Ugwuanyi and the transformation of Enugu as Africa’s Dubai
By David Onmeje
Until state creation propelled by the crave for rapid development, thrusted the balkanization knife into the old Anambra state to birth a fresh Enugu state, the coal city was the heart of South-eastern Nigeria. It bubbled with commerce and industry, which spilled into other cities of the region.
Enugu state would remain a bride to be courted by every South-east man or woman for many generations to come. Every one who presides over the state, attempts to answer to its multiple developmental needs. But the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has dispensed exceptional leadership as the political leader of the state in the last four and a half years.
His leadership is unique as can be attested to by his numerous achievements. Ugwuanyi was entrusted with public service at a time Nigeria was seeping through sickening and frustrating economic woes and multifaceted challenges.
At the occasion of the 2019 Democracy Day held at Okpara Square in Enugu, which Gov. Ugwuanyi dubbed, “Festival of Gratitude and Praise,” the Governor confirmed that ; “The laudable goals we have achieved appeared impossible at that time owing to the realities on ground: huge debt profile of the state pressing down our neck and huge salaries and pension arrears confronting us.” But Ugwuanyi’s dispensation of genuine leadership in austere times has singled him out prominently as a prudent manager of both human and economic resources; a visionary and grassroots leader. His scorecard in the last few years has somewhat become a national anthem, recited in the nooks and crannies of the state by people savoring his leadership ingenuity and reputable organizations alike.
Are Ugwuanyi’s transformational efforts in Enugu state really deserving of such loud eulogies? Of course, the verifiable evidence supports such exciting assertions for a Governor who started the journey in May 2015 and celebrated with the epaulet of “Gburugburu” by his people. He articulated the vision of his administration on a four-point agenda, clarified as employment generation, social services and good governance, rural development, security and social justice.
It is understandable that there is a culture by Nigerians to dispute the achievements of their leaders because of the proclivity to deceit. But Gov. Ugwuanyi gets his accolades beyond the borders of the state and from reputable organizations which silently scrutinize his government’s performance. A mid-2019 report by the National Bureau of Statistics named Enugu state as one of the six states in Nigeria, which recorded the highest net gains in full-time employment between 2017 and 2018 with a figure of 122,333.
Enugu state under Gov. Ugwuanyi is also rated by the Financial Derivatives Company as one of Nigeria’s Most Financially Stable States with Lagos and Kano states. This accolade is in an era where most states loudly bemoan economic crunch.
Further testimony of Ugwuanyi’s commendable performance preceding the encouraging reports came from a World Bank Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria report. It decorated Enugu State as the third best state to start a business in Nigeria after Abuja and Lagos, as the Governor pursued his dream of activating Enugu as a recognizable economic hub in the country through investor-friendly policies.
Therefore, these feats were not attained by mere wish, but through meticulous planning, prudence and beneficial application of resources. To get himself financially armed for the enormous challenges, Gov. Ugwuanyi had to change the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state from its poor earnings to an appreciable level of generation and remittance to support development initiatives.
His reforms overhauled the Enugu State Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which jerked up the IGR from a paltry N14 billion in 2016 to N18.4 billion and to a record N22 billion in 2017. Enugu state’s internal revenue generation performance was ranked among the best 10 in the country by BudgIT, a civil group that advocates transparency in governments’ earnings and expenditure. And the inauguration of the Enugu State Ease of Doing Business Council early 2018 smoothened the path, as the Governor untied the knots that initially slowed down transactions.
His faithful implementation of the reforms compelled the recognition of Enugu state among the five states in the federation to earn Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) Awards 2019.
After creating a favorable business environment, Gov. Ugwuanyi pursued his dream for a boisterous economy and rewarding investments for Enugu state. He organized the first Enugu State Economic Summit in history. It was branded ‘Oganiru’ and attracted the in-flow of investors far and near to the state.
The people are already savouring the benefits noticeable in the completion of the HELIU Estate project in Enugu and the Dragon Market in Dubai modelled Lion Business Park, a PPP arrangement between the Enugu State Government and a Chinese Investment Company, erected on an expansive land. And to further animate the socio-economic environment, work on the abandoned Enugu International Conference Centre is nearing completion. This edifice which was abandoned by the past administration when completed is capable of hosting international events including global summits for Heads of government from any part of the world.
Quite impressively, Gov. Ugwuanyi did not embezzle or divert the improved IGR unlike his predecessors who turned same into an ATM machine for family use. There were months same was used to pay salaries and pensions of workers, which is permanently fixed for 23rd of every month even before the federal allocation hits the account of the state.
Interestingly, the Governor commits whatever allocation accrued to the state to massive rural transformation. Ugwuanyi’s passion for rural dwellers, whom he fetes as the “the true heroes of democracy” because of consistent neglect and obscurity from government patronage is legendary. It is very heart-warming to see how the administration sought to change the narrative in order to put smiles on their faces.
Therefore, his administration has completed the construction of urban and rural roads projects spanning over 300 kilometers. It has enhanced intra and inter-state connection of the people, much as maintenance of infrastructures erected by past administrations became a prime policy of his administration.
The Governor has uniquely touched the hearts of the people of Nkanu West LGA, by constructing the Agbani-Amurri road, this was a community that was once condemned to neglect by both the federal and state government for over 100 years. Similarly, the people of Akpugo zone for the first time since the creation of Enugu state are enjoying the first government project in their community with the newly constructed Ogonogoeji-Ndiagu-Akpugo road from the point of Atavu Bailey Bridge to Afor Onovo.
The Governor has also flagged -off the construction of four rural roads in the state at the cost of about N1 billion and covering over 100 kilometres .
Moreover, Gov. Ugwuanyi has taken the notch higher in roads construction by awarding contracts worth N2.4 billion for six major roads. It also covers the historic 35 years deplorable Eha-Amufu-Nkalagu federal road at Isi-Uzo LGA among others. This gesture remains a day dream to the people as the community did not have the usual big wigs to influence any development to their region until the divine coming of Ugwuanyi.
To further assuage the years of pains of neglect of rural dwellers in the state, Gov. Ugwuanyi initiated the “Choose-Your-Project” (CYP) policy and the Visit Every Community (VEC) programme, (VECP) schemes . The programmes allow key stakeholders in each of the 17 local government areas in the state to identify priority projects of choice worth N100 million and N10 million respectively for government to execute in their domains. He has kept faith in this covenant with the people and over 35 development projects have been executed under the CYP; while VECP has over N5 billion already disbursed to communities in answer to this special rural intervention. That his administration has committed about N45 billion into road construction in the state is not news; the real excitement is the practical evidences of expending such monies dotting every part of the state. It is impossible to embark on a 10 minute drive without coming in contact with at least three of these fabulous engagements to demonstrate that Enugu is indeed in God’s hands.
The state capital, Enugu has received a fair share of the “Gburugburulisation” as a visit at night will convince anyone that Dubai is indeed real and possible in Nigeria and just to ensure that it competes with other world cities in terms of world class infrastructure and facilities.
Gov. Ugwuanyi has installed 25-units of 60 KVA and 10 units of 200 KVA generating sets to power street lights in the metropolis. Cleanliness they say is next to godliness, the God-fearing leader has complemented the efforts of the Enugu State Waste Management Authority (ESWAMA) by constituting a special task force to arrest the menace of indiscriminate waste-disposal to restore the scenic aesthetics of the coal city.
It is therefore apt to add that his administration has also launched the programme of continuous road maintenance in Enugu metropolis christened “Operation Zero Potholes” and the Enugu Clean Team Project as part of measures to enforce urban renewal and cleanliness of Enugu city. There is no doubt that these are yielding the much desired dividend as the potholes are fast vanishing away. The urban renewal initiatives are working to specifications, as the committee on Enugu State Urban Renewal is always at work to closely monitor and supervise the total implementation of the initiative.
The people of Enugu state have described Ugwuanyi’s passion for safety of lives and property as exceptional. His inauguration of the Security/Neigbourhood Watch Endowment Fund and the Enugu State Justice Reform Team (ESJRT) to work favorably on his defined terms and results. Many citizens and residents have very good testimonies to Ugwuanyi’s credit as not only a man of peace but a peacemaker and lover of peace to a fault.
A civil servant, Mr. Mike Uzoh emphatically says, Enugu state is comparatively peaceful as incidents of ritual killings, banditry, insurgency and other such armed criminalities have considerably reduced in the various communities of the state. He said, under Ugwuanyi, the “The case of kidnapping has only been heard once or twice,” in the state.
A commercial bus driver, Mr. Ejike Obieyem collaborates it as he asserts, “You can bear me witness on the population of persons and vehicles on our major roads, market areas, banks, churches, mosques, among others. People are really coming into Enugu to settle down with their families as a result of insecurity in their former states and stations.”
There is no doubt that Gov. Ugwuanyi has etched his name on the sands of time, as a Governor whose vision has sighted Enugu as an African version of Dubai and is working assiduously to consummate this reality.