Following residents’ observance of the sit-at-home order despite its suspension, the Chairman, South East Governors’ Forum, and Governor of Ebonyi State, Engineer David Nweze Umahi on Monday said people of the Zone were complying with the order out of fear.
Governor Umahi while speaking with State House Correspondents after meeting with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said Leaders of the zone in collaboration with Ohaneze Ndigbo were working together on the demands of the youths agitating in the Zone to present them to Mr. President.
He expressed regret that the situation if not tackled would cripple the economy of the region.
“Well, I think is not more or less complying to the directive of IPOB or no IPOB. Suspended or not suspended. It is a question of fear. You know, the easiest thing to do is to carry a weapon and kill somebody, and that’s what happened in the past. And that’s why, you know, some people in South East are afraid of coming out. Even if you go now to the street and say that… or you hold AK 47, you will see everybody will desert the street. So it’s not a question of compliance. It’s a question of fear.”
“The security agencies can have enough personnel in the South East. You’ll find out that no South East man wants to miss a day at work. They like to work, they are into trade, commerce, and they want to earn their daily living.”
“So this is something that the nation Nigeria must know. And it’s something that security agencies must know. Security agencies must know that they owe south East people the duty to protect their lives and this is the reason why it appears that in some states that there is a compliance of sit at home, even though like you said, IPOB has said, it’s suspended. But it’s the worst thing to happen to the south East because it will destroy the economy of the South East. And so I’ve been singing and I have been shouting that southeast people should take into knowledge not to allow such thing to happen because it will cripple the economy of South East.”
Speaking on the purpose of his visit to the Presidential Villa, Governor Umahi said he was in the Villa to appreciate Mr. President for his remarkable Projects in the South East Zone and other far-reaching interventions.
“I came to see, Mr. President. One is to thank him very highly for many megaprojects that he is doing in the southeast. The second Niger bridge is fast becoming a reality. Each time we visit that bridge location is always like a dream. So, we the people of the southeast are very grateful to Mr. President for this. We also thank him for the award of the Eastern corridor of the railway line. This is a project that is going to fast-track the commercial activities of our people. I recall that when I was in school, I used to join train from my state, Ebonyi to Maiduguri where my brothers were staying for my holidays.”
“Mr. President is about restoring that hope. We are deeply very grateful. But I also reminded Mr. President that one of his cardinal objectives is to integrate with the southeast or the state capitals, but in putting together the project through the southeast that the capital of Ebonyi state, which is Abakaliki, and capital of Anambra state, which is Awka, were omitted. And I reminded, Mr. President that the southeast governors had requested that I write which I did, but is not yet approved to by the Honourable Minister of Transport, which Mr. President said he will find out why they were omitted in the first place. I am very, very hopeful that Mr. President is going to approve those two locations. And also the limestone granules to fast track the fertilizer presidential initiative, which has helped the country Nigeria so much in food sufficiency.”
“Let me point out that without the effort of Mr. President, through this fertilizer initiative and other programs in the agricultural sector, it would have been a very difficult time for this country. And so that project is supposed to produce a large set of granules to enable us to produce fertilizers to serve the south-south, southeast, and part of North Central.”
“Mr. President has already approved the funds and released them to Solid Mineral Development Fund. But part of the requirement is that there must be SPV – integration of private sector initiative. They have applied to Mr. President for approval through the chief of staff. So we had to remind Mr. President.”
Engineer Umahi also announced that President Muhammadu Buhari would be in Ebonyi State in November to commission some landmark projects executed by his administration.
“Lastly, four years back, Mr. President was in Ebonyi state about November to commission several projects and lay foundation stone to others. I reminded Mr. President that we are expecting him four years later, which would be November for him to come to Ebonyi State. The last time he spent one night but this time we are asking him to spend three nights.”
“We have over 20 different projects that we consider good enough for Mr. President to commission. We have completed the Muhammadu Buhari light tunnel bridge complex, the first of its kind in Africa for Mr. President to commission. We have gotten to the stage of completing the best medical center, King David University of Medical Sciences, the best in Africa. We have completed the largest mall, the most beautiful mall you can see anywhere in West Africa. We have completed additional six twin flyover bridges, well decorated and beautiful. We want Mr. President to commission them. We want Mr. President to commission the St. Margeret international market, the largest market in West Africa. We have built and completed a very mighty building, which we call the medical school for Ekwueme Federal University, and we want Mr. President to commission it.”
“We have over 200-kilometer Concrete roads in Ebonyi state, some of the federal roads, some concrete roads. And these are the major ones. We have over 1000 kilometer roads completed, since my first tenure and we want Mr. President to commission them. Of course, the list can be exhaustive. Even the three agric Industrial clusters are ready for Mr. President to commission.”
“We also have several ongoing projects most of which will terminate at the end of 2021. Like the International Airport, which Mr. President two years ago approved. Now we are the first in the whole of Nigeria to build an international airport runway with concrete that is going to be ready for Mr. President to lay the foundation stone. I will invite him next year to commission it. We will have the first flight about May 29th, 2022. We also have many road projects, especially the 199 kilometers of Abakaliki ring road, of which the state government has completed 53 kilometers. And then we have the African Development Bank and IDB bank, the funders and of course, the lenders, the federal government who lent to us. We have this from Mr. President and we want him to lay the foundation stone when he is in Ebonyi state.”
Governor Umahi also hinted that the President would lay the Foundation Stone of other people-oriented projects during his working visit.
“And of course, the limestone granules is Mr. President’s project and he has to lay the foundation stone. The salt infrastructure is Mr. President’s project and he has to lay the foundation stone and so many other Flyovers, about three projects. There are so many projects that I cannot exhaust all the projects that are completed, and the ones that are waiting for Mr. President to lay the foundation.”
“But I think after Lagos and Abuja, Ebonyi remains, another state with the highest numbers of Flyovers, and Ebonyi Airport remains the largest after Lagos and Abuja. So, this is why we came and I’m happy that Mr. President, is quite disposed towards visiting us again.”
On calls for Igbo Presidency in 2023, Governor Umahi insisted it was too early and distracting to talk about the agenda just a year after the President’s re-election.
“Well, for me, I’m very much entrenched in completing my projects. And I will look into politics when my tenure is remaining one year, which is from May 29, 2022. And I think it is the same thing with other governors of South East and by extension, governors of APC.”
“My position about what you ask is that our people that are in those political parties are making the efforts in selling the need for south East to produce the next president. But I think both the governors and Mr. President should not be distracted, when the elections are done and won, the next thing should be governance. But in this country, the moment the election is completed, the next one starts and is the masses that are being cheated. So those whose job is politics and who are not in an elected position, or appointed positions have all the time and the opportunity to do this conversing. And I think that they are doing it very well. But I continue to say that power rest in the hands of God.
He lauded the South East Ebubeagu Security outfit for being a formidable entity in complementing the efforts of the conventional Security Agencies in tackling insecurity in the Zone. he said: “Talking on Ebubeagu position, it’s quite formidable and doing a great job in synergy with all the security agencies. And if you read through the newspapers, you see a lot of exploits that are being done in the South East. It is quite tasking, security-wise, and we are tackling it.”
Speaking on efforts to fulfill the pledge made to the youths of the region protesting marginalization and the six months grace to present a common position to Mr. President, Governor Umahi said efforts were on top gear to holistically address the myriads of challenges bedeviling the region especially the Youths.
“In terms of the issue of youth protest and asking southeast youths to give the leaders six months, yes, well, we are on that matter. We have met with Ohanaeze and Igbo leaders and they have set up different committees to articulate the goal. We, also as leaders, want to hear from the masses and hear from those in political offices and appointive offices and, the civil service both at the federal and states, the areas of marginalization. Some of them might be illusions, you know, but I continue to insist that our people that also are in political offices at the federal level, and the civil service should also identify with our people because a lot of our people also say those of them in places don’t identify with their people. And so we continue to shout marginalization, we should start from them, they should be able to tell us, you know, being also at the federal level, the areas that matter and let them also tell us what they have done for our people. I’m not talking about all of them, but we need to see their faces, we need to identify with them. So that the people will appreciate the level of marginalization so to say, so this is our position. We are still going to come with some points, if there are merits to meet with Mr. President, then have data to have tet-a-tet over the matter.”