Nigeria: Imo and Infrastructural Emergency

4 September 2019

On Sunday this week, I boarded the Air Peace airline to Owerri, the Imo State capital for the singular reason of witnessing the beginning of the remaking of history in the Eastern heartland which has only recently come out of a whooping eight years of desolation and crass bad governance by the immediate past governor of the state.

This remaking of history in my state of birth was the official flag off of the World Bank's assisted rural roads infrastructure which took place from Umuduru market which will cover my home town of Arondizuogu located in Onu-Imo local government area council.

While on board the flight, I sat few places away from and infact next to the newly sworn in governor of Imo State Mr. Emeka Ihedioha who was also travelling back to Owerri apparently from an official tour in the nation's capital or somewhere nearby.

The governor came into the aircraft with about half a dozen personal staff and his beautiful daughter just as one of his top private officials sat just next to me. This proximity afforded yours faithfully the opportunity of exchanging few words regarding the planned flag off of this rural road infrastructure.

I also had about five minutes conversations with the governor whereupon I applauded him for remembering my hometown which has faced horrendous ordeals of infrastructural deficit over the past decades from virtually all the previous governors of the state.

Arondizuogu suffers from multiple deficiencies of social infrastructures and the worst case scenario of marginalization of unfathomable scale even as the few signs of civilization such as electricity and graded rural roads were done as a result of communal and/or individual efforts.

For instance, the only source of intermittent electricity power to most parts of Arondizuogu in Onu-Imo local government was donated by a single individual who is also reputed to have singlehandedly constructed some culverts and rural roads beginning from his immediate community in a part of Arondizuogu located within Onu-Imo LGA. It must be noted too that Arondizuogu traverses Okigwe and Ideato North local government area councils.

In effect, our people are amongst those who feel the pains of a failed administration under Rochas Okorocha whose long stay in office was characterized by predatory diversion of public fund to God knows where and who appeared to have spent more time in the media spreading falsehood and outright cheap propaganda about some fantastic feats he achieved as governor which are not in existence anywhere in Imo State which today appears like the ruined segments of the war torn Syria.

My readers can now understand my overwhelming enthusiasm to read that the Imo State governor has remembered a long forgotten part of the state and has indeed scheduled the flag off of the World Bank's partly funded rural roads which incidentally has only happened because the now governor paid the counterpart fund which Rochas Okorocha failed to do.

My trip to my state was therefore a labour of love for my hometown and to witness the beginning of history and to be able to pen down my thoughts independently and to charge Governor Emeka Ihedioha to ensure that the flag off ceremony does not become the end of the dream of the long suffering people for imminent liberation from an absolute denial of social amenities by the state government.

This is exactly what this article is set out to do-set agenda and to remind Emeka Ihedioha that we are monitoring his administration closely to see whether he will rebuild the devastated state from the debris of ruins left over by the failed governor who miraculously maneuvered his way to the Senate to represent Orlu.

So on Tuesday this week, the governor arrived my hometown to begin the construction of this all important road infrastructure which if actualized, is capable of opening up many communities and helping rural farmers and dwellers to be able to connect with modernity and civilization and to enhance their economic activities.

As stated, I witnessed firsthand using my own resources to fly all the way to and fro to see Governor Emeka Ihedioha flagged off the construction of rural road projects in Imo state which he estimated is worth N13.5billion - It includes 380.7 kilometers of rural roads across the 27 local government areas of the state.

I stood amongst the enthusiastic crowd in Umuduru near Arondizuogu, as the governor said he approved the swift payment of the counterpart fund to activate the project upon assumption of office. Incidentally, upon departing my hometown the entourage reportedly stopped over at Mbaitoli LGA for the same solemn occasion in which he read identical speech.

Speaking at the flag off at Onuimo, Isu and Mbaitoli local government areas of the state, Governor Ihedioha assured the readiness of his administration to partner development agencies for the betterment of the state. The governor said he approved the swift payment of the counterpart fund to activate the project upon assumption of office. He also decried the poor state of roads in the state and said the project will boost agriculture and socio-economic development in the state and reduce rural urban migration.

His words: "As soon we assumed office, the RAMP project attracted our attention, and so came under review. Our task teams and committees analyzed the program and its processes, and being satisfied with its objectives, immediately ratified it, then provided the necessary approvals and directives therein including updating payments of counterpart funds. "As a state, and indeed as a person, we are particularly grateful to the two institutions that have made today possible - The World Bank and the AFD (the French Development Bank).

He continued: "As a policy of state, we will continue, as a matter of fact to intensify our engagements with the development partners and multi-lateral institutions, in order to leverage on their pedigree." The governor revealed his administration's intention to revive the Imo Rural Roads Maintenance Agency (IRROMA), to ensure that no part of Imo State rural areas remained inaccessible due to bad roads.

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"We have painstakingly gone through the path of due process - from the design to the procurement. "We have involved the ministry of works, as never before, in the process. We want to deliver durable roads that will stand the test of time. Be assured, development will get to all parts of Imo state, no discrimination or exclusions," he concluded.

On his part, the senior special assistant to the governor on rural development, Richmond Osuji, said the state government approved the payment of 15% initial mobilization fund for the project.

He disclosed that the state government has mapped out fund to compensate owners of properties that will be affected in the course of the project. Osuji also promised that the Bureau for Rural Development will ensure the compliance of the contractors with the technical specification, budget and timeline for the completion of the projects. Another bad development left behind by Rochas Okorocha is the lack of good sanitation. The Imo state governor has disclosed that he will attend to the urgent need to make Imo clean and green again.

Governor Ihedioha had said his administration is determined to make Imo, the cleanest state in the federation.

The governor, who spoke at the Government House, Owerri, on Wednesday, July 17 during the inauguration of the panning, sensitization and implementation committee for the July, 2019 clean-up exercise, said the health of the state's citizens was threatened by unhealthy environment. He said that between 2008 and 2011, the state was adjudged the cleanest in the country by the federal ministry of environment, lamenting that in the past 8 years, the state had become one of the dirtiest.

The journey to and fro my state took me four days and within this period, the traditional rulers drawn from all parts of the state met and endorsed the decision of both the Imo state government and the state's legislature to investigate why the entire state has become such a destroyed habitation even as infrastructures require emergency to fix.

The Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers said they are in full support of Gov. Emeka Ihedioha's plan to probe the administration of former Gov. Rochas Okorocha.

Available information i got states that the Chairman of the council, Eze Samuel Ohiri, disclosed this to newsmen on Wednesday, at the end of an emergency meeting of the council where the resolution was taken.

He said that after a critical examination of the situation of Imo, the council deemed it imperative that Okorocha must be probed.

Ohiri said the latest discovery that Okorocha allegedly spent N10 billion to build police headquarters called for serious probe.

He said, "After the emergency meeting of all the traditional rulers, we resolved to encourage Ihedioha to ensure that all the government properties illegally acquired by the former governor and his cronies were recovered to Imo.

"We also want to use this opportunity to call on the Inspector General of Police to return the money used in building the police headquarters," he said.

He said that "Imo does not have money to spend on Federal Government's project," adding that "FG is supposed to show its presence in Imo, not Imo building projects for FG."

The royal father also admonished Okorocha, representing Imo West Senatorial District, to stop inciting his supporters to cause trouble in the state.

"Okorocha has finished his tenure as governor and we are calling on him to allow Ihedioha to govern the state without distractions," he added.

This visit I must state is revealing. The current Imo state governor must note that So much is expected from him so he has to spend quality times inside the state and reduce the tendency to embark on frivolous foreign trips which is one way most governors lavish the resources of their states in the guise of chasing for foreign direct investments. Imo state needs an ever present competent administrator to turn around the devastated State.

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