Dr Paul Okorie, ex-Commissioner for Works in Ebonyi, has applauded the giant strides made by successive governments in addressing human capital development needs and infrastructural deficit since Ebonyi was created in 1996.
Okorie, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Tuesday in Abakaliki, reviewed the social, economic and political travails of the Ebonyi people before the creation of the state.
According to him, a lot of progress has been made in the areas of human development; educational and economic empowerment, infrastructural development as well as water and sanitation.
Okorie paid tributes to the state’s past leaders whom he said, their 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 Mr Simeon Oduoye, an Assistant Inspector-General of Police, 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 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 deadly endemic water-borne diseases in the state.
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 built the ultra-modern Oferekpe and Ukawu water schemes to supply water to the greater percentage of Ebonyi communities, but unfortunately, the projects have not been completed to date.
” Elechi 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 projects,” he added.
Okorie also extolled the incumbent governor of the state, Chief Dave Umahi for the administration’s many landmark infrastructural development projects, especially the urban and rural road construction and flyover bridges built in many parts of the state.
Okorie also called for the construction of more intra-city roads in Abakaliki, establishment of cottage industries to provide jobs and employment opportunities to enhance the per capita income of citizens and fast-track development.