After an an extensive law practice in Nigeria and the US Barrister Emelike Kalu, Abia State Commissioner for Public Utilities ran for the Senate under the PDP. In this interview with Emma Ugwu, Kalu uses as his peg the achievements of his ministry to assesses Governor TA Orji concluding the governorâ€™s legacy projects will qualify him for a place in the Hall of fame of great sons and daughters of Abia, long after he would have left office writes Emmanuel Ugwu
As commissioner in-charge of public utilities, Barrister Emelike Kaluâ€™s brief includes the provision of day to day living amenities and here the two most important ones central to his ministryâ€™s activities are power and water. On power he considers himself lucky that efforts made by Governor Theodore Orji to give electricity to every nook and cranny of the state are yielding the expected results. First is a functional sub-station built by the federal government at Ohia. What he tried to do on assumption of office was to adopt the administrationâ€™s blue print of providing a vehicle or the relevant infrastructure for the power evacuation.
To accomplish this, Kalu added, Governor Theodore Orji had earlier awarded a contract for the construction of five 33kv high tension feeder lines for power evacuation from the sub-station. â€œThey radiate from Ohia to Afara Ubakala, Nkwo Egwu, Ntigha and Umu Ngwa,â€ he said, noting that except for the Ntigha feeder line, â€œthe rest of the work is completed and connected to the old PHCN,â€ stressing that this has improved power supply in Abia State tremendously especially in the state capital and its environs. â€œNow there is a constant flow of electricity three to four days a week. Most of the industries here spend less on diesel,â€ Kalu emphasised with pride.
On distribution of transformers, Kalu had this to say: â€œWe have distributed transformers to almost all the communities in the state. This adds value to improved electricity all through the state especially Umuahia the state capital, Aba and the local governments with their communities. Geometric Power is handling the Ala-Oji Power Station which is coming on stream sometime this year and will lit Aba and its environs twenty four seven. Sometime in November, a new 7.5mvg injected sub-station was commissioned and handed over to Enugu Disco by the chief executive officer of the Niger Delta Power Holding Company Limited James Olotuâ€
Speaking of the future, Kalu said the state government would continue to partner with the Enugu Disco and build more stations while working to complete the federal line to Ntigha in a bid to provide more electricity to Abia citizens. From the perspective of the human persona, he stressed, there is not much on ground that has been a subject of dispute between the state government and individuals whose lands have been affected by the power distribution network and there has been minimum confrontation or disagreements from the communities whose territories had been traversed in the course of distribution of the lines.
However, he continued, where there is an issue an adequate compensation scheme is often worked out. Negotiation followed by human engineering on the expected benefits of such a venture often does the magic. â€œUltimately, I must say, the mission is to do all within our power to provide electricity hundred percent of the time for our citizens. If we are able to achieve e 80 percent of our set goals, it will largely reduce costs across board and this includes the cost of doing business in Abia making the state the investment destination of the future.â€ Kalu said this is not an idle claim, referring to the fact finding mission to Abia in 2013 by the Honeywell Group whose chairman Oba Otudeko led the groupâ€™s visit to the state capital sealing a deal with the state government in the manufacturing sector.
As Kalu put it, investors are pleased with the economic growth and development in Abia and they agree with the popular belief that the business climate has changed with an investor friendly government on ground. He added: â€œThe Governor is hard working and doing his best. Business men and women who come to the state to assess its investment potentials see an investor friendly state whose governor is hardworking, doing his best to actualise his legacy projects dotted all round the state. Naturally, they want to be a part of the success story. Most of the time they ask the government: â€˜What can we do to partner with you?â€™ Oba Otudeko is a foremost industrialist who does not suffer fools gladly. The governor received him and his team cordially and we hope his visit will turn a fruitful venture between the government of Abia and the Honeywell Group.â€
Detailing his efforts to supply water to all the parts of the state, Kalu recalled when Governor Orji came to office his recurring mantra was water must flow. â€œWe have two major water schemes in Umuahia and Aba with regional water schemes in the LGAs and communities. The Umuahia Water Scheme is completely refurbished and water is now reticulated in Umuahia and environs and we intend to change equipment that will last 25 to 30 years.â€ According to Kalu, the regional water scheme allows for reticulation extending to Ohafia and Abiriba while the non-functional schemes are under rehabilitation. Festive seasons such as Christmas, Easter and long holidays present a challenge when the ministry puts up all within its power to ensure water is available as many Abians living outside the state often flock homewards to observe the festive periods adding â€œwe know what the people need and will take every measure available to meet those needs.â€
On the Aba Water Scheme, the Public Utilities Commissioner admitted there was a problem. According to him the Federal government took over the project and awarded it to a contractor in 2005. Unfortunately, he lamented, the contract has not been funded in the last three years forcing the contractor-JDP Construction Company to leave the site. But all hope is not lost, Kalu hinted, because the state government has been discussing with JDP after asking the federal government to handover the scheme for effective delivery to the people as part of the final package for the people of Aba as the government looks into 2015.
On rocky regions and old pipes, Kalu stated some of the problems facing his ministry have to do with old pipes that easily burst at the slightest impact under the weight of construction companies. Many of these pipes, he said, have been subdued by industrial and residential complexes built on them especially in the state capital and the commercial city of Aba. â€œPublic taps have been destroyed and our efforts are geared towards fixing them to avoid waste. We are refurbishing existing water schemes completely, change some of those already built as well as fix the pipes that are broken and where possible modernise them and make sure water flows through these pipes on a regular basis.â€
On the legacy being left behind by Governor Orji, Kalu responded: â€œGovernor TA Orji is a kind, compassionate and humane leader. He came into office at a different time in the sense that his predecessor left nothing on ground except a huge debt profile. That is why the governor had to start from the basics.â€ According to Kalu, â€œwhen we talk about legacy projects we are talking about a new Government House, a new Secretariat, a new International Conference Centre, a new Specialist Hospital and Diagnostic Centre, a new High Court complex, a new state of the art e-library complex, a Planning Commission with a new office complex, new House of Assembly and Ministry of Justice office complexes, there is the Abia State University Basic Education Board (ASUBEB) new office complex, a new Specialist Hospital at Amachara, two ultra-modern diagnostic centres at Umuahia and Aba built and equipped to world class levels; there are scores of roads both urban and rural with bridges distributed all over the state and two ultra modern markets. The list goes on and on.â€
Kalu referred his readers to the classic album: â€˜Ochendoâ€™s Legacy Treasure Album,â€™ published by Mba Ogenebe, the governorâ€™s senior special assistant on information and documentation, where most of the projects are captured in a photo panorama. â€œGovernor Orji,â€ Kalu remarked, â€œ is a workaholic who is always on the move and holds Abia very dear to his heart.â€
Have Orjiâ€™s accolades justified his pile of achievements thus far? Kalu said yes pointing to the huge and very successful reception he received by the Umuahia/Ikwuano indigenes recently and even the Ukwa/Ngwa people who are waiting to produce the next state chief executive, both their own way of giving three hearty cheers to a worthy son who has delivered on all flanks, a man who keeps his words. â€œThese types of reception that hold without the prodding of government,â€ Kalu observed, â€œkeep reverberating all over the state.â€ Yet, he continued, â€œit is often acknowledged a leader does not get his deserved recognition back home,â€ noting that such applause comes only when the ovation dies. â€œThat is when the nostalgia sets in. That is when Abians will even accord him greater recognition as they look back to a service of selflessness to the people. Orji surely is the right man who came at the right time.â€
As the drum beat for 2015 increases, how does Kalu, who was once a Senate hopeful for the Abia North Senatorial Zone, situate the fate of the PDP in Abia State? He responded: â€œIt boils down to one man-the governor. He has brought every stakeholder in Abia under one umbrella, politicians and non-politicians. They advice him, he listens to them, consults with them and defers to them when he has to. That is why we have political peace in Abia. I am confident PDP will win Abia in 2015. There is no functional opposition here. We are all united under one umbrella.â€