Beyond Roads: Creating New Pathways for Social and Economic Development

...Being the Text of a Speech Delivered by the Abia State Governor, Dr. Alex C. Otti, OFR, During the Flag off of the Arochukwu-Ndi Okereke- Ozuabam Road on Wednesday, March 20, 2024.

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Protocols

1.     One of the most important commitments of our government is to improve the living condition of the people across rural and urban communities through the consistent removal of the many impediments that limit the capacity of individuals and businesses to function at their fullest potential.

2.     The terrible state of some of the most economically viable roads in the State as a result of utter neglect tells a very unsavoury story and for several years, not much was done to address this challenge in several rural communities and urban centres.

3.     The cost of this neglect on the economy of the State in terms of lost opportunities cannot be quantified.  Farmers in rural communities found it difficult to move their produce to the markets leading to heavy post-harvest losses. Most painfully, businessmen and women from different parts of Nigeria and the West African sub-region who had relied on markets in Aba for supplies quickly took their patronage to other places. With business returns plummeting, several commercial entities that previously employed thousands of our people quietly closed shops or relocated.

4.     As a government that made a covenant to bring succour to the people after many years of frustrations, we knew that road construction, rehabilitation and maintenance must be made major priorities long before we took our oath of office.

5.     Starting with some of the most strategic roads in Aba and Umuahia, we are now expanding the scope to cover roads that connect our agricultural zones to the urban areas in order to boost the State’s agricultural output and expand our economic corridors to create jobs for thousands of our young people while taming rural-urban migration.

6.     It is on this note, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, that I happily welcome you to the official flag-off of the reconstruction of the 30-kilometre Arochukwu-Ndi Okereke- Ozuabam Road. Coming just weeks after work began on the 67-kilometre Umuahia-Uzuakoli-Ohafia Road, the clear message is that no part of the State shall be left behind in our push to expand the frontiers of economic and social opportunities for individuals, families and businesses.  

7.     To bring relief to our people and reclaim what had been lost through years of neglect, we have gone for quality contractors who share our vision to deliver roads that can stand the test of time and the elements.  From Port Harcourt Road in Aba through Ossah Road in Umuahia and across the over 30 road projects that are simultaneously going on in different parts of the State, we have painstakingly chosen civil engineering firms with excellent track records in project execution. Our most important consideration is to extract commensurate value for every kobo of taxpayers’ money spent.

8.     The Arochukwu-Ndi Okereke-Ozuabam Road will on completion in about 12 months, revive the agricultural and allied business ecosystem within several communities in Arochukwu and Ohafia LGAs and open an expanded economic window for those seeking to tap into the promises of the New Abia by investing here.

9.     Fixing this road simultaneously with the Umuahia-Uzuakoli-Ohafia Road is a strategic initiative to guarantee that the stretch of road from this axis to Umuahia and Aba is in optimal shape, making the movement of people, agro and allied commodities from the northern part of the State to the urban centres is hassle-free.  

10. Beyond just boosting the economic endeavours of individuals and businesses, the reconstruction of these roads will also improve the social dynamics in the communities, making travel less risky and adding an extra layer of incentives for our kith and kin living in places far and near to visit home more frequently for social functions and engagements.  

11. In committing so much to these road projects, we are looking to also strengthen inter-community bonds and create a new pathway for rapid development of the tourism sector. By the time the contractors complete their works, it would be easier for our friends and acquaintances to travel from wherever they are in the world to our communities to witness our cultural and traditional events as frequently as they wish.  

12. To support government efforts, we encourage everyone to do their part to make Abia truly number one on all the important development indices. Citizens and businesses are encouraged to pay their taxes with religious commitments. Thankfully, we have created multiple digital and traditional channels to make the payment of taxes and other statutory fees seamless. Our infrastructural and social development programmes will be stalled if we fall short on the financial obligations required to keep the bulldozers and other earth moving equipment at our different project sites in motion.

13. In addition to paying our taxes as and when due, we have an obligation to protect public facilities in our communities and neighbourhoods. Acts of vandalism and criminal destruction of public infrastructure shall never be tolerated as we shall deploy the full weight of the law to deal with anyone who attempts to sabotage our modest efforts at making all parts of Abia safe destinations for honest and legitimate endeavours.

14. Our assurance to all the communities in the State is that we have a very detailed programme of development that you are bound to benefit from. The promise of the New Abia is for every part of the State. It must, however, be borne in mind, going by the evidence of the last ten months, that we are very methodical in our approach.

15. Our overarching objective is to turn every community in the State into viable production centres where those who seek jobs can find one and those who dream of setting up their independent empires will be given wings to fly.

16. The advantage of the Labour Party Government in the State is in our fidelity to our promises and our organic connection with the population at the grassroots. So, from time to time, you will see us in your communities flagging off new, or commissioning completed projects with measurable relevance to the wellbeing of the people.  As I have mentioned, all you need to do is play your part as partners in progress because this is your government.

17. Thank you for listening and see you again when we return for the  commissioning.

Dr. Alex C. Otti, OFR
20/03/2024.