By Ijendu Iheaka
Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia has announced plans to set up six pilot cottage industries in rural communities for value addition to primary agricultural produce.
Ikpeazu disclosed this on Friday night in Aba, while briefing newsmen on the achievements of his administration to mark his sixth anniversary in office.
He said the cottage industries would be cited within the communities for the processing of cassava as well as palm and kernel oil.
He said the initiative was meant to engage the youths in profitable ventures and also reverse the unnecessary rural-urban migration.
The governor said his government remained committed to the five pillars of development, which included trade and commerce, industry, agriculture, education and oil and gas.
He expressed joy that he had achived success in his plan to transform the industrial sector of Aba through the establishment of three alternative power sources.
He said the collaboration between the state and Federal Government helped to realise the Ariaria Independent Power Plant for artisans in the market.
He also hoped that the energy need for Aba would be fully met with Geometric Power Plant at Osisioma coming up soon, plus the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company.
Ikpeazu said he pursued the power project because he believed that the power sector should be liberalised like the telecommunication to give Nigerians alternative choices to power.
He regretted that progress on his dream Enyimba Economic City had suffered a setback due to security challenges but expressed the optimism it would eventually be realised.
He said his administration’s drive to develop the shoe, leather and garment industry had resulted in the establishment of NIBRA shoe factory in Ukwa, Enyimba shoe factory at Aba and the Footwear Academy by a private investor.
The governor also threw more light on his preference to build a dry port to an airport in the state.
“I am thinking about a dry port instead of an airport and I am unapologetic to put the dry port ahead of airport.
“We take decisions for investments based on prospects of how far it will serve my people and return on investment. My mind is at peace with this argument.
He contended that with airports in Imo, Enugu, Anambra and soon in Ebonyi, there was no economic sence for Abia to go for an airport.
“The development means we have an airport within 100-kilometer radius in the South-East,” Ikpeazu said.
He further argued that only about five per cent of the people travel by air from the area, “whereas about 95 per cent of goods at Apapa and Onne ports belong to my people in Abia”.
He said the dry port, which had witnessed several groundbreaking under previous administrations in the state, would be executed through Public Private Partnership.
The governor said the emphasis to fix roads in Aba was to improve access to major markets and boost economic activities in the area.
He said the measure would help to shore up government’s internally generated revenue (IGR) from the city, which could be deployed to fund development in other parts of the state.
He said his administration’s intervention in the education sector had yielded 600 classroom blocks, with additional 150 in the pipeline.
Ikpeazu said that government had acquired digital teaching machines which would be deployed to improve the teaching environment in Abia schools with effect from September.
On health, he said that government had acquired state-of-the-art equipment, including mobile clinics, theaters and ambulances, to deepen healthcare delivery in the state.
He said that plans had also been concluded to make the 750 primary healthcare centres more functional.
He said that government would henceforth enage medical personnel from host communities to man the health centres to ensure greater commitment and better service delivery.
Ikpeazu also spoke on the appaling financial status of the Abia Polytechnic, saying the institution “was built on sandy foundation and doomed to collapse either today or tomorrow”.
“How do you justify 60 gatemen in two gates, 1000 cooks in a canteen. What kind of thing is that?
“We’re only trying to salvage whatever we can salvage. The institution must be dynamic enough to respond to the needs of its environment,” he said.
He charged the authorities to check leakages, unnecessary expenditures and carry out staff rationalisation.
The governor challenged revenue generating agencies and parastatals of government to rise to generate enough IGR to augment government’s subvention.
He said that his administration was totally committed to the Asaba Declaration by the governors from the south to ban open grazing.
He said the state would determine how to implement the ban in Abia based on the recommendations of the report of a recent security summit in the state.
According to him, the state-own Ebubeagu, a security outfit conceived by the South-East Governors’ Forum, to tackle insecurity in the zone, will be inaugurated soon.
“There are criminal herdsmen in our forests. They are the people we will chase away because they hide in the forests to kidnap and kill our people,” he said.
Ikpeazu rebutted an alleged speculation that he planned to dump the Peoples Democratic Party, saying he had no reasons yet to leave the party.
On the dwindling revenue from the federation account, he said that government’s option would be “to find a way to increase its IGR, without hurting the people.” (NAN)