Mbah of Enugu State: One Year of Impactful Governance and Uncommon Leadership

By Reuben Onyishi

The transcendental leadership and impactful governance Governor Mbah of Enugu State has unleashed on the state within one year in office is indescribably unprecedented in the state. Never in the history of Enugu State had so much been done within so few a time by an administration of the state. And this is morning on a creation day, as Chinua Achebe would say, for an administration that ostensibly has seven more years to go.

Governor Mbah is a sophisticated leader who creatively thinks ahead of time and has a knack for translating his lofty thoughts and ideas into reality. He is a transformative leader with impatience for excusable non-performance. Mbah goes granular and clears every stump on the road to the transformation of Enugu State. He identifies the elephant in the room and is abreast of strategies by means of which it is escorted out of the place. The blueprints and financial models had first been crafted in his manifesto, and every bit of it is being implemented to religious devotion unbowed to the Cyclone and the tempest blowing from any quarters of the horizon.

Coming from a background of entrepreneurial capacity of monumental proportion in the downstream oil and gas sector of Nigerian economy, Mbah would replicate his many exploits in the private sector part of which is the bringing of the underdog of a company from the rear to the forefront. It is something he did with ease in the private sector and so understands how to fix the myriad of challenges facing leadership in the public sector. Simply put, Mbah holds the key with which to unlock the economic prosperity of the state and has with it opened many doors that would lead to the exponential growth of the Enugu economy to the proposed tune of &30 billion. Mbah is driven by transcedental values, a kind of selfless commitment to community service at the subnational level. If he needed money, Mbah would not ask Enugu State. He was already made before venturing into politics. Driven by the need to transform the state by means of disruptive innovation, Mbah has within one year in office as the governor of Enugu State infused these values into governance to the amazement of the people of the state. Testimonies abound on the lips of the people, saying they have yet to see such development in their communities since man was put on the earth.

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The avalanche of projects and programmes the Mbah administration has unleashed within one year confounds the simple and amazes the learned. But Mbah was prepared to lead. He had ab nitio crafted his governance objectives, the blueprint and financial models in his manifesto. That is planning. What obtains now is the religious implementation of the manifesto chronologically. There is no art of capturing all that Mbah has done within one year in black and white. They are as numerous as sand upon seashore. Nonetheless, some of them shall inevitably will themselves into this piece.

Mbah had begun with security in order to bring back peace and tranquillity in Enugu and scale up business development. He, therefore, had, four days after his inauguration, precisely on June 3, 2023, placed an immediate ban on the illegal sit-at-home order by non-state actors in Enugu. This also rubbed off on other Southeast states, as the sit-at-home syndrome became a thing of the past in the entire Southeast. To ensure security is sustained, and to make Enugu crime-free, the Mbah launched a new security outfit, the Distress Response Squad (DRS), in July, equipped them with modern security tools, and a toll-free number that residents can call in instances of emergency. He procured over 100 vehicles with security surveillance cameras that have the capacity for plate-number and facial recognition, which patrol the length and breadth of the state in order to rid the state of crimes and insecurity

Still on security and business, Mbah engaged with the Nigerian Navy, and the Navy agreed to establish a naval base at Ogurugu in Uzo-Uwani Local Government of the state. This also has the economic importance of revamping the moribund Ogurugu jetty and opening up the water ways for international business, given that Uzo-Uwani is a consequential local government in the state with its comparative advantage in agriculture and its value chain.The naval base, which the preliminary work has already started, will tighten security in the state, and open Enugu for coastal business, and boost Enugu’s economy. It should be noted that Mbah’s milestone achievements in the area of security caught national attention as he was awarded the Governor of the Year by New Telegraph Newspaper for his courage in leadership. Mbah also won the Sun. Vanguard and Champions newspapers Gorvernor of the Year awards, a testament to his impactful governance and uncommon leadership abilities.

During the governirship electioneering campaigns in Enugu State, Governor Peter Mbah promised Enugu residents that within the first 100 days in office, he would clear refuse off the streets of Enugu. In June 2023, Mbah cleared all refuse heaps in Enugu’s capital city and Nsukka and procured over 20 refuse compactor trucks to ensure Enugu was always clean. Corollary to this is his urban renewal programme that has seen to the clearing of slums within the cities in the state and the building of ultramodern station terminals that will help ease off traffic congestion at the identified flashpoints like Ogbete, Gariki, Abakpa and Ogige Nsukka.

In his passionate drive to attract investments to the state and make for a thriving Enugu economy, Mbah attracted the establishment of a UK Visa Centre in Enugu in August 2023. This is in line with his initiative partnership with federal government to operationalize the international and cargo wings of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu which functionality would boost the visa centre and make it possible for investors and people in the Southeast to easily get their visas and travel to the UK all from Enugu without the stress of traveling to Lagos or Abuja for visas and flights.

In June 2023, Governor Mbah started the verification and payment of the arrears of unpaid pensions and gratuities accumulated since 1999. This is in line with his campaign promise to begin paying off pension and gratuity backlog within his first 100 days in office. As of today, the pension arrears running into billions of naira have all been cleared by the Mbah Administration.

In the move to sustain the Enugu environment as well as plug income leakages, Mbah banned illegal mining in the state and brought order in the coal mining sector of the economy. All cases of nonremittance of environmental fees and PAYEE to the state coffers were stopped, and the state has since then realized billions of naira from these fees. With the order introduced to the sector by the governor, the sector is expected to add N500 billion to Enugu’s Internally Generated Revenue(IGR).

Mbah also introduced the unified e-ticketing scheme to curb loopholes in revenue generation in Enugu State. The tightening of the revenue leakages by the governor has an immediate impact on the state. This has seen the Enugu IGR leap from N2 billion to over N4.3 billion monthly in 2023, and he has now astronomical soared to N10 billion in 2024.

Having seen the state of the Enugu NYSC camp, Governor Mbah, in August 2023, started the rehabilitation of the camp, the road to the camp, and the water facilities at the camp.All of that has now been fixed.

In his bid to grow Enugu’s GDP from $4.4 billion to $30 billion, Mbah, on 1st September,2023, hosted the Enugu State Investment and Economic Growth Stakeholders’ Roundtable to sell the economic opportunities in Enugu to investors from all over the world to attract investors into the state. The Roundtable was the first of its kind in the state. The Roundtable was attended by reknowed world development institutions like World Bank, AFREXIMBANK, African Development Bank(ADFB), and other development partners whose appetites for business in Enugu State was whetted. It led to the closure of many deals running into billions of dollars in agriculture, energy, mining, ICT, and the creative industry.

Following the 2023 Electricity Act that de-centralized and de-monopolized electricity, allowing states to produce their electricity instead of states depending solely on the Federal Grid, Governor Mbah swiftly crafted the Enugu Electricity Bill which was expeditiously passed by Enugu State House of Assembly and signed into law, setting the ground for electricity production and business in Enugu State, as Mbah had stressed that power was an important aspect of ease of doing business. Enugu was the first subnational to enact the electricity law following the decoupling of power from the Exclusive List to the Concurrent List. Mbah then set up the Enugu Electricity Regulatory Commission, as passed by the state assembly. This paid off as Enugu was the first state whose electricity regulatory commission got the devoluted power to regulate the state’s electricity from the National Electricty Regulatory Commission in April, 2024. This has implications so favourable to the private-sector driven economy on which Mbah anchors his economic growth of the state as this is a feather on the cap of ease of doing business.

According to the governor, the agriculture sector is estimated to contribute up to $10 billion to the GDP of Enugu State. On this note, Mbah has set aside 300,000 hectares of land bank for agriculture and agro processing for the next 4 to 8 years, with the possibility of expanding that. About one-third of the 300,000 hectares was cultivated casava, rice, and so on in 2023, while the governor the same last year commissioned multiple rice, cashew, and cassava-processing centres in the state to enhance the agro products for exports.

In order to enhance agriculture and ensure the availability of external funds for agriculture and other areas, Mbah paid different counterpart funds of over N1 billion in his first six months in office. Some of the counterpart funds to development partners’ assisted projects include N274 million counterpart fund to International Fund for Agricultural Development, (IFAD), N240 million counterpart funds to Agro-Processing Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support (APPEALS), N60 million counterpart fund to Livestock Productivity and Resilience Support Project (L-PRES), and about N500 million counterpart fund for Nigerian Erosion and Management Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP). All the counterpart funds paid will ensure funds are easily made available to each of the sectors.

Governor Mbah promised during his campaigns that he would revolutionize education in Enugu State to equip students in the state with relevant modern knowledge to compete well with their global counterparts. On that, the governor has started building 260 smart green schools in Enugu, one in each of the 260 political wards in the state. The schools will teach special areas like robotics, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual realities, vocational and ICT skills, among others. The first model of the school was completed in November 2023 and is operational. Additional 135 smart schools have been awarded and are being constructed across the state. Each of the smart schools would cost about N1.2 billion to be fully equipped. The smart school is structured to take the Enugu child young from the age of 3, from cretch to JS3. The idea is to imbue the Enugu child with practical and cognitive skills that would make them competitive in the global market even if they would not further their education. Again, this will get secondary school students not just well-equipped for university but also internationally job-ready as creators, inventors, and problem solvers.

In the area of healthcare, the governor has begun the building of 260 type-2 primary healthcare centres in the 260 wards in Enugu. The healthcare centre is designed to have all the basic modern equipment as regards global standards. This way, affordable healthcare will be available to the people of Enugu State, both in the rural and urban areas.

In October 2023, Governor Mbah began the building and construction of the New Enugu City, 40km dual carriageway, 10 intrastate roads, and other 71 urban roads. The roads in the urban areas are 98% already completed, while the remaining 2% is being rounded off shortly.

The New Enugu City, which is awarded to the Chinese Comminication and Construction Company, CCCC, will be completed in 24 months and is estimated to generate about N500 billion in revenue for the state. The New Enugu City consists of the Happy Island, the Vitality Bay, and the Innovation Park. It is a smart city that will compete with any known city in the world on all fours. Besides the decongestion of Enugu, the new smart city will provide such tourism value as experienced in Dubai and other big cities of the world. Mbah, through a bank guarantee that would not crystalize until the 36-month transaction cycle of the new city, creatively accessed free funding for the new city and will be raking in N500 billion into the state’s till.

During the campaign, Mbah promised to solve the age-long water scarcity in Enugu metropolis in his first 180 days in office. On November 25, 2023, exactly his 180 days in office, as promised, Mbah commissioned a 24/7 water scheme at Ninth Mile, Enugu. The water scheme produces 70 million litres of water per day, beating the decade-ago 2 million water per day status quo. The Oji water scheme is also being upgraded and fixed to enable it to produce 50 million litres of water per day. This will bring it to 120 million litres of water per day. Those yet to get water in their homes will do that in no time as worn-out water pipelines are currently being replaced, while in the areas with no pipeline network, the groundworks to do the pipeline network are currently being done.

In the area of workers’ welfare, the governor in November began the payment of additional cash awards of N10,000 and N25,000 to state workers. The additional payment will be paid until any time when the new minimum wage shall have been likely decided.

Beyond this, Mbah also increased the state’s social register enrolment from 43,000 to 260,000, promising to light more indigent citizens out of poverty through cash transfers and other interventions.

Governor Peter Mbah signed the N1 billion matching fund partnership deal with the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN). The N1 billion is to provide grants to 5,000 SMEs in Enugu to help small businesses thrive despite the double-digit inflation in the country.

On 27 December 2023, Governor Mbah signed the N521.1 billion Enugu 2024 budget into law, stressing that only about 13 percent of the total budget would be borrowed, while the remaining 80 percent would be funded by the IGR of the state. The budget is not only bold, audacious, and unprecedented in the state, but it is also the first time that more than 70 percent of the Enugu budget is slated for capital projects, and the first time the education sector will take 33 percent of the entire budget, meaning that for every N100 spent, N33 is spent on education.

For four years, the Enugu Rangers International Football Club had to play their home games in Awka Stadium in Anambra because the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu was in bad shape. Within the first 6 months in office, Mbah fixed the Enugu Stadium and got Enugu Rangers playing on the stadium again. Beyond that, the Enugu Stadium is ready to host other similar sports events.

Governor Peter Mbah in December hosted Igbo Captains of Industry in Enugu, as he inaugurated the Enugu Investors Network, where strategies and plans on how not only to develop the economy of Enugu State but also the economy of the Southeast. Enugu is the capital of the southeast zone, and the Enugu Investors Network serves as the gathering of investors from the Southeast to develop the economy of the zone.

Given the preponderance of projects the Mbah administration has embarked upon since its inception, it is only logical that clear sources of funding be explored as allocation accrued to the state from the federation account could only scratch the surface. So, Mbah would have to chart alternative finance models. Already, he had taken this into account in his manifesto. Even the enabler of the 2024 Enugu Budget of Disruptive Economic Growth is a pointer to that. Aggressive domestic revenue mobilization is inevitable. Yet Mbah would not increase the tax rate. He would rather widen the tax net and plug revenue leakages. But this too can not carry the heavy weight of Mbah’s innumerable projects.

Therefore, Mbah came up with the creative idea of activating the state’s dormant assets to productive ventures. He set out with the state’s international conference centre left uncompleted since 1999. As at today, the conference centre is on the verge of completion, and on Saturday, May 25 2024, Mbah laid the foundation for the construction of a 5-star hotel in Enugu in preparation for the reactivation of the international wing of Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu and the humongous level of businesses that would engender, as Enugu would need up to 10,000 keys.

The moribund heritage Enugu Hotel Presidential lying fallow, overgrown with weeds and litigation-infested, wasting and dead received life as Mbah awarded it for reconstruction. Besides the revenue it would generate to the state, it also creates jobs for the people of the state.

Also, in May, the Mbah are Administration gave life to the United Palm Products Limited, another asset of the state wasting away over the years. The Mbah Administration entered into partnership with Pragmatic Palms Limited and signed a N100 billion deal to revamp the company with equity stake in the form of assets on the ground on the part of the government of N40 billion while Pragmatic Palms Limited stakes N60 billion as its equity iñ the deal.

The Mbah Administration is set to revamp many assets of the state government lying moribund such as Niger Gas, Nigercem, AVOP, the ceramic company at Nachi, the Alluminium Smelting Company at Ohebedim, and many others. Already, the Mbah Administration is set to tap the various mineral resources in the state: natural gas, glass sand, clay minerals, iron ore, limestone, alum, and so on.

Alas! Need more be said about the numerous impactful governance and transformative leadership of the Mbah Administration, something that has taken much depth within so short a while? All this in one year! What happens when Mbah has done 4 to 8 years. Enugu shall have become the biggest subnational economy in Nigeria. Mbah has yet much to unleash. Even the opposition is overrun with projects they know not what else to oppose, as the positive impacts of the Mbah Administration are being felt in all nooks and crannies of the state.

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