. I will make sure that nobody will divert or tamper with it.”

Stressing that he has a long standing relationship with Nnewi people, the Minister recalled that as a Deputy Director at the Federal Ministry of Health in 1991, he was among the people who converted the Mbuli General Hospital Nnewi into a teaching hospital when Nnamdi Azikiwe University was brought to Awka.

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According to him, “I called Prof. Okey Mbonu and told him what was done. I told him the implication is that there will be a teaching hospital for the university and that he should go and find out the most viable location between Awka and Nnewi.

“He reported back to me that Nnewi will be more viable because businessmen in the town, including Cletus Ibeto and Ajulu Uzodike had finished moulding blocks and promised to invest their money once the hospital was brought to their hometown.

“So, the first six months, we took over and engaged staff members. Some people in the then Federal establishment who were fighting us refused to send money to the Hospital for the payment of salaries. The same Nnewi people again brought money for the payment of salaries for three months, to make sure that the teaching hospital becomes a reality.

“I was the person who put the teaching hospital in the budget for the first time in 1993 when I was supervising teaching hospitals and new medical centres. I brought Prof. Okey Mbonu to Abuja and we met Dr Maduka Nwakwesi who was Director of Budget and the Permanent Secretary, Chris Olumese whose appointment was facilitated by former Minister of Finance, Professor Chu Okongwu. Okongwu was no longer a Minister at that time, but Chris Olumese wanted to reciprocate the gesture he did to him and asked how much it will cost for the teaching hospital to take off and we told him. By then, we had moved to Abuja here.

“So, I brought Mbonu from Lagos to Abuja here and we stayed for three days and included the money in the 1994 budget when Abacha was in charge and he was appointed  the first Chief Medical Director. I did it as something coming to Igboland, Anambra State, Nnewi and my hometown Alor, which is about 15 minutes’ drive from the teaching hospital.”  

Ngige also recalled that while serving as Governor, he reconstructed roads in Nnewi, to make the town the third major city in Anambra State, after the Awka capital city and Onitsha.

He added that he appointed the Chief Judge of the State from Nnewi and chose Igwe Orizu III as the Chairman of Anambra Traditional Rulers Council ahead of some traditional rulers who lobbied for the position with money. 

Earlier, Orji Nwafor Orizu, who spoke on behalf of the delegation, told Ngige that the people of Nnewi town were happy with him and wanted their relationship to continue.

He thanked Ngige for all he had done for Nnewi people, saying “Honourable Minister after Nigeria, Anambra and your Alor hometown, please make Nnewi your next constituency.

“The sky is the beginning for you. You know what you want. God will give it to you,” Orizu said.

“However, we appeal to you to assist us. Many of our children are unemployed after graduating from school.”

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