As Gov Nwifuru Works to Renew Hope in Ebonyi, Poor Sanitation, Harassment of Businesses Endanger Progress
By Moses Idika
On May 29, 2023 when Hon. Francis Ogbonnaya Nwifuru took oath of office as the new governor of Ebonyi State, many residents of the state heaved a sigh of relief due to the draconian and anti-social welfare stance of the preceding government.
The sigh of relief stemmed from the unfortunate fact that all the basic social services indicators in Ebonyi State were flattened out.
For instance, in such critical areas as the health sector, Ebonyi State had zero medical staff in the 14 General Hospitals in the State, while the Primary healthcare system was long dead and buried. Ebonyi State as at May 29, 2023 had only five medical doctors, one pharmacist, and a little over 50 nurses and midwives in the payroll of the state’s ministry of health.
In the area of education, both the primary and secondary schools were comatose, while the two state-owned tertiary institutions in the state, the Ebonyi State University(EBSU), Abakaliki and the Ebonyi State College of Education, Ikwo were already ghosts of their old selves. Both institutions had lost more than 60% of their faculty while various Courses already lost or at the verge of losing their accreditation. Those institutions had their monthly subventions slashed while other states in the country were increasing subventions in tandem with prevailing realities.
In the water and sanitation sectors, every resident of Ebonyi State relied on “pure water” because not a single drop of water came out from the public water supply.
In the area of agriculture that the state was known for, the sector rather became a conduit pipe for stealing as currently being confirmed by the plight of civil servants who are now discovering that they have been owing the banks even when they never received any agric-loans!
However, on assumption of office, Governor Nwifuru went about rejigging the various sectors to the applaud of residents of the State.
In a groundbreaking step, the governor announced the approval for recruitment of 195 medical staff, including 39 doctors, 39 nurses, 39 medical laboratory technicians and other health workers. This gesture has also been extended to the civil service in the state as new vacancies have been created and are currently being filled.
In the same vein the salaries of EBSU staff got paid, promotions in the civil services started pouring in, while pensioners started smiling again. Even the moribund scholarship board is said to have now been revved back to life, just as security is gradually returning to normal. Despite, the presence of some members of the disbanded Ebubeagu militia which is still noticed with “tire roadblocks” in the evenings, the usual brutality and harassment witnessed under Governor David Umahi seem to have quieted down a little.
Despite the above commendable steps and improvements, there are certain areas that seem to have taken a turn for the worse.
Since Governor Nwifuru took over power in Ebonyi State, the sanitation situation in the state, especially in Abakaliki, Afikpo and Onueke has become worse than the time of Governor David Umahi.
It is now a common sight to see heaps of refuse splattered on various street corners with its attendant effect.
Today, there is no street corner in Abakaliki that is immune from the menace of refuse dumps.
It is important to note that this situation is so dangerous that the residents of the state could suffer outbreak of cholera and other diseases that the burgeoning uncleared refuse dumps predisposes the people to. The effect of this ugly situation is in the cooler now because of the availability of water due to constant rain (being in season). If the situation continues to the dry season when many parts of the towns lack water the effect can only be better imagined; the resulting fires from refuse-burning, the smoke inhalation, stench etc. and of course, the defacing of the state and general health and visual hazards can never be over emphasized.
Stifling Business Environment
Another sector that has continued to suffer deprivation is the business environment which has not shown any form of direction or plan. Stories abound on how some self-imposed revenue officers have been moving around closing shops, imposing taxes and taking over peoples’ business spaces as “brothers” of the governor.
This particular anti-business practice introduced by the former government is a business killer. Just last week, this writer visited the popular Ogoja road in Abakaliki and discovered that PEP, a clothing and Fashion shop that thrives in other cities and towns have since parked up and left Abakaliki due to excessive harassments and taxes from these unauthorized individuals.
In Abakaliki today, investors are scared away by some ethnic landlords who see any business not belonging to their kinsmen as unnecessary intruder.
The “it is our turn syndrome” is fast eroding business confidence in Ebonyi State, must, as a matter of urgency be stopped in the interest of the state’s economy.
According to the latest ranking of the National Bureau of Statistics, Ebonyi State is one of the lowest ranked in Nigeria for the ease of doing business.
The government must therefore, come up with clear economic plans with clear incentives to attract investment to the state. This will definitely impact the living standard of the residents, expand opportunities and create jobs for its teeming young population.