100 Days of solid foundation as Mbah takes Enugu on a ride to astronomical economic growth

By Reuben Onyishi

What is it about 100 days of an administration to merit the significant milestone attached to it? One is bound to ask, as 100 days in office has, in our political clime, become a time by means of which an administration’s scorecard is measured. Is 100 days enough to determine the achievements of an administration? Why the hullabaloo about 100 days? Well, it appears the first 100 days in office gives an indication of an administration’s leadership and management styles, priorities, policies and speed in implementing campaign promises.

How did we come by 100 days in the first place? Our democracy is modeled after the United States’ pattern. The US practices true federalism. It however remains for us to see how well we have aped America correctly when imitation never rises above the original. At any rate, how did even the US come by the arbitrary milestone of 100 days, for it is not even a constitutional provision. The question of 100 days in office began in 1932 during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, elected president of the U.S. in the wake of the Great Depression.

Impatient with the Depression, Roosevelt set out to make significant and quick changes in economic and social policy through legislative and regulatory actions. On taking office, he summoned the U.S. Congress to a three-month special session, and by the end of 100 days, had passed 76 new laws, mostly aimed at easing the effects of the Depression. He also was regular on the electronic media through which he explained to the people of America how he was trying to solve the country’s problems. He, in one of his radio chats, explained to Americans how important his 100 days in office had been. Since then, US presidents understand they would be measured by how ambitious and successful their first 100 days in office is.

Although some American presidents like J. F. Kennedy, and even Barack Obama, tried to lower expectations in 100 days, it however has remained a significant milestone for appraisal of leaders in the consciousness of the people. This also was imported into Nigeria Today, we in Nigeria look forward to the 100 days in office of the national and subnational administrations.

Peter Ndubuisi Mbah of Enugu is one governor who has shown capacity and good intentions towards the implementation of his campaign promises and value proposition as contained in his manifesto. He has taken radical and quick decisions that signpost his commitment to the fulfillment of his agenda, focused on rejigging the economy of Enugu State from its present GDP size of $4.4 billion to $30 billion. Within 100 days in office, Mbah has laid a solid foundation for the astronomical economic transformation he promised in his manifesto.

For a government whose dream is exponential economic growth and poverty alleviation to the tune of zero percent headcount index, removing all the stumps on the ground is sine qua non. Within one week of his assumption of office, Mbah identified every cog in the wheel to the realization of Enugu State of his dream, and set to nip them in the bud. One of the big elephants in the room was the Monday sit-at-home order by non-state actors. Sit-at-home had the implication of insecurity and damaging effects on the economy of the state, and no investor is ever ready to take security risk, though they may take financial and commercial risks. Governor Mbah knew that to attract investors to the state, since he proposed a private sector driven economy, sit-at-home had to end in the state. He wasted no time at banning it in the state. It was a daunting task, but Mbah was resolutely determined to escort the elephant out of the room. And indeed, he ended sit-at-home in the state. In order to sustain the milestone achievement in security, Mbah set up the Distress Response Squad (DRS) to make for urgent response to security breaches. The pilot stage of the the DRS has been launched while the squad will go full blast in the next two months when the 100 vehicles ordered for the squad shall have been procured. Cyber security is yet another innovation Mbah has brought to bear as the vehicles have surveillance cameras that have capacity for name and plate number recognition -inked to the command base at Government House , Enugu.

Done with sit-at-home, Mbah set out to lay the foundation for food security in the state by mapping out acres of land in communities within the state for mechanized agriculture for consumption and exports. He had mapped out agro-zones where agro-allied industries would be set for processing agricultural produce for exports. Such places like Aninri, Uzo-Uwani and so on are veritable grounds for the implementation of this objective which is in line with his promise to move agriculture from pipeline to platform. Some private concerns have undertaken to partner with the state government in the processing of cassava to ethanol for exports. The state government had also made its counterpart fund to the tune of N274 million to IFAD, and this would attract the receipt of N1.2 billion from IFAD as support to farmers in Enugu State. It would help develop agricultural markets and increase market access for smallholder farmers and medium-scale agro processors. Already, cassava farmers are being registered for grants and trainings on best practices for improved yield. ENADEP is also involved in the training of farmers on how to produce fertilizers, besides the making of seeds available to them for planting. The value chain benefits inherent in the technology Mbah has brought to bear on agriculture is immense. It would create jobs and markets for agro produce.

In view of the exports intentions of the Mbah Administration, Governor Mbah has undertaken to partner with the Federal Government in order to complete work on the international wing of Akanu Ibiam International Airport, as well as the proposed cargo terminal, and get them operationalized for the exports business the state government is gearing towards as a source of revenue.

Governor Mbah had said during the electioneering process, and as contained in his manifesto, that Enugu is a coastal state, and was not landlocked as claimed. He had identified the moribund jetty and waterways at Ogurugu in Uzo Uwani used by the colonial government for exports and movement of goods and services locally. He had promised to chart the way through the navigable waters and also revamp the jetty. By then, no one knew that a son of the state would be appointed the Chief of Naval Staff. At present, and in partnership with the Nigerian Navy headed by Real Admiral Ogalla, a naval based is set to be established at Ogurugu with the appurtenances of revamped jetty and waterways, naval hospital and school. This will enhance commercial activities in Uzo-Uwani, create jobs and enhance the exports dream of the Mbah-led Enugu State Government.

Having set the foundation, Governor Mbah then took an audacious step to attract investors and heavy businesses into the state. He had hosted the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr Richard Montgomery, in July, 2023 where Mbah sought partnership with Britain and the return of some British institutions like DFID to Enugu State, noting the benefits of it to the state, even in terms of easy visa processing. It was a fruitful discussion Mbah had with the High Commissioner whose Deputy, Mr Johnny Baxter, represented at the Enugu Investment and Economic Growth Roundtable held on 1st September, 2023.

Having cleared the ground, Governor Mbah hosted the Investment and Economic Growth Roundtable which saw to the convergence of world development institutions and partners in Enugu, as the investment opportunities and economic potentials of Enugu State were exposed and sold to them. And they graciously bought into them. Present at the roundtable were the World Bank, AFDB, AfRIEXIM and many others. Governor Mbah presented 30 investment areas to the would-be investors. He showcased the bankability of Enugu State and the curated projects and their granularity, pointing them to the cornucopia of opportunities in the integrated productive sector such as agriculture, mineral resources, energy, transportation, ICT and the creative industry. The roundtable was a concept note and a precursor to the final investment decision, that is, the closure of the deal worth $2.1 billion in April 2024 at the upcoming Economic and Investment Summit. The humongous promise of jobs and positive value chain effects inherent in this proposed investment deals are a major breakthrough in the journey towards the exponential growth of the Enugu economy and utter eradication of poverty in the state.

Many mineral deposits like limestone, gas, oleum, glass sand, coal and others in the state, besides crude oil, have yet to be tapped. It is an investment area presented to the partners at the roundtable. Besides that, the Enugu State Electricity Executive Bill which Mbah sent to the Enugu State House of Assembly has been passed into law, and this is a proactive measure to laying the foundation for private sector investment in power generation in the state, following the unbundling of power generation from the exclusive list to the concurrent list by the Buhari Administration. Already, many investors have indicated interests to partner with the state government in power generation, transmission and distribution. This is part of the conducive environment being put in place for investors (since epileptic energy availability has been one of the banes of Nigeria economy in terms of industrial production) in order to enhance the ease of doing business in the state, leveraging friendly regulation, tax rebate and infrastructure.

In the area of transportation, in order to make for movement of goods and services, 81 roads and two flyovers have been penciled down for construction and reconstruction within the year, 2023. In fact, 71 of the roads would be in Enugu metropolis and 10 connecting roads to the three senatorial zones in the state. Contractors would be mobilized to site as soon as the rains subsidize, as the funding for the projects are already available.

We can go on to reel out endlessly much that is already done in the area of the integrated productive sector. Internet and Computer Technology is quite another. Governor Mbah is enamoured of ICT and would move the governance of Enugu State to e-platforms. Land administration is a good example, as it now takes 48 hours to register land and obtain Certificate of Occupancy in the state via online platforms. Mbah has already brought a lot of innovations to bear on the administration of the state. The status quo is being disrupted, as it is no longer business as usual, even in terms of revenue collection and illegal extortions and leakages of the past.

Leveraging ICT, the Mbah Administration is positioning Enugu youths as potential human capital available for jobs the investment deals would create. Forty thousand(40,000) youths would be trained in ICT and 10,000 exposed to vocational skills, This is in line with the anecdotal transformation of Emeka to Ikechukwu that Mbah had talked about in his inaugural speech. This would kill the japa syndrome currently plaguing the nation and its youths.

Governor Mbah had as articulated in his manifesto promised to cause clean pipe-borne water to run in every compound in Enugu State within 180 days of his administration. Water had been an age-long challenge in Enugu city ostensibly because of the topography of Enugu and large coal deposit in the ground. Successive governments had made efforts, but they seemed not to have solved the water needs of the people. Governor Mbah would defy this narrative as he is poised to do the unheard-of. Already, he has put in place many boreholes at Nineth Mile, reactivated the Nineth Mile Water Crash programme as well as Ajali and Oji River water schemes, repaired and cleaned up water reservoirs in the state. At present, 25 million litres of water is being produced daily, and would be shored up to 70 million litres by the end of September. On or before the end of November, water shall have been reticulated to all parts of the city. It is one promise Governor Mbah would not trifle with. Water is life, and Enugu cannot afford water scarcity anymore. Not under Mbah’s watch.

In the social service sector like education, healthcare, the judiciary and others, Mbah has also laid solid foundation for enhanced social services delivery to the people of the state. The Mbah Administration has begun to build 260 model schools in all the wards in Enugu State. The school is patterned to catch the Enugu children young, and imbue them with science and technology skills; teach them mathematics, and expose them to ICT and vocational skills. Each of the school would contain seven state-of-the-art architecture with top-notch education facilities. This is besides the ICT skills acquisition centres in the offing.

In the area of healthcare, the Mbah Administration has commenced the refurbishing of at least 260 Primary Healthcare Centres in the state, while sustaining the various healthcare services in rural areas as well as the type 3 hospitals in the 17 local governments of the state inherited from the immediate past administration of the state.

Waste management is another area where the Mbah Administration has made remarkable positive impressions within 100 days. Leveraging public-private partnership, Enugu State has within 100 days of Mbah’s Administration worn a new look of absolute cleanliness. Refuse and garbage are cleared in time. This he achieved also by rejigging the management of Enugu State Waste Management Authority (ESWAMA ), bringing in experts in waste management.

Backlog of pensions and arrears of gratuities to pensioners in the state had been all the rage. During his electioneering campaigns, Mbah had promised to clear the arrears of pensions and gratuities owed retirees in the state by past administrations of the state, dating back to 1999d. He promised to clear them and enrol pensioners and Enugu civil servants to contributory pension schemes. Within 100 days in office, Governor Mbah has set up a committee headed by the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Chidiebere Onyia, to determine arrears of pensions and gratuities as well as the retirees being owed. The committee has submitted its report and the sum of N2 billion has been disbursed to clear two months arrears owed retirees. Governor Mbah is minded to clear the remaining arrears as they have been profiled for clearance in stages.

If 100 days were enough to appraise the Mbah Admissions, need much be said any more as to his policy thrust, leadership and management styles, priorities and the speed and commitment to the fulfillment of his campaign promises and value proposition to the people of Enugu State? All can see that Governor Mbah has laid a solid foundation to take Enugu on a ride to unexplored heights. Mbah’s genuine intentions are clear and his decisions and actions so far are quite unusual if disruptively innovative. It is 100 days in office worth the while. A whole lot has been done which for want of space has not been captured in this piece. All that can be said is that Enugu State is next in line for growth into the grade of the first three economic hubs in Nigeria. Thanks to Governor Peter Ndubuisi Mbah. Of a truth, tomorrow is here.

Reuben Onyishi is the SSA New Media to the Governor of Enugu State.

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