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Keynote Address Presented By The Deputy President of the Senate, His Excellency, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, PhD, CFR, at the 2015 Annual National Convention Of The Enugu Association, USA in LAs Vegas, USA on July 25, 2015

Ike Ekweremadu
Ike Ekweremadu

It gives me great pleasure to join you at the Enugu Association, USA Annual National Convention 2015. I convey to you a bagful of greetings from the people of Enugu State. Our people at home appreciate your commitment to giving the people of the State a better life through your many interventions. We appreciate the fact that in a country where everything appears to be working, where you could easily have been carried away, you think home always. You are indeed worthy ambassadors of Waawa Land; and we are very proud of you.

Personally, I am happy for uncountable reasons. First, I am convinced that this Convention holds great promises for the people of Enugu State in particular and the South East and Nigeria in general. I am also impressed by your Convention theme: “Building a closer relationship with Enugu”, which further confirms that you see yourselves as Waawa people in America rather Americans from Enugu State.
Let me further commend you for the repositioning of the Enugu Association, USA and also for giving our women the opportunity to lead the Association. Electing a woman, an accomplished woman for that matter, to lead you is a great leap in the right direction. I am very happy that the President, Dr. Sinachi Ugwuonye, has so far lived up to the expectations of her exalted Office in transparency, integrity, innovativeness, and commitment to the objectives of the Association. She has continued to prove that what a man can do, a woman can equally do, even much better.
I also commend the choice of Las Vegas as the venue for this year’s convention.  Someone might initially wonder “Why Las Vegas of all places?” The significance of holding the Convention in this city is not lost on me. It is a city that inspires us and teaches the lessons of the limitlessness and ingenuity of a determined human mind. There is hardly a better place to discuss the transformation of Enugu State in the United States than a city, which has itself transformed from a mere mission and acres of impossibilities to one of the entertainment capitals of the world and a land of possibilities. I believe it is the right place to speak on “The Enugu State of My Dream”, being the title of my keynote address. I believe making Enugu State better is at the heart of your theme- “Building a Closer Relationship with Enugu”.
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s  Administration
The administration of The Rt. Honourable Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi was inaugurated on May 29, 2015- the same day his predecessor, His Excellency, Barr. Sullivan Chime bowed out of Office. The former Governor no doubt paid his dues in moving Enugu State forward. We must commend him for all that he was able to achieve.
His Excellency, Rt. Honourable Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is a man I have known for several years. I believe he is capable of taking Enugu State to the next level. He cannot, however, do it alone. Modern democracy thrives on participatory governance. The task of building an Enugu State of our dreams is therefore a shared responsibility.
Since this year’s Convention is coming on the heels of the inauguration of the new administration, I thought we should use the opportunity it offers to come up with ideas on how we can support the new administration to succeed. I know the Governor has a lot of respect for our Diaspora community, and he is well disposed to good ideas.
The Challenges
The destruction of fiscal federalism by years of military rule is a major challenge in Nigeria. The 36 States of the federation rely heavily on allocations from the Federation Account for survival. Our State receives one of the lowest allocations from the Federal Government. You can then imagine the situation now with the continued decline in the price of crude oil in the international market.  It follows therefore, that Enugu State is in dire financial distress. Our debt and very low Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) profiles have further compounded matters. Governor Ugwuanyi admitted the gloomy economic or financial outlook in his inaugural address. The reality is that the resources to tackle the enormous development challenges facing the state are very limited.
Incidentally, our people in the villages do not understand all the “big grammar”. All they want is result- whichever way it comes. After all, Enugu is not alone in the financial stress. All the 36 States, with an exception of a few are in the same “pot of hot soup.”
How then do we ensure that our people get the dividends of democracy irrespective of the current financial situation of the state?
We need greater synergy between the government and people of Enugu State, including those of you in the Diaspora to build a prosperous State of our dreams.
Time to Turn to our Mineral Resources
It is rather ironical that Enugu is in financial distress considering that the State sits on enormous mineral and natural resources. Data from the Raw Materials Research and Development Centre, reveals that Enugu State has lateritic clay, kaolinite clay, ball clay, iron-ore, glass sand, petroleum resources, gypsum, coal, silica sand, ceramic clay in commercial quantities. 
Unfortunately, like the rest of the 36 States, the hands of the State Government are tied. Mineral resources are on the Exclusive List in the 1999 Constitution. Therefore, the States have no control over mineral resources within their territories. The Federal Government, which has the power to exploit them, has not also bothered to do so because attention is fixated on free oil money.  We only wail and whine each time we find ourselves in a financial fix like we do now.
To break this self-imposed limitation, we need an amendment to the 1999 Constitution to remove Federal Government’s monopoly over mineral resources.
For those of you who have followed my public lectures and comments on this subject, I have always insisted that there is no way Nigeria would make the required progress unless we embrace fiscal federalism. The conventional thing in federations is for each component state to exploit the resources and opportunities available to it and pay loyalty/tax to the central government.
We tried to give the states power to exploit the mineral resources in their territories during the various constitutional amendment exercises by transferring mineral resources from the Exclusive Legislative List to the concurrent List. Sadly, our efforts were not successful.
However, we will not relent because it is the right way to go. In the First Republic, there was fiscal federalism and we can all bear witness to the tremendous progress made by the country at the time. Today, the whole nation is paying for our penchant for free oil money.   If we end the “feeding bottle federalism” syndrome we will all be amazed at how ingenious the component parts of Nigeria can be.
 On our part as Enugu State Caucus at the National Assembly, we will take it upon ourselves to press for an amendment to the 1999 Constitution so that each state can maximize the resources within its territory.
I also believe that the opponents of fiscal federalism must be having a serious rethink in the face of the current situation in which the states are so cash strapped that some owe salary arrears of up to 9 months.
Agriculture: The people of Enugu are predominantly farmers.  We are also blessed with fertile farmlands. In my days as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Governmental Affairs, way back in the 5th Senate, we conducted a study entitled “One Local Government, One Project”, OLOP. The study was carried out by the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency, SMEDAN, an agency under our oversight, to identify in each local government the farm produce and cash crops in which such a local government has comparative and competitive advantage over others. The idea was that if each of the 774 local governments were supported to produce such farm produce or cash crops in commercial quantity, they would add up to boost the agricultural sector and provides raw materials to service the manufacturing industry.
The table below captures the agro-strength of each of the 17 local government areas of Enugu State
Enugu East
Enugu North
Enugu South
Kola Nut
Igbo-Eze North
Igbo-Eze South
Oil Palm
Nkanu East
Nkanu West
Oil Palm
Oji River
Oil Palm
Cashew Nut
Cashew Nut
Cashew Nut
Table 1
Source: SMEDAN
The problem remains that most of our farmers are subsistence farmers. For various reasons ranging from lack of farm inputs to lack of credit facilities and poor land tenure system, our farmers virtually live from hand to mouth.
To make progress, we must take drastic steps to move on to mechanized and commercial farming. This requires that all hands must be on deck. Government should partner with the Diaspora community to encourage commercial farming.  
We can borrow a leaf from the smart steps taken by the Kwara State Government during the governorship tenure of the current Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki who attracted the Zimbabwean farmers. The government seized the opportunity of the displacement of white Zimbabwean farmers with black farmers by the Zimbabwean government to bring 13 white farmers to Kwara. The farmers were encouraged with 1,000 hectres of land each. They also got credit facilities, takeoff equipment, and other incentives. That effort gave birth to what is today known as the Shonga Farms Holdings Nigeria Ltd. They are engaged in mixed farming, diary farming, and poultry farming. It is a success story we need to emulate.
I am aware that the Enugu State Government under Barr. Sullivan Chime put in place several commercial agricultural initiatives, including the San Carlos Pineapple Farm at Ihe, with relative success. The San Carlos is bedeviled by land tussle, while the Adarice Irrigation Project is moribund. But we do not have to give up. We need to revitalise these initiatives because commercial farming is the way to go.
More important, we need to go a step further to begin to create greater values from the agricultural produce. Instead of exporting raw products of the San Carlos Pineapple Farm, we should instead attract and encourage investors to build fruit juice manufacturing factories around Awgu and environ. The same thing applies to the dilapidated Premier Cashew Industry, Ezeagu. We can seek partners to rehabilitate it or build new ones so that we can stop selling raw cashew nuts. This will not only help the state generate more revenue through taxes, it will drastically reduce unemployment in the state.
Education: The greatest asset for development is the human capital. Sadly, things are no longer what they used to be. Unlike in our days when virtually all of us attended public schools, things have deteriorated so badly that even the poorest of the poor hardly send their children to public schools. We need to redouble our efforts at human capital development through quality education. We must strive to raise the standard of the learning environment, the quality of teaching, and the welfare of the teaching staff. We need to look at the teacher-student ratio and instructional materials. The Enugu State Universal Education Board and the Post Primary Schools Management Board should continually evaluate the quality of teachers and ensure continuous training and retraining programmes for teachers.
However, although the primary education and secondary education are the constitutional responsibilities of local government and state government, respectively, we cannot realistically expect the government to go it alone. Besides various Federal Government educational projects I   attracted to my constituency and some other parts of the State, I have also taken it upon myself to personally rebuild some educational institutions. For instance, I was so saddened by the state of the Awgu High School, Awgu as well as Community Primary School and Igwekamma Community Primary School both in Umumba Ndiagu in Ezeagu LGA that I had to intervene in my individual capacity to give them a new look. I felt that we could not have such educational structures in our state in the 21st Century.
I believe that if we all commit to an action plan, we can effectively change the face of education in our State in a matter of a few years. The Diaspora community may decide to adopt a primary or secondary educational institution in groups or individually and contribute to their uplift within their means. The Diaspora community can also donate books to equip the libraries or donate instructional materials or attract international donor agencies. Scholarships and bursary awards can also save destinies.
It is also important to ensure that our elders, brothers, and sisters who were left behind, who could not acquire formal education for one reason or the other while growing up, are given the opportunity to regain lost ground. Nigeria currently has the National Commission for Mass Literacy. There is also the Enugu State Agency for Mass Literacy. But they lack the requisite support and empowerment to train anyone.
Again, my thinking is that all these challenges cannot and should not be left to the government. I established the Ikeoha Foundation in 1997.  We have kept the scholarship and bursary award schemes of the foundation alive and bigger till date. At the last Ikeoha Foundation Adult Literacy and Scholarship event earlier this month, 50 students each from Awgu, Aninri, Ezeagu, Udi, and Oji River Local Governments as well as 25 from Igboeze North and Enugu North LGAs received N40,000 individually as bursary awards. 19 students got a cheque for N400,000 each in scholarship for a four-year university education programme.
The Foundation currently operates 32 Adult Literacy Centres and has over 10,000 adult learners. A good number of them have graduated.
198 got their First School Leaving Certificates at the 2015 edition of the Ikeoha Foundation Adult Literacy Day. You needed to see them march past, recite poems, national anthem, debate in English Language, and give speeches on various subjects, including Science and History.
In addition, the Foundation has successfully combined the Adult Literacy programme with skill acquisition/vocational training. That way, while they are intellectually empowered, they are also economically empowered. I have also appealed to the incumbent Governor of our State and the Enugu State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to also empower them politically by giving some of them Councillorship tickets in the forthcoming Local Council election. That way, others who are still lagging behind would know that knowledge is indeed power and that it is never too late to achieve something meaningful in their lifetime. They would know that these people did not waste their time.
I advise our Diaspora community, especially the Enugu USA to consider directing their minds towards adult education. Both the federal and state agencies for mass literacy will be on hand to assist.  You are also welcome to partner the Ikeoha Foundation. This can be achieved working in groups or individually, starting from our individual communities. You would never be able to imagine the great impacts such interventions make in the lives of the receivers of this education and the society in general. As at 2006, the literacy level in Enugu was 56%. But it has moved up to 62% today. This is progress. It impresses when your mother or grandmother who used to rely on other people to read and interpret your letters to her, now grapple with your letters herself.
Health Sector: Our healthcare delivery is in chaos. The state of infrastructure and quality of service delivery in over 80% of the primary and secondary healthcare facilities, especially, are nothing to write home about.
On this, I suggest that instead of putting money into facilities that do not work, the government should initiate a Public Private Partnership arrangement to enable willing individuals and investors to run the hospitals. The government’s funding (which will even be far less than what it currently spend on the health facilities) will now come in the form of subsidy to make their services affordable to our people. This is also an area the Diapora community can be of great assistance.
At this juncture, I must commend the Enugu Association, USA for your immense efforts and sacrifices towards healthcare in Enugu State. Your annual medical mission is something I will always recommend to other Diaspora communities. Health is wealth. As our people say, “A hapu ndu kpaa aku, onye iro erie ya”.
Employment: Youth unemployment is one of the worst blights and threats to modern Nigeria. Unless we find ways to positively engage and employ these bubbling energies, we will continue to face high crime rate and dwindling economic fortunes.
To build an Enugu State of our dream, we need to set up an Agency for Employment.  Such agency will be responsible for gathering statistics on the state’s manpower. We need to know how many people are graduates, their qualifications and their disciplines. We need to know how many people are employed, underemployed, and unemployed. The agency will assist in appropriate job placement.
Realistically speaking, government cannot provide employment for everyone. Government’s major business is to provide the requisite environment and policy that will help businesses to thrive. Government needs to consciously activate private sector presence in Enugu State and set up industrial layout in every local government supported with the requisite infrastructure. It can start with 2 local governments in each Senatorial District as a pilot project.
Therefore, I am happy that the current administration has indicated plans to set up industrial estates at Ozalla, Oji River, 9th Mile Corner, and Obollo Afor for medium and small-scale industries. The role of the Diaspora community will now be to either invest or bring investors. The government can also work with Chinese investors to set up small industries as a quick-win for the layouts. Most of such industries will not cost more than N50 million to set up. Government can also raise funds, set them up, run them for a while, and sell them to staff or investors who must hail from Enugu State to own and run them. The money recovered will be used to build more. If we go this way, the entire Enugu State will be connected as an industrial city in about the next ten years. Such move will create wealth and income.
Rehabilitation of Moribund Industries: Related to the foregoing, the future of Enugu’s economy will also depend on the ability of the State to revive all her moribund industries. Perhaps, nothing tells the sad story how ambitious and laudable initiatives are reduced to ruins than states of the Premier Cashew Industry Ezeagu, Anambra/Enugu Vegetable Oil Products Company Ltd. (AVOP), the Nigergas Aluminum Factory Ohebedim, the Star Printing and Publishing Company Enugu, and until recently, the Sunrise Flour Mills.
We must therefore commend the immediate past Governor of Enugu State, Barr. Sullivan Chime for reviving the Sunrise Flour Mills. But we need to do much more. We must make haste to revive or rebuild the remaining moribund factories.
I discussed this matter with the incumbent Governor of our State and I am happy that he is very keen on reactivating these factories and facilities. The problem is that government has no funds right now. He is therefore willing to give them out on Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) or Public Private Partnership (PPP) basis. I would like to earnestly appeal to you, our Diaspora community, especially the Enugu USA, to use your good contacts to get investors who will buy into this window.
Skill acquisition: Americans are known for their retraining programmes. We have numerous cases of lawyers who retrained to become nurses and political scientists who are now doctors, doctors who are lawyers, etc. The lesson here is that society is dynamic and we have to adapt to the changing times to make our workforce employable. We need to train staff and future employees to reflect the changing times and focus on areas of need.
We now have 5 Youth Development Centres (for skill acquisition) in Enugu West Senatorial District as part of my constituency projects. Our brethren in the Diaspora can take them over from the Federal Government to run them or bring in the expertise needed to train our youths making use of the platform. It is one project I earnestly want to see take off. There is also need to replicate such skill acquisition centres in the remaining local governments of the State.  When all these are done, Enugu will be put on the map as a state with adequate manpower and high employment rate.
Tourism: Tourism is a major foreign exchange earner for many countries around the globe. Las Vegas and Dubai, for instance, are good examples of how visionary leadership transforms deserts to extraordinary tourist marvels.
Unfortunately, tourism receives little attention in Nigeria. Enugu’s tourism potentials have been highly overlooked over the years too. From the Ikenga Hotel to the Nike Lake Hotels and Resorts, Presidential Hotel, and the ambitions International Conference Centre Project, all the foundations for tourism in the state are either half-alive, abandoned or lie prostrate. They need to be brought back to life.
Enugu may not have sprawling beaches like some parts of the country, but what we lack in waterfronts, nature compensated in the forms of undulating hills and valleys. We have hills stretching all the way from Nsukka, passing through Udi, down to Awgu, and continuing to Abia State. These can be turned into huge tourism by way of cable car rides. The Great Wall in China is a tourist beehive. But it is more about a cable car ride over hills and sceneries. Those of you who are familiar with the rolling hills of Enugu could therefore imagine what memorable cynosure it would be as you glide over the hills and valleys from Awgu to Nsukka with a good quantity of fresh fruits for a ride-long munch.
Security of lives and property: Section 14 (2) (a) of the 1999 Constitution clearly states that the security of lives and property and the welfare of the people are the primary purpose of government. We are quite familiar with the security challenges we have as a country and as a federating unit. I must commend the immediate past Governor of our State, Barr. Sullivan Chime for the notable improvement in security of lives and property under his tenure. However, you cannot completely eradicate insecurity and crimes. Besides, Nigeria is operating a unitary policing system, which is unsuitable for a federal entity.
Therefore, while we need to invest more in security in Enugu, we still have to return to the 8th National Assembly to push for the decentralised policing.
We narrowly succeeded the last time, but it was shut down at the committee level by just a few votes. Those who opposed it said Nigeria was not ripe for decentralised policing, which would see to the emergence of sub-regional police force. They flaunted reasons like paucity of funds, fear of secession, role and jurisdictional conflict, political abuse, etc.
My attitude to that, however, is that these are things we can address by the law decentralising policing. As my friend, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba once argued, if you chose to travel by car, you must drive on the road, if you choose an aircraft, then you must fly in the air, but if you choose a ship, then you must sail it in water. Likewise, since we chose federalism, it is only appropriate that we adopt the appropriate policing system.
I am optimistic that decentralised policing will scale through in the next amendment because even those who were opposed to it, especially some governors, later called me to see if it could be re-introduced. But it was already late. The escalating security challenges and our realities of everyday life had taught them the hard way.  So, we would appreciate it if you can key into this advocacy, send memoranda and representations, to advance this cause at the appropriate time- when the next amendment exercise commences.  Once this is achieved, we can then all come together to package a sub-regional police for the State. It is natural that states with higher security would attract higher businesses and more affluent residents.
Good Governance: Democracy is not an end in itself. It is only a means to an end. Building the Enugu State of our dream requires improved, good governance. Good governance will plug the holes of corruption, promote transparency, ensure equitable development and distribution of opportunities, uphold human rights, facilitate the security of lives and property, and encourage international development agencies to key into the quest to take Enugu to the Promised Land.
The current Governor of our State has taken off on a good note. He has also given assurances on prudent management of state resources. For instance, he did not mince words during his inauguration in pleading with Ndi Enugu to tighten their belts. But the good thing is that he said that government functionaries would lead in the belt-tightening measures. He also sounded it during the swearing in of the new Commissioners and Advisers that anybody who had joined his government to make quick money was in the wrong place. It is, therefore, our duty to support and hold the state and local governments accountable.
My good people of Enugu State, Rome was not built in a day. But at least it started in a day. We must all rekindle our knack and patriotic fervour to build the Enugu State of our dream. Little drops of water make an ocean. You have taken the most important step, which is knowing that you are Enugu people in the United States, not Enugu –born US citizens/residents. This connection is important. I believe that connecting more with home, with your roots, is the first major step. This is eloquently depicted by your theme. Rest assured that we, your people at home, will always be there for you.
Once more, I thank you for this great opportunity to interact with you.
God bless you all. God bless Enugu State
Deputy President of the Senate, Federal Republic of Nigeria
Speaker, ECOWAS Parliament




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