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Abia State Governor Theodore Orji may not be the world’s most charismatic politician, but his commitment to the erection of development edifices is so enthralling that you cannot fail to be impressed, as Vincent Obia finds out
“There must be a solid foundation. Laying this foundation is what has informed the things I’m doing,” is how Governor Theodore Orji describes the quiet infrastructural revolution is he is leading in Abia State with his “legacy projects.” Looking closely at these projects that are changing the skyline of Umuahia, the capital city, and other major towns across the state, they are monuments complete with contemporary and historical significance.
The International Conference Centre, e-library, and the new secretariat complex are among edifices erected by the Orji administration that dominate the skyline at Ogurube Layout in Umuahia, a new area being developed by the government to expand and decongest the city centre.
The International Conference Centre, a massive architectural ensemble, sits in the middle of the new layout. It has a main auditorium with a sitting capacity of 4, 000 and five galleries with a combined sitting capacity of about 1, 000. The building being constructed by Charbel Limited was started in November 2011. The structural engineer, Chinedum Ikechukwu, says the project is 90 percent complete and may be completed this year.
The new secretariat is a three-block complex right beside the domed, rather outmoded, structure that currently houses most of Abia State government’s ministries, departments, and agencies. Work is yet to commence on the third block of the building that was started in 2011.
Close to the new secretariat building is another enormous structure that is planned to house the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Joint Accounts Allocation Committee, and the state’s traditional rulers’ secretariat. Work here is said to have started about six months ago.
Within the new Umuahia area is also the new Abia State Government House and Governor’s Office, which are under construction. Officials at the site say visitors are not allowed to look at the buildings’ interior for security reasons.
At the Broadcasting Corporation of Abia State, a complex of about 40 office spaces is added to give the government’s radio and television outfit a facelift. A similarly new structure adorns the premises of the state high court in Umuahia.
Orji says he is spurred on by the embarrassing dearth of basic infrastructural foundation in a state that was created in 1991. “These are the basic things and I know that once they are on ground, you can then talk of other things about governance. Since these were not on ground, it becomes my responsibility to put them on the ground, lay the foundation, and if I still have the time, start building. Then wherever I stop, another person will come in,” he says.
The Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Eze Chikannaya, says, “In conceptualising these projects, the Theodore Orji government is not just thinking about the present. The administration is thinking beyond the present, innovating, and creating historical monuments that every Abia indigene or resident would be proud to be associated with.”
Until recently, Umuahia was a city deformed by markets located without any particular order. It was the burden of a state peopled by highly ingenious indigenes that were, however, in dire need of proper governmental direction. The state government provided the badly needed direction recently when it relocated two major markets in the town.
The industrial market was relocated to an expansive area at Azueke-Ibeku where thousands of stalls are built for the traders. The city’s main market, which had created an ugly gateway to Umuahia, was also relocated to Ubani-Ibeku.
Orji says the repositioning is to decongest Umuahia and add some aesthetic colour to the city.
The traders are also happy in their new site.
“The relocation is very much acceptable because it has helped to decongest the town. Honestly, this new place is very good. We like it. The space is okay,” says Chukwuemeka Eze, who owns a shop at the Ubani-Ibeku market where he sells cloths. “The only thing is that being something that has just started, we are waiting for a good turnout of buyers.”
But Eze complains about lack of electricity and pipe borne water at the new market. “As for transportation, the government made it easy for people to come here. The government provided buses that run between here and the town for just N30. We only pray that they would increase the number of buses.”
Another trader, Mrs. Kate Amadi says, “We give glory to God for the relocation of this market. People are jubilating over the relocation. Here is quite specious. Some people who had one shop at the old market now have two, some who had two now have four. Shopping here is made easy.
“At the old market, there was congestion, smoke, in fact, commotion everywhere. There was no order; people just put their goods wherever they found space. But now, the market is well organised.”
However, Amadi wants banks to be located in the area without delay. She also expresses reservations about the adequacy of security measures at the new market, saying, “Though, the Bakassi people (local vigilante) are here. And we have not experienced any robbery incident here.”
The traders were relocated to the new site in September.
In the area of healthcare, the Orji administration has made one its most significant investments at the Specialist Hospital, Umuahia. The dialysis centre built and equipped at the hospital by the government has six dialysis beds, two for patients with hepatitis B and C, and HIV, and the rest four for normal patients. It was commissioned by the Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, on July 22 and conducted its first dialysis on August 28.
Treatment at the dialysis centre is subsidised by the state government.
Medical director of the centre, Professor A. U. Mbanaso, says the normal cost of dialysis is N25, 000, covering the cost of materials, which is N21, 000, and N4, 000 service charge. But he says the governor directed that the hospital should charge only N21, 000 while the government bears the rest.
“The dialysis centre has been very effective, it has been highly utilised,” he says of the centre, which is the first of its kind in the state.
Orji won the 2013 Businessday Good Governance Awards in Health and Security for his effort in transforming Abia State, which used to be one of southern Nigeria’s kidnapping headquarters. Evidence of this transformation is everywhere in the state, but it seems especially noticeable in the return of nightlife to Umuahia and other major towns in the state.
The governor says he wants to be remembered as a leader who delivered true happiness, health, and security to Abia State through prudent management of the people’s resources.
He speaks more…