THE FULL ADDRESS BY THE GOVERNOR, SENATOR HOPE UZODIMMA
SATURDAY JULY 24, 2021
Ndi Imo Nwe m,
I welcome you all to this all important stakeholders meeting. This meeting has been shifted two times because of unavoidable circumstances. I deeply regret the inconveniences most of you suffered, having to reschedule important programmes in order to accommodate this meeting. Thank you for answering my call.
The Local Government visits to Government House few weeks ago was a great opportunity for me to interact with leaders from the respective local governments across party line and I found the interaction very reassuring about the determination of our people to take our destinies in our hands.
In line with this government’s resolve to be accountable to the people of this state and submit government’s policies and programs for periodic evaluation and validation. I consider this meeting very critical in defining the tempo and direction of government as we move towards the next phase of this administration.
The last one year has been a very challenging one to the government, traumatizing to the people of the state and evidently unsettling to businesses. Coming out from the long lockdown of the Covid pandemic and the EndSARS crisis, nothing could have been more unsettling than dealing with security challenges that were of unimaginable proportions.
We were faced with unusual situation that demanded urgent and radical approach to deal with in order to restore hope and create an enabling environment for people to ply their trades without fear and related encumbrances.
Some of the steps adopted to arrest the drift to anarchy may have elicited unintended consequences, government in its wisdom, understands the collateral damage many of the citizens suffered and would with time, roll out programs to address the effect of such on the good people of Imo State.
Let me therefore use this opportunity to thank His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari for taking a personal interest in the security challenges in Imo state. It is to the President’s credit that he exercised his powers to ensure that the security agencies promptly arrested the threat to peace and security. The good news is that Imo State is now safe and secure and willing and able to contain future threats, all to the glory of God.
Unfortunately, some of the security operatives paid the supreme sacrifice in the process. Some of our people also died in the course of achieving this peace. May we rise for one minute silence in honour of all those who died in the course of this crisis. I have already responded on your behalf to assist their families to cushion the trauma of their deaths. Our prayers remain that God should grant their souls and that of all others who died in the crisis eternal rest.
May I then use the opportunity of this special convocation to extend the profound gratitude of the government and people of Imo State, to all the security agencies in the state for their invaluable contributions to the peace we enjoy today. I commend the professionalism you brought to bear in the management of the crisis.
I also want to thank all of you, my highly esteemed Ndi-Imo, for cooperating with the State government to arrest the security crisis. Many of you courageously came out to condemn the mindless brigandage, I thank you.
I deeply appreciate the numerous phone calls I received to encourage me to do all the needful to restore peace in the state and the love you showered on our state and my government during the crisis. I can never thank you enough.
I recall with joy, how, as children of God, we poured out our hearts to God in one accord and he answered us. In this respect, I thank in particular, the Imo State Chapter of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for the laudable prayer session it organized for peace in the state.
This government acknowledges the contributions and support of the Bishops, the entire Clergy, Traditional Rulers, community leaders, people in the professions and businesses, the elders, women groups, youths and the entire citizens of the State. We can never take such support for granted.
The Imo spirit, undiluted by political machinations, came handy and every patriotic son and daughter rose up to the occasion to give the government the needed encouragement and support to arrest the drift to anarchy.
The advocacy for peaceful co-existence, mutual trust, respect for constituted authority and avoidance of any act capable of creating uncertainty and fear in the minds of the citizens of this state should be stepped up and all of us should willingly enlist in this vanguard to keep Imo State working for everyone.
In all, God has manifested himself and shown again that he is the Almighty, the author of peace and the vanquisher of evil. To Him be all the glory.
On assumption of office, I promised our people that in line with my 3-R program (Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Recovery) of action, this government would change the narrative in order to win back the trust and confidence of the people which got terribly waned during the periods the locust ate.
I know that many of us will remember the unflattering conditions that awaited us at the very start of our administration. Covid 19 and shortfalls in the federation accounts due to dwindling oil revenues were part of it. Since challenges test the ability of administrators and tell the essential difference between a pragmatic and visionary leader and the one that is lacking in creativity and good management skills/ I am persuaded that History will absolve this administration for the resolute decisions we have taken to lift our state economy from the mire of a heavy dependence on federal revenues. Such bold steps include a dramatic increase in internally generated revenue from the N600M monthly we met to over N1B monthly.
Among our numerous achievements in just one year, the revamping of a new look Civil Service in Imo State, is dear to my heart. When we came, the Civil Service was down and out. Morale was at its lowest ebb. Workers were even discouraged from coming to work as there was practically nothing for them to do.
Today, that narratives has taken a dramatic twist for the better. The leaking roofs of the State Secretariat have been fixed. The rusty, filthy environment has been cleaned up. Series of training and retraining programmes have been organized for the workforce. Above all merit has been restored as the driving force for mobility in the Civil service.
Just recently, eleven (11) Permanent Secretaries were appointed after a written examination and necessary security checks. Out of the 11, one is from the West, while another is from the North. This can only happen when merit drives a process. The message it sends is no less loud and clear. The security of job, for which the Civil Service of old was known and admired, is back in Imo State. The days when political patronage and or manipulations, determine career mobility in the Civil service are gone for good. This is one achievement of this administration that I think Imo people should be proud of.
To further boost the confidence and morale of the Civil Service workforce, cars have been provided for permanent secretaries while the rank and file now have air-conditioned buses to take them to and from work, at no cost. In addition, salaries are paid as and when due.
In this respect I am glad to report that our automation of the fiscal process has been completed. We now have a fully automated financial record and payroll that has drastically reduced corrupt practices. Salaries and pensions are now paid regularly as and when due. I am glad to let you know that except for a very few with lingering automation challenges, all workers and pensioners in Imo State have been paid upto June.
You all know what our roads were like before January 2020. Simply put, they were death traps. Our roads revolution has changed that ugly past. Nobody ever believed that Chukwuma Nwoha and Relief Market Road would ever be recovered from the floods. But it has been done along with other roads in Owerri. We have also done a number of roads in the rural areas while our signature project of the dualization of Owerri-Orlu and Owerri- Okigwe road are on course.
As at the last count, we have constructed or rehabilitated no less than 42 roads across the state. I am sure you have witnessed the new look round-abouts at Fire Service and Warehouse Junctions in Owerri. You will not be faulted if you mistake them for foreign landscapes in the U.S or Britain. That is exactly the idea. By the time we are through with the remodeling of five more roundabouts in Owerri, you will not recognize Owerri again because it would have been completely transformed into a world class modern city.
In the area of education our landmark achievement will include the establishment of the new University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, which is a full fledged state owned university, far from the dubious intent of a Public Private Partnership (PPP) University that was the arrangement of a previous administration. In this regard, the recovery of former Eastern Palm University, now K.O. Mbadiwe University, from the clutches of those who appropriated it as their private investment, is worthy of mention as a major achievement for Imo people.
We also have in our kitty a new Federal Technical College in Umuaka Orlu. Work is currently going on in the construction of 305 modern classromm blocks in the 305 electoral wards in the state. These primary schools will have modern libraries, ITC Centres and modern laboratories.
It is worth mentioning that the Otamiri Water Scheme which was abandoned for many years by previous administrations, has been reactivated and now pumps public water supply in some parts of Owerri Capital City. Equally the Eke Nguru Mbaise Water Scheme and the Orlu regional water scheme are currently under rehabilitation. We have also drilled 30 solar powered boreholes in different communities in the state.
Adapalm in Ohaji/Egbema, the largest oil mill in West Africa, also abandoned for many years is now back on stream. It now produces over 100,000 metric tones a day, of grade one red oil. Arrangements are on to bring it back to full capacity when it can employ over 30,000 Imo people.
Anyone that read the pulse of the citizens of the state correctly, would not be in doubt that the people demand restitution from succeeding governments to avoid endorsing unedifying precedents that send wrong signals as to who we are.
As earlier noted, the COVID 19 pandemic was a major challenge that welcomed my administration. Unfortunately, the virus is still very much around with us. Our prompt and proactive response to this deadly virus helped in no small measure in containing the pandemic in the state. Our star studded committee on COVID 19, headed by no less a personality than our own internationally renowned professor Maurice Iwu, rose to the challenge stoutly. Working with our ministry of Health, the Committee ensured that Imo State remained relatively safe till date from the dreaded COVID 19 pandemic.
These laudable efforts in containing COVID 19 did not foreclose our determined strides in providing better health delivery service to our people. Through private sector collaboration and support, the construction of a 250 bed specialist hospital is on the way at Imo State University Teaching Hospital (IMSUT). We have also commissioned an Emergency Operations Centre (EOP) at the general Hospital, Umuguma.
We have provided advanced life support ambulances to all the 27 Local Government Areas. We are also rebuilding and re-equipping 305 health centres in the 305 INEC Wards to enhance primary health care delivery in the rural areas. This is, as we already have on ground, our mobile clinic arrangement, which, with the help of missionaries, is dispensing free health care services to the rural people.
We are determined to provide our youths with self employment through our skill acquisition and entrepreneurship programme. Our strategy is to train the youths in different skills and equip them with start up capital to set up as entrepreneurs. In this respect, between 2020 and now, we have spent N8B, directly and through collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Youth empowerment. The objective is to ensure that Imo Youths do not recourse to crime.
The Recovery component of the THREE R of this government has expectedly ruffled feathers and thrown up spiral effects which largely fuelled the media flaks on the government and the security challenges in the state amongst other causes.
JUSTICE AND RULE OF LAW
Absence of justice and rule of law is an open initiation to anarchy with the corollary effect of self-help, loss of faith in government and a regime of survival of the fittest.
Government has a responsibility to ensure that the rights of citizens as guaranteed by the constitution and other unwritten laws are preserved and protected.
Under my watch, I make a solemn commitment to ensure that this government would work for all irrespective of Local Government, Political Party affiliation, religion or situation of birth. There would at all times be level playing ground for everybody and no one would be discriminated against or opportunities selectively created to favour anyone or group.
I have always admonished us to be our brother’s keeper and think Imo first in whatever we do or say. Opposition politics should be devoid of blackmail, trading on lies or engaging in acts capable of creating security challenges.
Constructive criticism should be the weapon of opposition politics if we all understand that political party differences cannot be an alibi for setting our dear state on keg of gunpowder.
We are first and foremost, Imo State citizens with equal rights and obligations to grow the state for the benefit of all. If the state is destroyed through propaganda and rumour mongering, it would amount to shooting ourselves on the foot, albeit, self-destruct.
This government is not allergic to constructive criticism and would always welcome great ideas that add impetus to the commitment of building the Imo collective where every stakeholder, like board members in a corporate organization, would find a space to contribute towards the development of our state.
As the Governor of the State, I strongly believe that we can collectively work to make Imo state a home of peace and grow the economy from that driven by Federal allocation to the one that would run on internally Generated Revenue, accruing from improved business activities of the citizens.
This we can achieve by accepting that there is time for politics and time for governance. That vehicle called political party should not be an instrument to destabilize the system, rather a veritable tool to keep the government in check by providing robust opposition.
GROWING THE ECONOMY OF THE STATE
The realities of the time demand that we must as a matter of priority and urgency, grow the economy by creating investment climate to support existing businesses and attract new ones.
Over the years, apparently as a result of huge Federal allocations, not much has been done to change the vista, thereby subjecting the state perpetually to a civil service driven economy. We must urgently explore other sources of income by opening up our economy to encourage players from within and outside to do businesses in our state.
We must look inwards by taking practical steps to have a paradigm shift. This government has identified the potentials of the state which must be turned into economic opportunities for investors to leverage
The state has great potentials for tourism development and we cannot explore that without having the requisite infrastructure update supportive of such investment that drives on security, aesthetics, good road networks, hospitable environment and a reliable transportation system.
Government has started putting up a package of irresistible incentives for potential investors. The Imo State Investment Promotion Agency working with some other agencies of government and some stakeholders in the businesses are making remarkable progress in attracting investments to the state.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION/INTEGRATIVE DEVELOPMENT
When development and economic activities are centered only in the urban areas, a glaring missing link exists which turns a great number of stakeholders in the rural communities into marginal players.
The realization of the need to turn the local governments into engine room of the integrative development initiative of this government, informed the decision to revive the Development Centres.
In the new arrangement, the Development Centres would operate in line with their nomenclature. Working together with the autonomous communities, they would identify the peculiar development needs of each autonomous community and in liaison with the people and the local government administration, work toward attending to those needs
That would create a sense of belonging and the people would begin to feel the impact of government in real sense. To ensure that the leadership that emerge in the local governments are of the people and for the people, I made it clear during the local government stakeholder visits to Government House recently that henceforth, the people would determine who leads them in the local government administration based on popular will and acceptance.
This government’s commitment to take power back to the people should in future be counted as one of my greatest achievements. I have been long in politics to know that when the choice is that of the people, everything falls in place.
My respected Stakeholders, as adults, we are holding this period in trust for our children and generations to come and we are handing over what we inherited but because of the dynamic of existence, we must handover a better Imo State
As all Stakeholders, Traditional, Social, Political, Community, Religious, Women or Youth Leadership is merely a position of service just like we have father and mothers as leaders in the family. Neither the father nor the mother is more important or a better stakeholder than the children or vice versa.
I see myself as a team leader that need other team members to patriotically contribute to the overall success of the team. Imo State needs all of us working for its greater glory.
Whatever sacrifices we make for common good, defines who we are. On that note, it would be apposite to let the stakeholders understand the imperatives of the recovery agenda of this government. As I have explained severally, what we set to do is not personal but setting standards for myself the sitting Governor and others that would come after me.
In a civilized society, certain conducts are considered reprehensible. When God throws one up as a Trustee of Public Trust, such a person must find the discipline to resist the temptation to betray that trust. Of all interventions to the contrary, none has had the courage to condemn recovery of property appropriated by individuals using state power.
As we are recovering and setting standards of public service conduct, the same awaits me when I leave office. That is how to create the right values in handling power and government business.
My beloved Ndi-Imo, what I have just done is a run-down of some of the achievements of my administration. Time and space will not permit me to give you an exhaustive list of all we have done since coming into office. However, a clearer picture of these achievements are contained in our One Year in Office document published by the Ministry of Information. It is also available on our website. The essence of this meeting is to bring you up to speed with the security situation in the state, which is now under firm control, as well as to throw light on our record of stewardship.
I believe that you are satisfied that so far, so good and that IMO IS NOW SAFE AND SECURE. Apart from the fact that there is now peace in the state, there is also visible progress. Even our worst critics will readily agree that the roads in Owerri and other parts of the state are better than they were two years ago. We thank God for that.
I assured you in our first meeting in July last year that Imo under my watch, is in safe and in good hands. I assured you that I have come to serve not to steal your money or land or patrimony. One year after, I challenge anyone to expose me if I have stolen one kobo of Imo State money or have appropriated any land or property of Imo People.
Let me be very clear on this. I prayed fervently to God to make me the Governor of Imo State. I promised Him that if he made me the Governor I will use the opportunity to serve Imo people diligently and honestly, to improve their socio-economic wellbeing. God answered my prayers and made me governor and I cannot afford to disappoint Him.
This is why I want to reiterate before you that I did not become governor to become richer than the state after my tenure but to serve you in truth and with the fear of God. This being so, I will leave no stone unturned in my efforts to recover all Imo peoples stolen wealth. I assure you that God is with us in that direction.
Ndi-Imo, Umunnem, I thank you most sincerely for your time and patience. May God Almighty lead you safely back to your respective homes.
SENATOR HOPE UZODIMMA
Governor, Imo State