What is the philosophy of the Martin Elechi administration that is driving this development, and what is the man’s mindset towards governance and development?
Yes. The governor’s philosophy is dedicated service in return for the struggle for creation of Ebonyi State . You see, we struggled for 39 years to create the state. We had a mission, we had a vision, and it is now time for us to put the vision into practice. So he had a wonderful purpose for coming in; that is to achieve the vision and mission we set out originally. As a disciplined leader, as a trustworthy leader, as a man of integrity and a man daring in nature, he decided to confront the problems of the state at the root. Take for example, he met stonewall when we tried to move the stone quarry people to 1zza Local Government beside us, but because he is daring, because he has a mission, because he knows what he is doing, we continued to press and now the people are happy. If you meet them, they will confess that they are now happy.
What then are the key achievements of this administration and what is the economic direction?
Yes, I will always tell you that our projects are divided into three, the first projects are those that not only achieve our objective but help to achieve Nigeria ‘s objective, like the Millennium Development Goal’s objective. We are not myopic, so we work on projects that will not only benefit Ebonyi State but Nigeria, such as food security programme which you had seen, such as the VVF which has repaired more than a thousand women from 18 states of the federation. This category of projects includes training our young ones, capacity building , etc. Can you believe that Ebonyi State which is only 16 years old has produced students that took the first place among 36 states to represent Nigeria at the international debate competition? Now, the second batch of projects, projects that add value to the life of Ebonyians, intended to make Ebonyians realise their dreams of struggling for the state. Here, you can see the Bridges of Unity, you can see the health programme, you can see the education programme, you can see so many things in the environment, like the international market with 5600 stores will definitely create 3 or 4 times the number of store available as job opportunity. Then the third type of projects are those ones that go to stimulate, support, energise the machinery of governance, like the secretariat complex. Without a conducive atmosphere, work cannot be very productive. So, you see so many of the facilities being provided. They will help to strengthen the machinery of governance.
I thought you will lay some emphasis on the economic drive where we are heading to?
Yes, when I said that the projects will add value to the life of Ebonyians, you see with the international market going on you see the multiplier effect it will bring. We are also at the process of setting up a cargo airport which will support that international market. The stone-crushing hub, rice hub, etc will help create a huge agro-allied and mineral resource economy.
Are there any micro-projects going on?
Yes, for example on agriculture, you see we are very good in agriculture. We have a scheme whereby we want to utilise opportunities arising in the federal government reform programme in agriculture. We want to utilise that opportunity to beef up the operating capital of our petty farmers, to see them producing more than ever before. The Rice Mill people are seeing, we have three of five units of five tons per hour mills, that means we need lots of rice paddies to feed the mills at one time. That means there will be a lot of demand from the rice mills and then it means that we will buy up produce from the grass root and in that way the farmers will also be ready to increase on their productivity to meet up with our capacity and off course when these rice mills produce world class rice, there will be no need to import. Nigeria will conserve its foreign reserves. It is shameful that at this state of our life we are still importing heavily our food items. So, with what we are doing now, very soon it will be a thing of the past.
Ebonyi State coping with scarcity of fund, being that Ebonyi is one of the least favoured states in terms revenue allocation. Also, how are you copping with loans and bond?
First of all, I will say you know I described our leader as being disciplined, as being trust worthy, as being a man of integrity, he is a man with vision and mission, he had a purpose in coming into government and therefore with all these qualities, the little we get from the allocation we utilise it very effectively. That is number one,
disciplining expenditure. We don’t want waste, so, we screen and re-screen expenditure before incurring it. Then number two, you see because many finance houses have seen that we are disciplined, therefore every finance house would want to deal with Ebonyians, would want us to come up and so we decided to raise a N20 billion bond from the market. Now, this is unlike other areas where it takes between 3-4 years to get their bond through. Can you imagine we got our bond under 10 months, because finance houses studied our financial discipline and therefore reacted favourably. In that way by patronising the bond so we got this thing through, is a record. Check if you have any other government that obtained its bond within 10 months. Check! So these are the two qualities that had made us to get through with our programmes.
Finally, what are the major challenges facing this administration and what will be your message to our readers, business executives in Nigeria you are talking to.
Well, comparatively, Ebonyi is a safe haven. With what is happening in
Nigeria , we can say we have relative peace here and so it is part of our success. Now, what I am telling the world is that this government is determined to lay solid foundation for development of this area for the benefit of our children yet unborn. I am saying that people should study, read from what you people have seen and come forward. Our people should join teeming investors to develop one aspect of the Ebonyi economy or the other. It is a proposal made by an investor that I will be meeting in the next 20 minutes with his Excellency. There are teeming investors on different aspects of the economy, I am saying that people should look at Ebonyi state as a reliable partner in progress, reliable in terms of business,
in terms of administration, in terms of discipline, and in terms of reliability. I continue to say that I doubt whether you will meet any other administration more reliable than what we have here. Two sites are already being considered, they have sent soils of the two sites for test. International test to see which one will be more suitable than the other but certainly we have already chosen two sites.
A BusinessDay team comprising JOHN OSADOLOR, IGNATIUS CHUKWU, ANTHONY OSAE-BROWN and REGIS ANUKWUOJI