On Friday, specifically, the 6th of September, 2019, Imo State Governor, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha and the Deputy Governor, Engr. Gerald Irona marked one hundred days in office as Governor and Deputy Governor, respectively.
It was a well-attended event, with critical stakeholders in Imo State present at the Cenotaph Center, Owerri to participate at the event.
Governor Ihedioha used the occasion to give account of his stewardship to people of the state, even as he reiterated his commitment to transparent leadership. Part of his address reads thus:
“A 100 days ago, my Deputy, Hon. Engr. Gerald Irona and I were sworn into offices as Deputy Governor and Governor of Imo State, respectively. At that solemn event, we pledged to serve you with honesty, transparency and the fear of God. We have not, for one day wavered from that commitment.”
On the Imo Growth and Strategic Development Plan, Ihedioha stated that “we constituted a high-powered Transition Technical Committee (TTC) comprising distinguished Imo sons and daughters from both within the state and the Diaspora. This was to harness our huge human and economic resources to set a clear path in our rebuilding process. The outcome of the great work accomplished by this team is being reviewed to come up with an Imo State development agenda to be known as Imo Growth and Strategic Development Plan (G-SDP). The Plan involves a two-stage development horizon of a 5-year Economic Blueprint.”
“The Plan includes the delivery of 381km rural access road projects, restoration of an improved Owerri Master-plan, restoration of water supply in Owerri metropolis, roll-out of a State health insurance scheme as well as the reactivation of four technical education institutions in the state. Others include an economic growth and strategic development initiative along 5 sub-themes of; Human Capital Development, Agriculture and Food Security, Infrastructure, Industrialization and Job Creation, as well as Security and Environment.”
On building Institutional Framework for Good Governance, he stressed that “we have set up a structure for transparency and accountability in the governance process. Accordingly, we have signed into law, Executive Order 005, known as Treasury Single Account (TSA) Order to consolidate all government revenues under one account. We have also adopted other measures designed to plug leakages and increase Internally Generated Revenues (IGR) in the state coffers.”
“Due to these strategic and fiscal responsibility moves, Imo State has gained positive image and is now on track to join the Open Government Partnership league. It also now qualifies for performance-based grants of the World Bank as well as other multilateral development institutions. We are also currently developing the Imo Growth and Economic Development Fund. The fund will be unique in Nigeria and would serve as an investment catalyst for the Imo State economy.”
“We have approved the restoration of payment of 100 percent salaries to all workers in the State, recalled all unjustly suspended Directors, reversed some undeserved promotions and sponsored officers to capacity building programmes.”
On rebuilding of collapsed infrastructure, Ihedioha explained that “we inherited a huge swath of collapsed infrastructure. We are happy to inform you that the expanded State Executive Council has approved the award of contracts for the reconstruction of 14 critical roads across the State to relieve the sufferings of our people. These include: Naze-Federal Polytechnic Road-Ihiagwa-Obinze road; Ahiara Junction-Okpala Road; Aba Branch-Ahiara Junction road and the Imo State Teaching Hospital Road. Others include, the Umuowa-Old Orlu Road; MCC-Toronto Road; Mgbidi–Oguta road; Ogwoghoranya-Avutu with spur at Avutu Poultry Farm Road and the Douglas–Emmanuel College-Naze Junction road.”
“Also captured in this phase of reconstruction are: the Assumpta – Port Harcourt Road; Okigwe Okpara Road-Police Station Road; Control Post-World Bank–Umuguma Road; Okigwe Road-IMSU-Bishop Court Roundabout Road and the Concorde Boulevard Ring Road-Zuma–PH Road. To show that we mean business as usual, yesterday, we embarked on an aggressive flag-off of seven (7) of these projects.”
“Just last week, at Onuimo, Isu and Mbaitoli Local Government Areas, we flagged off one of the most ambitious rural road construction projects in the country. Valued at N13.5 billion the World Bank assisted Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP), involves over 70 rural road networks with a cumulative distance of 381 kilometers across most of the 27 Local Government Areas of the state. We met the project just on the drawing board; we immediately harnessed the necessary resources to pay the counterpart funding.”
On Security, he said, “a few days ago, we launched Operation Iron Gate, as a strategic measure to combat crimes and criminalities as well as rid the State of all undesirable elements.”
On health, Ihedioha explains: “We have re-launched the stalled Health Insurance Scheme to connect effectively into the already existing federal government insurance scheme. We have also committed 1% of our Consolidated Revenue to this scheme.”
On power generation, Ihedioha says: “we have set up the Imo State Power and Rural Electrification Agency (I-POREA) to evolve strategies to remove barriers to adequate exploitation of our power generation potentials. We also empowered I-POREA to take advantage of the State’s natural gas and alternative energy resources to bridge the gap in access to electricity in the state. We have also made remarkable progress towards the restoration of electricity supply to some areas of the State where they were nonexistent in the last seven to eight years. This includes the replacement of 79 failed transformers across the State, completion of electricity supply to Inyishi Aluminum Extrusion Company and its environs as well as the Oguta 33kv line electricity project.”
On water supply, he explains: “…Specifically, water started running again in Imo on 24th July, 2019 after almost seven(7) years of dry pipes. In the same vein, work is ongoing to rectify cases of burst pipes across the major roads. Similarly, when we assumed office, we discovered to our consternation that there was no functional fire-fighting equipment in the state. We took practical steps. Today, we have successfully repaired four firefighting trucks to restore the operations of Imo emergency and firefighting services.”
“We have also completed comprehensive enumeration of all public buildings in the state capital for accountability purposes.”
On Agriculture, “just a few days ago, we launched our Agricultural Roadmap which represents a comprehensive framework for self-sufficiency in food production, both for domestic consumption and export purposes.”
“I am happy also to report that the first batch of 500 youths selected from all the 27 LGAs in Imo State will be sent to a modern farm at Nasarawa State, in a few weeks, under the Imo Youths in Agribusiness Programme (IYAP). Here, they would learn the best practices in tropical agriculture, after which they will be supported to start their own businesses in Imo State. We have also commenced the establishment of a Rice Seed Farm Cluster on the Imo River Basin at Amumara – Ezinihitte Mbaise LGA. This programme will make Imo State self-sufficient in the production of improved variety of rice seeds with a view to strengthening our rice value chain.”
“The process for the rejuvenation of Imo ADP has commenced and plans are underway to train staff and reintegrate them back to intervention programmes that have suffered severe setbacks in the past as a prelude to granting access to reputable, time-tested investors. It is noteworthy that, the Avutu Poultry Farm has been cleared for a full restoration to a world-class standard. Similarly, Adapalm is being cleared through the relevant Committee and we would soon commence operations.”
On Sports, we have started re-grassing the Dan Anyiam Stadium, installing new flood lights, replacing the seats and constructing Olympic standard tartan tracks, while the Grasshoppers Stadium is beginning to wear a new look. Furthermore, local councils have joined the talent mining program of the state government through construction of sporting facilities in their respective local government areas.”
“We have designed a framework for implementing the necessary reforms to improve our place on the World Bank Ease of Doing Business ranking, which has taken a battering in the last eight years. In a few weeks’ time, we would be inaugurating the Imo State Enabling Business Environment Council – ISEBEC.”
On pension, “we inherited over 6 years of pension arrears and discovered baffling discrepancies in the total number of pensioners in both the State and the 27 Local Governments. Consequently, we are carrying out a comprehensive audit of the pension administration system in the State with a view to ascertaining the actual number of pensioners and ending the perennial cycle of verifications that has plagued the process.”
On sanitation, “Immediately we assumed office, therefore, we embarked on the removal of mountains of refuse dumps that littered the state capital and followed immediately with the de-silting of blocked drainages to ensure a permanent solution to the issue of flooding in the capital city. We have also revived the monthly state-wide clean-up exercises and have set up a high-powered committee to work with ENTRACO, the Imo State sanitation agency. We are delighted to observe that the face of Owerri is progressively changing.”
On Local Government administration, “I am glad that we have fully restored the autonomy of the Local government as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution. The Interim Management Committee for the Local Government as resolved by the 8th Assembly, is a stop-gap measure to hold the forte as we work towards free, fair and credible local government elections.”
“Recall that in my inaugural address, I promised that we would resuscitate technical and vocational education in the State. Consequently, on June 2nd, 2019, we inaugurated a Taskforce on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) under my office. It has been charged with the mandate to deliver tangible outcomes on the transformation of TVET within 180 Days. I am glad today, to inform you that just yesterday, we flagged-off the rebuilding and equipping of four technical colleges in the State namely; Government Technical College Owerri, Ahiara Technical College, Government Technical College Okporo, Orlu and Government Technical College Osu.”
“Less than a month into this administration, we successfully revived the abandoned Ahiajoku Lecture Series. It has, indeed, been elevated to an Institute with the appointment of a Director-General to take charge of its affairs.”
“The lingering crisis between the indigenes of Nekede and the State government over the alleged misuse of the land designated for the zoological garden has been resolved and we have repositioned the zoo to ultimately become a tourist destination.”
“We have had a cordial relationship with the legislature. This interaction had led to fruitful outcome such that a total of 8 Bills (3 in the 8th Assembly and 5 in the 9th Assembly) were signed into law in the period from May 29th to date. They are: Imo State Public Procurement (Amendment) law; Imo State Local Government Administration (Amendment) Law; Imo State Universal Basic Education Board (Amendment) Law; Imo State Power & Rural Electrification Law; Imo State Electoral (Amendment) Law; Imo State Market Development Authority Law; Imo State Facility Management Agency Law and Imo State Sports Commission (Establishment Law).
“It is worthy of note that with our wage bill at an average of N2.5b per month, almost N1b monthly pension bill and in an atmosphere of very low IGR, leaves very little for development. This is compounded by the almost N1b statutory deduction on our FAAC, majorly for the repayment of the N26.8b bailout funds, given to the last administration by the FG.”
“We have set up two judicial panels of Inquiry, namely: the Judicial Panel of Inquiry into Land Allocation from 2005 to 2019 and the Judicial Panel of Inquiry into Award of Contracts from 2005 to 2019. We have also set up an Inquiry into the Management of Local Government Finances from 2011 to 2019.”
No doubt, the flow of the address aligns with his inaugural address on the 29th of May, 2019 and clearly shows that he is guided by the recommendations of the Technical Committee earlier set up by his administration.
There is no gainsaying the fact that Ihedioha has taken deliberate steps towards laying a solid foundation for good governance in Imo State. He has taken steps towards strengthening the legal framework for good governance and embarked on the needed steps for consolidation in the remaining part of his administration.
For an administration that did not receive any handover note; for an administration that inherited decayed infrastructure, indescribable looting of public treasury and property, as well as complete breakdown of due process and rule of law, coupled with huge debt profiles, it is indeed a miracle that all of these feat could be achieved within a hundred days in office.
However, the Ihedioha team must realize that they are dealing with a mass of largely impatient people, who probably do not understand the essence of some of the steps taken so far. When the masses are hungry, they hardly appreciate government policies and programmes that do not result to immediate provision of their daily bread.
There are no good roads in Owerri, the state capital and of course around the state. This is part of the decayed infrastructure Ihedioha inherited. What Imo people want to see are construction equipment and credible companies reconstructing the roads.
The educational system is in complete mess. No thanks to the insincere free education programme of the last administration. The masses expect that radical steps are taken to remedy the situation.
More so, strengthening the legal framework against corruption is very expedient at this point. Imo people expect that laws such as the Freedom of Information Act and Proceeds of Crime law are born in Imo State. After all, adoption of the FOI Act was part of the campaign promises of Governor Ihedioha and Deputy Governor Gerald Irona.
I can confirm that the claims made on steps taken so far in Imo are true. One other thing the Governor did, which he did not capture in his address is the hosting of the first ever citizens’ dialogue in the state, pursuant to his campaign promise of ensuring citizens participation in governance.
Ultimately, Governor Ihedioha has started very well. The last 100 days were very eventful. It will only take a mischievous person to state otherwise, considering the circumstances within which he operates.
However, the Governor and his Deputy Governor must be wary of praise singers and political jobbers, who may be on the prowl to achieve selfish objectives.
They must also be on the lookout for banana peels and land mines, while ensuring that they do not repeat the mistakes of the past administration.
Indeed, Imo is being rebuilt.
Dr. Walter Duru is a Communication Teacher and Public Relations strategist. He could be reached on: [email protected] .
Disclaimer: “The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Walter Duru, Ph.D and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article.”