By Emeka Nwosu, PhD.
On Sunday, 29th October, 2023, Governor Alex Chioma Otti, held the second edition of his media parley with select representatives of media organizations in Abia State.
The forum which was moderated by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Mr. Ferdinand Ekeoma, had in attendance top functionaries of the Otti administration, including the Secretary to the State Government, Professor Kenneth Kalu, Chief of Staff to the Governor, Dr. Caleb Ajagba and Commissioner for Information and Culture, Prince Okey Kanu.
From the way the media parley was conceived, it is to enable the governor brief the people of Abia on the activities of his government within a period under review, the progress being made on all fronts, and challenges being encountered.
The forum also provides an opportunity for the governor to make pronouncements on government programmes and policy initiatives. It also serves as a veritable platform for feedback from the public through the media representatives.
The major issues that came under spotlight at the media parley were mainly the security situation of the state, government`s interventions in the roads sector, welfare of workers, and accountable governance, generally.
One remarkable thing about the Otti media initiative is that it provides the participating journalists the singular opportunity to ask the governor strategic questions on trending issues and matters that are of overriding interest to the Abia public.
At the parley, the governor disclosed the reasons the State Government moved swiftly into the Cattle Market at Lokpanta, which is situated in Umunneochi axis of the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway to sanitize it. The market, before now, had become notorious for anything that is negative and ugly. Apart from the lawlessness that is associated with the traders, who often blocked the highway with their trucks and cattle, a lot of kidnappings were recorded almost on a daily basis around the vicinity of the market, in spite of the ubiquitous presence of many security checkpoints within the area.
The intelligence received by the government showed that the market was a hide-out for criminal elements, including kidnappers, bandits, ritualists, armed robbers, drug traffickers and prostitution rings, amongst other sundry hideous criminals. It was further disclosed that the market was housing a 160-room brothel, which provided staging posts for all the criminals in the market, some of who masqueraded as cattle traders.
Acting on the intelligence, Governor Otti moved in bulldozers to bring down the brothel and other shanties that were erected in the market and on the median of the expressway which were always obstructing the free flow of traffic.
According to the governor, the government task team that undertook the clearance of the market, made frightening discoveries which included human skeletons, over 70 decomposing and headless bodies and large sums of money, believed to be proceeds of kidnappings and other illicit activities.
Governor Otti has, consequently, resolved to fence the market and make it a daily and non-residential market.
At the parley, the governor also disclosed information on the strides his government was making in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of some critical roads in the state, which for many years have become a nightmare to the traveling public. They included the Ohafia-Ihechiowa-Ututu-Ugwuakuma road; Abam-Okobo-Amuvi Road, and Aba-Obigbo section of the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway.
The governor happily noted that he has had fruitful discussions with the Minister of Works, Engr. David Umahi, with regard to the commencement of work on the identified federal roads in the state.
He also disclosed that some four new roads had been completed in Aba and would be inaugurated in the coming days.
At the media interactions, Gov. Otti further disclosed to the delight of his audience, the necessary steps his government had taken to address the issue of regular payment of wages and pensions.
Since he assumed office on My 29, 2023, he has kept to his promise to pay salaries of civil servants by the 28th of every month. This is remarkable and commendable.
It was further disclosed that the ongoing verification of pensioners had been concluded, and that sooner than later, pensioners would start receiving their full pensions as and when due. This is heartwarming, indeed. The governor also responded to some sundry questions, which also included the sustainable approach to refuse disposal in the major cities of Aba and Umuahia and the measures his administration had put in place to ensure the ease of doing business in the State.
The media parley is a novel and welcome initiative which would go a long way in ensuring accountability and probity in the governance of Abia State.
The parley, like I noted earlier, provides feedback channels through which government gauges the pulse of the public on its many programmes and policies. It will also enable the people to be on the same page with government. When this happens, it has the added advantage of filibustering rumour-mongering and checkmating peddlers of falsehood and mischief makers who thrive on fabrication of fake news. Therefore, the governor deserves commendation for this wonderful initiative.
Dr Nwosu, a Public Affairs Analyst writes from Umuahia.