My good people of Abia State,
It is with a deep sense of humility, fulfillment and gratitude to God that I address you today. Today marks the culmination of eight years of diligent service to you as your elected Governor. I first assumed this office on May 29, 2015 and on May 29, 2019, I took the oath of office for our second tenure. Since everything that has a beginning must of necessity, have an end, today, Monday, May 29, 2023 marks the end of our second and last tenure as Governor of Abia State.
The last eight years has been a journey. A journey in unshaken fidelity to our covenant with the people of Abia State, a journey in the unprecedented transformation of the infrastructural landscape of Abia State. In the course of the last 8 years, there were highs and naturally, there were lows too but without a shadow of doubt, we are leaving Abia State better than we met it.
Prior to our assumption of office, we had outlined our plan of action detailing key areas we wanted to focus on as encapsulated in our contract document with the people of Abia State. We promised to focus on 5 Pillars of Development comprising Education, Agriculture, Trade and Commerce, Industries and Oil and Gas.
The 5 Pillars were designed to rest on Enablers for their effective impact and these enablers included Infrastructural Development, Healthcare Delivery, Security, Fiscal Responsibility, Ease of Doing Business, Peace and Harmony.
With these clear markers of our destination, we set out on the journey to transform Abia State and I am proud to announce today that we achieved what we set out to achieve.
It is not in dispute that the unprecedented infrastructural decay that our commercial city, Aba was grappling with before our arrival has been substantially addressed. There was no single motorable access road into Aba as of May 29, 2015 but today, I am bold to state that Aba now boasts of multiple, aesthetically appealing, standard entrances and exits from various axes. Key internal roads in Aba have also been tackled and at no time in the history of Aba, since creation, has it had this number of motorable roads.
Through our commitment to excellence and innovative problem-solving, we have remedied the perennial failure of Aba road in Umuahia. Today, Aba road from Old Umuahia to the Umuahia City Centre is a smooth stretch of dual-carriage way befitting entrance into the capital city of a modern state.
We solved once and for all, the perennial gridlock at Osisioma by building the first interchange in Abia State and eliminating a seemingly intractable challenge. Today, traffic flows freely at that location and we have added value to the entrance into our commercial city.
Residents of Aba cannot forget the waterlogged nightmare that was Aba-Owerri Road in Aba before we came on board. Today, we have delivered a dual carriageway from Abayi Osisioma to Bata. Note that all these roads are complete with massive drainages, streetlights and other road furnishings. We must not forget that there was no single streetlight pole in Aba before we came on board.
When we assumed office, we were faced with the horrific inaccessibility of our foremost market: the Ariaria International Market. We have solved that problem by opening up several roads leading to the market especially, Faulks road. You are all witnesses to the new looks of Azikiwe Road, Eziukwu Road, Milverton, Okigwe Road and a host of other roads within the Aba metropolis.
I will not fail to mention the several kilometers of rural roads we constructed all across Abia State thus opening up agrarian communities and ventilating our commercial centres.
This is my way of informing you that under our watch, we were able to intervene in a total of 227 Roads cutting across the entire length and breadth of Abia State. I make bold to state that no other administration from the inception of Abia State has delivered the number, magnitude and quality of roads we have delivered in Abia State.
We have been able to face head-on, the collapsed Health Sector in Abia State by being the first State in Nigeria to introduce Tele-Health as an effective, foresighted means of delivering healthcare to the people of Abia State.
We linked the 772 Health Centres in Abia State to the Tele-Health Command Centre in Umuahia with Primary Healthcare workers communicating constantly with Specialist Doctors across specialisations. We addressed health services delivery to our aged by pioneering the Geriatric Healthcare Programme. We also addressed emergency care by procuring several mobile ambulances and hospitals-on-wheels to cater to our people.
We addressed infant and maternal mortality by delivering the first Pediatric Specialist Hospital in Abia State in Umuahia. We built new Infectious Disease Hospitals and Covid-19 Laboratories in Aba and Umuahia.
We delivered a new Cottage Hospital in Nkporo, built and fully furnished a Diagnostic Centre in Isuikwuato, new General Hospitals in Obingwa, Ukwa East, Ikwuano and Ohafia and to cap it all, last week, we commissioned an ultra-modern Multi-Specialist Hospital with Doctors Quarters at the Old Aba General Hospital.
PEACE AND SECURITY
I urge you all to cast your minds back to the pervasive atmosphere of insecurity that pervaded Abia State when we came on board. To the glory of God, for the 8 years I served as Governor, there was no single bank robbery anywhere in Abia State contrary to what was hitherto obtainable. People now move around in every part of Abia State at every time of the day and night without fear of attack. This also did not come about by accident. Upon assumption of office, we confronted head-on, the security situation in Abia State knowing that security was one of the enablers to our developmental plan.
We have donated over 150 fully equipped patrol vehicles to all security formations in Abia State as well as set up various measures aimed at tracking criminal activities in the state using information technology and community surveillance.
We also built and donated a brand new Headquarters for the Zone 9 Police Command in Abia State which was commissioned by the Inspector-General of Police. We also built new Police Stations in different parts of the State as well as setting up the Abia State Crime Prevention & Management System (C-PAMS). Abia is undoubtedly the safest State in the South East and one of the most secure States in Nigeria under our watch.
As a corollary to the above, we addressed the hitherto perennial intractable political crises in Abia State by ensuring a peaceful atmosphere in the State and entrenching a culture of peaceful co-existence among all political tendencies in the State. This ensured that people of all persuasions could go about their legitimate endeavours without fear of attack or molestation.
All through the electioneering period, we ensured that Abia continued to maintain its peaceful status and we give God the glory that the elections were concluded in Abia State without spilling a single blood of anyone in Abia State. This is an enviable legacy and we are indeed proud of it.
In the Educational sector, as one of our Pillars of development, we achieved great strides.
We were able to quadruple public school enrollments from 142,000 per annum when we assumed office in 2015 to about 700,000 new intakes as at September 2022. Abia State has also come first in WAEC scores for about 6 years in a row. This is in addition to students from Abia State making First Class at the Nigerian Law School every year while also excelling in different competitions across disciplines. Our own Abia State University is currently ranked second among State Universities in Nigeria and our educational products are excelling globally due to the foundation they received in Abia State.
This came about as a result of our deliberate policies in the educational sector. Our administration was the first to introduce school feeding program throughout Primary Schools in Abia State even before the Federal Government introduced the program up to Primary 3. We have constructed and renovated over 700 schools around Abia State. We have conducted massive training and retraining of our teachers. We have strengthened the Abia State Scholarship Scheme and a number of Abians are currently schooling abroad on scholarship. We relocated the Faculty of Law, Abia State University to her campus in Umuahia and provided massive infrastructure. We also supported the establishment of Veritas University and other tertiary institutions in Abia State. Our records speak for us.
INDUSTRIALISATION, TRADE AND COMMERCE
Ndi Abia Ndi Nwem, one area that our administration has recorded unprecedented and widely acclaimed accolades is in the area of Trade and Commerce. We pulled our SMEs out of their static state prior to our assumption of office and made them the darling of Nigeria and beyond. We were deliberate.
We emphasized capacity development by sending 30 of our shoe-makers to China to learn automated shoemaking. Upon their return, we purchased the equipments they used in China and set up the Enyimba Automated Shoe Factory. We have complemented that by commissioning last week, the Enyimba Garment Factory. This provided the needed fillip to our artisans to express their creativity and the sector is booming vibrantly today. We invited the Federal Government to partner with us and Aba became a part of every MSME conversation in Nigeria and beyond. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Aba producers took centre-stage producing facemasks and critical medical disposables for the health sector all over Nigeria.
We are proud of our feat in the SME space which won us several awards as the most SME friendly government in Nigeria. We established the Abia SME Micro-finance Bank which provides soft loans to MSMes in Abia State and supported them with formaisation and business registrations. In industrialization, we supported the revitalization of our flagship Golden Guinea Breweries Plc while hand-holding Inner Galaxy Steel Company to become the largest producing steel company in Nigeria with several subsidiaries.
In markets development, we have constructed and delivered a new A-line for Ariaria International Market as well as reconstructing other markets in Aba and Abia State. With the foundation we have laid, Abia State has regained its rightful place as the trade and commerce capital of Nigeria and West Africa.
In the area of Electrification, we partnered with the Rural Electrification Agency to build the Ariaria Power Plant at Aba.
We also provided massive support to Geometric Power Company to resolve its challenges and commence operations. We distributed over 1,000 transformers to communities in Abia State to enjoy grid power, some for the first time since creation, and energized countless rural communities. Our investment in massive lighting up of Abia State is evident in the streetlights we have installed in all the roads we have constructed in Abia State.
Our strides in the agricultural sector are visible for all to see. We re-established Abia State as the agrarian centerpiece it had always been from the time of our late father, Sir M.I. Okpara. We procured and planted over 4 million tenera species of palm trees all around Abia State and revitalized some of our moribung plantations. We also established 7 palm-processing cottage industries around the State.
During our time, Abia State was formally recognized as a rice-producing state. To strengthen this status, we set up 5 cottage rice mills across the state and our flagship rice, Osikapa Abia became available in markets all-year round. We also established a 150,000-bird poultry cluster at Nsulu while pioneering mushroom farming which has since been exported to other states.
Sports development, being a key enabler of social and physical wellbeign, we invested heavily in our sports sector. Enyimba International Stadium, Aba was upgraded to become one of the most beautiful and modern stadia in the country receiving approval to host international matches.
We have also maintained our professional sports teams in their various leagues providing employment for the players and ancillary support venture for all those linked to the teams. Our flagship team, Enyimba International Football Club won a number of laurels during our time.
In the area of physical infrastructures, we have also left our indelible marks which will speak for us for years to come. We Delivered 4 New Bridge Projects In Aba, Ohafia, Arochukwu And Umunneochi LGAs, executed 6 Gully Erosion Mediation Projects In Umuagu, Isingwu Umuahia North, Umuogele Umuakwu Nsulu Isialangwa North and Umuezeukwu Nsulu Isialangwa North LGAs.
We constructed and delivered the Abia Investment House in Umuahia, completed the Ochendo International Conference Centre in Umuahia, completed the JAAC Building in Umuahia, completed the ASUBEB Building in Umuahia, constructed a new ASOPADEC Headquarters in Umuahia, constructed ABSIEC Building in Umuahia, constructed and donated over 250 Houses to indigent women through the office of the wife of the Governor.
Of particular satisfaction to me is the completion and commissioning of the new Government House, Umuahia. For 24 years since the creation of Abia State, successive Governors have operated out of a hitherto private property. Today, Abia State has a befitting Government House and we are proud to have delivered that project.
In the area of Water supply, the Umuahia Urban Water Scheme was reactivated for the first time in more than 30 years under our watch. We also activated the Okoko Item Water Scheme and the Ozuitem Water Scheme.
Distinguished Abians, while I will love to take time to acquaint you with all the projects we executed in the 8 years of our stewardship, I have no doubt that you are well aware of them. They are visible for all to see. I have no doubt that our place is firmly secured in the firmament of posterity in Abia State.
We took over a state with massive deficit in diverse facets of the state and we turned the story around. We are proud of our accomplishments.
It will be remiss of me to address you today and tell you that we did everything we set out to do. In humility, I admit that there are areas we fell short. I especially note the area of salaries, pensions and other emoluments. We set out to ensure that this would not be a problem and for the better part of our administration, we kept faith with our promises until unforeseen financial constraints hampered our ability to meet up with our emoluments as and when due. This was exercabated by mismanagement by those we entrusted with the responsibility of running some of our parastatals. I note that we were not owing our core civil servants save for those whose payments did not fall under our immediate purview. That been said, as the Chief Executive and the one you voted in to solve your problems, I take full responsibility for any shortcomings in that regard and regret that we could not do more.
Naturally, as a human, there are definitely those I have offended in the course of my governorship. I come before you asking for your forgiveness. I make no excuses. My heart is clean. Wherever I have advertently or inadvertently fallen short, I tender an unreserved apology and ask that God, who rules in the affairs of men, place it in your hearts to overlook our shortcomings.
Tomorrow , a new Government will be inaugurated in Abia State. I state unequivocally that I wish the incoming Governor all the best as he pilots the affairs of this state. I call on all Abians and residents of Abia State to give him your maximum support. Government and governance is a continuum. It is a relay race. We have run our race and we will hand over the baton today to a new government. They will be picking up from where we stopped and adding to the development of Abia State.
They will not need to execute the projects we have already executed. They will execute new ones all to the benefit of the people of Abia State. That is the essence of governance. Where one administration stops, another administration will continue.
Again, I place it on record that I wish the incoming Government well. I bear no grudge against anyone. I harbor no ill-feelings. My heart is full of gratitude. I have played my part, I have done my best. I shall remain available to offer support when called upon and without a doubt, we have laid a solid foundation for the incoming Government to build upon.
All things considered, I leave office a fulfilled man. The son of a Teacher and a Nurse who rose to become Governor of Abia State and who did his best for his people. My story offers hope to all Abians. Remain diligent in your endeavours and there is no limit to the heights you can attain.
My beloved Abians, I close the curtain here. I commend you to the support and protection of God in haven to whom this state has been dedicated from birth. This is God’s own State and the will of God will continually be done in Abia State.
I thank you all once again for the eternal honour and privilege to serve as your Governor. My prayer to you is that may the Lord bless you all, keep you, cause His light to shine upon you and give you peace.
Udo diri unu.
Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, Ph.D
Governor, Abia State
May 28, 2023.