MEET FRANK OSHANUGOR
By Frank Oshanugor
The President-General of Ubulu-Uku Development Council (UDC) Sir Jonathan Monye, said his community which is one of the largest towns in Delta North Senatorial District is enormously blessed with professionals across different disciplines both locally and in the Diaspora, even as the town prides itself with investment opportunities waiting to be harnessed.
In an exclusive interview with AtlanticNewsonline recently, Monye whose Council is an elected body charged with pursuit of developmental activities for the agrarian town, said the professionals have commenced a serious move to reposition the community through the attraction of investors to Ubulu-Uku which has several investment opportunities like in the area of Kaolin and Hydro-carbon deposits in addition to the newly established rice factory.
The multi-million rice plant was set up by an indigene of the town (Mr. Collins Nwaka) a cyber-security expert who returned from United States of America after serving for twenty-five years in the States Department. The factory has already provided some indigenes with employment opportunities.
According to him, since government cannot provide everything that can take the community to the expected level of development in the 21st Century, his Council soon after election in 2020 had chosen to bring all indigenes of the town both at home and in the Diaspora together for developmental purposes.
This, he did through what he called the formation of about nineteen strategic committees headed by highly educated, time tested, experienced industry players, among whom are former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) directors, former Managing Director of National Clearing & Forwarding Agency (NACFA), Sir Andy Isichei, oil and gas industry players, experienced lawyers, professors in the academia and many experienced global players in various spheres across the continents.
While appreciating the role of information, communication technology (ICT) in contemporary times, Monye; a lawyer who has made a laudable career in the financial sector of the economy over the years, noted that since he assumed office, it has been very easy for the citizens of Ubulu-Uku anywhere in the world to relate, collaborate on developmental issues and take decisions that are already yielding positive results in several ways.
According to him, “through virtual conferencing, we have been able to involve all our citizens most of whom are residing in Canada, America, Europe, parts of Africa and elsewhere, to contribute in discussing how best to move our community to a higher developmental height. It is amazing that many of them are more enthusiastic on issue of development and have committed themselves in several ways towards realizing our objectives.”
As a good manager, Monye who is currently completing research work on his doctoral programme in public administration, soon after his election with other executive members in 2020 had taken time to travel round the various states of Nigeria, and some foreign countries like Canada, America, United Kingdom having meetings with Ubulu-Uku indigenes and sensitizing them on the need to pull their human capital and financial resources together towards placing the town where it rightly belongs in the comity of emerging urban cities.
To achieve a quicker pace of development, Monye’s Ubulu-Uku Development Council soon after identifying the immediate infrastructural needs of the community, had embarked on massive extension of electricity to every nook and cranny of the town. He explained that for now, the town enjoys steady light supply longer than some cities, but regrettably due to poor financial background of many residents, the entire community does not switch on the light throughout the day due to the fact that collective metering system is in place.
He however assured that his Council which is collaborating with the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) has put plan in place to embark on individual metering of houses so that those who can afford to pay and utilize the light all the time, can do so particularly the artisans like welders, business centre operators, the rice factory and so on.
The Council is equally up and doing in the constant provision of portable water for the indigenes as the existing water reservoir is being upgraded through reticulation to allow for adequate storage of water in the tank for regular distribution. This is in addition to several bore hole facilities put in place by private individuals.
Years ago, the community had a commercial bank and a community bank in place until the wind that blew across finance institutions in Nigeria caught up with them and they became extinct, thereby leaving such an emerging urban town with no banking activities. Monye’s Council is not taking this very issue lightly as he told AtlanticNewonline that serious plans were in place to establish a modern day microfinance house to be known as Ani Ubulu Microfinance Bank.
According to the President General, “I want it on record that our brother Ifechukwude Ezinwa (African Development Bank official) is doing great towards the issue of the Microfinance Bank. As we speak now, we are asking for subscription. We are asking all Ubulu-Uku indigenes to subscribe to become shareholders in the Ani-Ubulu Microfinance Bank.”
“At the moment, I can tell you, we have been able to raise the required minimum capital. We are looking at a microfinance bank that would be able to compete with modern day commercial banks. We want to quadruple what the CBN said we should have. That is why we are asking every Ubulu-Uku person to buy in, because the proposed bank is for all of us.”
“We want to run the bank professionally. Already, we have about three retired directors of CBN with us. We have somebody from the World Bank and some from commercial banks who are ready to work for us. We have experienced lawyers of many years with banking related background and NDIC retirees. Many of them want to be shareholders, so we are working towards a bank that would outlive our generation for the good of our people.”
As a community rooted in tradition with recognizable cultural activities that pre-dated the advent of Christianity and promoted from generation to generation, Monye said that even though Christianity is largely practiced by the indigenes in contemporary time, certain cultural values of the community must not be allowed to become extinct particularly the aspect that has economic values such as cloth weaving, palm kernel soap baking, and many other towards empowering our people. Towards this end, a carnival has been planned to take place in Ubulu-Uku on the 27th of December, this year during which many indigenes of the town would come from inside and outside Nigeria to fraternize.”
Speaking on the proposed carnival, the banker has this to say: “You know, Ubulu-Uku has become very religious. When I mean religious, one could remember that in the early 80s when we were doing traditional festivals, some Christians were partaking, but it got to a level now where Christianity is the in-thing. It has gotten to the stage that at some time, many people no longer show presence in our festivals simply because Christianity has taken over 90% of the indigenes. There appears to be some skirmishes with the traditionalists.”
“Therefore, what we want to achieve in the December 27, 2021 carnival is to galvanize everybody, believing that everyone would like to participate because it would be a time to exhibit our town to the outside world. It can put Ubulu-Uku on the world map. It will showcase the town in a manner that people would want to visit the town like the Calabar carnival. Even Ogwashi-Uku our neighboring town has started its carnival and it attracted many people. It also has its economic advantage as many traders would have opportunity to sell their items.”
The current Commissioner for Culture and Tourism serving in Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s cabinet hails from Ubulu-Uku and Monye would be glad to tell anyone who cares to listen that the Commissioner; Engr. Lawrence Ejiofor who is serving a second term in the same ministry is doing well and poised to take the culture of Ubulu-Uku and other communities in the state to a higher level.
With the commissioning and handing over of a civic centre to the community by the House of Representatives Minority Leader, Rt. Hon. Ndudi Elumelu on Thursday, Monye said more infrastructural facilities are on the way including a World Bank assisted town hall project which is nearing completion. While appreciating Elumelu who represents Aniocha/Oshimili Federal Constituency in the House, the Council President urged investors to leverage on the current efforts to come to Ubulu-Uku particularly those interested in harnessing the Kaolin and Hydro-carbon deposits.
As health is commonly said to be wealth, Sir Monye’s development council is not leaving anything to chance as serious efforts are being made to upgrade facilities in Ubulu-Uku General Hospital which was built and commissioned some ten years ago. He told AtlanticNewsonline that “Our hospital was almost moribund when we came in. But we have revived it under the leadership of Dr. Ifeanyi Chiekwe who has actually volunteered, and in his personal capacity used his money to buy what is called auto-cleave machine worth about N130,000.”
“Not only did he do that, but also volunteered to be working one day in a week at the hospital, and for any surgery, he will do it free of charge. He has been going round private hospitals in the town to see how he can help also. Because health is wealth, we are not taking anything for granted.”
Monye’s Council is also highly desirous of empowering the teeming youths of the town some of whom are out of school and need skills to function properly. The President General assured that efforts were in place to sponsor those willing to acquire technical skills in fields like electrical, mechanical, plumbing, bricklaying, weaving, fashion design, furniture making and many others.
With a robust plan in place, the security architecture now in Ubulu-Uku according to him, is quite in sync with the community policing policy of the federal government as security has become everyone’s business now in the town. He explained that surveillance activities have been re-engineered thereby making it easy for the local vigilante to checkmate criminals. He added that before now, the vigilante volunteers were not on salary, but that his Council considered it expedient to pay them some monthly stipends as a way of encouraging them.
According to him, as money financial assistance comes to the Council, more security personnel would be recruited to ensure that the town is massively guarded with entry routes fortified with constant presence of security personnel who would be assisted by the conventional police where necessary. He added that already, the state commissioner of police was considering upgrading the town’s police post to a full-fledged police division in the light of the emerging urban nature of the community.
Monye explained further that to achieve the creation of a police division in the town; certain things required by the authorities to be put in place, were already being complied with. He expressed the hope that soonest, the station would become a reality with no fewer than thirty police men posted to the town.