Being a speech delivered by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State on the occasion of the May 29 Democracy Day celebrations
I feel strongly compelled to show nothing but appreciation and gratitude to God and to you, the good people of our great State, on this occasion of the 18th anniversary of the current democratic dispensation in Nigeria and the second anniversary of the current administration in Enugu State. As you are well aware, on this day in 1999, the people of this great nation won back their democracy and with it, their liberties and the hope for a better tomorrow.
Exactly two years ago, you assembled here in your numbers to inaugurate me as the 4th civilian Governor of Enugu State and the 3rd in the current democratic dispensation. That was after you bestowed on my humble self and my Deputy, Her Excellency, Hon. Mrs Cecilia Ezeilo, your overwhelming mandate in the 2015 governorship election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party.
Recall that on the first anniversary of this administration in 2016, we committed Enugu in the hands of God. To the glory of God, Enugu has remained secure in the hands of God ever since. So, today is, above all, a day of thanksgiving to the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, and indeed the awesome God of David. He alone raises the poor from the dust and makes them to sit with princes and inherit a seat of honour. He alone locates the forgotten and brings him home to anoint him a king among his people. Again, in the season of severe famine, fiscal difficulties and economic recession; in the season of casting down, He has caused us to experience sustenance and lifting up. To him alone we return all the praise, glory, honour, power, and majesty.
Before I proceed, permit me to congratulate and thank the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, as well as the Vice President and now Acting President, His Excellency, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN and members of the Federal Executive Council, who have not only ensured that the flame of democracy handed to them is sustained, but have also been very supportive of our State in many ways. I equally congratulate and thank the presiding officers and Members of the National Assembly, heads of the judiciary, and fellow Governors who have continued to work hard for the sustenance of our democracy and the good governance and development of our dear nation.
In a more remarkable way, I am happy to acknowledge that two years into this administration, Enugu State has emerged as one big, united family. Our dear State has been variously described as the citadel of peace and harmony, for, irrespective of divergent political aspirations and persuasions, in brotherhood and commitment to the emancipation and transformation of the Wawa land, we all stand.
Permit me at this juncture, therefore, to appreciate members of the Enugu State Caucus of the National Assembly led by the Deputy President of the Senate, His Excellency, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, CFR, for their enormous support and cooperation. Likewise, I appreciate Members of the Enugu State House of Assembly, led by the Honourable Speaker, Rt. Hon. Edward Ubosi; and the Enugu State judiciary led by the Chief Judge, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Ngozi Priscilla Emehelu. In the same light, we pay our respects to notable political leaders of this Great State, starting from the former President of the Senate, His Excellency, Senator Ken Nnamani, GCON; former Governors: Senator Jim Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani, and Barrister Sullivan Iheanacho Chime. We have also benefited immensely from the foundations laid by the founding fathers of the State, such as late Chief C.C Onoh, among others. Above all, I am thrilled by the prayers, unparalleled support and unflinching commitment given to us by every Wawa man and woman, including our brothers and sisters in the diaspora, in our drive to build the Enugu State of our dreams. My God will continue to bless you all.
I am here today to reaffirm my promises to you and reassure you that this administration will continue to work for the common good of our people. Recall that on this day in 2015, I sincerely acknowledged the fast depleting revenue profile of the State owing to the slump in oil price and low internally generated revenue. Back then, I had assured you that I believed in the miracle of five loaves and two fish; and that I and my team would harness and apply every available resource with utmost transparency, honesty, prudence, and equity to the benefit of the ordinary man.
We have always recognised that the primary responsibility of government is the welfare of the people and the security of life and property. Since the inception of this administration, Enugu State has remained among the top-ranked States in the payment of workers salaries. This is because this administration believes that a worker is deserving of his or her wages. We recognise that the civil service is the fulcrum and engine room of governance and service delivery. We also know that the workers salary is critical to economic growth and wealth redistribution in the State. Let me, therefore, reassure state employees that they will continue to receive their salaries on the 25th of every month. In the same vein, it gives me great pleasure to announce that retirees in the state are happily collecting their pensions as and when due. This is a clear demonstration of our administrations recognition of the dignity in labour and the deserved fruits of peaceful retirement.
Enugu State is peaceful and secure and is still adjudged to be one of the safest in the country. To further reinforce the importance of security and safety in the State, we have revitalised the Neighbourhood Association in the State. It was in pursuit of this objective and in line with the provisions of the Enugu State Neighbourhood Association and Watch Groups Law 2006 and other extant laws, that we recently launched the Enugu State Security Trust Fund to galvanise resources and provide the enablers that will ensure that our Neighbourhood Watch are equipped to effectively compliment the efforts of the Nigerian Security Agencies.
Your Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, infrastructural development remains a major goal of this administration for the wellbeing of Ndi Enugu and economic stimulation and diversification. A few days ago also, we simultaneously commissioned 26 development projects executed by this government across the State. They were among the 35 grassroots projects which were flagged off in the 17 Local Government Areas of the State in October 2016. The thrust is to open up the rural areas and catalyse socio-economic growth. This administration has also carried out major construction projects as well as intervened in the resuscitation of failed sections of some federal roads running through the state. The deplorable conditions of these roads had caused untold hardships to the people, slowed economic activities and in many instances, led to the loss of lives of many Nigerians.
We have also revitalised and repositioned the State-owned Construction and Furniture Company (NCFC) and provided necessary funds and equipment to enable it carry out the continuous maintenance of our roads among other tasks. You will find the highlights of our infrastructural development efforts in the event brochure.
Currently, we have revitalised the Visit Every Community (VEC) and also initiated the One Autonomous Community One Project programme to further take development to the rural areas, and ensure that no section of the State is left out in the development strides that are ongoing. The idea is for the Royal Fathers, the leaders, town unions, and civil society groups of each of the autonomous communities to execute projects not exceeding N10 million that directly impact their lives. We believe that communities are in a better position to determine their development priorities. Projects under this scheme will be executed by each community under the strict supervision of the State government following due process and in line with laid down procedures and legislative approvals.
To make the Local Government System more effective, we set up the Local Government Audit and other Reforms Committee following the meeting of Enugu State Stakeholders held on November 28, 2015 to look into the problems of local government administration and management in Enugu State, including issues of outstanding salaries. This effort to reposition the Local Government System accounted for the delay in conducting Council elections. The Committee headed by the Speaker of the Enugu State House of Assembly has since submitted its report with useful findings and recommendations. For instance, the panel uncovered the existence of over 3,000 ghost workers across the 17 Local Government Areas. This was a major drain to the resources of local councils in the State.
We have substantially implemented the recommendations of the Committee and also addressed the issue of salary arrears in the system. We have also reconstituted the Enugu State Independent Electoral Commission (ENSIEC) with men and women of impeccable character. Today, I can confidently tell you that the Enugu State Local Government system is now ready to fly. We will approach the State House of Assembly very soon for the appropriation of funds for the conduct of Local Government Council elections this year. I want to promise you that it is going to be the most transparent local council election in recent history.
Agriculture is central to our sustenance and economic diversification efforts, especially given the fact that we are predominantly farmers. Besides reaching out to our local farmers with critical agricultural inputs such as fertiliser, we are actively participating in the N2 billion Staple Crops Processing Zone, an agricultural programme powered by the Federal Government of Nigeria and the African Development Bank. We are leveraging on it to expand the Adani Irrigation Scheme and boost agricultural development in our State. Under this programme, this administration has constructed 46.89 kilometres of feeder roads in 12 communities where rice is grown across the three senatorial districts. To ensure, and take the lead in motivating our youths to embrace agriculture as a major income earner, the State Government acquired 750 hectares of land for distribution to women and young people for large-scale agricultural production.
The great people of Enugu, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, let me seize this opportunity to, once more, congratulate the Rangers International Football Club of Enugu for breaking the 32-year jinx by winning the 2015/2016 Nigeria Professional Football League title under this administration. It was not just a victory for Enugu State as Rangers means much more to Ndigbo. That triumph revamped the irrepressible spirit and our legendary capacity to pull through challenges and come out stronger. Rangers also went truly international to compete in the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League and subsequently the Confederations Cup. Although they did not go as far as we had hoped, and actually stumbled in the earlier part of the current season, the good news is that Rangers has since returned to winning ways. We commend them for their efforts and reaffirm governments continued support to the team to enable the Antelopes to begin to fly once again.
Our health and educational institutions have experienced vast improvements and are functioning more effectively, having received necessary attention, especially in terms of renovation and upgrading of facilities, provision of essential equipment and employment. This, and the need to improve the learning environment for our children and young people has led to the recent employment of over 2,000 new teachers. I am glad to announce to you that the Institute of Management and Technology Law, Cap. 97, Revised Laws of Enugu State Nigeria, 2004, has been amended to provide for the upgrading of the Institute to a degree awarding institution. We have also commenced processes to accord the same status to the Enugu State College of Education (Technical), Enugu. With the cooperation of the State House of Assembly, we have been able to amend the Schools Transfer Law, Cap. 141, Revised Laws of Enugu State Nigeria, 2004, to provide for joint management by the State Government and original owners of primary schools that had been returned to the latter under the Law.
As part of our efforts to improve the administration and dispensation of justice and in line with the commitment to create a conducive environment for judicial officers to operate, we carried out the renovation and refurbishment of some Magistrate and Customary Court buildings in collaboration with the Justice for All Programme (J4A). We have made provisions in this years budget for the construction of new court halls, equipment of libraries and provision of other necessary facilities that will enable the State Judiciary to function better. We have also created nine new Customary Courts within the period under review and reconstituted the existing 154 Customary Courts in the State.
It is also worthy of mention that within this period, a new Chief Judge and a new President of the Customary Court of Appeal in the persons of Hon. Justice N.P. Emehelu and Hon. Justice G.C. Nnamani were appointed. Five new judges of the High Court and one judge of the Customary Court were also appointed.
The reconstruction of the DAD Building for the purposes of relocating the Ministry of Justice to the three-arm zone, has also reached an advanced stage.
To ensure justice is brought nearer to the grassroots, the Ministry of Justice is collaborating with the 17 Local Government Councils to replicate the Citizens Rights and Mediation Centre in all the Local Government Areas of the State.
We intervened to make life a lot easier for the inmates of the Maximum Security Prisons in Enugu. We did all these, notwithstanding that Prisons in Nigeria is under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs and therefore in the Exclusive Legislative List.
In line with Section 212, subsections (1) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and following advice from the State Advisory Council on the Prerogative of Mercy, I granted pardon to two prisoners and commuted the death sentences passed on five persons to life imprisonments. This marked the first time in two decades that such power was invoked in Enugu State.
The State House of Assembly passed 19 Executive Bills within the period. One of the most important of these Bills is the Child Rights Law the first of its kind in the history of Enugu State.
Just a few days ago, the British Government through the countrys High Commissioner to Nigeria, handed over the Sexual Assault and Referral Centre (TARMA-SARC) Enugu, to the State Government. The centre not only provides free specialised support services to victims of sexual violence but is also helping us to wage war against sexual assaults and related offences. We pledge to work with all partners, concerned organisations and stakeholders to sustain the centre and ensure the full realisation of its mandate for the benefit of our society.
Our empowerment programmes designed to alleviate poverty and other socio-economic challenges among our people, have been successful. These include the facilitation of 100 units of one bedroom flats for civil servants of Grade Levels 1-10 at Elim Estate and the Enugu State Traders Empowerment Programme, which was specifically designed to empower market traders in the State through a monthly open lottery where 100 lucky winners receive the sums of N50,000 each. This is in addition to other schemes targeted at youth development.
We have also continued to offer financial and material assistance to the poor, to the sick, to the needy and to victims of disasters while also providing supports to social relief institutions like the Emene Rehabilitation Centre.
The Enugu State SME Centre has provided capacity building and support services on entrepreneurship and enterprise development for over 25,000 small and medium enterprise owners, including women and youths. The Centre, in collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Bank of Industry, also provided funds to 800 SMEs thus creating thousands of direct and indirect jobs to members of the public.
Our drive for investments has been yielding desired dividends with the influx of both foreign and local businesses. Among the latest is Air Peace, which recently decided to build an aircraft hangar in Enugu while also making the State its regional hub for local and international flight operations. It was also within this period that a historic international cargo flight touched down at the Enugu Airport, significantly pointing to the readiness of the state and its people for big business. We also performed the ground breaking ceremony for the ENPOWER Free Trade Zone which was licensed by the Federal Government in December 2015. These are great indicators that Enugu State is the hub of business activities in the South East.
We are grateful to the Enugu State Economic Advisory Committee, under the leadership of Msgr. Prof. Obiora Ike, for its inspiring efforts to attract investments and stimulate development in various sectors of the States economy. We equally acknowledge the support and contributions of our brothers and sisters in Diaspora towards this end.
Let me also use this opportunity to call on all of us to continue to pray for our dear country, especially for the President and Commander in Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, for the healing Power of God to visit him and restore his health to enable him continue to work for the unity and good governance of our Great Nation Nigeria. I will also appeal that we also devote ample time in prayer for our Vice President, and now Acting President, His Excellency, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, for wisdom, vision and strength as he holds forte for our President.
As I mentioned earlier, today is a day of appreciation to God and you, our great people. I could never have wished for a more wonderful, supportive, and motivating people like you. Therefore, for those of us whom you have graciously given your mandates, it is a day for rededication to a higher pedestal of service to Wawa land because there is still much work to be done. But one thing is sure: God who started this work will see it to a splendid end in Jesus name. Amen.
On our part, we wish to reassure you that we will continue to run an open and accountable government. We will continue to consult you every step of the way. Most importantly, we will continue to work with you to ensure that we realise the dreams of our forefathers; to build a peaceful and prosperous State driven by the true spirit of brotherhood.
It is on this note, that I thank you so much for the massive turnout and wonderful audience. I wish you a happy Democracy Day, even as Enugu remains securely in the hands of God.
Thank you and Remain blessed.
Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi
Governor, Enugu State
May 29, 2017