‘Imo no longer a laughing stock’

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Before the inauguration of Imo State Governor Emeka Ihedioha on May 29, the ‘Eastern Heartland’ was seemingly known as a place where absurdities were elevated to statecraft.

The immediate past governor, Rochas Okorocha, on many occasions, proudly declared that his ideas drove him “mad”. He also took delight in the fact that his “madness” worked for him in governing the state in his eight years as its chief executive.

However, since Ihedioha took office, there seems to be a paradigm shift in the governance of the state. In his quest to change the narrative of Imo State and get it working again, Ihedioha has taken bold steps in addressing major challenges bedevilling the state.

Barely six months in office, Ihedioha’s efforts in repositioning the state are yielding the desired impact.

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During his campaigns in the run-up to 2019 general elections, Ihedioha promised a better deal and a departure from the past. The governor reinforced this promise when he stated his administration’s willingness to encourage due process and rule of law as well as rebuilding the state.

To fulfil these promises, Ihedioha initiated positive actions in critical sectors. These include power, roads rehabilitation, agriculture, floods and erosion control, security, good governance, education, health, pensions, and civil service.

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Governor Ihedioha said he inherited a dysfunctional government where every department of the state was in ruins.

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He said, however, that within six months, he has restored sanity in governance and has eased the way the government is run.

He said: “When I came in, the style of governance deviated from every norm, and Imo was the worst run state of the federation. There were institutional and infrastructural disorder and decay. No state had the number of garnishee orders such as Imo; land cases against the Imo government were numerous. The state was sufficiently distracted that we had to spend money hiring lawyers from private firms because the government doesn’t have enough lawyers to prosecute its cases.

“It took me two weeks before I got where to operate from because the Government House was nothing near its name; the judiciary was in bad shape; with the Judges being owed close to 30 months’ salary; promotions and appointments in the civil service were arbitrarily done with the result that the sector collapsed.

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“The House of Assembly, which is supposed to be a place of dignity for the state lawmakers is currently debased and in ruins and the lawmakers had no houses to stay.

“We are planning to pull the building down but if we do, it would be misrepresented; so I think we have to rebuild it despite the lean resources at our disposal.

“Go and take a personal look at the building, the infrastructure there has decayed. If the lawmakers are your family members, you cannot allow them to stay there. So, we are thinking of relocating them to another site so that we can rebuild the place.”

He decried the discomfort of the offices of the lawmakers, describing the situation as a shame.

Ihedioha said the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) has advised him to evacuate the state lawmakers away to a temporary accommodation to avoid disaster.

The governor, however, has good news for the people as he said that Imo is now on the right footing.

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“What we started first was finding men and women of various professional competence to man various sectors of our economy; we also started by fixing our roads,” he said.

According to Ihedioha, his government has already procured a total of 25 road contracts worth over N40 billion. The 25 projects, spread across the state, include the three key exit routes from the state capital – Owerri-Orlu Road, Owerri-Okigwe Road, Owerri-Umuahia Road- all of which are federal roads.

The governor also informed that, away from the practice in the previous administration, no fewer than 16 notable construction companies were on-site in Imo State working on the 25 roads.

According to him, for the first time in eight years, the Ministry of Works had begun procuring contracts.

“Every project we’ve done in Imo has passed through a deliberate and diligent public procurement process,” he said.

He noted that all the affected companies, after due procurement processes, have been mobilised with a 15 per cent retainer.

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“For every construction company that is working in Imo State currently, the condition is that we must inspect and evaluate your equipment; the company must open an office in the state and employ Imo citizens,” he said.

The governor added that signposts for the projects with names of the contractors would soon be displayed for public consumption, adding that his interest was to establish good governance through the Bureau for Public Procurement.

“At present, our state is no longer a laughing stock. Imo people now know that they have a governor who talks and works. We are putting a round peg in round holes, while our civil service is now performing well,” he added.

On the introduction of a Single Treasury Account (TSA) in the state, the governor, who justified the policy, said while the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) had increased from N200 million to N877 million, the state was saving the sum of N280 million monthly following the successful verification of pensioners.

The governor, who revealed that the total monthly allocation the state receives stood between N4.8 billion and N5 billion, said the state’s monthly salary, wage and pension bill stands at N2.7 billion and N680 million respectively, just as about N1.5 billion is being deducted monthly from the Federation Account as repayment for the bailout funds given to the state under the Okorocha administration.

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In spite of the grim financial condition of the state, Ihedioha insisted that he would not take any loan to prosecute the plethora of projects his administration has so far initiated, nor tamper with the local government funds.

“The only loan I told them to take is agriculture loan from the Central Bank of Nigeria. And anyone who takes and misuses it will spend the rest of his life in jail because the money is meant for agricultural production and development,” he said.

He reiterated his determination to run a transparent government with the principle of separation of power in place.

On the construction of stadia in various local government areas, the governor said the state is set to bid for the national sports festival with over N200 million injected in the renovation of the Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri, while modern sporting equipment is being installed to bring the sporting arena to international standards.

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He expressed happiness that the autonomy his administration had given to local government areas in the state has started bearing fruits as according to him, life has returned to the rural communities.

“This was actually what I had always wanted for our people in rural communities. I wanted to stop rural-urban migration. I want our people to live in their villages. The liveliness in the local government areas will increase,” Ihedioha said.

Apart from this, he revealed that his administration has huge plans to make agriculture the state’s destination with the ongoing reinventing of Adapalm and Avutu Poultry.

To make this possible, be said, he sent over 500 youths of the state to Nasarawa State to acquire modern agriculture skills that would help them venture into the sector.

THE NATION

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