In Ebonyi State, lack of social amenities, especially potable water, is largely responsible for recurrent outbreak of epidemics in the state. SAMSON NWAFOR writes from Abakaliki how the state government is battling to safe the situation.
From time immemorial, the people of Ebonyi State have been suffering from under-development. The people had lived for years without basic amenities such as motorable roads, electricity and good drinking water.
This was why Ebonyi was tagged ‘Guinea worm state’ because the people had ponds and streams as the only source of getting drinking water and for other domestic uses. This is what has paved the way for the recurrent menace of guinea worm that has been plaguing the people of the state.
Although since 1996 when it became a full-fledged state, successive governments in Ebonyi has made frantic efforts to rewrite this history. While some efforts significantly reduced the case of guinea worm in the state, it still appears as though the larger percentage of the people still lack these common social amenities, especially those living in the rural areas.
For instance, as at May 2015, when the former governor left office, residents of the state were still lacking good drinking water, electricity (not even a street light) and good road in the state’s capital city. That is not to say, however, that the immediate past administration of Chief Martin Elechi did not do make some impacts regarding how to tackle these problems.
Apparently, aware of the importance of social amenities to human existence, Governor David Umahi since assumption of office on May 29,2015 has been working round the clock to ensure that every household in the state enjoys the three basic amenities of water, light and good road that have eluded them over the years.
Governor Umahi swung into action and resolved to spend over N1 billion in the provision of streetlights in the state capital, Abakaliki and this has changed the story of state for d better. He tagged the street-lighting project ‘operation light up Ebonyi State’.
For less than three months after he came on board as governor, he has built and commissioned the first, second and third phases of the street-lighting projects in different locations. They are Gunning Road, Abakaliki-Enugu Road and Ebonyi State House of Assembly/Nkaliki Road, street-lighting projects, among others.
The governor once said that “when we finished lighting the whole city, the people especially those living in the capital city will be saying, how have we been managing. He said that he believes strongly that little things make life easier for the people and that is what we are going for them”.
The state procured sufficient number of power generating sets for the project to ensure that there would be light every night at all the sections where the streetlights were being installed. He has also warned contractors of streetlight project that are unwilling to cooperate with government would have their contracts revoked.
Supervisors were appointed to handle the fuelling and maintenance of the lighting facilities and armed security men had been deployed to protect the installations against vandalism. The governor has assured that his administration was going to commission more roads, water, electricity projects and also do stomach infrastructure noting that “we are going to continue that way”.
He is reconstructing over 200 kilometers of urban roads, provide water and sanitation facilities in the state capital to be completed before the end of December,2015 and would move with same aggressive pace to develop the rural areas.
Already, he has completed the Gunning Road in Abakaliki metropolis, while work is already at an advanced stage on the Nkaliki Road which leads to the State House of Assembly and a lot of road maintenance work has been in progress. Also, work is in progress on the Ogoja and New Market roads. These roads, when completed, will improve commerce in the state as they all lead to major markets in the city.
But there are reservations as to the quality of the work as most of the roads are being done with concrete base instead of the usual stone base which many believe are more durable. The governor who is an engineer disagrees with the motion, maintaining that the concrete base lasts as long as the stone base. He said he decided to adopt the method because, while the stone base is only good for dry season, the concrete base not only that it can be used to construct roads both in the dry and rainy season but it is the most suitable for the nature of the soil in the state.
Residents are excited about the projects because it paved way for better security and security awareness and has also boosted business activities. On the other hand, the project will boost internally generated revenue of the state. The Governor during second phase of the street lighting commissioning at gunning road said “remember that when we came, this Gunning Road, Ogoja Road, New Market Road and Nkaliki Road were impassable but today we have made them passable and installed street light on them.
“So I want Ebonyi people to have hope. The most important thing is that when you hear the amount being used in doing all these, you will know that it is God who has brought us to power”, the governor said. Umahi has said it is the priority of his administration that light, water, road and clean environment are established in all the streets in the capital city assuring that “he is committed to doing them”.
The laying of pipes for reticulation of water in the capital city has reached advanced stage of completion and very soon water will be within the reach of every household in the capital city of Abakaliki and governor Umahi has expressed readiness to do the same in the rural communities across the state as soon as that of the capital city is completed. He is presently in talks with the Power Holding Company of Nigerian, PHCN, and other relevant agencies on how he can realize his rural electrification project which he said will commence soonest. The governor, who has reiterated his resolve to develop the state through massive infrastructure, said in the next two years every local government in the state must have at least one asphalted road.
The state Commissioner for Power, Mr. Mattew Uguru while speaking on the governor’s resolve to provide social amenities especially light to the people said Ebonyians are happy to see the new administration commission three phases of street light projects in different locations within just a every short time. He said the Ministry of Power in the state have been working tirelessly to light up the entire capital city before the end of December 2015 in keeping with directives of the governor.
He said the street lighting project was what the past administration could not do for eight years that is being done within a short period with less than 30 million Naira. He thus noted that “the street lighting of the state capital would enhance the social status, economic status and the security of the city”.