Member representing Bende federal constituency at National Assembly, Rep. Benjamin Kalu on Sunday participated at the triennial Ezumezu festival of Igbere community which took place at Igbere Secondary School field, Onu-Ibina Igbere, Bende, Abia State.
The Ezumezu Igbere festival which is said to have come into effect since 1958 as the Igbere Anniversary avails the community of opportunity to showcase its rich culture and tradition especially through her age-grade system.
Also at the festival, the people of Igbere offers thanksgiving to God for keeping the oldest age-grade members who are expected to officially take a bow from active community service at the event while adopting the youngest age grade into the fold of the mainstream 13 age-grade system.
Our correspondent gathered that among the ceremonies performed during the Ezumezu festival include;
“IGBOTONMA”: which affords the Igbere community the opportunity and privilege to pull out or retire the oldest age grade who served the Clan meritoriously from communal service; this is called Traditional Retirement Ceremony (IGBOTO NMA).
“INARUNMA”: the age-grade that will subsequently replace the retiring age grade. They will then become the oldest age grade and will receive from the retiring age-grade Uke Igbotonma the traditional Machete and Hoe which is the symbol of the whole tradition.
“IZARA AHA”: On the other hand, to recognize a new Age Grade. And this aspect is called Outing/Naming of a New Age Grade (IZARAFA) where funds are raised for the development of the community.
“IFUSA UKE”: This is the youngest age grade Umu Ebiri. They are made up of young men and women who are getting ready for the next three years (after each Igbotonma) to be recognized as a new age grade. This is called (ifusa uke).
“UKE JI OGO”: This is the age-grade that sees to the organization of the ceremony and makes sure everything is well organized known as “Uke ji ogo”.
Hon. Kalu, who is Spokesperson of the House of Representatives graced the event as the Special Guest of Honour.
He was welcomed amidst cheers and applause by the leaders and members of the Igbere community.
While speaking at the event, Rep. Kalu took his time to narrate the history of the Ezumezu festival acknowledging the key players who ensured that this event came to stay. He highlighted the benefits of the ceremony to the community especially through the projects executed by the age-grade system adding that the impact on community development is laudable.
He said, ‘Through the age-grade system which has been incorporated in the Ezumezu Institution, the unemployment rate has been reduced by creating community projects that the youths are currently participating in, the level of illiteracy has also been reduced through the extra-moral classes and the schools they have built, it has also reduced the high mortality rate in Igbere through the hospitals built by the age-grades.’
He encouraged the people to be steadfast in upholding the principles of the Ezumezu festival as it continues to portray the power of unity and peace and has become a thing of pride for the Igbere people.
The representative appreciated the people of Igbere for their consistent support since the elections up till this moment. He highlighted in detail the projects he has attracted to Igbere which includes the construction and furnishing of 3 classroom blocks at Onu-Ibina Primary School, Igbere, construction of 3 classroom blocks with office and convenience, in addition to the ongoing renovation of the Uchebiri hall which will be completed soon.
The Igbere community especially the children and youths were also part of the recipients of the Students Scholarship program, the 1000 constituents trained in Agribusinesses including grants, and also the annual empowerment program which holds on the 29th of December, adding that all is set for this year’s event and he is looking forward to welcoming everyone of them.
Rep. Kalu also seized the opportunity to reel out some of the projects he has initiated and completed in the 13 wards of Bende in various sectors including;
Roads and Infrastructure: Umuimenyi Nkpa Ecological Fund Project (on-going): Attracted an 11km Ecological Intervention Project in Umuimenyi Nkpa which includes the construction of roads and the Nkpa bridge to curb the erosion menace in the communities.
Umuahia-Bende-Ohafia Road (ongoing): Commenced the rehabilitation and construction of the UmuahiaBende-Ohafia Road (LOT2) in Abia State to the tune of ₦12bn.
Etitiulo-Itumbauzo Road (on-going): Secured the rehabilitation of the Etitiulo-Itumbauzo road which has now been asphalted.
Construction of 1km Road in Etitiulo Bende in Bende LGA (ongoing).
Construction of 1km Amaogwu Ndiokorieukwu road (ongoing).
Construction of 600-metre Amaogwu Agbomiri road (ongoing).
Construction of 400-metre Agbomiri Umorie road (ongoing).
Health: a. Completion of Health and Maternity Centre for Amaogwu, Bende, Bende Federal Constituency. (Completed) b. Health Insurance Scheme for Bende provides 90% subsidized healthcare for over 500 Bende Indigenes. (Completed) c. Ntalakwu Health Centre. (90% completed). d. Construction of Maternity Healthcare in Okputong, Bende town in Bende L.G.A. (ongoing) e. Renovation of Umunnato Item Health Centre (Ongoing).
Employment: Several Bende graduates have benefited from federal employment.
Construction and Furnishing of 3-classroom block in Nkporo central school, Ubibia in Itumbauzo Bende LGA.
Construction of 3-classroom block at Ndiwo Town School in Itumbauzo Bende LGA.
Completed renovation of Uzuakoli Practicing School.
Completed renovation of Amazu Central School, Umuhu Ezechi.
Distribution of learning and educational materials to community schools in 13 wards of Bende Federal Constituency.
Renovation of a block of 6 classrooms in Girls secondary school Uzuakoli.
Renovation of 3 classrooms in Uzuakoli township school, currently ongoing.
Renovation of Nkpa technical school Nkpa in Bende L.G.A, (Completed).
Construction and furnishing of 3 classrooms in Onuibina primary school Igbere in Bende L.G.A completed.
Renovation of a block of 3 classrooms in Community primary school Okai item completed. k. Construction of a block of 3 classrooms in Amaokai primary school Ugwueke, ongoing.
Construction and renovation of six classroom blocks in community primary school, Apanu Item.
Construction of Block of 3 Classrooms in Okporoenyi, Bende.
Construction/renovation and furnishing of a block of 3 classrooms at Item Community High School.
Completed the Divisional Immigration Office in Bende.
Construction of ICT Centre.
Skills Acquisition/Training of 200 Bende Constituents on Aquaponics development in Bende Federal Constituency.
Training and empowerment of Youth and Women on Agribusiness management in Bende Federal Constituency.
Training and empowerment of over 1000 Bende indigenes on rice farming and production d. Supply of Agricultural Seeds to Farmers in Bende.
Water: Solar-powered borehole drilling at Ovum Ugwu, Nkpa (Completed).
Construction of solar-powered borehole in Mba Autonomous community Ozuitem, (Completed).
Construction of solar-powered borehole in Okpufu Amankalu Alayi in Bende L.G.A, (Ongoing).
Construction of solar-powered borehole in Okoko Item (Ongoing).
Security and Transport Support Programmes: Donation of 27 motorbikes and 13 tricycles (Keke napep) to various wards in Bende to curb insecurity and improve transportation in Bende.
Construction of a solar farm to house a mini-grid for energy supply in Bende which will provide light for 25 years non-stop and away from the national grid (Ongoing).
Installation of 2.5 kva transformer in Amaokwe Item, (Completed).
Provision of Solar Street lights across various communities in Bende.
Construction of 2×7.5 MVA 33/11KV injection Substation in Bende Town with one feeder extension at Ozuitem.
Town halls: Rehabilitation of Uche-Ebiri hall in Igbere (Ongoing)
Agbamuzu town hall, Bende completed.
Bende Widows Support Programme (19th Edition)
Bende Food Support Programme (19th Edition)
He assured the Igbere community of his commitment to partner in the projects executed by the age grade as he has already begun with the Uche-Ebiri hall which was abandoned for so many years. He reaffirmed his dedication to delivering the dividends of democracy in the constituency while fulfilling his promise of quality representation.
The lawmaker in his speech also took out time to eulogies the Senator representing Abia North Senatorial Zone and the Chief Whip of the Senate, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu for his giants strides in the development of the Igbere community and his exceptional leadership performance in the zone.
The ceremony was attended by leaders of the community and beyond including Chief Daniel Akwari, Chief Dr. Solomon Calista Ikwechegh Oturu, Bashorun Ide S I B Eke, Chief Eke Okoro, Chief Sam Eke, Chief Uwakwe Ukaegbu, Barr Mrs. Frances Amaka Ikwechegh, Chief Adile Iheoma, Dr. Obioma Onwubiko Ukaegbu, Dr. Chima Anyaso, Chief Emma Uche, Hon Nnanna Uzor Kalu, Eze Uche I C Dimgba, Chief Chris Uche (San), Ezeigbo Endy David, Justice Ori Ikeora, Dr. Nnamdi Ibekwe, All Igbere Clan Council Of Ndi Eze, All Ndi Ezeogo Igbere amongst other dignitaries.