FIRST 100 DAYS: ENUGU: DOWNHILL
After the burst of energy in his first term, Governor Sullivan Chime has started his second term on a slow start. Is it age, fatigue or what?
BY TONY EDIKE
THE 100 days of Governor Sullivan Chime's second term administration in Enugu State can rightly be described as a dull moment. The activities of the government especially in the development of infrastructure had been too slow when compared to the first tenure that witnessed aggressive road habilitation and reconstruction within Enugu capital city.
A lot was achieved in this sector during the first four years of the administration and the governor earned accolades for giving Enugu a facelift. Alongside road construction, streetlights were installed on some major roads within the city.
Beyond this, Chime's four-point agenda for Enugu State drawn in 2007 had gone a long way in transforming the state though some critical areas that needed urgent attention suffered neglect. On assumption of office for a second term on May 29, 2011, Chime promised to consolidate on the gains made in the first tenure.
As part of his vision for the state in the second term, Chime had announced plans to cover all communities with electricity, improve quality of electricity supply in places already covered by provision of transformers among others as well as mobilization of private sector investment for establishing the independent power plant in the state, which a site has already been mapped out.
The government had within the period under review signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with an Indian Power Company, ESSAR Group for the construction of a Coal-based Power Plant capable of generating 600 Megawatts (MW) of power.
Governor Chime who signed the document in Abuja, said the MOU was the climax of extensive research, consultations and negotiations between the state government and ESSAR Group adding that the project will give birth to a new dispensation of advancement in the state. The agreement was signed in June this year but the project is yet to take off.
Industrial development had been on the front burner of the administration's agenda with intent to privatize state owned moribund industries like Sunrise Flour Mills, Nigergas, AVOP Nachi, Aluminum Factory, Ohebedim and the Presidential Hotel. These, however, have remained in the pipeline as efforts to get investors are yet to materialize.
The governor had pledged to take agriculture to a higher level through the establishment of farm settlements in the three senatorial zones. This sector has indeed witnessed a lot of activities as several graduates trained under the Songhai farming programme have already taken off in the three zones and it is expected that the state will soon become an agricultural hub, producing for home needs and export.
The administration had pledged to improve the health sector to increase access to medicare. To realize this, it targeted the rehabilitation of Primary Healthcare Centers at least one per local government as well as full medical insurance cover for civil servants. These are yet to take off due to other competing needs which the government is shouldering.
One major burden that has confronted the administration in the first three months of the new tenure and which is yet to be laid to rest is the implementation of the new minimum wage of N18,000 approved for civil servants in the country.
The state government had attempted partial implementation of the wage bill by adding N10,000 to salaries of workers on grade level 01 to 06 and N5,000 to those on level 07 and above but the organized labour rejected the offer, The workers insisted on full implementation which they believe would increase their take-home pay far above what the government agreed to pay.
The disagreement between the government and the organized labour led a three-day warning strike which was later extended to about two weeks by a section of the workers who mounted pressure on the government to shift its ground. As the labour dispute escalated, the national leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC intervened recently and resolved to handle the wage negotiation directly with the state government. The government on its part declined insisting that it would only dialogue with the state labour leaders even as it has paid the August salary according to the chart prepared by it.
The government had repeatedly said that the new wage bill, when fully implemented, would weigh down on other sectors as it would gulp almost the entire financial resources of the state and pleaded for the understanding of the workers. The matter is still pending as both parties have stuck to their guns. But while the workers argroaning over the government's refusal to pay the new wage, over 300 traditional rulers in the state are singing the praises for the governor for purchasing brand new Hyundai cars for them. The gesture has endeared the governor to the royal fathers across the communities.
A strange development that has forced the masses especially residents of the capital city to raise eyebrow against the government is the increase in the number of revenue collectors and the alleged fraudulent practices by youths engaged for such jobs.
Apart from multiple levies and rates being imposed on small scale business operators and artisans, the revenue agents, particularly different groups operating under the Enugu State Waste Management Authority (ESWAMA) have constituted serious impediments to economic growth in the state. Dozens of people are forcefully arrested on daily basis by the revenue agents only to extort between N5,000 and N12,000 as fines with the attendant molestation and violation of their fundamental rights. Many victims have continued to complain against the unlawful practice but such complaints fall on deaf ears owing to the determination of the government to boost its Internally Generated Revenue.
However, if events in the last 100 days of the Chime administration are to be used as yardstick for measuring the extent to which the government would go in the second term, those expecting miracle in the next four years may have to rethink.