Dr Paul Okorie, a former Commissioner for Works, Housing and Transportation in Ebonyi has applauded the giant strides made by successive leaders in the developmental journey of the state since its creation in 1996.Our correspondent reports that Ebonyi will mark 26 years of its existence by October 1, 2022.The state was carved out from the present-day Enugu and Abia states by the administration of Gen. Sani Abacha on Oct. 1, 1996, after more than half a century of struggle.
Okorie, in an interview with our reporter on Tuesday in Abakaliki, reviewed the social, economic and political travails of the Ebonyi people before the creation of the state by the Abacha military junta.According to him, a lot of progress has been made in the areas of human development; educational and economic empowerment, infrastructural development as well water and sanitation.
Okorie paid tributes to the state’s past leaders whom he said selfless contributions, administrative ingenuity and leadership prowess accounted for the rapid development that the state has witnessed since its creation.He said: “Ebonyi was in a very terrible state when it was created in 1996 and I happened to be one of the key operators since its inception in 1996 even up to 2013.
“Before Ebonyi was created, everywhere was stinking; heaps of refuse here and there, everywhere was dirty, the use of bucket toilets was the order of the day.”When you are going you will be perceiving odour; people were just dying, Cholera and Guinea worm infestations were endemic; pigs were roaming freely on the streets competing with humans for available space.
“The military administration created the Ebonyi State Environmental Protection Agency to tackle this environmental menace.”And the Ebonyi we met was in a terrible situation environmentally; water, roads, education and everything was just in a very very bad shape.
“But, the first military administrator, Walter Feghabor was on hand to tackle the little he could do within the short period he had as the military administrator.”He handed over to another military administrator, Simeon Oduoye who held sway briefly before the advent of civil rule in 1999.”Dr Sam Egwu was elected first civilian governor in 1999 and served for two tenures.
” Egwu as a former commissioner for Education under the previous military administrations used the opportunity to articulate the challenges of the state and had to prioritise education. “He awarded free and compulsory primary and secondary education, established the Ebonyi State University (EBSU), and made tuition fees affordable for students.
” He introduced an overseas university exchange scholarship programme that saw many indigenes of the state pursue their higher degrees in the United Kingdom.”He revitalised the Ezilo and the old Abakliki Water schemes which accounted for almost 24-hour water supplies in Abakaliki and its environs, road projects and job creation also received a boost during the administration.
” Through regular public water supplies, we were able to tackle and eradicate guinea worm and cholera which were endemic deadly water-borne diseases in the state.
“The Ebonyi Rural Water and Sanitation Agency (EBRUWSA) was also on hand to install boreholes in rural areas where pipe borne water could not reach.”Okorie while applauding the achievements of former Gov. Martin Elechi said that his government gave a boost to the development of rural communities through the building of ring roads, building of 36 Unity bridges to connect communities hitherto separated by rivers. “Elechi came and built ultra-modern Oferekpe and Ukawu Water Schemes to supply water to the greater percentage of Ebonyi communities but unfortunately, the project has not been completed to date.
” Elechi on his own also encouraged education. During his time he still gave overseas university scholarships, built model secondary schools and reintroduced boarding in model secondary schools in the state.”Elechi did quite well in road infrastructure, he boosted the state Civil Service through regular promotion, training and retraining of the workforce and payment of pensions and gratuities.” He built the ultra-modern State Secretariat at Ochudo Centenary City; built Staff Development Centre, Akanu Ibiam International Conference Centre among other landmark state assets,” he added.
Okorie also extolled the incumbent governor of the state, Chief Dave Umahi for the administration’s many landmark infrastructural developmental achievements especially the urban and rural road construction and flyover bridges built in many parts of the state. Okorie, while appreciating the many incremental signs of progress in Ebonyi and how it freed itself from the crutches of endemic guinea worm infestation, illiteracy and infrastructural deficits also called for the construction of more intra-city roads in Abakaliki. He further called for the establishment of cottage industries to provide jobs and employment opportunities to enhance the per capita income of citizens and fast-track development.