NELSON

NELSON

Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy and Development, FENRAD, a pro-democracy and environmental rights advocacy group based in Abia State, having observed closely and keenly recent happenings, as they relate to governance in Abia State, wishes to commend the governor, Dr. Alex Chioma Otti, for giving a human face to governance areas like pension administration and infrastructure provision.

FENRAD observed that many old citizens had confirmed credit alert receipt in outstanding pension following his promise at Christ the King Cathedral (CKC) Aba, where Gov. Alex Otti pledged to commence payment of pension during Chrism Mass (Maundy Thursday).

This is commendable, FENRAD further observes, given that the governor had initially stated that he couldn’t clear the outstanding backlog as promised earlier (during swearing-in) because it was discovered that some retirees were yet to get pensioned since 2014 in some instances, as against the projection the governor had worked with.

FENRAD recalls that two years ago, in 2022 precisely, old Abians took to the streets in Umuahia protesting about unpaid gratuities of 20 years. This (pension payment) shows that the governor is committed to bettering the lot of old and retired citizens who had given of themselves in active service to the state.

This is worthy of salute considering what old retirees in the state had hitherto suffered under previous governments, like: indigeneship question, non-payment of retirement benefits and other sundry discriminatory practices that promoted financial exclusion. Worse still, many of these old citizens died with their next of kins and loved ones unable to get any pension lump-sum.

The Foundation also wishes to salute the governor on his resolve to fix infrastructure in Abia State. Roads like Umuahia-Ohafia-Bende Road, Port Harcourt Road and so many others are currently undergoing massive construction.

During the same Chrism Mass at CKC Aba, the governor made a startling revelation when he said that work would begin in Obohia and Ohanku Roads after the Easter holidays.

The project Obohia-Ohuru-Aba Road is one of the thousands of abandoned NDDC projects. This is a huge one considering the state of abandonment the roads have suffered over two decades now.

The case of Obohia-Ohuru-Aba is not one to which FENRAD is unfamiliar as a group advocating good governance.

In 2008, following advertisements in national dailies, as is consistent with the procurement law, bids were submitted by many companies after which three companies were pre-qualified. The work, being a 32km-distance road project under the Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC) otherwise known as Obohia-Ohuru-Aba Road, was to be constructed with a spur to Obeaku community, an oil palm-rich town suffering neglect due to poor road network.

Sadly, from FENRAD’s findings, the three companies claimed that they didn’t get mobilised. While the situation continued to deteriorate unabated, the news started making the rounds, some time ago, even on the internet and grapevine spaces that Obohia Road had been fixed. For the optics, online pictures trended to that effect, yet, not even a single kilometre of that road was tarred.

Questions too had been asked, especially to federal lawmakers who represented – or are still representing – the zone and constituency covering Aba to no effect. Today, the narrative is seemingly changing, and for good.

Today, if fixed, the Obohia and Ohanku roads can unlock the vast economic potentials of Aba, and by extension Abia State, as it will accelerate the growth of local and small-scale businesses, reduce rural-urban migration, enhance development overlap and urban decongestion, and also ensure effective communication (movement of persons, goods and chattels), with the possibility of creating arterial link and commercial nexus among Abia, Akwa Ibom and Rivers States. A win-win, one might say.

To think that the said road (Obohia) was built by Dee Sam Mbakwe in 1980 and abandoned by successive governments says a lot already. Today, the governor has pledged to rebuild the road with ‘cement technology.’ It is for this that we salute the governor.

Having said that, one could see where the loans being secured by the current government are being channelled to. Though there is a need to invest in a massive industrialisation scheme, if the government builds roads, local industries will thrive and address unemployment.

FENRAD calls on the governor to remain focused and not get carried away by praise singers as there are works undone and far from having begun.

The Foundation thanks the governor, and salutes him, but urges him to raise the bar higher and higher as only such will Abia recover lost years to be able to take its position pridefully as ‘God’s own State,’ beyond a mere titular appendage.

As he has begun pension awards, we believe the governor can also fulfil his promise to fix Ohanku and Obohia, two strategic roads to Aba and Abia!

 

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