COMMUNIQUE FOR GENERATIONAL PRESS CONFERENCE
ISSUED AT THE GENERATIONAL PRESS CONFERENCE OF THE PROGRESSIVE ABIA YOUTHS
HELD ON SATURDAY, 27TH AUGUST 2022
We the Progressive Abia Youths after an extensive deliberation and comprehensive
sampling of the opinion of over 122,000 Abia State Youths on issues of State and National
importance, resolved as follows:
1) Education: We acknowledge the role qualitative education plays in the economic,
social, and infrastructural development of developing countries in building capacity,
improving quality of life, and preparing future generations for the challenges that lie
ahead. Today, evidence shows that developing countries like Rwanda spend more than
11% of their budget on improving education, but sadly, this is not the case in Abia
State, not the case in Nigeria. The governor of Abia State signed the “Budget of
Economic Recovery Through Industrialization and Inclusive Growth” into law in
January 2022, wherein the sum of #147, 282, 196, 200 (One Hundred and Forty-Seven Billion, Two Hundred and Eighty-Two Million, One Hundred and Ninety-Six
Thousand, Two Hundred Naira) was approved to cover expenditures for 2022
fiscal year; less than 8% of that budget was allocated to education. Sadly,
accumulation of salaries in the public education sector is now a norm in Abia State
with over 60 months (5+ years) of cumulative salary arrears owed to lecturers and
other staff, including primary and secondary school teachers (more than 20,000
Abians). Due to the fact that the state governor was once in the Academia, we are in
rude shock over the abandonment of Abia State Polytechnic, which had its operational
license withdrawn as a result of over 30 months’ salary arrears owed to lecturers of
the school. On the other hand, the primary and secondary schools are perpetually
moribund, and while the majority of them are understaffed, a lot of them are
completely dilapidated. As a result, we urge the incumbent to declare a state of
emergency in all the state-owned schools in a bid to tackle this issue and restore pride
in our public education sector before the end of this administration. We request that
the school feeding program, gulping hundreds of millions of our revenue, be
suspended and the resources be channeled to the payment of teachers’ salaries. It
doesn’t make sense to feed schoolchildren when their teachers are owed. School is not
an eatery; it’s a place for learning and the priority is on education, not eating or feeding
as you call it.
2) Entrepreneurship Development: It is a truism that Abia is not just in the comity of
states with the highest concentration of small and medium-scale businesses but also
prides itself on being the “Japan” of Africa as a result of the many artisans in Aba and
other parts of the state. Abia is also blessed with many human and natural resources.
Over 70% of products made in Aba are born out of the ingenuity of Abia
entrepreneurs. On this 31st anniversary, we celebrate Abia artisans who have
continued to make our state and nation proud. On the flip side, it is regrettable that
despite the resources at the disposal of the state, we have become a crawling lion as a
result of the negligence of Abia State government in providing an enabling
environment for businesses to thrive. The Abia SME Bank was established to assist
SMEs in the state, which we applauded, but it has underperformed in all measurable
metrics of ‘non-tribal’ business support to young Abia entrepreneurs. We urge the
government to harness the many opportunities in the state for the good of the citizens
and provide essential infrastructure for businesses all around the state to thrive.
3) Social Welfare: We believe that social welfare is essential for a functional, peaceful,
egalitarian state. In this context, care for the aged, retired, people living with
disabilities, and disadvantaged citizens ensues. There is no gainsaying that there exist
little or no social welfare package for Abians in this cadre. Pensioners are owed more
than 36 months (3 years+), PWDs are left to fend for themselves, and disadvantaged
citizens are left at the mercy of their God. With these realities in mind, we urge the
government to rise to the occasion and support the special group in our society. At
progressive Abia youths, ours is a principle of inclusion for an equitable society, and
we urge other non-governmental organizations to key into programs that help improve
the welfare of PWDs and the aged among us.
4) Unemployment: With an unemployment rate of 31.6%(NBS, 2018), Abia was ranked
4th among the states with the highest unemployment rate in Nigeria. This means that
1 out of every 3 Abians is unemployed. Taking this further to inculcate the worrying
reality of an underemployment rate of over 40% in Abia, it is regrettable that 2 out of
every three Abians are either unemployed or underemployed (over 500,000 Abia
youths are either unemployed or underemployed). Abia youths, who account for more
than 55% of the population are the major victims of unemployment and
underemployment. Little wonder why sycophancy, crime, depression, and substance
abuse among the youths persist. It is disheartening that the state cannot boast of a
single, largely successful opportunity it has created to sustainably propel the youths
out of this execrable and helpless situation. At 31, Abia is mature enough to produce
opportunities for the youth to be productive. We plead with the government to harness
the myriads of opportunities across the state to provide sustainable job opportunities
for her teeming youths and citizens. To tackle these issues, we charge the government
to provide an enabling environment for local and foreign direct investments (FDIs)
and the Abia State ministry of labor and employment to adopt the outputs of the policy
paper on “Demand-Led-Model-to-Unemployment-in-Abia-State for better results.
5) Infrastructure: We are saddened by the poor state of infrastructure in Abia State.
From Ukwa East and West to Isi-ala Ngwa North and South; Aba North to Umuahia
South; Arochukwu to Ohafia; Isuikwuato to Umunneochi, Abia State has the worst
internal road network in the South East. Roads built by previous administrations have
deteriorated, and new ones are collapsing; Ariara International Market roads are prime
examples. The infrastructural intervention programs undertaken by this
administration, which has seen to the construction of an overhead bridge and some
internal roads, are appreciated, but they are sufficiently insufficient. Our state’s public
health facilities are death traps, with inadequate equipment and staffing. A
hardworking, godly 31-year old should be able to clothe and feed themselves, but at
31, Abia lacks the necessary apparel that bequeaths a 31-year old. To this end, we call
on the incumbent Governor to ensure that all awarded road contracts are executed
before May 29, 2023.
6) Security: We appreciate the efforts of the government and the Commissioner of
Police in curbing the menace of insecurity that has bedeviled our state. We
commiserate with the families that have lost their loved ones, those that have been
forced to pay ransoms for their kidnapped relatives, and those that have been rendered
helpless by the unfortunate incidence in Lokpanta. Umunneochi, Isuikwuato and
Ohafia have been under siege and the government has done little or nothing to salvage
the situation. We condemn in strong terms the kidnapping of the Methodist Prelate,
students, medical doctors, and the recent killing of more than eight youths in Ohafia.
On the premise of verified data and evidence, we discovered that the major reason
why these issues persist is because our security system is insufficient. Abia State is
under-policed. How do you explain the fact that some LGAs in Abia, with over 90,000
people, have fewer than five well-equipped police stations?
We call on Abia State legislators at the National Assembly to support the ‘State Police
bill’ sponsored by Hon. Onofiok Luke and ensure that ‘State Policing’ is moved from
the exclusive to the concurrent list. After all, security is local. Let the State Governors
be given the power to police their states so that the people can hold them accountable.
7) Environment: Environmental issues have continued to increase in the last 31 years.
From flooding in Aba to oil pollution in Ukwa and erosion in Isuikwuato and other
areas of the state, our people have been unintentional victims of environmental
hazards. Pollution caused by poor waste management in the urban centers of Aba and
Umuahia leaves more to be desired. To safeguard our environment, we demand that
the government hold the companies and private individuals exploring our mineral
resources to account. We propose that a monthly tax of 10% of their profits be
collected for environmental maintenance and necessary laws put in place to ensure
responsible exploration. Monies generated from this exercise should be used mainly
for environmental protection initiatives.
8) Local and External Debt: We condemn, in strong terms, continued irresponsible
borrowing by the Abia State Government. In 2015, Abia’s debt profile was #33.53bn.
Today it has risen to #70.57Bn, representing a 110% increase (Governor Okezie
Ikpeazu’s administration has borrowed #37.04bn). Ironically, economic, security,
social and infrastructural indicators do not project an injection of #37.04bn, not
minding the large volume of allocation accrued to the State in the last 8 years. We call
on Governor Okezie Ikpeazu to ensure that he gives a comprehensive account of how
these funds were spent by May 29, 2023.
9) 2023 Elections: We appreciate the 9th National Assembly and President Muhamadu
Buhari for signing the 2022 electoral bill into law. This great move has restored
confidence in our electoral process and we are positive that we will witness free, fair,
and credible elections across the federation in 2023. We call on Abia youths to take
responsibility in electing leaders that will bring good governance to Abia.
Dear Abia/Nigerian Youths! Do not sell your votes. Don’t allow yourselves to be
used as thugs to disrupt elections. Ensure that results from your polling units are
correctly transmitted to the INEC portal. Vote not Fight!
We call on the political candidates contesting the governorship position in Abia State
to focus on solving the myriads of economic, social, security and infrastructural
poblems confronting the state. The days of bad governance and stealing public funds
in Abia State are over. We have risen to take our destiny into our own hands to protect
our democracy and ensure result-based leadership for our generation and the next.
10) At 31, the current political dispensation led by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu as
Governor of Abia State and President Muhamadu Buhari as Commander in Chief has
275 days to the expiration of their tenure. We urge our President, Governor, 3
Senators, 8 House of Rep members and 24 House of Assembly members to ensure
that the remaining part of their administration leaves an indelible mark in the history
of our state and nation.
11) With sound mind and sincerity of purpose, a progressive Abia with progressive Abia
youths; a progressive Nigeria with progressive Nigerian youths remains our ultimate
goal. Happy 31st Abia. May we never see a worse tomorrow.
Signed: Ekejiuba Daberechi Kingsley
President General, Progressive Abia Youths