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One Year Of Doing Things Differently: The Peter Mbah Story

He arguably comes across as the Governor with the best scorecard in 365 days. Ndi Enugu can attest to this truism. The Enugu space today tells lucid testimonies of the place of commitment, dedication, capacity and competency in transformational leadership. And such is the remarkable Story of Peter Mbah.

I had a near 30 minutes private dialogue with His EXCELLENCY Peter Ndubuisi Mbah three days after he was sworn in as the Executive Governor of Enugu State in 2023. Interestingly I have elected to pen this Tribute in Profound Leadership in his honour exactly one year after that incisive dialogue.

The caption of this Press Statement cum Tribute in exemplary leadership came as he responded to my advise that he must endeavour to leave his footprints on the sand of time now that his vision and ambition to govern Enugu State has become a reality. To my advise, Peter Mbah retorted, Prof it is not just about footprints on the sand of time, I shall do things differently, he assured me.

One year after, even the staunchest critic of Peter Mbah agrees indeed that things are being done differently. To Governor Peter Mbah democracy is nothing without the people. Conscious of this time tested praxis he set out to work with utmost alacrity knowing that without profound service to the people, democracy loses its defining ethos.

Barely one hour after he was sworn in as Governor on the 29th of May, 2023 he signed three Executive Orders.

The Orders were in regard to the Citizens’ Charter, which essentially outlined his commitment to the provision of jobs, as well as quality amenities and services that substantially improve citizens’ living condition; transparent and inclusive governance; and the convening of consultative town hall meetings to present government’s plans and receive citizens’ feedback.

That action was beyond symbolisms and was in no way driven by the quest for validation. It boldly reaffirmed his conviction to make the people the summum-bonum of his government’s policies. From the outset, there was absolute clarity about his vision for Enugu State, which could be summed up thus: To make Enugu one of the top three States in Nigeria in terms of Gross Domestic Product and achieve a zero percent rate in the poverty headcount index. This also includes the determination to grow Enugu State’s GDP from $4.4bn to at least $30b in the next four to eight years.

And taking that commitment beyond words or mere policy programmatic, Peter Mbah hit the ground running like one possessed by an excellent spirit. In one year the story is different. In one year the strides are lucid. In one year the dance is profound, and in one year there are monuments of reference.

On SECURITY. His government realized that nothing poses as much threat to the spirit of enterprise and, indeed, drains life out of a city as does criminality – or any hint of it. That explained why freeing the State from the stranglehold of an illegal sit-at-home order was among the earliest actions he took as Governor.

Crime may be an ever-present fixture in the society. Nonetheless, the Peter Mbah administration has shown zero-tolerance for crime in Enugu State. And he continues to demonstrate this through the consistent fight against crime, strengthening the capacity of the Distress Response Squad and providing logistical support to the various security arms in Enugu State. It is noteworthy that in the last 365 days there has been significant drop in crime across Enugu State. And very importantly the Mbah administration has remained proactive and vigilant. This is evident in the setting up of a Security Command Centre which is technology-enabled to offer real-time, round-the-clock surveillance of the major streets and neighbourhoods via CCTV cameras placed at strategic locations. Need I inform you that more than 80% of the Enugu Metropolis is presently covered by CCTV, thanks to the man who has elected to do things differently.

Conscious of the fact that the primary reason for which governments exist is the protection of lives and property, the Peter Mbah Administration hastened to establish a Security Trust Fund in furtherance to the determination to keep the State safe and enthrone a sustainable platform to pool resources to fund the security needs of the State. The Trust Fund which has been signed into law helps to foster citizens’ engagement and inspire a renewed sense of civic responsibility.

Across all sectors within the past 12 months Gov. Peter Mbah’s commitment to the Citizens’ Charter and the courage to bring that vision to fruition has remained unbroken. The efforts of his Watch are vindicated by the visible turnaround in public infrastructure, and sustained increase in annual IGR. He is not reinventing the wheel, but has certainly created a suitable environment for the wheel to spin faster and unencumbered in a way that meets the urgency of now.

On WATER SUPPLY.
When Governor Peter Mbah gave a 180-day timeframe within which Enugu’s water problem would be solved, it wasn’t because he considered it a “low-hanging fruit” that could be easily notched. It was because he knew where the provision of potable water ranked on every resident’s wish list – and how urgently they wanted it to be ticked off.

He reckoned that the problem of acute shortage of potable water that Enugu residents had experienced for decades should by no means become a situation that simply has to be endured. The mere fact that an anomaly had persisted for so long is not an excuse for it to be normalized, as it were. That was why daily sights of children standing in long queues, with buckets and cans to buy water from tankers according to him were his most depressing encounters during his campaign for Governor.

Daily water supply to Enugu municipal was an average of two million litres before the intervention of the present watch. Today, the Peter Mbah administration has upped that paltry figure to 120 million litres of daily water supply. And this was done within the projected timeframe.

The fact is that only about 45 percent of what constitutes Enugu metropolis was reticulated, comprising mostly the older residential neighbourhoods. Much of the outlying – and fairly recent – districts were never connected to the supply grid. The Mbah Administration has successfully delivered water to those areas originally on the distribution line, mostly including neighbourhoods where public water had not run in decades.

A good example is the Enugu Campus of the University of Nigeria (UNEC) my alma mater, where the Deputy Vice-chancellor upon seeing water gushing from the taps for the first time in over a decade was overjoyed. And the excitement for the students remain palpable knowing that the sanitary condition of the hostels has improved with regular water supply. Indeed Mbah is doing things differently.

Coal Camp is another such neighbourhood where the taps had been dry for longer than most residents could recall. So, the excitement was understandably evident. On a general note, the administration has achieved this level of coverage across the Enugu municipal:

· GRA I & II – 80%

· Abakpa – 55%

· Ogui – 80%

· Independence Layout (including parts of Nza Street) – 60%

· Uwani – 85%

· Trans Ekulu – 30%

· New Haven – 85%

· Idaw River – 55%

· Emene – 60%

The public water supply experience in most of these neighbourhoods and their surrounding areas was at best unreliable – and at worst non-existent, such was the case for decades. But according to Governor Peter Mbah once the ongoing replacement of pipes, and water line obstruction in several locations arising from physical planning infraction are resolved, a total coverage of reticulated areas will be seen.

Indeed the vision of ensuring that every home in Enugu State has access to water, and the systemic commitment to pulling this through is one halcyon stride in Peter Mbah’s predilection to doing things differently.

On ROADS. Roads that were, for many years by-words for neglect and municipal dysfunction are manifestly wearing new looks. From the once port-holed and dusty roads of Odudukoko and its environs in Gariki; to the gullies that for years left Trans Ekulu a shell of its once glorious past; from the literally impassable Premier Layout and College Road, in Abakpa; to the many Roads linking the metropolis which were nightmare stretch for motorists and residents, the Administration has increasingly turned the State to a huge construction site for the good of all.

It is evident that there is hardly anyone who hasn’t encountered some major road construction around their locality. It hardly matters where you live; the simultaneous rehabilitation and reconstruction of 71 roads in Enugu urban areas have ensured that virtually every neighbourhood in the city is experiencing an impressive road infrastructure makeover, and such is in tandem with his promise to do things differently.

The rural communities are not left out. The ongoing construction of 40-kilometre Owo-Ubahu-Amankanu-Neke-Ikem Dual Carriageway that will open a new gateway to the North-Central region is indicative of his determination to bring a new lease of life to rural communities.

And the recent acquisition of an asphalt production plant, which has a capacity to produce over 1000-ton eco-friendly asphalt daily defines the unalterable commitment of the Peter Mbah’s administration to fix more roads even beyond his immediate projection.

To Governor Peter Mbah every intervention in the last one year has further reinforced the need to radically retool the socio-economic paradigm to make the hopes and aspirations of Ndi Enugu a Promise fulfilled.

On EDUCATION. The Commitment to doing things differently gave birth to the Smart Green School Initiative, which clearly is His Excellency’s bold response to the shortcomings of the public education system.

The Administration is building Smart Schools in each of the State’s 260 electoral wards. These schools are reflective of the steely resolve of his government to bequeath to children an experiential education that can help them navigate the evolving knowledge-driven world, and imbue them with a skill-set that ensures they can practicalize what they have learnt, and are literally at ease with the tools of tomorrow’s workplace.

Mbah’s Smart School Project is certainly not an abstract dream; its prototype stands out elegantly in Owo as a pointer to what the 259 others will look like on completion in 2025. Construction works are simultaneously ongoing at 135 schools, and the Action Governor has assured Ndi Enugu that contract for the rest is due for award in the second phase.

Each Smart School features an interactive digital whiteboard, an internet system, robotics and artificial intelligence centre, modern ICT centre, two science laboratories, hybrid multimedia library, creative production studio, 25 inclusive classrooms and 700 Android tablets. And through these schools, the government shall be nurturing a silent technological revolution.

Peter Mbah’s administration’s N158.78bn education budget is both the highest per capita in the country, and in regard to the percentage of total budget sum – at 33 percent. It is also higher than UNESCO’s recommended benchmark of 15% – 20% of total annual budget. I can say perhaps it is the highest in the world. It implies for instance that for every 100 Naira spent, 33 Naira goes to the education budget. Think about that, and then the mantra ‘doing things differently’ will make renewed sense.

On HEALTHCARE. His investment in the health sector is no less remarkable. The Government of Enugu State under His Excellency Governor Peter Mbah is building new Type 2 Healthcare facilities across the 260 electoral wards in the State. In the 30 Public Healthcare Centres PHCs currently functional each centre is well-equipped and boasts the requisite manpower, comprising Doctors, Nurses, and other relevant health workers. To curb the notorious practice of workers’ absence in hospitals, there are living quarters with constant and alternative power supply for Doctors and Nurses.

Mbah’s government has also paid due attention to the welfare of healthcare workers, and has ensured that every obligation in relation to allowances as well as agreements are fulfilled. This includes employment of Medical Practitioners, as may be necessary, to bring the doctor-to-patient ratio to acceptable standards. This would be impacted, no less, by the presence of the Enugu State University of Medical and Applied Sciences which received further boost when he signed the bill upgrading the institution to a Teaching Hospital.

Another area of success has been in the digitizing of patients’ records at various healthcare facilities in the State, which has created a seamless access to patients’ health history at state-owned facilities.

Development experts often say that the test of a policy is always evident in its outcome and impact on general wellbeing. This is especially true with what Peter Mbah has done in the health sector where there has been vast reduction in infant and maternal mortality rate in the State.

On REVIVING MORIBUND ASSETS AND RECOVERING STATE’S ASSETS. Few weeks ago the Peter Mbah led government signed a contract for the revamping of the iconic Presidential Hotel, and works have actually begun in that regard. He also performed the groundbreaking for the 345-room International Conference Centre Hotel, Enugu which would be the first 5-Star category hotel in the South East.

The absence of a truly 5-star hotel has long deprived Enugu State the opportunity of tapping into the immense benefits inherent in the expansive service industry such as conferences, meetings and events. This is despite the long illustrious history of the Coal City. But with its completion schedule of 11 months, the hotel, alongside the 5,000-seating capacity International Conference Centre due for opening in a few months, will take his government a step closer to making Enugu the Conferencing Capital of Africa. Indeed both facilities represent key enablers of his target of three million annual tourist visits to Enugu.

It is instructive that Presidential Hotel was built in 1963 with income earned largely from Agriculture, by the premier of the defunct Eastern Region, Dr. Michael Okpara. The same could be said of the several once-thriving but now moribund industries such as Nigergas Company Limited, Niger Steel Limited, Sunrise Flour Mills, etc. which the government is taking steps at reviving.

This commitment earned huge dividends recently with the return of 14 such assets to the government. And the motivation is the common good ditto improving the lives of Ndi Enugu.

On AGRICULTURE. Oil Palm was at the heart of Eastern Region’s agro-based economy. The presence of hectares of Palm Plantations across the region best illustrates this. Two such plantations from that era exist in Enugu State. Unfortunately, they have for years been in the throes of death – to put it mildly. However, with the signing of a N100bn partnership deal with Pragmatic Palms Ltd, a private investor, there is now a clear path to recovery for the moribund United Palm Products Ltd. What more defines the uncanny predilection of Gov. Peter Mbah to do things differently?

His government is scaling up Agricultural production in Enugu State. And he is committed to seeing that no longer will investment in agriculture seem like a mere token gesture – or an afterthought.

Indeed Enugu State is on the verge of an agricultural renaissance, given how his government is steadily creating the inputs that would enable the State to reap abundantly from the potential it offers. For instance, his government has created 100,000 hectares of land in each of Enugu’s three senatorial zones for the cultivation of export-focused cash crops, and building the infrastructure that opens up opportunities in the entire value chain, from storage to processing of agricultural produce.

From this vast tract of arable farmland, the Government has established a land bank through which it can forge partnerships with local or foreign businesses desirous of investing in agriculture. Indeed a few months ago Peter Mbah’s administration sealed a Public-Private Partnership deal with Ugwuanama Farms Limited for the industrial cultivation of cassava, rice, maize, banana, oil palm, yams, and sundry crops at a 15,000-hectare farmland in Isi-Uzo Local Government Area. The investment of the government in agriculture reflects a strong emphasis on value addition and agro-processing, hence the attention devoted to growing the cassava-to-ethanol value chain.

Also, few weeks ago, the government received a delegation from the African Development Bank and the Federal Government through the ministries of finance as well as agriculture and food security. The visit was a preparatory step towards formalizing an investment partnership for Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zone, which, besides boosting the State’s earnings when operational, would create massive job opportunities.

As someone with an economic outlook extensively honed in the private sector, Peter Mbah fully understands the importance of creating a governance framework that enables businesses to flourish. This is at the heart of the “Enugu State is open for business” mantra.

On ELECTRICITY REFORMS. In signing the Enugu State Electricity Bill into law and establishing the Enugu Electricity Regulatory Commission, the Government took concrete steps towards becoming a major player in the power sector. This is critical to its plan for industrial expansion, and the projection of the Enugu State government to attain regular power supply in no distant time, working with the private sector.

Indeed, the ceding of regulatory oversight of the local electricity market to the Enugu State government is a strong validation for the quest to develop a commercially viable electricity market that is both reliable and sustainable. It is especially so, given that Enugu State was the first sub-national conferred with such rights. This development is a precursor to the ultimate goal of attracting investors desirous of setting up power generation plants in Enugu State, a move that will guarantee stable power supply and launch the bid of the State to become an industrial base.

On the JUDICIARY. The Reforms of the Peter Mbah led administration in this sector has yielded many benefits. Much progress has been achieved towards an end-to-end digitalization and automation of court processes. So, it’s only a matter of time before cases are filed virtually. The deliverables of the ongoing project include:

· Establishment and equipping of virtual hearing centres for the State High Court, the Correctional Centre, and the Enugu State Multi-Door Courthouse;

· E-filing for Lawyers;

· Automation and digitalization of Enugu State laws, amongst others.

Sufficient progress has also been made towards attaining Verbatim Reporting for the courts. This would eliminate the strain of longhand recording on Judges, shave off the time lost doing so manually and, ultimately, improve productivity.

Voicing a commitment to create an enabling environment for businesses tend to come easily. The difficulty usually lies in bridging the void between commitment and action. Not so however for the Peter Mbah government.

In the first year of his administration, Peter Mbah has created Specialized Courts to optimize justice delivery. This is crucial because access to justice, ease of enforcing contracts and obtaining documents are critical business enablers and useful indicators for gauging the ease of doing business in any given State.

The Justice reforms of his administration are by no means tailored only towards creating an improved operating environment for businesses. It is all encompassing. Under the Peter Mbah watch, for instance, Small Claims Court with specialized focus covering all matters in which the amount claimed is One Million Naira or less have been created. And this is fully operational. Other categories of Special Courts created include:

· Commercial Court (which deals with Commercial, Contracts, Revenue and Financial matters)

· Probate and Family Court (dealing with Probate, Matrimonial Causes and Family Matters)

· Criminal Court (responsible for Criminal cases involving sentences above 14 years, including life and death sentences)

· Originating Applications.

· Lands (or Real Estate) Court – which handles Land matters.

The goal is creating unimpeded access to justice for all. Also in line with this, over 15 Executive Bills were sent to the House of Assembly and have since been approved, signed and assented to.

TRANSPORTATION. As his government strives to re-position Enugu as a major hub for business, sports, tourism and leisure, giving the city a new lease of life conducive to those lofty dreams has become a compelling necessity. Since the discovery of coal in 1909, Enugu has grown from a modest colonial outpost with a handful of encampments for workers of the various coal mines to the bustling megapolis that it is today. Of course, the population too has grown from 62,000 in 1952 to over four million in just the Enugu metropolis.

So, Enugu metropolis now grapples with overcrowding and the resulting strain on basic amenities and infrastructure. Roads that once sufficed for the prevailing traffic at the time they were built have literally become too small for the sheer volume of traffic, which could be seen in the perennial gridlock experienced across the city.

Across the world, cities’ livability drops if they lack a functional transport system with organized bus terminals that confer dignity on users and enhance seamless commuting – both at intra – and inter-state levels. Through the Central Terminal the Enugu State government is working on Ogbete/Holy Ghost, Gariki, Abakpa and Nsukka, and creating a modern transportation interchange that literally opens up the city and eliminates the enormous manhour that is lost to traffic on a daily basis.

To create a comfortable commute for the public and ensure sanity on the roads, the Peter Mbah government is procuring 150 CNG buses – of which 50 is already on ground – and these according to His Excellency would be deployed across various routes. He is also bringing in over 2,000 taxis in conjunction with a private company desirous of setting up an assembly plant in Enugu.

On WASTE MANAGEMENT. Few things blight cities like heaps of refuse. Across the world, as a matter of fact, waste management is a potent marker of municipal efficiency and government’s responsiveness. For the Peter Mbah led administration, rising population cannot be an excuse for overflowing waste bins anywhere in the State – let alone in the heart of the capital.

The government has matched words with action because to Peter Mbah it has always been about doing things differently, and having the will to fix an evidently broken system that had failed for years. Indeed the administration has carried out an extensive re-organization of Enugu’s Waste Management system, and has paved way for the participation of private companies, which have brought in several waste compactor trucks, in place of open trucks. This has vastly improved efficiency and resulted in a cleaner Enugu State.

But I hear that the Government intends to do more by taking waste management a notch higher, using the tool of technology to explore the possibilities in waste-to-wealth, and waste-to-energy.

On ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE. Just like his pledge to ensure a proper waste disposal in Enugu State, his government is committed to enthroning effective remedial actions on climate change. The Mbah led administration is profoundly aware of the catastrophic impact of climate change on economic growth and livelihoods, and recognizes the urgent need for a robust climate policy that will pave the way for a clean energy transition, spark green innovation, enhance climate resilience, and drive sustainable economic growth for the State thus ensuring a brighter, greener future for all.

To this end, His Excellency Governor Peter Mbah has announced that Enugu State is on the verge of securing a remarkable #100m grant from the African Climate Foundation, which will be instrumental in developing a groundbreaking and innovative science-based climate change policy and action plan for the State. This pioneering initiative will be the first of its kind across the 36 States of the Federation, positioning Enugu as a trailblazer in climate action and sustainable development.

The climate policy and action plan will be the roadmap to an exciting array of initiatives, including a major climate education and awareness programme, climate finance mobilization, and a transformative clean cooking programme to protect people from the health risks of open firewood cooking.

Moreover, in furtherance of his government’s commitment to a healthy climate, a grand tree-planting exercise that will rejuvenate the degraded ecosystems, sequester carbon, and beautify Enugu State, setting the stage for a vibrant and sustainable future is according to Mr Peter Mbah in the works.

There are other very Olympic projects that underscores the feat of the man who is committed to doing things differently. Please follow though and see why Peter Mbah is unarguably the watchman with the most elaborate scorecard in 365 days.

The Mbah Administration also envisioned the Enugu New City to be the premier investment destination in Nigeria. The New City sits on a corridor that connects the South-East, South-South and North-Central regions, plus the fact that it is only 15-minutes drive from the Akanu Ibiam International Airport. The Enugu New City signals the birth of a new world of opportunities. This vibrant, integrated metropolis driven by manufacturing, commerce and tourism will boast facilities comparable to the standards in globally-renowned cities, from theme park to industrial park.

To return Enugu to its enviable status as the preferred location for Nollywood movie production, Governor Peter Mbah’s administration has secured a multi-million dollar deal to construct an entertainment and sports park in Enugu, and made substantial investment in rehabilitating the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, numerous tourist sites, and is involved in organizing major events where young up-and-coming artistes happily showcase their talent.

The government has invested much in the darling football Club of Ndi Enugu, Rangers International FC, improving their welfare, and bringing in the right management team. And this reflects in the fact that the club is currently top of the NPFL table.

HUMAN CAPITAL/WORKERS’ WELFARE. The Mbah led administration is implementing an e-governance technology, and digitalization in Enugu State with significant positive impact on both the people and the economy. The key benefits include Increased Accessibility and Convenience. It will also improve Service Delivery, Transparency, and enhanced communication and feedback from the public, this awesome initiative takes full effect according to his Excellency in a few days.

In addition, the government has paid considerable attention to the twin-issues of pensions and gratuities. To the Peter Mbah administration senior citizens deserve their due reward when they retire, having devoted a great percentage of their lives in service to the State. Doing so, according to his government would require some verification exercise to digitalize the process and make the payments seamless, going forward. And for the record the Peter Mbah Administration has in fact, cleared the verified backlog.

The man of the moment and the hour Governor Peter Ndubuisi Mbah knows that the work ahead may be daunting, but his determination to continue to do things differently is unwavering. He enjoins Ndi Enugu to continue to have faith in his administration, and to believe in the journey before them, because democracy is a collective walk.

In his one year anniversary speech, he charged his beloved People, Ndi Enugu to greater commitment stating that by the much the State has achieved in the one year of his watch, and having crossed many watermarks of success, borrowing the words of Chinua Achebe, IT’S MORNING YET ON CREATION DAY! Indeed, tomorrow is here! He noted.

I cannot but proudly associate with the man who is doing things differently, and wish him more fulfilling strides and profoundly remarkable times as the Governor of Enugu State.

Happy One Anniversary to Your EXCELLENCY Governor Peter Mbah, May Enugu State prosper in resounding ways under your watch.

Prof Chris Mustapha Nwaokobia Jnr.
Convener COUNTRYFIRST MOVT.
Policy Analyst.
Leadership Trainer.
And P.R Consultant.

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