SQUANDERING OF RICHES
Okorocha’s ardent critics allege that he is squandering the State’s meagre resources by conceptualizing and abandoning projects. Ripples Nigeria findings show that the criticisms may not be entirely misplaced. It could not be confirmed, however, that the reason for the abandoned projects was to deliberately siphon state funds as alleged by critics.
Among the many abandoned or rested projects are the overhead bridge on Orji road, the 27 General Hospitals proposed for each of the Local Government Areas in the State, Prince and Princess Hotels, Orlu stadium, 4th Inland Road, Hospital Road, city gates which litter the nooks and crannies of Owerri, proposed 305 schools for each electoral ward, pedestrian bridges and customary courts.
Many citizens spoken to allege that the expansion of some roads in the city is an act of vendetta to destroy properties belonging to the governor’s perceived political enemies. They cite the Mbari road as special example which they claim was started and abandoned to create avenue for looting, while hitting at opponents.
The abandoned or rested projects have been valued at several billions and experts say that they might even cost more to execute if the government decides to return to them in the near future.
While at it, critics are concerned that the governor is not relenting, awarding new contracts even as older ones were yet unexecuted. Examples include, 2nd tunnel at House of Assembly Junction; 3rd tunnel before Orlu Road junction, Okigwe Road expansion, MCC Road, Akwakuma Bridge, Orlu Road, Mbari Street dual carriage way, and Cherubim Junction, leading to Imo State University (IMSU) back gate.
An opposition voice familiar with the development claimed that though funds had been appropriated for most projects in the past five years, the state had little to show for it. A survey of the school projects, for instance, revealed that less than 40% of the projected outcomes have been achieved.
It was also discovered during a visit to the General Hospitals at Orlu, along Owerri Road and Umuchima in Ideato South, that the projects had been rested for what state government officials attributed to paucity of funds. The Orlu and Ideato scenarios played out in almost all the local governments.
However, Nshirim, the state Commissioner for Information in his reaction referred to these observations as mere talks which must be ignored by any serious minded person. He saw nothing wrong with the development strategy that had seen the governor literally bite more than he could chew.
“What happened was that the governor started so many projects and embarked on them as if something was chasing him throughout his first tenure until the recession set in. The recession we are in is not Rochas’ fault or anybody’s fault.
“Disregard those flimsy allegations against ‘My Governor-My Governor’ (referring to Okorocha). The several projects our amiable governor has embarked upon is not for any personal benefit but for the development of the state, ” he noted.
“If it takes a man 10 minutes to boil one egg, it will equally take him the same time to boil 10 eggs if he is wise. So, doing many projects at same time is not a problem. He still has two years within which time a sizable number of them must have been completed. And you’ll see the same people criticising him today applauding him. Let them give him a break and watch.
“The truth is that no matter how successful childbirth is, there must be loss of blood but when you see your child you are full of joy. The governor is not on a vendetta mission. You cannot say because you don’t want to hurt people, so you cannot develop,” Nshirim added.
What is clear, however, is that Imo State citizens have had to suffer adverse effects of the governor’s policy of embarking on several unending projects. For several months, civil servants in the state have continued to receive 30 per cent short of their salaries while some pensioners in the state are owed as much as 24 months pension.
Also fuelling disenchantment among many Imo State citizens is the accusation that governor Okorocha has entrenched nepotism in his administration. While this may not be widespread, Ripples Nigeria can confirm that the state Chief of Staff, Uche Nwosu is his son-in-law, the state Amnesty Committee Chairman, Nneoma Nkechi Okorocha, is his wife, Paschal Obi, Principal Secretary who was doubly promoted from Assistant Director to Director and to Permanent Secretary under one year, is a relation to the governor.
Utterly shameful too, is the fact that the State House of Assembly that is supposed to play an oversight function and call the governor to order in his perceived excesses, has been turned into a mere rubberstamp.
Iheanetu, a member of the state House of Assembly who confirmed this said, “Indeed, the House has been hijacked by Okorocha. It is correct. But it is not only in Imo State. Throughout Nigeria it is the same thing. All the Houses of Assembly throughout Nigeria are conduit pipe, they are dead.
“The reason is very simple, when you do not have financial autonomy, you don’t exist. There’s no financial autonomy, there’s no independence of the legislature in Nigeria and because there is none, you cannot do anything. It is a constitutional aberration and to correct it, it requires Nigerians to rise and cry against it. If you want democracy to strive in Nigeria you should give the legislature independence.”
He added, “As I’m talking to you, I’m struggling to get my own salary. As parliament member, they are cutting my salary. I’m short of 30 per cent of my salary. The houses of assembly in Nigeria, and not just Imo State, are dead and will continue to remain dead till financial autonomy is granted to the state parliament in Nigeria.”
Hon. Iheanetu’s submissions vividly paints the near helpless situation in Imo State where the citizens appear to have accepted their circumstances in good faith. Okorocha still has two years to prove his critics wrong even as rumours make the rounds that he is positioning his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, for the government house in 2019.
By Ebere Ndukwu …
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