• Saturday, May 25, 2024
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We are using “Project 082” to rebuild, restore, regenerate Aba — Wogu

We are using “Project 082” to rebuild, restore, regenerate Aba-Wogu

Uche Wogu is the Mayor of Aba South Local Government Area of Abia State. In this interview with GODFREY OFURUM, he said that the Aba area was neglected by previous administrations in the State, despite its historical and economic values. Excerpt:

You exude confidence when you talk about rebuilding Aba. How much do you know Aba?

First, I will tell you that I am an Aba boy and Ngwa man. I attended Constitution Crescent Primary School, Aba, did part of my secondary school in Ngwa High School, Aba, and went to Federal School of Arts and Science, Aba. We were the first set of the Aba campus of the old Imo State University before we were moved to Okigwe, which is now Abia State University, Uturu.

I came back in 1992 to run for the House of Representatives election in Aba, on the platform of the defunct Nigerian Republican Convention (NRC). So, I’m a complete Aba man. I know the importance of Aba Town Hall and the building that houses the office of the chairman and now Mayor of Aba South Local Government Area.

The town hall is the most important structure in the secretariat and that is why we are doing all we can to preserve it for posterity.

Recall that the Aba Town Hall was destroyed, by hoodlums during the #End SARS protest, which took place nationwide.
We have started the process of rebuilding and regenerating infrastructure in Aba South.
That town hall holds a special place in the heart of Umu-Aba.

Historically, the symbol of an Elephant, which Aba is known with signifies the route the owners of Aba used in coming to Aba. Where we have the Town Hall was and still is the meeting place of the Aba people.

Aba people first settled around No1, Ikot Epkene Road, where you now have NEPA and the Aba North Magistrate Court and their market was at BATA, on Factory Road.

However, when the market (Eke Oha Market), now known as Aba Shopping Centre, started growing, the British Colonial masters felt the people were coming close to their (GRA) residence, so they moved the market to its present location along Asa Road.

So, Aba Town Hall is a meeting place of Umunna and so it’s historical.

The Ancestors are not happy that the place was left to rot after it was set ablaze in 2020. Aba failed in 2020 and we are in the process of rebuilding the city

The rebuilding of Aba has started with the rehabilitation of the Town Hall and graciously the Governor, Alex Otti is aiding us and we will achieve it.

What is your governance style?

We run an open policy. You don’t need an appointment to see me. If you come in here and I’m available, I’ll see you. Most times, I will usher in everybody at the same time and people come with all sorts of issues. We will always do the best we can to make sure that people leave with smiles on their faces.

Aba South is a difficult Local Government to supervise. You can say it is one day one trouble or you can even say, one day two troubles. Right now at the gate, we have women from Ahia Ohuru (New Market), waiting to see me, but then every problem has a solution. You cannot solve a problem until you identify the cause and that is what we do.

I am the senior servant answerable to the chief senior servant, Governor Alex Otti, who is a busy man. He is always on the move, either commissioning projects or looking for where to work on. And so we are always on the move with him.

We want to move governance and government to a new phase. We want to be 2024 compliant because if Lord Lugard rises from his grave today, he will recognise how things are done in Nigeria because we are stuck in his era and that’s what we want to change.

Do you have a project plan for Aba South Local Government Area?

We have a lot of things that we want to do for the people of Aba and those things are contained in the summary of our programme tagged “Project 082”. 082 used to be Aba’s telephone code.

We have the rebuilding, restoration and regeneration matrics. We need to rebuild Aba. Aba was locked down for some time. Aba looked like a place that lacked governance for a long time, but things are changing with the present administration, led by Governor Alex Otti and the people of Aba have started breathing.

Everybody was shocked, we were chocked by lack of infrastructure, we were chocked with lack of commitment of the Government to the people, and we were chocked with the insensitivity of the actions of past administrations on the people of Aba. I am not in the habit of talking about past Government, but then we make references sometimes for us to appreciate the present and where we want to be in future.

Within a few months of Governor Alex Otti’s administration, he returned the use of PortHarcourt Road, which was turned to farmland by the past administration in the State.

We are going to light up the entire Aba with solar energy, which our Governor has started doing.
We are going to light up Constitution Crescent, Mosque Road, Georges, Asa Road to Bata, and soon our street light project will commence.

We are blessed that we have a Governor who listens. Sometimes I send messages to him at odd hours of the night and he will respond. Let me give you a classic example. One Saturday morning, I was driving round and got to the fire station and I decided to drive in and on getting in, I found out that they have just one fire truck that is operational. I sent a message to the Governor at almost 2.30 am, telling him about my experience that our fire trucks were not functional. The next day, Sunday, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Fire Service and Homeland Security called me and said that the Governor wanted us to look at the State of the fire trucks in Aba.

We went to Fire Service and made sure they commenced work on the fire trucks immediately and they started working on them and do you know what?, the next day being Monday, there was a fire incident at Eziema and it was one of the serviced fire trucks that was used for the operation.

So, if that fire truck was not worked on that fire would have caused havoc in Eziama.

We have what we tagged “One hour with the Mayor”, an interactive forum with staff of the Council, which is meant for capacity and team building.

We’ve also introduced “a staff of the month award”, to motivate staff and it goes with a prize reward of ₦20,000.
We have done it in a way that shows transparency. We have seven departments, so each head of department nominates two staff every month to participate in a lucky dip and the lucky winner takes the award money.

A highly motivated workforce enhances productivity and so we want to motivate our staff in our little way.
Our staff call me “Comrade Mayor” and they have access to me.
The Government cannot succeed without the staff. So, staff welfare and motivation is key and vital to our success, as a local government.

We want to ensure that our people get the dividend of democracy, which they have been starved over the years and our Governor is doing a lot. As a Local Government, we are also doing our best to open up our rural areas. People should get value for their votes after elections.

This year alone, the Governor has promised to invest about ₦80 billion in Aba on infrastructure. He has promised to do Ohanku and Obohia Roads. The population of Aba is in those areas and one of the roads leads to my village. I come from a town called Umuogele, in Aba South LGA.

The State Ministry of Works has been revived and they are rehabilitating some of our roads on direct labour, thereby saving funds for the State.
This administration of Governor Alex Otti came well prepared and that is why it hit the ground running immediately after its inauguration and we are trying to do the same.

Aba South is highly populated, how do you intend to reach all the areas?

We have divided Aba into six clusters because we want to take governance to the people. This will help us have a full administrative structure. We are trying to change the way things are done in our locality.

Mayor, Sir, is it true that the Governor does not allow Local Government Authorities access to their finances?

No, that’s not true. We have full autonomy in Abia State. We have full control of our resources and all our projects are being funded, through our allocations and internally generated revenue.

We are paying teachers and our staff also. Have you heard anybody owed salary? No. We pay salaries on the 28th of every month.

But there are complaints that some of your staff have not received salary since the staff verification exercise started, even after going through verification.

Yes, I’ve heard such complaints, and we are working on it. The issues are not deliberate, it has to do with the new application introduced to authenticate our real staff, but we have come up with a template where we would have serial number, staff name, date of birth, date of employment and nature of issues to address the complaints.

I’m planning to join the heads of departments to collate all the complaints from the affected staff and once these things are rectified, everybody will get their salaries.
Some of the issues have to do with year of service, age and so on, but it will be sorted out soonest.

We are sensitive to the plight of workers. This administration does not make empty promises, we do what we promised.

Do you have any plans to stop street trading in Aba South?

There is a law prohibiting people from trading on the street in Abia State. Street trading causes congestion and it must stop. It affects the movement of everybody and part of what the Greater Aba Development Authority (GADA) is here to do, is to protect public infrastructure
It is so frustrating that I cannot even go to my village off Ngwa Road. I wanted to set up a decongestion task force before a circular came from Umuahia that we should have a central task force for Aba.

There should be sanity in Aba. Transporters should be made to use the parks for loading of passengers. The era of using roads as loading bays will stop. Also, tricycle operators that stop and pick up passengers in the middle of the road will stop. Aba is a model city and there should be sanity in the metropolis.

You said some areas within the metropolis will be lit, is this going to be done on the account of the Local Government or the State?

We are working with the State Government because Aba is the cash cow of the State. So, our interest is to see that infrastructure is provided in Aba, through the State and the Local Government. We will be happy also if the Federal Government shows interest in helping us. Our mission is to provide a dividend of democracy for the people.

The Local Government recently carried out an intensive Polio Immunisation programme with massive awareness. What prompted that action?

The programme on Immunisation is important to us, as a local government. because we don’t want our children to be victims of polio.

However, it was driven by the State Ministry of Health in partnership with the World Health Organisation (WHO).

You know Polio is a virus and airborne and could be picked easily. We have an inflow of people from various parts of the country, who come to do business in Aba. The challenge faced by us right now is that our people want to see a patient before believing that polio is real, even without being a Mayor, I will help to ensure that our children are vaccinated. I will preach the gospel of Immunisation to ensure that our children are protected.

We are spreading the gospel of Immunisation and all hands should be on deck. Nobody wants to go through the stress of having a child with a disability that could have been avoided. We don’t want that to happen and so we owe it as a responsibility to preach the gospel of Immunisation.