Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
Member representing Aba South state constituency in the Abia State House of Assembly, Hon. Obinna Ichita, has dismissed the proposed Enyimba Economic City (ECC) by the Governor Okezie Ikpeazu-led administration as “a scam.”
The lawmaker who spoke with Ikengaonline, regretted that the project was yet to commence over seven years it was proposed, and less than eight months to the end of Ikpeazu’s eight-year tenure.
Gov. Ikpeazu had, in 2018, secured the go-ahead of the African Development Bank (AFDB), private investors and other multilateral financial institutions for the investment of a whopping $430 million to fast-track the development of ECC.
EEC is a proposed free-trade zone with independent business registry, banking regulations, labour laws, etc, located on over 9,500 hectares of land in the oil-rich Ukwa communities between Aba and Port Harcourt.
The project received much media hype especially at the inception of Ikpeazu’s administration down to the peak of the legal battle against his electoral victory but it is rarely mentioned now by the same Government which spent so much fortunes promoting the project.
Expressing disappointment over the failure of the State Government to deliver on the project, Hon. Ichita said Abia was unfortunate to be governed by people who lack the competence to drive big visions.
The lawmaker noted that although the conceptualization was a nice idea, the administration lacked the sincerity and competent hands to drive the vision.
According to him, “Enyimba Economic City is a scam although the idea was a very smart one. But when smart people conceptualize ideas and hand it over to people who do not understand what it takes to drive the idea, they will mess it up.”
The lawmaker claimed that enormous resources were spent to promote the proposed project, yet it had remained a tall dream.
“Over $1 billion dollars was spent just to get the stamp of a certain organisation in Dubai on board.
“I stand to be controverted with facts; Enyimba Economic City is a scam just like the Education City and the Medical Village are all scams floated to confuse the people.
“The other time when this Government said it was awarding interventionists projects across constituencies I said that I knew this Government; it cannot be trusted but some people doubted me. But today where are those projects?”
On who conceptualized the EEC project, Ichita said: “I don’t want to mention names but I know for sure that the person is not part of the Government in the state.
“I know the person who conceptualized the idea; I know the person that secured the buying-in. But what happens is that the State Government does not have the intellectual sophistication to drive the idea.
“If you understand anything about urbanisation you will agree that EEC was a nice idea to decongest Aba and link it up with Port Harcourt. As a matter of fact, Umuahia would have also been connected to Aba but unfortunately the Government does not understand urbanisation strategy.”
On why the project had not been realised, the lawmaker who is the deputy governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, in the 2023 poll said: “the same thing that made them to abandon the Abia State University Teaching Hospital, ABSUTH.”
Continuing he said: “The same thing that made Abia Polytechnic to lose its accreditation; the same thing that made them to abandon Faulks Road, a road of less than five kilometers. They said they have spent over N8 billion. So, mathematically, it means one killometer length of road on a dry land costs over N1 billion. This can only happen in Abia!”
On what would happen to the project if APGA is voted into power in 2023, the lawmaker said experts would be assembled to drive the project.
“First of all, we will get the right people to do the right things. There is no way you will hire a carpenter to perform a surgery. The carpenter will end up bringing a dead body for you. We will get the right people to pursue the project.
“Under our watch, emphasis will be on merit and competence not mediocrity and nepotism. We won’t take just anybody to man sensitive agency of government just because he is related to somebody in power.
“We are going to do so many things to ensure that Abia comes out of the pit of administrative ineptitude which the present PDP-led administration has plunged everybody.”
The lawmaker also decried infrastructural dilapidation in the site of the proposed city which happens to be the only oil-producing area in the state.
“The location where the city should have been, currently is not accessible by road. The entire Ukwa land which made Abia oil-producing state is not motorable. If anybody is in doubt let Government do a live streaming of roads leading to Ukwa and let’s see who is lying.
But in a swift reaction, Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Eze Chikamnayo, lambasted the lawmaker for calling the project “a scam,” and cautioned him against criticising the government.
The Commissioner explained that the project had attained 50 per cent completion although the construction of structures had not yet begun.
Citing the Second Niger Bridge project which was conceptualized by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan but delivered by the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, Chikamnayo said that Government is a continuum.
He said: “Ichita himself is a scam. He is misguided and ignorant of the workings of Government and needs to be enrolled in an extra-mural class where he will be taught development dynamics free of charge.
“When former President Jonathan started the Master plan of 2nd Niger Bridge and laid the solid foundation, did all the leg work for the multinational financiers to buy into the project but unfortunately he was not in office when some of those things came into fruition. Does that mean Jonathan was a scam or the 2nd Niger Bridge a scam?”
Chikamnayo also said that the foundation of infrastructural edifice in Lekki, Lagos State was laid by the administration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu but actualised by successive Governments.
He claimed that Gov. Ikpeazu had done the major works needed for EEC to come on stream, saying that Ikpeazu’s successor will only need little efforts to realise the project
“A multinational project like EEC requires a buy-in by private and corporate investors and can’t be achieved overnight. We have done over 50 per cent in the EEC project. The substructure of such multinational project is not the buildings and the roads you see; it’s the paper works, the agreements and negotiations.
“For instance, Geometric Power has been in the offing for more than 15 years now but we are about reaping the gains. EEC is 50 per cent done.
“All of the land needed, all of the lobby, all of the funding, we are putting all of those in process. Putting these things together is more tasking and time-consuming than the physical structure.
Asked if seven years was not enough for something substantial to have been put on ground at the site of the project, Chikamnayo said: “It is expected that the incoming administration will deliver on the project.”
“This is why we are rooting for Professor Uche Ikonne to take over from Ikpeazu so he can continue,” adding that “Abians must reject erratic elements who have no understanding of the dynamics of Government.”