…Commissions projects in Ebonyi, decries infrastructure deficit in region
.Unveils Akanu Ibiam statue at Abakaliki, bags chieftaincy title of Enyioma 1 of Ebonyi
President Muhammadu Buhari, on Tuesday, in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, said his visit to the South East geopolitical zone was a demonstration of his belief in the unity of Nigeria.
The President, who was on a working visit to the state, explained that his presence in Ebonyi on Tuesday was a demonstration of his strong belief in the unity of Nigeria, adding “as the most populous country in Africa with over 300 ethnic groups, our diversity is almost unique”.
The President inaugurated some projects executed by the Ebonyi State government including two twin flyover bridges of 700 meters each, 14.5 kilometre Abakaliki/Afikpo Federal Highway reconstructed by the Governor David Umahiled government, ultra-modern new Abakaliki Township Stadium and also laid foundation stone for mega Abakaliki Shopping Mall.
President Buhari, while addressing key stakeholders of the state at the Executive Chambers of the Government House, said that when he met with the leaders of the South East in Abuja last month, they raised several issues of concern including the state of the roads and infrastructure in the region.
His words: “I want to assure you that we will deliver on our promises. Our 2018 budget included many projects for the region in the area of power, agriculture and social services. I am delighted to be here in Abakaliki to interact with the good people of Ebonyi State and indeed the South East region as a whole. I want to express my gratitude to the people of Ebonyi State for their hospitality and warm reception since I arrived the state. “I will like to commend His Excellency Governor David Umahi for his vision and commitment to the development of this state. Some of the projects I commissioned since my arrival are laudable. I am also grateful to the traditional rulers of Ebonyi State for the honour bestowed on me with the traditional title of Enyioma 1 of Ebonyi. I thank you for this honour and warm reception”.
Buhari landed at the training field of the Nkwagu Military Cantonment at about 11:15 am in a Nigeria Air Force Helicopter with the registration number NAF-540. Among those who received the President at the Military Cantonment, Nkwagu included the deputy governor of the state, Dr. Kelechi Igwe; Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu; former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, former governors of Ebonyi State, Senator Sam Egwu and Chief Martin Elechi; former Minister of Culture and Tourism, Amb. Frank Ogbuewu; ex Minister of Health (State), Engr. Fidelis Nwankwo; former Deputy governor of the state, Prof. Chigozie Ogbu and Zonal Vice Chairman of PDP, Chief Austine Umahi; and the CEO, Orient Global Ltd, Chief Chukwuma Odi, among other top political leaders from the state.
This visit to Ebonyi State is Buhari’s first ever visit to the South East since he took oath of office in May 2015. Meanwhile, on arrival at Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, large crowd trooped out to welcome the President. The Nigerian Airforce plane bearing the inscription, ‘President Federal Republic of Nigeria, Seal,’ touched the tarmac at 10.30 am to kick-start a two-day working visit to Ebonyi and Anambra states.
Buhari waved hands with cheers to thousands of Nigerians who included his fans, political supporters and admirers who came to welcome him. The President, after a brief exchange of pleasantries, took salute from a Presidential Guard-of-Honour mounted in his honour by a joint Army and Air Force personnel at the airport arena. Buhari also took out time to walk around the airport area to greet the mammoth crowd that came out to honour him. He however was airlifted in a Presidential Chopper at exactly 11:05 enroute to Ebonyi State, where he inaugurated some projects.
Earlier before his departure to Ebonyi State, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, thanked the President for making a brief stop-over to greet Nigerians living in Enugu State. Ugwuanyi lauded various shades of associations and political formations for making Mr. President’s reception a grand one.
“I am overwhelmed with joy over the show of love and solidarity of Enugu residents to our admirable and loving President as he visits the South-East; which Enugu State is the capital of the zone,’’ he briefly said.
The South-East governors that received Mr. President included Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State; Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State; Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State and Rochas Okorocha of Imo State; while Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State (North Central and neighbouring state to Enugu State) came to the airport as well.
The ministers included Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Godfrey Onyeama; Minister of Labour and Productivity; Sen. Chris Ngige; Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Elenema and Minister of State for Education, Prof. Anthony Anwukah. The Security chiefs included Maj.-Gen. Adamu Abubakar, General Officer Commanding (GOC), 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Enugu; Air Vice Marshal Sampson Akpasa, Air Officer Commanding (AOC), Air Force Ground Training Command (GTC), Enugu; Commissioner of Police in Enugu State, Mr. Mohammed Danmallam and the Commandant of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Mr. Steve Amoga. Others were the National President of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo; former Senate President, Chief Ken Nnamani; former Governor of old Anambra State, Chief Jim Nwobodo; Speaker of Enugu State House of Assembly, Edward Ubosi; and Amb. Lawrence Agubuzo, Chairman of Traditional Rulers’ Council of Enugu State among others.
On the issue of infrastructure deficit which is the reason for the agitation for maginalisation of the zone, Buhari pledged his determination to urgently address the infrastructure deficit and related challenges confronting the South-East region, noting that Ndigbo remain integral part of the country.
According to the president, his administration would fulfil all promises made to the South-East people during the visit of its leaders to him in October. He paid glowing tributes to the late former Governor of the Old Eastern Region, Dr. Akanu Ibiam, whom he unveiled a statue erected in his honour in Abakaliki, by the Ebonyi State government.
“Ibiam is a great Nigerian whose contributions and notable record in humanitarian—free primary education advocacy and rural development have been inspirational to all,” he said. Gov. Umahi thanked the president for the visit, noting that it confounded those who doubted the possibility of his visit to the state. “We want to thank you for your assistance in areas of agriculture, harnessing of mineral resources among other areas of the state’s development.
“You have assisted us in becoming a force to be reckoned with in agriculture especially in rice production as we assure to redouble our efforts to meet the rice needs of the country,” he said. Sen. Sam Egwu (PDPEbonyi North) and a former Governor of the state who spoke on behalf of the stakeholders, thanked God for restoring the president’s health and granting him the strength to continue piloting the country’s affairs. “We urge you to ensure the conversion of the state College of Education Ikwo to a federal institution and solving the lingering boundary disputes between it and neighbouring states such as Cross River and Benue,” he said.