The Owerri Airport was built by private funds and without support of federal government. Despite the strategic importance of the Akanu Ibiam Airport at Enugu, the zonal capital of the South East, the government had ignored over the years to take the simple administrative action of upgrading the airport to an International Airport. The Applicant, Olisa Agbakoba, my humble self and other persons from the South East Zone travel abroad through Port Harcourt International Airport in South South Zone or Murtala Mohammed International Airport in South West Zone. The South East Zone is the only Zone without an International Airport!
Ebonyi State is now a good ground for undertaking practical researches on Rural-Urban drift and victimology- a branch of criminology which is concerned with the scientific study of victims; especially when the issues or cases of Federal Government's neglect, starvation of funds, allocation of meager resources from federal purse/reserve and benefits from National Resources and available opportunities are mentioned. According to the United Nations Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power (1985), victims are "persons who individually or collectively have suffered harm including mental injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights through acts or omissions that are in violation of criminal laws operative within member states, including those laws prohibiting criminal abuse of power." It also include where appropriate the immediate family or dependent of the victim and persons who have suffered harm in intervening to assist people in distress or to prevent further victimization. A victim must have suffered from emotional, psychological, economic and social loss, which can be personal injury, death, loss of personnel, reputation and real property. Ebonyi/Abakaliki is the only state in Nigeria where the Federal Government is paying a deaf ear to issues of youth uselessness, educationally and economically induced exile and peripatetic lifestyle are rapidly replacing the prehistoric cultural heritage of the good people of Abakaliki. One of the undesirable effects of uncontrollable rural-urban migration in Ebonyi State is that social harmony enjoyed by the people are now replaced with hunger-oriented community where old men and women sing sorrowful hymns and rehearse various stanzas of woes. Since 1999, agricultural activity which was the pride of the Ebonyians is now serious affairs of death-approaching septuagenarians and infants. The reverse is the case in other parts of Nigeria where Federal Presence is experienced. Even the Fulani nomads in the North now have mobile teachers; their men and women are educated up to Masters and Doctorate degree levels, with federal government assistance while going about their customary nomadic business of cattle rearing. Other efforts made by the government to give them sense of belonging while boosting their self security and self-esteem, are to permit them to parade with arms and ammunition under the aegis of self defense while no protective measures are given to the Ebonyi youths who are dieing daily hawking on the highways.
The deplorable state of unemployment among the youths in Ebonyi State is not only worrisome but is now growing at alarming rate, even now that the federal, state and local governments are beating their chests and chorusing Vision 2020; to make Nigeria one of the 20 healthiest economies of the world. No tangible efforts have been made to address the upsurge of Youth Migration, child abuse and neglect, street/highway trading and hawking, educational backwardness and many other unenviable social vices inflicted upon them by lack of federal presence. Ebonyi/Abakaliki suffered both social and economic disadvantage during the old Anambra state before its creation in 1996 by Late General Sani Abacha (rest in peace), who acceded to the massive yearnings of the people.
An Abakaliki person has always been treated as inferior citizen of Nigeria in every social gathering, despite their benign nature and hospitality. The reason being simply that western civilization is kept out of their reach since Nigeria gained her independence on October 1, 1960.
A reliable underground research revealed that an average Abakaliki boy or girl between the ages of 10 to 15 has the fastest, robust, thinking and mental capacity than his or her contemporaries in other part of Nigeria. However, this natural wisdom begins to dwindle from the age of 15 years immediately they are exposed to hawking, child abuse/neglect, harsh effects of carbon monoxide- a very dangerous smoke which most unserviceable vehicles discharge on daily basis, which according to reliable scientific analysis, can cause brain damage and other neurophysiological abnormalities. It is still on record that why the girls remain the best house wives in home management and feminine values are not only because they are industrious but because of their matrimonial fidelity, love, care, tolerance and incomparable supports to both their husbands and relatives.
More worrisome is the recently published summary of Gross Revenue Allocation by the Federation Account Committee from January to July 2011, Vanguard Newspaper, Monday, September 12, 2011, P.38 and 42; as released by Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Coordinating Minister for the economy; Honourable Minister of Finance Abuja. Despite the fact that Ebonyi State tops the list of educationally least developed states in Nigeria and has the highest number of Socially and Economically Displaced Youths (SEDY) all over the country, the Federal Government under the aegis of Revenue Sharing Formula (RSF) has worsened the matter by apportioning the least scrap of monthly and yearly allocation to them. Presently, the Ebonyi State Government cannot pay the newly implemented 18,000 naira minimum wage (equivalent of $120) because the meager revenue generation and resource allocation by the federal government can not offer them the financial effrontery to implement the new salary structures. As a result of that, an indefinite strike is looming in the state while social and business activities are abridged. Not that the Governor hates his people and so desire that they wallow in harshness hunger and starvation but because of the enormous developmental challenges inherent in the state coupled with other socio-political upheavals that require the attention of money and time.
Recently in Abuja, precisely in Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Ladi kwali Hall, I attended a conference organized by groups of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO), which was organized by Twins Initiative Network to discuss the issues of Unemployment, Youth Empowerment, Street Trading, Child Abuse and Neglect among others. My friends and I dashed off to have our lunch immediately after the first round of the event. To my greatest surprise, people where chorusing, "Give me Ofada Rice!" I asked my friends, which country of the world is producing such nutritious, expensive and widely cherished rice? And he said, "Is it not your people Abakaliki?" He further explained that the nutritional value of the Abakaliki rice cannot be compared to any other rice in the world according to experts, in addition to the fact that it is scarce and manually processed.
Immediately he mentioned 'Abakaliki,' tears mixed with blood began to ooze out of my cheek. I began to retrospect on: how hard it was for me to cultivate rice (the said Ofada rice which is now a hot cake in the cities) in the farm, how guinea worm nearly deformed my two legs as a result of drinking unclean water, how cholera killed over 300 people in my village in 1992 and nearly snatched away life from my beloved mother, how I used to carry a load of rice weighing over 100kg on my head from the farm to my house, how my height and natural complexion was adversely affected by the scorching sun, how I used to travel with a heavy load and trekking about 100 kilometers to the market and how the buyers usually induce the market leaders with bribe so that they would fix cheap prices for them and how there was no processing plants, farm facilities, nor fertilizers to enrich the soil. The pothole forcefully created on the ground by my tears could not be filled by Julius Berger Construction Company till date, until the Federal Government undertakes and expedites succour-oriented actions to ameliorate the visible suffering of Ebonyi State-the producer of Ofada in Nigeria and world over.
Moreover, the urgent intervention of the Federal Government is needed in the South East, especially in Ebonyi State (Ezza and Izzi) to address the issues of indiscriminate Migration among the Youths in Ebonyi State, educational backwardness, absence of mechanized agricultural activities, dearth of infrastructural facilities, gender bias, inferiority complex, inequitable distribution of national wealth, equal opportunity, policy of elitism, abuse of constitutional guarantees and fundamental human rights as advocated by the United Nations. Many of our supposed compatriots from Ebonyi State, especially from Abakaliki, are now renouncing their identities and are now laying false claims of individuality as a result of uncommunicativeness and inferiority complex undeservedly imposed on them by the lackadaisical and highly neglected deaf approach of intervention measures for many years now. This testimony is serving as a clarion call for critical interference approaches from Federal, State and Local Governments.
To arrest the situation wholly, the government should do every thing possible to incorporate the 47% population of Ebonyi (Ezza and Izzi) living in Benue State, particularly in Ado/Oju Local Government Area. There is no motorable road linking Ebonyi and Benue States where the "Food Basket of the Nation" and the "Salt of the Nation" are resided. It is factual that no Ezza or Izzi person has ever been considered for any honourable appointment or elective positions, even when there are suitable and qualified persons from among the law-abiding and peace loving people who have peacefully and beneficially co-habited with them since 1912, according to my late grandfather and reliable reports from the 'Ochidoma I' of Idoma land in Benue State. This ugly development does not tame untamed.
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Agent of Social Change