Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State
By Hope Uzodimma, Governor Imo State
About 100 days ago, precisely on January 15th this year, I was sworn in as the duly elected Governor of our beloved Imo State. This was sequel to the landmark judgement of the Supreme Court the previous day, which restored the mandate the good people of Imo State freely gave me on March 9th 2019, as your duly elected Governor.
However, the circumstances of this historic victory did not avail me the luxury of a transition period, which most governors- elect have the privilege of using as a preparatory phase to actual governance. I assumed office less than 24 hours after my final victory and still hit the ground running.
The situation was not helped by the sorry state of affairs I inherited. There was no handover note from the previous government to mine. This left me with no definite starting point.
In addition, I inherited an empty treasury and a disillusioned, disoriented and dispirited civil service.
It was sad to behold the site of the Imo State Civil Service Secretariat. The roofs of all the buildings housing the civil service structure were leaking. All the blocks were dirty and unkempt. There was no water in the buildings just as there was no light. To describe the entire environment where our civil servants worked as reminiscent of an abandoned scary set of buildings in which no decent person can conduct any meaningful business will be a gross understatement. It was close to a piggery!
Worse still, I inherited a public service sector that was riddled with corruption and fraud. The amount of Imo State money that was siphoned through a public sector corruption riddled payroll system was simply mind blowing. It was, to say the least, incredible.
It was very painful to me that while Imo people groaned under the yoke of scanty infrastructural provisions and lack of efficient public service delivery, few heartless people were regularly siphoning huge sums of money from public coffers. Needless to add that these stolen funds could have been used to provide more infrastructure and services to the people.
I reasoned rightly that I had a choice to make in the face of the daunting situation on ground; 1. To sweep the appalling situation under the carpet and continue to do business as usual, as previous administrations did, and receive accolades for doing little or nothing. Or 2. To summon the courage and do the right thing by flushing out an endemic corruption that threatened the survival of our State, and risk being initially misunderstood.
I made my choice and chose the latter. I did so, because I do know that Leadership is not about early popularity contest but about having the honest courage to do the right thing for the right reasons and for the good of the greatest number of people. I have no doubt in my mind that in the fullness of time, history will vindicate me for not submitting to pressure and blackmail to do business as usual and condone monumental corruption.
Our hundred days in office, therefore, offers an auspicious moment to share and review with you, our journey so far since that fateful day of January 15, this year, when I was sworn in as the rightfully elected Governor of our dear State. The tradition of marking 100 days in office begun by the administration of President John Kennedy of the US in 1963. Ever since, the commemoration of the first 100 days in the life of an administration has become a feature of democracy around the world.
Our eternal gratitude goes to God, once again, for the singular opportunity to contribute our invaluable quota to the good governance of the state and its long suffering masses. Desperate attempts by political jobbers to turn back the clock notwithstanding, our commitment to turn things around for the better, remain unshaken.
Against the backdrop of an almost failed Civil Service that we met, our initial efforts in the first One Hundred days of our administration, have centered on arresting the rot in the system so that the good people of Imo State shall enjoy in the full, their God given wealth, knowing that leakages in the state treasury have caused untold hardship to them.
Expectedly, however, the cabal responsible for this massive hemorrhage of the State treasury is not giving up without a fight. Deploying their well known channels for misinformation and propaganda they tried to put enormous pressure on the administration, to turn a blind eye to doctored payment records.
But we have resisted their attempts at blackmail. Instead, we have insisted that anomalies in payment records must be corrected. The Imo State of which, by the Grace of God, I am the Governor, has the funds to meet all recurrent expenditures. But not a kobo will go to the Cabal of payroll fraudsters who have held the state hostage for many years.
I recognize that the life wire of any efficient and productive state administration is the Civil Service. Regrettably, the Imo State Civil Service has been so neglected over the years that it has become a shadow of its old admirable self.
Incentive for productivity and established welfare packages for the sustenance of staff moral have been denied the service for a decade and more. Desiring to right these wrongs and rekindle the spirit of loyal service, I am glad to tell you that I took immediate steps to arrest further decaying of morale and infrastructural provisions in the Service.
Consequently, I am glad to announce to you, my beloved people of Imo State, that we have recorded salutary success in the fight to cleanse the public service of pervasive corruption. Let me throw more light on this.
A crucial look at Salary management in the state revealed some startling trends that has consistently hemorrhaged our common treasury.
Some glaring mismatch discovered amply proves that the state salary regime is fraught with corrupt manipulations
I found it curious that a state with 56,000 workers (both state and LGA) only captured 17, 000 persons in the income tax otherwise known as Pay as you Earn(PAYE)
More mesmerising is the fact that the nominal roll of Pensioners have stood at 30,000 for ten years now. This will mean that there has been no retirements in the last 10 years and no Pensioner has died either. These are discoveries that clearly showcase sharp practices in the state payroll system.
The absence of a BVN security in payment of salaries is yet another source of fraud. It is common knowledge that in this digital age, BVN is a necessary component of salary payments. Quite instructively most of the payroll fraud were committed through multiple entries of the same BVN for different names on the payroll. It was incredible to discover that some people earned salaries as civil servants and at the same time earned pension as Pensioners. Indeed what we discovered in the process of cross checking BVNs against names on the payroll were truly saddening .
I can tell you today that by insisting on the enforcement of BVN records, which uniquely ties each worker to a distinct bank account, I have been able to save about N2 Billion monthly from the wage bill of Imo Workers and Pensioners.
I consider it a great achievement that through these painstaking exercise of eradicating the stinking fraud in the public service payroll system, the sum of N2bn (Two Billion Naira) is saved every month for the state. This huge sum will be ploughed back to infrastructural development. This means that the Government will be able to deliver more roads, more housing and better hospitals and schools in the coming months and years.
Let me use this opportunity to appeal to my esteemed Imo people to walk with us in this journey of blocking a few wicked people from stealing from our commonwealth through payroll fraud.
I appeal to our people to understand that if there are temporary delays in payment of salaries it is never for lack of funds but because we are determined to stop the payroll cabal from fleecing our commonwealth .
Let me reiterate my early commitment to pay salaries on or before the end of every month. While I intend to keep this promise religiously, I will nonetheless allow the payroll cabal to use it as an excuse to blackmail me into paying nonexistent staff salaries that ends up in their private pockets.
The next line of action after sanitizing public service finances is to consider all reports from committees and departments of government. To this end we shall do everything within our behest to recover every government asset wrongly appropriated by individuals or persons. Imo people should trust me to recover to the last value any government asset in private hands, no matter who is involved.
Looking ahead and as a proactive measure to ensure a corruption free wage management system, a data centre has been established by the government. The data centre is in the process of automating all Salary Payments by the Government as well as all procurements.
Henceforth, through the centre, workers can download their monthly pay slips as evidence of gainful employment which will also enable them access to social services across the Country. The advantage of this arrangement is that every Staff will have direct access to his or her salary payment details. Moreso the management of a workers salary will no longer be a secret to him or her.
The data centre also ensures complete transparency in the Management of workers welfare. Henceforth, the salary of every staff of the State at all levels is auto-computed on a monthly basis with provision for imputing non-regular items such as deductions, allowances, fines, loan repayments etc.
I am equally glad to announce that the sorry state of the State Secretariat is now history. All the blocks have been re- roofed and are being re-painted .The four gigantic 2500 KVA stand-by generators abandoned for years have been repaired and are now functional. This means that the Secretariat is in a position to have steady power supply.
Also the central borehole, which has been non functional for years, has been rehabilitated .Water supply has consequently been restored at the Secretariat. The sum total is that our long abandoned Secretariat now wears a new human look, ready for business.
Determined to boost the low morale of the Civil Service, my administration provided official cars to all permanent secretaries. In a few weeks time, staff buses for junior civil servants, which have been procured, will become operational. The buses will pick junior civil servants from designated locations, which will include local government headquarters.
It is sad to note that on assumption of office, the Governor’s Office and Lodge were in a state of utter disrepair. The previous administration abandoned both and preferred instead to make due with a make shift bush bar or Odenigbo guest houses as governor’s office. This indiscretion on the part of past administrations made governance a public laughing stock. It reduced Government business to a child’s play.
Meanwhile the Governor’s Office and Lodge became available for the tenancy of rats and rodents. This situation was unacceptable to me.
Consequently we took immediate steps to remedy this sorry state of affairs. I am glad to inform you that I have renovated the Governor’s office with only N 177M, far less than the N800M the immediate past administration provided in the 2023 budget for its renovation. Let me also add that this was after obtaining a no objection certificate from Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), in line with the procurement act of the state
Equally, the renovation of the abandoned Governor’s Lodge is 80% completed. This means that in a few weeks time, the Lodge will resume its role as the official home of the Office of the Governor of Imo State.
All internal roads within the Government House Compound are being rehabilitated. Sam Mbakwe Exco Chambers which was run down has also been renovated.
These immediate steps taken by this administration within the first 100 days in office by reviving the morale of the Civil Service, cleansing the public sector of a corrupt system that was choking the State to a comatose, giving the State Secretariat a much needed facelift and restoring the official Office and Lodge of the Governor to reckoning, all add up to the restoration of the dignity and respect of Government as an institution. Once again, after many years, those who have reason to do business with government will see us as serious and reliable partners.
In the area of physical infrastructure, we are toeing a new direction of efficiency in the allocation of scarce resources. Before now, government industrial and commercial investment have been allowed to go to waste through fruitless concessions that put money in the pockets of powerful individuals while robbing the State of its deserved return on investment. One of such establishments is the ADAPALM Estate in Ohaji- Egbema.
We have made that industry a test case of our resolve to wrest control of the destiny of Ndimo from carpetbaggers, whose only interest is to fleece the public treasury for their own vile agenda. We created an interim board of directors with very capable members for ADAPALM. Already the result is very encouraging. ADAPALM, I am very proud to declare, is back on the tracks of producing first grade palm oil , since April this year. Currently the oil mill is producing 100/metric tonnes per day.
In the last fifteen years, the inhabitants of Owerri our state capital, have been without public water supply, depending instead on privately owned boreholes for daily water. This sad situation has replicated itself in Orlu and Okigwe where the Imo State Water and Sewage Corporation abandoned its mandate through incapacitation or willful negligence of past administrations.
Today, however, I am pleased to inform my good people of Imo State that water is flowing once more through the Otamiris Water Scheme after an extensive turn around maintenance. Such an exercise was last carried out in 1996. The maintenance project, carried out in collaboration with International financial partners (WORLD BANK), involved the repair of a 200KV vertical turbine pump, replacement of its starter control panel, desilting of its raw water tank, aeration and fluctuation chambers among other important repair works.
My desire to carry out this important project was inspired by the pitiable sight of children and women, youth and adults hurling jerry cans all over the place looking for clean drinking water. I was no less concerned about the health risks of water borne diseases which was afflicting our people through the use of untreated water. I don’t know if any other project will give me as much pleasure as the rehabilitation of the Otamiri Water Scheme.
On the area of road construction, my administration met on ground the award of contracts for 25 roads for different parts of the state at the cost of N43Billion. l had no problem asking the contractors to continue with the contracts, because I believe that government is a continuum, even when I met an empty treasury.
Regrettably inspite of this gesture, many of the contractors took flight from their sites and abandoned the contracts. Despite my repeated appeals to them to return to site, they have remained adamant. I am yet to phantom either what they are hiding, or what they are afraid of. However, I am using the auspicious occasion of this address to extend yet another olive branch to them by appealing again that they return to site within 7 days or refund the advance payment they received back to the State Coffers.
Having said this, let me emphasis that my approach to road construction within Owerri metropolis is different. My first concern was to get to the root cause of the perennial flooding in the State Capital. I therefore had to carry out needs assessment of the road network in the Owerri Metropolis. The assessment discovered that the crucial roads in the Owerri capital master plan of the Sam Mbakwe days, which housed the major drains designed to keep Owerri flood free, had been neglected since the end of the Mbakwe administration by successive governments.
This explains why Owerri capital is always flooded during raining season.
Consequently, the following roads and drainage system were identified for immediate emergency rehabilitation to guarantee a flood free Owerri capital before the rains start. These six (6) roads which are almost completed and will be commissioned in a few days time are:
- Oparanozie St to Relief Market Road,
- Chukwuma Nwaoha Relief Market Road,
- Assumpta World Bank Road,
- Assumpta Roundabout to Concorde Junction,
- Dick Tiger- Egbu Junction road and
6 Dick Tiger Aladinma Lake Nwaebere Road
Other roads completed by my administration within the first 100days in office are:
- Umuaka internal Road in Njaba L.G.A. (4 Kilometers)
- Amaigbo – Njaba Road (14Kilometres)
- Mgbidi – Omuma Road
Further strides have been made in the area of providing housing for Imo people, workers in particular. Land has been acquired in the three senatorial zones for building affordable houses for Civil Servants.
As you are aware, even as we soldiered on in our determined effort to serve you, the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic took centre stage of Government activities and attention.
As a responsible Government, we responded promptly and proactively. We put in place six well equipped isolation and treatment centres. We provided 30 state of the art ambulances for emergency response to the COVID 19 pandemic.
An emergency call centre is in place to help in processing health and crime emergencies. The toll free number for the call centres is 112.
I salute you all for your outstanding faith and resilience in the great test of will that has befallen our country, our state and indeed the entire world since this year. To prevent the corona pandemic from ravaging our country, the federal and state governments have imposed serious restrictions on the freedom of movement and association of Nigerians.
The general lockdown and curfews imposed on our people have been a bitter but necessary pill to save everyone from this very frightful virus, for which there is no vaccine or cure yet. We must continue to thank God Almighty that so far, there has been only one case of coronavirus in our dear IMO State. So far we have conducted over 500 tests and all have turned out negative, except one, which was only discovered in the state last Saturday April 25, 2023
As the saying goes, heaven helps those who help themselves. Evidently, therefore, the responsible conduct of Imo citizens in heeding instructions to stay safe has contributed in no small measure to our current status. As unfortunate as these reported covid-19 case maybe, it should serve as a reminder to all of us that the coronavirus pandemic is real. We should therefore take the recommended safety measures more seriously.
Another laudable landmark in our 100 days in Office is that the State Government under my watch has enlisted 5000 (Five Thousand) graduates of tertiary institutions for a Graduate Entrepreneurship Training Scheme that will offer training to interested graduates to run their own businesses and create employment with government financial support.
Yes, Imo is on the path to a big turnaround for great things and history will record that the foundation began in 2023 with this government.
On internal Revenue Generation I am proud to announce that we have increased Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state from N600M a month to N1.2B. This great feat was achieved partly by eliminating the middlemen in the Internal Revenue Generation chain who were paid 50% of internally generated revenue in the name of Consultants, and partly through sheer creative ingenuity.
Our target is to automate the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) process and ensure that all internal revenue generated are paid into a Single Treasury Account (TSA). With these measures in place, leakages in internal Revenue receipts would have been eradicated, and the stage set for the government to net in a monthly Internally Generated Revenue target of N5Billion To this end, we are working assiduously to capture in the state revenue menu, revenues due to the Board of Internal Revenue, from oil companies, oil servicing companies and financial institutions operating in the state.
Arrangements are almost conclusive in this direction and I am confident that sooner than later this goal will be accomplished.
Even more worthy of celebration is that within 100 days in office we have revived the Statesman Newspapers. That tabloid which used to be the flagship and pride of the South East but which has been in coma for many years, is now back in full force. It has returned to a daily newspaper to the glory of God and the pride of Imo state.
Mindful of the fact that in all things we do, the security of life and property is the key to a peaceful environment for business and private engagements, my administration has taken the bull by the horn to ensure a zero crime rate in the state. Consequently, we have provided 150 security pick up patrol vans, for a combined team of the military, the police, State security Services and other security agencies, under our operation Search and Flush (SAF) security outfit, to police the state on a 24 hour basis.
These patrol vehicles have inbuilt modern communication gadgets which connects them to the emergency call center. Any distress call on a crime event to the call centre will be automatically transferred to the patrol van nearest to the scene of crime and it will respond rapidly.
I am sure that you would have observed that crime rate is abating in the state this good report card is all thanks to God and our new, efficient and effective SAF outfit. Almost on a daily basis they have been busting one crime syndicate or the other.
My beloved NDIMO, I want to assure you that I have come to serve. I have come to define good governance. I have come to prove that our people have not been caused with bad governance since the end of the De Sam Mbakwe. era, as people have been bemoaning. I have come to demonstrate that from among us a good government can emerge to offer sincere, honest, purposeful and incorruptible governance.
Hold me on my words and read my lips: Under my watch there will be zero public sector corruption. Imo state will witness unprecedented developmental strides that will make our people glorify God
I recognize that if not for Divine intervention I would not have been able to recover my stolen mandate. I cannot therefore afford to fail either God or NDIMO.
I thank you my beloved brothers and sisters for your support and love so far. Let us resolve to give our best to the only state we can truly call our own. I am confident that together we will take Imo to the next level
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