Editor's note: Anthony Iwuoma, a media practitioner and public analyst, writes on the one-year journey of Sir Chukwuma Frank Ibezim in the Senate as the representative of Imo North Senatorial District in the Ninth National Assembly. The writer noted that Ibezim has transformed the district through progressive initiatives that have benefitted his constituents.
Exactly one year ago, April 27, 2021, Sir Chukwuma Frank Ibezim was sworn in as the Distinguished Senator, representing Imo North in the Ninth National Assembly.
His victory did not come easy, as his journey was fraught with so many challenges orchestrated by opponents, who were also interested in the senatorial seat. However, Ibezim triumphed over all inimical plots that are not worth recounting since indeed, as Ibezim’s slogan during the contest was, God actually manifested His glory, as the Lord of all.
Ibezim came to the Senate, following the unfortunate and unexpected death of Senator Ben Uwajumogu, who then represented Imo North. More than a year after Uwajumogu’s grievous demise on December 18, 2019, to April 27, 2021, the zone was not represented and could not even make any input into the national budgets at the time. Consequently, Imo North was at ground zero when Ibezim took over the mantle of representation.
However, he was undeterred and leveraged the combined goodwill of Imo governor, Hope Uzodinma, and minister of state for education, Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajuba, coupled with an uncommon bonding with the Senator Ahmed Lawan-led senate leadership brought unexpected revolutionary, democratic dividends to the constituency.
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It was unexpected because being a newcomer to the Senate at the time he did, nobody expected him to do much, considering also the many disparaging lies spread abroad about him during the electioneering campaign. It was also revolutionary because he hit at the core of the people’s exact needs and consigned the achievements of those before him to insignificance.
A peep into his first year in the senate reveals an endless list of humongous achievements: Ibezim sponsored bills and moved motions; he participated and made great inputs in the 2022 national budget; He was active in different oversight functions and called for the upgrade of the Sam Mbakwe Cargo Airport in Owerri; he secured several major federal government interventions, such as the N30,000 survival funds from the Bank of Industry from which not less than 400 persons of Imo North benefitted; N60,000 Special Public Works Programme, with not less than 300 beneficiaries; N500,000 Covid-19 Relief Loan, with over 200 beneficiaries; N60,000 Job Security Stipends and N100,000 National Directorate of Employment Loan, targeting not less than 600 persons.
In all, over 1000 Imo North constituents have benefitted from these intervention programmes, which have alleviated the pains and boosted the economy of many households, families, and communities in the zone. There have also been digital training sessions for youths, who are to receive work tools and take-off capital after their training.
Ibezim’s love for foundation education was made manifest in his classroom libraries project in primary schools in the country, using at least 18 primary schools in Imo North as pilots. The lawmaker also motivated teachers through cash awards to elicit their commitment and passion for this project. He also sponsored a debate among secondary schools in the zone and winners were handsomely rewarded accordingly.
A lover of sports, the Anglican knight and former Imo commissioner for agriculture and natural resources, also launched the Senator Frank Ibezim Football Academy for support to talented football enthusiasts of the constituency as well as promoted Okigwe youths and their football team to participate in a competition in Enugu.
Five youths from each local government, culminating in a total of 30 beneficiaries, also emerged as participants in the senator’s cinematography academy programme. The programme is targeted at training individuals to become experts in videography, documentary photography, video, and picture editing and ultimately empowering a total of 300 youths from the zone (50 from each LGA).
Senator Ibezim’s humane side was exhibited during the flooding disaster in some parts of Imo North, especially Amauzari in Isiala Mbano Local Government Area. He did not only rush to the scene to sympathise with the people but also promised to mobilise help towards tackling environmental degradation in his constituency. A man of his word, Ibezim promptly wrote to the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, and followed up with a visit to the NEMA Director-General of Ahmed Mustapha Habib, to solicit relief for the victims of the flooding that caused havoc to most businesses in Imo North. Habib mobilised immediate assessment of the damages for remedial action and reliefs extended to the victims and promised a permanent measure to forestall future flooding, in the next year’s budget year since this year’s capital budget is almost exhausted. In his personal capacity, Ibezim also gave different levels of financial support to the victims of the flood disaster.
In the same vein the yearly flooding challenge around Isinweke-Lowa, Ihitte Uboma LGA of the zone is currently being tackled permanently.
Only last month, a six-day medical outreach was carried out across the constituency during which all manner of sicknesses were diagnosed and treated.
The icing on the cake of Ibezim’s landmark one year as a senator is, perhaps, what he is doing in the power sector.
The lawmaker hit the bull’s eye when he attracted a power transmission substation to his constituency. Actually, the power station had been approved for construction alongside Port Harcourt, Aba, Umuahia, and Enugu, respectively by the federal ministry of power in 2003. However, while others were built, Okigwe was abandoned but curiously, none of the senators preceding Ibezim, apart from the late Uwajumogu, who was on it before he died, considered it necessary to pursue it but not Ibezim. He moved a motion on the urgent need to construct the Power Transmission Substation in Okigwe LGA for rapid industrial growth and drew the attention of the senate to the anomalous situation in Okigwe, headquarters of Imo North Senatorial District. He urged the federal ministry of power to urgently construct the already approved but abandoned Okigwe 132/33KVA transmission substation as well as to upgrade the Okigwe power facility to a district station. The quest was successful and, consequently, three projects were approved for the area and are at an advanced stage of construction.
Apart from that, the distinguished senator facilitated the visit of the inspection teams of the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company, EEDC, NERC, Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, and Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN to the Okigwe Power Transmission Substation site, down to Ohiya, Umuahia Power Station. This visit has propelled the NDDC to commence the drawing of a direct line from Ohiya, Umuahia Station to Ihitte Uboma to the Open University at Ezeoke Nsu in Ehime Mbano, thereby decongesting Obowo for service to its surroundings. Also, he got the TCN to commit to expeditiously install a full capacity mobile Power Transmission Station at the Okigwe Power Transmission Substation site, along the Okigwe-Umuahia area of the Enugu- Port Harcourt express road. This is to serve Okigwe, Onuimo, Isiala Mbano, Arondizuogu, and parts of Orlu and shall free the Egbu station to effectively serve the Owerri axis.
Additionally, the senator, apart from installing the first solar power plant and accompanying it with the mounting of poles for use by the Okigwe South component of Imo North at Ihitte Uboma LGA, has also donated transformers and boreholes to some communities.
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These projects for the hitherto beleaguered area that had suffered great darkness and stunted general development, thereby leading to avoidable criminal activities, unemployment, and youth restiveness in the town, are already having a positive turnaround in the area, as economic activities are bubbling.
Indeed, Distinguished Senator Frank Ibezim, has lived up to his promise that he is in a hurry to develop Imo North. In this race against time, Ibezim has put Imo North on a trajectory to recover lost grounds. This can be seen in his feverish activities in different sectors all at the same time in order to rewrite the unpalatable story of the zone. Surely, it is evident that glory is unfurling in Imo North and by the time Ibezim is done, posterity shall surely testify that the uncommon man Imo North sent to the senate deserves to be garlanded.
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