The newly sworn-in governor of Abia State, Dr. Alex Otti of the Labour Party (LP), has sent warning signal to those that were recruited into the Abia civil service at the twilight of the Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s administration, stating that he would be reviewing their appointments.
It would be recalled that Otti had some weeks ago raised the alarm over what he described as illegal recruitment of civil servants in the state which according to him, was part of a deliberate plan by the out-gone government to frustrate his government.
But Otti who was speaking at Umuahia Township Stadium during his inauguration speech after being sworn-in as the 5th democratically elected governor of the state, appears to have known how to handle the situation as he also disclosed that he would in due course be reviewing the promotion of civil servants made by his predecessor’s government. This is even as he warned that his administration has zero tolerance for corruption, gratification and kickbacks.
“We shall prioritize civil service reforms for efficiency and professionalism. We shall soon be reviewing the structure of the State’s workforce to determine how we can reform it for optimal productivity.
“The Abia State Civil Service shall run differently under this administration. Merit shall take prominence and only those who demonstrate requisite diligence in the discharge of their duties shall remain in the service.
“Technology will be used to support the Civil Service in the State. We propose to use technology to enable all Abia State employees, including myself, to work from anywhere to achieve operational efficiency and enhanced productivity.
“It gives me pleasure to announce that within the next few days, we shall commence the payment of May 2023 salaries and pensions to all civil servants and retirees in the State. There shall be no more distinction between the so-called “core” and “non-core” civil servants.
“This is a disingenuous expression that was used to hide the wicked habit of owing salaries. Whether you are a teacher in a primary or secondary institution owned by the State, a staff of the public health establishments, local government, or work in the judiciary, you shall, beginning from this May, earn your legitimate entitlements as and when due.
“From June 2023, all salary and pension obligations of the State would be settled by the 28th of every month. My commitment during my campaigns to pay off all outstanding salary and pension arrears remains sacrosanct.
“Within the next one week, I shall set up appropriate mechanisms to ensure that all legitimate employees and retirees are identified and paid their due entitlements.
“We will rebuild our school system by making it produce better quality students that will be relevant to the needs of modern society. To address the perennial crisis of paucity and poor quality of teaching personnel in our education sector, I shall, over the next one-month, work closely with my team and relevant stakeholders to design an appropriate framework that will be used to drive the recruitment of about 5,000 new teachers for our primary and secondary schools. Priority shall be given to young graduates with requisite qualifications in education, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subject areas and to those who are also willing to serve in rural communities.
“It is our commitment to see that our children are given the opportunity to tap into the great systems of advantage and opportunities that come from education, no matter where they live. We shall see to it that our teachers undergo regular refresher courses to update their knowledge and teaching skills so that they will stay relevant in their chosen fields.
“It must also be stated that under our government, teachers shall never be shabbily treated as reportedly had been the custom in the past. The paucity of infrastructure in our educational system shall be addressed stridently.
“Our children, whether in the rural or urban communities, will henceforth learn under very conducive and empowering environments. We will also support meritocracy in our educational system and ensure that special incentives are given to institutions across the state that promote excellence and have a history of producing high calibre students. ”
For traditional rulers and groups who hide under award and chieftaincy title to exploit recipients, Otti has disclosed that awards, honours and recognitions would not be welcomed until he leaves office.
Speaking on his plans for the economic development of the state, Otti said “As I stated earlier, our government shall be 100% pro-business. We will give all necessary scope for the private sector to participate in the economic activities of the state. Government shall not be in competition with the private sector.
“It shall instead remain a facilitator and will only get involved in critical areas where the private sector cannot immediately be a significant player, or where it may not be profitable for the sector. It is my intention to create wealth for the citizens of the State and it is through genuine public private sector collaboration that such a dream will be realised.
“To improve the State’s rating in the area of ‘ease of doing business’ and bring Abia at par with states that have made gains in this area, I am announcing the setting up of a cabinet level position within the Governor’s Office to drive our ‘Ease of Doing Business’ agenda.
“This position will be manned by a Special Adviser who has thorough understanding of best global practices on creating favourable environment for businesses to thrive.
“The appointee shall work closely with me to see that Abia moves from its present poor position into the Top 5 in the “Ease of Doing Business” index in Nigeria as quickly as possible.”
Apparently irked by lack of proper monitoring and implementation of project/contract execution in the state over the years, the LP leader said “To guarantee that our programmes and projects are successfully executed, a special Unit will also be established under my office to drive project implementation.
“This Unit will not only see that standards are strictly observed, it will ensure that we get commensurate value on every Kobo spent on projects and programmes across all parts of the State.
“This agency shall also oversee our intervention programmes in critical sectors like agriculture, social services, job creation and robust programmes of economic empowerment of youths and women across all parts of the State.
“It shall be the duty of this office to see that we are faithful to our promises to you as captured in our manifesto in terms of project conception and execution.”
On his vision for Aba, the state’s commercial nerve and Umuahia, the state capital, Otti said ” As you all know, Aba is a city that is very dear to my heart and critical to my leadership agenda. I believe that many Abians have the same attitude towards Aba.
“I intend to work tirelessly to restore the glory of our beloved Enyimba City. I shall, in the next one week, announce the setting up of the most suitable administrative and investment vehicles to drive the social and economic rejuvenation of Aba.
“My dear brothers and sisters, I can tell you one thing for sure: the glorious days of Aba will soon return. As you are already aware, I had mandated the leadership of one of the most notable construction companies in Nigeria to carry out preliminary assessment of some critical portions of Aba roads. I can assure you that we shall work with the best to fix Aba.
“Beyond working to retain the city’s status as a leading trade destination in Nigeria and across West Africa, we shall also do whatever is necessary to see that Aba’s manufacturing base is restored. Our government shall create the necessary partnerships that will expand energy options for manufacturers including liquefied natural gas (LNG) and renewable energy sources in addition to providing strategic support to the existing investors in the energy ecosystem in the city.
“We shall also position Aba as an ICT innovation hub in the region, providing support where needed and making sure the young men and women who are already doing remarkable things in that sector are offered the leverage they need to succeed and grow.
“While Aba remains most critical to our agenda, Umuahia, the state capital, shall also receive significant and necessary attention. We have developed well-thought-out policies and programmes to drive strategic infrastructural development in the city, that will turn it into a model city with world class infrastructure and a favourite destination for businesses, family life and leisure.
“Apart from Aba and Umuahia, we shall also extend development to every other part of the State, ensuring that the frontiers of opportunities are expanded in ways that can offer our people, no matter where they live, a supportive environment for the actualisation of their dreams.
“In partnership with commercial banks, local and international development agencies, venture capitalists and independent investors, we shall target MSMEs in high impact areas such as ICT, agriculture, small-scale manufacturing, fashion, leather works, and other areas where the state has strong comparative advantage.
“We shall also leverage on some of the major reforms in the power sector to provide structural support in the form of steady electricity access for these entrepreneurs.
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“Our administration shall also make sure that the major obstacles to business success such as poor road networks, over-taxation and restricted access to local and global markets are timeously dealt with.”