Low budgeting hinders Abia’s development, says Emenike
As Youth Group Lament Neglect Of education Sector
The governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abia State, Chief Ikechi Emenike, has identified low budgeting as the major reason the state has been experiencing stunted growth.
This was as Igbo youths under the auspices of Coalition of South East Youth Leaders (COSEYL) yesterday expressed concern over alleged neglect of the education sector by the state government.
Emenike expressed this view while addressing a non-partisan stakeholders forum at Ututu in Arochukwu local council of the state in continuation of his consultations and mobilisation of like minds to join hands with him to change the sad narrative of Abia.
The development economist noted that over the years, those at the helm of affairs in the state have been running it on low budgets of less than N200 billion, which according to him, is insufficient to pull it out of underdevelopment.
“Any budget less than N200 billion cannot develop Abia,” he insisted, adding that he would find creative ways to enhance the state’s budget to be able to meet with the demands of developing it to enviable heights.
In the past three years, the administration of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has been turning out less than N200 billion in its final policies with N137.419 billion for 2020, N131.815 billion in 2021 while N157.282 billion was budgeted for 2022 fiscal year. Though this year’s budget recorded 10.81 per cent increase above 2021 fiscal policy, it still fell short.
But Emenike, who is leading a mass movement “to rescue and develop Abia” promised to set up “building blocks of development” that would place the state on the path of irreversible growth.
Apart from being insufficient, the APC governorship hopeful also noted that the state’s budget usually fail to reflect the needs of the people who are supposed to be the beneficiaries of government’s fiscal policies.
“The budget of Abia should have the face of every Abian in it,” he said, pointing out that “citizens see themselves in the budget of countries where good governance is practiced.”
Citing the sad fate of Abia workers and pensioners being owed arrears of salaries, pensions and gratuities, Emenike noted that the government would not have found itself in such situation if budgets were truly people-oriented.
He assured that he would devise a means out of the quagmire of pension arrears by constituting a committee of pensioners on rotational basis to manage the payment of pensions and clear the arrears.
The APC governorship flag bearer has travelled round the world and done businesses with international financial institutions like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, African Development Bank and other development agencies.
He said he would leverage on his experience and international networks to stimulate economic growth in Abia and build “a first world state within a third world country.”
“There will be economic activities in every local government of Abia,” Emenike stated.
He urged the stakeholders to come out of their comforts zones, if any, and join the revolution to free Abia from the hands of bad managers so that God’s own state could start experiencing good things come 2023.
“You are stakeholders in Abia and you must be concerned with the bad condition of the state. Let us say no to bad governance; let everybody stand up to be counted in our rescue mission,” he added.
COSEYL in a statement by its President General, Goodluck Ibem, made available to The Guardian, lamented that public primary, secondary and tertiary institutions in the state have remained under lock and key for several months due to a strike action embarked upon by teachers over the refusal of the state government to pay their salaries.
Ibem noted that while public schools in other parts of the country have run uninterrupted, those in Abia State have closed for several months because of arrears of salaries.
He called on leaders of the state to intervene and save the state’s education sector.
He said: “In the past five months, primary and secondary School teachers have been on indefinite strike over non-payment of salaries by the state Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, who incidentally is a PhD holder that should understand the importance of education to any state or society. Secondary school teachers are owed for two years while that of primary school teachers is six months.
“The total neglect and I don’t care attitude of Governor Ikpeazu towards the education sector leaves one to wonder if truly he understands his duties and responsibilities as the governor of the state.
“We only see him post his photos on social media where he is with one of the South-South governors on a jamboree either in Turkey, UK or any of the developed countries. Maybe to him that is governance”.
In a swift reaction, however, the state government disagreed with the association, stressing that Ikpeazu’s policies on education had encouraged excellence and had provided a good environment for good learning.
The Commissioner for Information, Eze Chikamnayo, who though refused to comment on the ongoing strike action by teachers in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions in the state, insisted that the governor was poised to do more for sustained growth of education. He said that those owed would soon be paid.
His words: “He has increased the school enrollment in the state from a paltry 11,500 in 2015 to 303, 000 currently. Ikpeazu also introduced a Free School Feeding Programme that has encouraged the students to go to school on a daily basis knowing that they will be well fed in school. And that has also helped the parents to save more.
“Ikpeazu has sent Abia teachers for training and retraining on Modern Teaching Techniques to Turkey and other countries. He has on several occasions encouraged the teachers through incentives. He has given many Abia teachers car gifts to encourage hard work and commitment.
“Ikpeazu has built more than 400 new classroom blocks in the state and equipped them with modern teaching materials. He also considers the welfare packages of Abia teachers as paramount in his administration.”