COVID-19, funds shortage, major challenges for Ikwo Council – Orogwu
Elder Stephen Orogwu, the chairman of Ikwo local government area of Ebonyi state, believes that his administration would have made significant progress in its quest to transform the council area if not for financial challenges. In this interview with RUTH OGINYI, the council boss shed more lights on his stewardship, socio-political and other development issues in the state.
How has it been since your assumption in office?
Well, I thank God for this opportunity given to me to serve Ikwo people in particular and humanity by extension. The going has been very good. Although we have had some challenges, we continue to move ahead; so, it has been a successful outing, so to say.
You had some targets to achieve in your first 100 days in office. Did you reach those targets?
Yes, and we have made a significant impact to meet our targets in line with the manifesto. when we were campaigning to come on board, we did promise Ikwo people to run an all-inclusive government where consultations will be made from time to work with the stakeholders of the local government to provide the needed democracy dividends that we have had. We have consulted elders, stakeholders, traditional rulers, and quite a large segment of society, including youths and women, educating them on what we are doing and carrying them along. Specifically, we made mention of working towards the restoration of the lost glory of Ikwo in the area of engendering peace and unity of Ikwo as a people.
We have set up various committees and panels of inquiry that have dived into the various community and village disputes. These committees are doing their jobs by turning in very impressive reports and their reports have been accepted by the government and are being used as an instrument for ensuring there is peace among the people in some areas. The reports were adjusted to strike a balance for both parties and a greater percentage of matters that came before us have been finally disposed of and peace is gradually returning to all the communities in Ikwo.
In the area of electricity, before now, people were thrown into darkness because of either vandalism of electricity infrastructure or outright damage. After doing a consultation with EEDC, we were able to ratify these faulty transformers and other facilities and power restored.
Secondly, we tried to ensure that new transformers are energised like the Ndiegu Ekpa Omaka, transformer which was inaugurated January 2, 2021 and that of Nsuba Ettam which was energised late last year.
In Ndufu Echera, the two transformers were repaired and energized so we now have power more regular than before, though there are still some parts of the local government that did not pay their EEDC bills regularly and that has led to disconnection of their light. Generally, light is more regular now and it has been extended to areas that, hitherto, had no light. We were able to renovate and bring back to use the Ikwo High Court and Ikwo Magistrate Court at Agubia which, before now, were relocated to Onueke because of fire. We have linked the High Court to the national grid. On roads, we have commenced work on the road from ABC farm to Eco farm leading to Ekpalu. We have also built some culverts along Igboji Ekpa-Ibem road. The council, in collaboration with the state, had assisted youths and women empowerment by ensuring they are linked up to the state programmes for the COVID-19 empowerment programme and the three million youths empowerment programme. We as well have linked the Council to other national empowerment programmes. About 99% of my staff are youths. From my SA’s, supervisory councillors are all youths, male and female. So, the youths had their share in this particular administration.
We are collaborating with the ministry of education to provide the needed supervision and monitoring. We have school monitoring committee set up by the local government provided with mobility and logistics in terms of funding and allowances for the team to ensure that they go and monitor schools. We also charged them to evaluate dilapidated school buildings that the council may look into so that we may reconstruct them and put them to use by pupils. Then on markets, we have been able to build a10-room lock-up shop at Igboji market and this is the first phase of our project as we tend to continue to expand to change the face of the market to look modern.
Are there challenges you encountered in these few months of your administration?
We indeed have some challenges and the biggest challenge among them is the issue of funds. You know the COVID-19 that came in 2020 affected fund allocation. That dwindled our receipt and limited the areas we could go into and, coming into 2021, we are hearing of the second wave of the outbreak and our receipts have continued to dwindle and it is affecting our plans. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak in terms of having the physical fund to embark on the project. Next is the challenge that is inbuilt among the people. In our attempt to ensure that there is peace, we bought into the government policy that there should be no election into either town union or village leadership without express permission from the government, the governor, David Umahi, who is the chief security officer of the state or the local government chairman, as the chief security officer of the council. This quest for power at the community and village levels has continued to hinder the implementation of this policy where there is splinter group saying they must do election; they must elect their leaders and that degenerates into crisis. So, it is a very big challenge and I believe with continues sensitisation and advocacy, the people will buy into the policy of the government.
Another challenge we have is the challenge of not meeting up with our expectations in the area of rural road rehabilitation. As I said, the fund that is available for the local government is very small and we cannot do much in the area of rehabilitating rural roads which is very important.
You have less than two years remaining in your administration, what do you intend to achieve in the remaining days?
We plan to build a legislative building in the council. The local government has been using the town hall for their sittings. We are waiting for funds for the project. Also, we intend to put a modern gate house that will beautify our environment.
Also, we plan to complete the agricultural department building. We also plan to fence Chief David Umahi Nwanoyo Stadium. we plan that project will be completed so that it will not be an open place.
How can you describe the people of your local government?
Ikwo people are well understanding people. They always take their stand in the scheme of things. Immediately the governor made the move to APC, consultations were made and a greater percentage of Ikwo stakeholders came together that they are joining the governor because there is a future in the defection. There is an understanding that working with the national party will bring better fortunes to Ikwo people. Ikwo people are very unique and understanding set of people that look far beyond the realities of what is happening today.