ADDRESS BY GOVERNOR HOPE UZODIMMA OF IMO STATE TO STAKEHOLDERS ON SATURDAY FEBRUARY 27TH IN OWERRI
I welcome you most heartily to this special stakeholders meeting. I call this meeting special because it falls within the ambit of our one year in office anniversary, and even more because it is coming on the heels of disturbing security challenges and some bizarre happenings in the state.
I know that many of us will be eager to take home, from me, a list of the achievements of our government in the last one year. I also know that we want to have clearer insights into the events in Orlu, in particular, as well as what exactly happened in Owerri on the fateful Sunday of February 21st, 2021. I assure you that on all scores you will not be disappointed as I intend to update you on all the issues.
By my calculation, this stakeholders’ meeting is the fourth in the series since my assumption of office on January 15, 2020, as the Governor of our dear Imo State. I feel gladdened to note that in spite of the challenges occasioned by the COVID-19 and the concomitant economic consequences; I can proudly tell you that your beloveth Imo state is on course. Our shared prosperity agenda anchored on our 3R mantra of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Recovery are on course. Our determination to make Imo State meet our shared dreams is also on course.
Our resolve to entrench a culture of due process, transparency and accountability in the conduct of government business is yielding bountiful dividends. So also is our drive to improve on the deficit infrastructural base we inherited. In general terms, I can proudly tell you without any fear of contradiction that right now our dear state is about to go into cruise gear and in the coming months, we shall be on an auto cruise because things are indeed looking up in the State.
My beloved Ndimo, even the blind can attest to the fact that in one year, we have made a difference in good governance. To begin with, in one year I have met with you, the stakeholders, four times, to give an account of our stewardship. By so doing we have provided the needed platform for your inputs and criticisms. This is because we acknowledge that by the grace of God power belongs to you; the good people of Imo State.
The difference between what happened in the past and now is as clear as night and day. Unlike in the past when people did not know any particular office where they could meet with their governor, today Imo people come to Pentagon, otherwise known as the governor’s office, to meet with me as their governor day in day out. This may sound little or insignificant, but it matters quite a lot because it says everything about the image, transparency and even sincerity of a government.
A government that transacts business in bush bars and different street corners only cuts the image of a makeshift, dubious and unreliable government. Sadly that was the lot of Imo people from 2011 to 2019. Little wonder then that our people woke up recently to discover that indeed they had been duped; that almost all their patrimony had been taken away from them by a government that was ab initio rested on Adhoc foundations.
Today the narrative has changed. The entire government House has been rehabilitated and repositioned into a reassuring complex of credible centre for the discharge of state duties. Of course the credit goes to our administration that vowed from day one to restore credibility and dignity in governance as opposed to impunity, lawlessness and tyranny.
I recall that in our last outing, I informed you of our achievements in the civil service. Apart from restoring the self-esteem of civil servants as the engine room of government, through several trainings and retraining, we also made the working environment more humane by re-roofing all the blocks that were leaking and repainting them as well. We also boosted the morale of the workforce by providing official cars for permanent secretaries and free bus service for the rank and file.
It is quite easy to forget that once upon a time, civil servants in this state were told to come to work only two times a week. Those of them, who out of boredom dared to come around the state secretariat on the day they were told not to, were chased away by security operatives as trespassers. That was how low the morale and dignity of the civil servant in Imo State fell.
While this meeting will not suffice as a formal presentation of the scorecard of our administration in the last one year, I will not fail to inform you that as of today, work has been completed, and or ongoing, in a total of 46 road projects as follows:
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF AHIARA JUNCTION TO OKPALA JUNCTION
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF ABA BRANCH-AHIARA JUNCTION
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF NKUME-UMUOWA ORLU
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF MGBIDI-OGUTA (OGUTA LAKE) ROAD
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF IMO STATE UNIVERSITY TEACHING HOSPITAL (IMSUTH)
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF NAZE (POLY JUNCTION) – NEKEDE-IHIAGWA-OBINZE ROAD. DUAL CARRIAGE WAY
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF CONCORDE ROAD-JACOB ZUMA ROAD-CONCORDE ROAD WITH SPUR TO PH. ROAD
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF IMO STATE UNVERSITY ROAD BISHOP’S COURT ROAD.
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF OKIGWE ROUNDABOUT-ST MARY CHURCH OKIGWE (OKPALA ROAD)
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF OGWOHOROANYA-AVUTU-UMUNACHI (ROUNDABOUT)
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF DOUGLAS-NAZE JUNCTION.
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF CONTROL POST (ASSUMPTA) TO IBARI OGWA (PORT-HARCOURT) ROAD.
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF ASSUMPTA-UMUGUMA JUNCTION (WORLD BANK) ROAD
MAINTENANCE OF FAILED SECTION N OWERRI-MBAISE-OBOWO ROAD
MAINTENANCE OF FAILED SECTION OF OWERRI-NWAORIEUBI-NJABA-ORLU ROAD
MAINTENANCE OF FAILED SECTION OF OWERRI-AMARAKU-ANARA-ONUIMO-UMUNNA-OKIGWE ROAD
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF ABOH-ITU-EZINIHITTE.
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF ACHINGALI-ONICHA-UDONA OBIZI ROAD
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF WAREHOUSE JUNCTION-UMEZURUIKE HOSPITAL-EMMANUEL COLLEGE ROUNDABOUT WITH EDEDE/ROYCE ROAD JUNCTION AND EMMANUEL COLLEGE LAYOUT SLIP ROADS
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF WEST END-OLD NEKEDE ROAD-ZOO
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF ONITSHA-ORLU ROAD (EGBADA BY PASS)
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF BOTH END OF THE AIRPORT ROAD, OWERRI.
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF ULAKWO-UMUARO NGURU-UMUNEKE ROAD
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF OHII JUNCTION-OROGWE ROAD
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF AKACHI ROAD.
DUALIZTION OF CHUKWUMA NWAOHA STREET
CONSTRUCTION OF OPARANOZIE-AMAIGBO AND EDEDE STREET
CONSTRUCTION OF DICK TIGER ROAD
CONSTRUCTION OF RELIEF MARKET ROAD
CONSTRUCTION OF MUSA YAR’ADUA DRIVE EXTENSION TO DREAM LAND HOTEL ROAD
CONSTRUCTION OF MCC ROAD
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF INTERNAL ROADS IN ALADINMA ESTATE. LAKE NWAEBERE STR, OLOKORO STR. UMUAHIA STR. OKEIKPR STR, ARUGO STR. OLOKORO STR. EGBEMA STR, AND NGWA STREET.
MAINTENANCE WORK AT UMUNA ORLU
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF MBONU-EJIKE STREET IKENEGBU LAYOUT
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF OKPORO-OMUMA ROAD.
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF OMUMA-ELEH ROAD
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF MGBIDI-ORLU ROAD
DUALIZATION OF FEDERAL SECRETARIAT ROAD
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF THOMAS MOORE/GOZIE NWACHUKWU/JP AJAELU STREET
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF NAZE-ALLIED MARKET EGBU ROAD
CONSTRUCTION/REHABILITATION OF DREAMLAND HOTEL ROUNDABOUT-FIRST BANK-GENERAL HOSPITAL ROAD WITH SPUR TO PORTHARCOURT ROAD
CONSTRUCTION OF IHECHUKWUkA STREET AND ADJOURNING ROADS
CONSTRUCTION OF AWOMAMA-OKWUDOR ROAD
CONSTRUCTION OF OWERRI-ORLU ROAD
45. CONSTRUCTION OF OWERRI-OKIGWE ROAD
OWERRI JUNCTION IMPROVEMENT WORKS & URBAN RENEWAL PROJECT (TRAFFIC STUDY REPORT)
I am minded to emphasize that work has commenced on the dualization of Owerri-Orlu road and Owerri-Okigwe road after contracts were awarded to a reputable German Company, Craneburg, and the mobilization fee paid. This is no mean feat by any standards. The total initial worth of the contract are N55 Billion and the projects will be completed before the middle of next year.
Let us be very clear about this, the completion of these roads will bring about a substantial economic turnaround in the state. Businesses and commerce will boom as intra and inter City movement of goods and services will be greatly enhanced. Compared to the unmotorable and unpassable roads we met all over the state when we took over, I can proudly declare to you today, my beloved Ndimo, that Uzoadigoma. Our roads in Owerri Capital City are wearing a new look. They are clearly motorable. The nightmare that was Nekede Ihiagwa road has been permanently arrested. More and more roads are being constructed in Okigwe and Orlu zones and many more are coming. Again I say without any fear of contradiction that with respect to road infrastructure we have done exceedingly well.
You are well aware that COVID-19, was one major challenge we faced on assumption of office. Unfortunately, the virus is still around with us. As you are also aware, almost half of the broadcasts that I have made as Governor have been on COVID-19, detailing the government’s response to the pandemic and encouraging our people to be safety conscious. We have done everything humanly possible to ensure that our people are safe and by the special grace of God, our proactive steps have ensured that records of infections and deaths in the state have been minimal. Even with the new wave of the pandemic, Imo state is still relatively not in danger with a reduced death toll and speedy recovery of patients. But like I have always emphasized, eternal vigilance and obedience to all COVID-19 protocols remain the best form of defense against the pandemic.
The government on its part will continue to pay attention to the prevention, cure and care of affected people through improved funding and rapid response to emergencies. I must add that in spite of the daunting challenges of COVID-19, it has not taken our attention away from other health issues. We are rebuilding and re-equipping 305 health centers across the state to enhance primary health care delivery to our people. Our free mobile clinics are still operational, taking care of the health needs of indigent and rural dwellers, supervised by missionary workers. Above all, our general hospitals are being funded to ensure that they rise above their present performance in service delivery.
Similarly, our pursuit of excellence in education is very much on course. We are presently constructing ultra-modern 305 primary schools in the 305 wards in the state. Equally, we have embarked upon an aggressive and all-inclusive re-engineering of our secondary schools to bring them up to speed with the internet age and enhance the performance of our students in external examinations.
Imo State University has been infused with new digital oxygen to enable it to compete favourably with its peers in academic excellence. The establishment of another university to take care of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences is in line with our drive to impart skills on our youths. Very soon, the trajectory of the newly renamed K.O. Mbadiwe University, Ogboko, will be unveiled to further consolidate on our drive to become the center of academic excellence in the country.
The realization that our future lies actually in the progress of our youths has propelled us to embark upon an ambitious skill acquisition program ever witnessed in the state. As we speak, no fewer than 500,000 youths are billed to benefit from our multi-billion Naira youth intervention fund specifically budgeted for the empowerment of our youths through skills acquisition. More than 10,000 youths who have been trained are currently being empowered. I am sure that in the coming weeks, many more youths would access the fund to enable them to be self-reliant and employers of labour, as well.
My esteemed brothers and sisters, it is really regrettable that criminal elements among us are working round the clock to compromise our resolve and hard work in achieving a safe Imo state for all residents. You will recall that we assisted the Police and other security agencies with over 100 well-equipped patrol vehicles as soon as we came on board, in addition to over 20 vehicles for special operations. This is aside from our regular interventions in logistics support. However, due to the activities of some rogue elements and some unrepentant political enemies, coupled with the strategic location of Imo State as the gateway to the South East and South South states, there has been a spike in crime and violence in recent times, thus tasking our security architecture and throwing up new challenges.
The recent kidnap of the Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Owerri, Rt. Rev. Moses Chikwe, and the burning of a police station in Aboh Mbaise a few days ago, among other crimes, were part of the challenges we have faced. Even as we were grappling with those issues, some hoodlums and mercenaries went and took over Orlu in the name of “protecting the people from invading herdsmen.” Before we knew what was happening, innocent citizens and even security operatives were killed. Women, among them grandmothers were raped. Indeed anarchy loomed and we had to act fast as a government. We had to secure the area with additional security drawn from the military. Sadly some mischief makers and unrepentant political merchants and alarmists twisted the story upside-down. It smacks of sheer mischief for anyone to claim that what happened in Orlu was a military invasion. The military is in Orlu to protect our people from blood-thirsty mercenaries who were killing, maiming and raping them.
It will interest you to know that these militants who terrorized Orlu for weeks and months ago, most of them are not Igbos. The evidence emerged when some of them were arrested. They have made useful confessions and we now know that they were imported from outside the South East to come and turn Imo State into a theatre of war under the guise of IPOB or Eastern Security Network though working with IPOB members.
The truth is that these are mercenaries imported into Imo state to create the impression that another Biafra war has started from Imo State. The politicians behind this plot know themselves and they will not be hidden for too long.
I want the good people of Imo State to know that what these politicians are desperate to achieve is to pitch Imo people against the federal government. They want the federal government to believe that another Biafra war has started from Imo State. Thank God that this callous plot has failed because the federal government knows better.
I know that some desperate politicians who are jealous of the good relationship between the federal government and Imo State government, under my watch, will go to any length to achieve their evil desires. But they will continue to fail. God in his goodness will never allow any evil plot against the peace-loving people of Imo State to see the light of the day.
Let me make this very clear, my administration will use all the powers at our behest to protect our people against any form of violent harassment by any armed group, be it mercenaries, ESN or IPOB. The military in Orlu is strictly keeping to their rules of engagement. No innocent resident or visitor is being molested. It is only the guilty that is afraid. Criminals being sponsored by political enemies of the state will continue to be afraid. Orlu is calm. Take it from me. There is no plan to wage war against Ndigbo.
The civil war ended many years ago. Igbos are not at war with anyone and they do not desire another war. What Igbos want is justice, equity and a level playing ground for all. These we can achieve through constructive engagements, not through violence or war. Make no mistakes about it, the military is in Orlu to flush out criminals and mercenaries from the area. And that is exactly what they are doing.
This brings me to the events of a few days when on a bright Sunday morning when most people were busy in churches in devout supplication to God, a former Governor of the state decided to take the laws into his hands by importing thugs to invade the state. You are aware of the various Judicial Commissions of Inquiry instituted by the defunct government of Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha. These commissions were set up to investigate what happened in government between 2011 and 2019. This was particularly with respect to the award of contracts and land use and related matters.
It was clear that these commissions were set up in response to the yearnings of our people. The people saw, in black and white, that in eight years of the administration of Rochas Okorocha, there was no due process in governance. Contracts were awarded whimsically without recourse to due process. Lands belonging to both government and private citizens were forcefully acquired by the administration for the private use of relations and their cronies. The Owerri Master plan, jealousy preserved for years by previous administrations, was recklessly desecrated and flagrantly abused by the Okorocha administration.
In resume, that era was rightly seen by many as the dark years in the history of governance of Imo State, characterized by lawlessness, abuse of office and ill-informed audacious attempt to supplant democracy with aristocracy.
Against this background, the sentiment then, as it remains now, is that there must be a holistic probe of the administration of Rochas Okorocha. It was only natural therefore that when we came on board, we validated the mandate of the commissions and conferred legitimacy on them in accordance with the law.
I want to leave it on record that some of the dramatis personae embroiled in the mindless looting of the state approached me to disband the commissions, arguing that it was set up by PDP to witch- hunt APC. I politely turned down the request, on the grounds that the mood of the people favoured the setting up of the commissions. It was later that it dawned on me that the earlier show of solidarity I received from these characters, including attending my inauguration and pledging to work with me, was just a smokescreen to persuade me to disband the commissions.
I became curious and wondered why Okorocha and his cronies instead of going to the Commissions to clear their names rushed to the courts to vainly try to stop the commissions from doing their jobs. If they were innocent, would they try to get me to stop the commission or would they have gone to court for the same purpose? That reminded me of the title of one of the novels of James Hardley Chase: “The guilty are afraid”.
Today we have the reports of the commissions, The white paper is out also. And it has been gazetted. Our duty remains to ensure faithful implementation of those recommendations. What happened on Sunday February 21st was that a man who thinks he is above the law because he ruled Imo State lawlessly, gathered thugs to break into a property sealed by the government in accord with a government gazette on the matter, which is protected under the law. This is the same man who broke the law in the first place and has refused to be accountable. He rebuffed every invitation from the commissions to come and answer the charges against him because he believes he is above the law.
Now because he has become richer than the state government, as he publicly stated recently, he now sees himself as a god who can do and undo at will. And so with every effrontery, he marched majestically on that fateful Sunday morning, with his band of thugs, to go and unseal what a government has sealed. Even more disgusting was the fact that he also had the effrontery to tell Imo people that he was unsealing an estate built on a green verge against the Owerri Master Plan and worth over N5B Naira because it belonged to his wife. Quite a pity indeed! Of course, that was the height of assault on a people and their constituted authority.
The security agencies of course responded appropriately. It is understandable that some people are angry because we stopped them from foisting a feudal aristocracy in Imo state. But I think it will be a costly mistake for them to allow their frustrations to drive them to lunacy. I don’t have anything personal against anybody. I am only here to serve the people of Imo State.
One thing that is clear from the reports of these commissions are that the suspicion that the patrimony of Imo people was looted by Okorocha and his relations and cronies has been substantiated. The commission reports and recommendations, which have been accepted and gazetted, in the white paper, provide ample evidence in this regard. So what Okorocha and his band of thugs attempted to do last Sunday was to forcefully torpedo the legitimate outcome of the commissions of inquiry which is that all the Imo property looted or appropriated by him and his cohorts are recovered from them.
Recall that he first went to court to stop the recovery and failed. Then he approached me to stop same and I refused. Now he wants to use brute force to hold on to what belongs to Imo people. Will you let him do that? I want to make this very clear: As a government, we will use all legal means to recover every Imo property or wealth wrongly appropriated by anyone, Okorocha inclusive. This is my covenant with Imo people and I intend to keep it to the letter.
The restoration of Owerri Master Plans means that those who abused the processes would be punished. Those who took land from the government and private individuals would be forced to return them. In short, all looted assets of Imo people must be recovered and Imo State must be for all Imo people.
However, I do recognise that power belongs to the good people of Imo State. As a government elected by the people, I called for this special stakeholders meeting to recourse to you on this matter. And so, as the stakeholders of Imo State and the voice of the people, I put the question pointedly to you: Do you want us to recover all looted Imo property and wealth illegally appropriated by any person or group of persons, whether high or low?. Whatever answer is your give, YES or NO, I want you to put it down in a resolution right here and now, and I assure you that your wish shall be the command of my government.
My beloved Ndimo, we have every reason to celebrate God’s goodness to us as a state and people. We should not be detained by rabble-rousers and self-imposed emperors who had since lost their kingdom. Through the mercy of God, we have stopped them from conquering our state and taking the citizens as captives. We have stopped the unholy march to feudalism. We have reversed a budding aristocracy that would have made a few the illegitimate landlords of the land that belonged to all Imo people and left the rest of us their miserable tenants. Yes, we have every reason to celebrate because we have recovered our state from feudal interlopers and Buccaneers, but above all, we now have a government we can proudly call the government of the people by the people and for the people.
WE should all now join hands together in one accord and work for the progress and well-being of our people Owerri, Orlu and Okigwe zones inclusive. Once again, our glorious journey is on course and our shared prosperity agenda will surely return smiles on the faces of our people.
Thank you all for your attention.
May God continue to bless Imo State and her good people.
Senator Hope Uzodimma