Ebonyi State; Unforgivable Profligacy In The Midst Of Acute Poverty By Maduka Onwukeme
Last week Friday, holiday weary Nigerians ended the week with the shocking news that Ebonyi State which ranks as one of the poorest state in Nigeria had bought new 2016 model Prado Jeeps for the members of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly.
Incidentally last week was not a very good week for the Lagos State government in the media as the decision of the state government to enforce the law banning street hawking was in the front burner with the government receiving a thorough lashing from various commentators including yours sincerely.
In my article published in Vanguard Online and other news medium titled The Lagos Ban on Street Trading; Ambode Tempts Fate, I had warned the Lagos State that it could be setting the stage for a revolution with its policy considering the current economic situation in the country. There is a co-relation between street trading in Lagos and other cities with Ebonyi State which I shall point out later in this article.
In Ebonyi State, It Does Not Rain, It Pours
After the 2006 National Census, the population of Ebonyi State stood at 2,176,947 though the population was estimated to hit 2,957,006.04 by the end of 2015.
However, Ebonyi which is the last state to be created in the Southeast Geopolitical Zone according to a 2013 UNDP Human Development Report has the least Human Development Index (HDI) compared to other states in the Southeast.
The same UNDP Report’s estimate on the poverty level in the state is too shocking to be true and is even stated in Ebonyi State Fact Sheet as follows;
“Ebonyi State poverty statistics closely mirror those of states in some parts of Northern Nigeria. There is no single state in the southern part of the country where poverty rate is above the national average of 46 per cent except in Ebonyi State, which is 56%. This is higher than the national average of 46% and twice as high as the average of 27% for the SouthEast.
“In the 2012 national poverty report, Ebonyi State by all levels of analysis is the poorest state in Nigeria. In the report, about 80% of Ebonyi citizens are classified as falling below the poverty line; that is living below the $1 per day benchmark.
According to the UNDP – Human Development Report, Ebonyi State has the least per capita GDP when compared to other states in the South-East, and is the 4th poorest state in Nigeria according to the NBS poverty report of 2013.”
Please kindly note that Ebonyi State Fact Sheet is a publication of the Ebonyi State government and is available online on http://www.ssgebonyi.com.ng/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Ebonyi-Fact-Sheet.pdf
The Resilience of Ebonyi People
Hon. Seriake Dickson, the Governor of Bayelsa State was once quoted to heave said that the near collapse of the state economy due to the non-payment of workers salary was because “Bayelsans were lazy” and depended on the government for all their needs.
Same cannot be said of Ebonyi people who are so resilient that they are willing to subject themselves to even the indignity of engaging in the most menial jobs to earn a living. Also, I have never heard that Ebonyi people are criminals.
This is despite the fact that Ebonyi was ranked in a 2001 National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) Survey as having the highest rate of unemployment in the southeast and 2nd highest after Zamfara State, in the whole country. The NBS survey estimated that over 78% of the entire population are engaged in low income agriculture.
In most states of the southeast, Ebonyi indigenes constitute the highest number of hawkers, house helps and other demeaning jobs. In fact, I have even heard from some Ebonyi indigenes that as much as 95% of the Igbo hawkers in Lagos and other Nigerian cities are from Ebonyi State.
Ebonyi State is one of the educationally disadvantaged states in the country and the only state to be so termed in the whole of the southeast. However, efforts made by the administration of Dr. Sam Egwu to bridge the educational gap through mass scholarship schemes at all educational levels seems to have hit the rocks with subsequent administrations.
Enter Dave Umahi; the Poster Boy of Profligacy
On 16th November, 2015 Sahara Reporters published a report of the Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies (CIAPS) which ranked Governor Dave Umahi as the worst performing governor in Nigeria as at that time. The governor had scored an abysmal 35% on a Governors’ Performance Index (GPI) which covered the first month of each governor’s tenure. See the report on http://saharareporters.com/2015/11/16/ebonyi-state-governor-umahi-ranked-one-worst-governors
Dave Umahi has gotten another award as the most profligate governor and one without conscience. A 2016 model of the Prado Jeep goes for a whooping N15, 000, 000.00 and 24 of such for the 24 members of the State House of Assembly would cost N360,000,000.00 (if we assume that the contract was inflated which is rarely the case).
N360,000,000.00 would help many Ebonyi children risking lives and limb in Lagos traffic and would now have to contend with the fear of KAI and LASTMA, get an education. That amount of money invested in skills acquisition project would help lift many Ebonyi people out of poverty.
In the southeast, locally produced rice used to be known as Abakailiki rice as Ebonyi state was a major hub for local rice production but currently, Abakailiki rice production has dwindled. As one of my friend suggested on my Facebook wall when I raised the issue of Umahi’s profligacy, that amount of money invested in rice production in today’s Nigeria that rice has become gold, would have greatly increased income generation to farmers in the state and the government.
Umahi however, chose to give out brand new cars to 24 people (many of whom are returnees that had been given official cars in their previous tenure) whose number are very insignificant in relation to the over 78% of his people living in acute poverty really makes me wonder what is the crime of the ordinary Ebonyi people for electing a governor like their fellow citizens all over Nigeria.
This is more so, when the governor could have purchased made in Nigeria Innoson vehicles for a fraction of the amount spent considering the present economic realities of the country and the lack of foreign exchange.
Between Ambode and Umahi
It is hypocrisy to descend on Ambode and in the case of Umahi, we all “look and pass”. I expected a #OccupyEbonyiGovernmentHouse to be trending all over cyberspace but then I didn’t hear a whimper.
MASSOB and IPOB are not threatening fire and brimstone or issuing ultimatums to the occupant of the Ebonyi State government house or his cronies in the State House of Assembly. It’s a deafening silence.
With the conspiratorial silence of the society on the madness in Ebonyi State, Ebonyi people could be said to have entered a one chance bus without anyone lending a finger or albeit a voice of rescue. Ebonyi State in her current state is a reflection of our hypocrisy as a nation!