By the 29th of May 2012, Governor Rochas Okorocha’s administration must have existed for one year in Imo State.
Within this one year, the government formulated and implemented a lot of policies, programs and projects. Traditionally, it is always the practice that at such occasions, government only extols its achievement more for political reasons. Most a times, government does not give an unbiased appraisal of its programs to the public.
In the media, government officials, political associates, allies, sycophants etc join in praising the government only in the areas they feel the government has done well. I reside in Imo State and has personally observed the Okorocha activities within this one year. I have also visited most of the project sites embarked by the present government in the state and have conducted interviews with some of the citizenry in the state. Therefore, this write-up is a product of an unbiased public opinion assessment, personal observation, research and interviews conducted on people of Governor Okorocha’s one year in office. Here, we shall only look at completed projects and the on-going ones. We may not look much at the ones under proposal. Accordingly, we shall be looking at the areas we feel the government has done well, point out the ones not done well and make recommendations for further actions. This work is void of any political or sentimental biases and we think that it is the kind of appraisal the government needs for better performance for the remaining time left in its tenure.
1. ROAD CONSTRUCTION
The Okorocha Governmnet has embarked on massive road constructions. There are also the opening and creation of new roads. The rate of road construction by this government is the highest the state is witnessing in recent times. These roads are very laudable projects and it has scored the administration very high. The truth is that if many of the roads are completed, they will ease traffic jam which has become a night-mare to people inImoState. However, it is observed that the government has not been able to do much on the fly-over bridges started by the last administration in Owerri town which many have agreed are very necessary to help traffic flow in the metropolis. On contractors handling many of the roads in the state their competence is in question. Secondly, the rate at which the contractors are working on these roads is very slow. Many of the contractors are not given any mobilization from government before they move into sites. Also many of the contracts do not follow due process in awarding them. The contractors start work without tender, verification, award certificates and financial mobilization. Therefore, this situation does not give the contractors opportunity to bargain well with government. It is the government that unilaterally decides what to give the contractors at the end of the day. The danger is that it makes the contractors do low quality work so as to make profit at the end of the day. It has been observed that most of the roads and their drainage facilities do not have strong bases. Therefore, their durability over time is in question. Also, because of the way these road contracts are awarded, some contractors have abandoned their road projects leaving some of these roads worst than they were before work started on them thereby leaving them more impoverished as some of these contractors either used personal funds or borrowed money from financial institutions to do some of these road projects.
RECOMMENDATION: Government should 1. complete the flyovers 2. do roads that the available fund can carry and ensure that quality work is done and 3. follow due process and rules on procurement in awarding most of the contracts and for the sake of transparency and legality.
Education is another area the government has done very well. Some of the things done in this sector include: the successful implementation of free education in government-owned primary and post primary schools, the ongoing renovation work in many public school buildings, moves to establish vocational, model and finishing schools, erection of structures in the new site of the Imo State University (IMSU) in Ideato, building of many new blocks for Imo State Polytechnic (IMOPOLY) Umuagwo. Other achievements include increasing the monthly subventions for IMSU and IMOPOLY, monetary grant to the management of mission schools formerly managed by government. However, the proposed move to relocate IMSU to the Governor’s homeland in Ideato has attracted mix-feelings among the public especially from the people of Owerri Senatorial Zone. In addition, the government’s inability to continue with the distribution of the monthly stipend to wards in public private and secondary schools in the state has raised eyebrows. This is also the case with the government’s inability to provide for the free school uniforms and sandals etc it had earlier promised students in state owned primary and post-primary schools. Also, some people see the governor’s earlier promise to build additional three universities in the state and extension of free education to public tertiary institutions in the state as a mirage. Furthermore, it is observed that there is lack of enough teachers in state owned primary and secondary schools especially the ones in the rural areas. Also, the government has not provided imprest to run public schools. Therefore, it is believed that these challenges are affecting the quality of education in the schools in question.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Government should employ more teachers, provide imprest for the running of public schools, re-visit its policy on relocating all the faculties in IMSU to Ideato. In the alternative, it can seek for the establishment of another university for science, arts, education or technology in the state or site laudable government projects at the former IMSU sites at Mbaise/Ngor-Okpala, Ogbaku and Umuna Okogwe to douse tension. It should also concentrate on sustaining the free education program and stop making promises that may not be backed by action.
This is one area the government has scored excellently. This research could not capture all the infrastructures built by the government within one year as they are many. Nevertheless, we could capture the following completed ones: the Heroes Square, the Ojukwu Convention Center, the Multi-Purpose Hall, Cabinet Office, Government House Staff Quarters, Deputy Governor’s Residential Lodge and office, Executive Chambers, Office of the First Lady, Bongo Square, renovation of Commissioners Quarters, Imo City Gate etc. the ongoing ones are; the city gates, renovation of the State Civil Service Secretariat Complex, Concorde Hotel, Concorde Extension, Imo Hotels, Oguta Motels, Dan Anyiam Stadium, etc. The speed many of these infrastructures are being done and the cost at which people are told the cost shows good governance. However, in as much as Owerri Metropolis is the state capital and should have certain infrastructures as a matter of priority, still it is the view of some members of the public that government is concentrating more of its infrastructural program in the Metropolis to the disadvantage of the other areas. Some people are also of the opinion that government is sacrificing infrastructural development at the also of human resource development. This they say is not good for even development for they feel that Owerri Metropolis is already congested. Also, feelers have it that the government is owing some of the contractors who handled some of these projects heavily. In another development, it is not up to ten years the state was build. Therefore, it is the view of some civil servants that the magnitude of renovation whereby even the long span roofing sheets that are still good are replaced with new ones is an unnecessary waste of public. Also government’s inability to follow up the dredging ofNworieRiverby the Federal Government is also another challenge.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Projects should be done based on availability of fund. New projects should not be embarked on until the old ones are completely paid for. Furthermore, there are enough government owned hotels. Therefore, it is the opinion of some people that government should concentrate on good management and productivity of these hotels than embarking on new ones. Also it is the opinion of many that there are enough hotels in the state and that government needs to build industries rather than hotels. Furthermore, many areas in the rural areas lack government presence. Therefore, it is suggested that some of the infrastructural projects be located outside Owerri Metropolis to make for even development. The public is yet to understand the reason for the rampant erection of gates in many areas in Owerri Metropolis when thousands of able-bodied men are hungry as a result of unemployment. It is also the opinion of many that locating the Deputy Governor’s and first lady’s offices outside the Government House is a security flaw. Also, their location in the same already congested area of the Owerri Metropolis when the state has an undeveloped area with enough space mapped out for Government House in New Owerri is very wrong. On renovation of the state Civil Service Secretariat Complex, it the view of some people that government should renovate areas of the complex that are dilapidated and not renovating the entire building so as to save public fund. The present state government should parley with the Federal Government and NDDC so that work can continue on the dredging ofNworieRiver.
4. URBANIZATION POLICY
The administration’s policy to develop Orlu and Okigwe and other areas to full metropolitan status is good and will help to decongest Owerri Metropolis. If well implemented, it will also help to prevent unnecessary urban migration. Presently, there are a lot of facelift-work going on in these areas. However, a lot of people’s property will be destroyed in the course of this program. Therefore, adequate compensation should be given to those who will be affected. Also, the government should analyze this program very well so that it will be a success in the end.
5. COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
The Community Governing Council (CGC) in the rural communities is a good vision. It has really worked well in many advanced countries. It helps in guaranteeing more effective security of lives and property and development in communities and villages. But the problem with this country is implementation, sustenance of policies and corruption. However, so far, the present government in the state seems to be sacrificing the Community Government at the altar of Local Government. However, the poser still remains that since part of the fund used in running this community government belongs to the local governments, what will happen in event where the appellate courts return the sacked local government chairmen and ward councilors to the councils to complete their tenure? Will they be able to partner with the policy? What if the National Assembly amends the law that gives the state governments access to local government funds by precluding state government accordingly? Can the state fund the CGC alone? However, much cannot be said of this program now until it is implemented.
6. LOCAL GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION
This is one area the government has done so badly. In as much as the local government has failed in the state, the running of community Governing Councils with its staff and funds meant will definitely kill the local government system. Also, government’s inability to conduct a credible election into local government councils at this age of democracy in the nation is a big minus. The idea of running L.G.A.s with government appointees at this age of democracy in the country is absurd. If Okorocha’s predecessors did it, it will also be business as usual as against what the Governor is preaching for also doing it . Also, the dissolution of the purported elected councils and replacing them with appointees is unconstitutional because the local government is supposed to serve as a training ground for public office seekers. Also, the middling of funds meant for local government by the present administration in the state does not present anything different from the old condemnable practice of past administrations in the state. Also the scrapping of Local Government Development Areas will be a big disadvantage to the state when the Federal Government wishes to grant financial recognition to new local government areas. However, the directive by the state government for the construction of 15 kilometer roads by each L. G. A. if well achieved will be very wonderful because for almost 15 years now, no local government in the state has been able to tar a kilometer of road. In another vein, people are yet know what has happened to the billion naira equipment procured with local government fund for the Imo Road Maintenance Agency (IROMA).
Imo State Government should adoptLagosStatemodel for the workability of Local Government and local Government Development Areas.. Sacked LGA chairmen and councilors may be called back to complete their tenure and thereafter, a credible election conducted in line with the country’s constitution for ‘illegality cannot be used to cure illegality’. IROMA is a good program. Therefore, Imo State Government should look at a way of repositioning IROMA so that it can achieve the desired result. The State Government should also stop taking money meant for the L.Gs. It should rather give them some state funds to add to what they get from the Federal Government. The state should fashion out a means of checking financial corruption in these L.Gs. and state legislators should also stop extorting money from the councils.
7. RULE OF LAW AND JUSTICE ADMINISTRATION
This is another area the government has done badly. At the age democracy is in the country, it is very absurd to see government do things without due process and obedience to rule of law. Ironically, the present government inImoStateis a product of rule of law and justice administration. Interestingly, the government has openly acknowledged that it does not follow due process and rule of law in the conduct of its affairs. Such cannot build a strong institution as government. There cannot be democracy without rule of law. In as much as there is no doubt about the sincerity of the present government in the state for good governance, yet it has formulated a lot of policies without seeking public opinion or legislative backing. Also, there are a lot of executive arbitrariness that are unchecked which has given birth to various litigations and the government has not done much to settle some of these disputes. Some of them include the removal of allowances paid to Magistrates, Chairmen of Customary Courts and State High Court Judges, the controversial Area K land dispute between government and Owerri indigenes, appointment of Community Speakers without legislative enactment, illegal removal of chairmen and members of statutory commissions whose appointment have fixed terms, extra-budgetary expenditures, sacking of the 10,000 employed public servants in the state without regard to the Public Service Rules, suspension of the newly created autonomous communities and the newly recognized traditional rulers in the state, scrapping of the Local Government Development Areas and town unions without legislation, refusal to pay former public office holders their entitlements etc. These I think are very bad precedents which are characteristics of dictatorial leadership. It is also costing the government much in defending some of these actions in the law courts. Also, the inability of the government to create more courts and appoint more judges is hinders efficient justice administration. Corollary to this is the sacking of many newly employed lawyers from the state ministry of justice which people think has not helped in ensuring justice administration in the state. At the inception of the present government in the state, it established a conflict resolution machinery but this machinery has not done much in the area of conflict resolution in the state. However, it seems the government is realizing the dangers in them and has soft-pedaled in the way he was carrying on before now.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Out of court resolution of many of the litigations against government actions, respect for due process, rule of law and the judiciary, creation of more courts and appointment of more magistrates, high court judges and state counsel, and erecting buildings for state customary courts most of which are being housed in private buildings since more than a decade of their operation. More include the restoration of allowances to Judges, Magistrates and Chairmen of Customary Courts to avoid corruption. It should also reverse some of the above mentioned and other actions considered to be illegal so as to avoid embarrassing court judgments against the state in future. The Conflict Resolution Commission should wake up to its duties as the commission seems to be sleeping since its creation.
8. PUBLIC UTILITY
Here, the government has tried a lot but much is yet to be achieved. The street lights are maintained but their performance is not very efficient. Also, the government plans to link street lights to electricity generating sets of some hotels in the state. The workability of this policy is still in question. The policy on public water supply is not working. The company the government signed an MOU to generate water in the state has abandoned the project and run away. The government has not done much in the area of rural electrification and urban public electricity generation and distribution. The taxation on private water bore-holes is generating a lot of controversies as people seem not be complying. Also, the government is yet to do much on provision of water schemes. Therefore, people still depend more on private bore-holes for water.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Wide consultation with the public on the taxation on private water sources, concession of Imo State Water Corporation at a reasonable low rate, repair of many street lights that are bad, embarking on more electrification projects, re-establishment of state owned electricity power plant, partnering with Power Holding Plc. on effective electricity distribution in the state.
9. UNEMPLOYMENT AND JOB CREATION
It is believed that the greatest problem in the state is unemployment. In the area of political appointment, the government has done so well. There are a lot of political appointees in the present administration in the state as against what used to obtain in the past. Also, the many projects that are done or on-going in the state have given a lot of people jobs. However, not much has been done in employment in public service. Also, the sacking of the controversial Ten Thousand job beneficiaries by the present administration without any alternative has thrown a lot of able bodies Imo youths back into the labour market. Also, the inability of the present government to re-engage some of the beneficiaries of the said scheme it approved is a big challenge. Also, the inability of the present state government to engage Imo indigenes working in Abia Public Service who were sacked by Abia Government is also a flaw. People tend to attribute the increasing rate of kidnapping to and other vices to high rate of unemployment in the state.
RECOMMENDATION: Making Job Creation no one in the priority of government policies and programs. Sincerity of government on job creation, re absorption of if not all but some of the beneficiaries of the 10,000 Job Scheme and sacked Imo indigenes formerly working in Abia State and encouraging the establishment of industries in the state than hotels that can create more employment opportunities.
10. PUBLIC SERVANTS AND PENSIONERS
The government scored very high as the first in the South East to implement the =N=18,000 minimum wage. It even passed the benchmark by paying =N=20,000 as minimum wage. Also, workers salaries are paid regularly. Also pensions are paid accordingly. However, the government budgeted very low on its recurrent expenditure which has invariably affected welfare of workers and pensioners. The minimum wage did not apply prorate across all the levels of civil servants as it benefited only Levels one to three. Also, as at the time of this write-up, findings show that retired government owned primary school teachers are presently being owed seven (7) months arrears of pension and more than a hundred million naira for unpaid gratuities. In the same vein, retired staff of Imo Broadcasting Corporation are being owed seventeen (17) months arrears of pension and more than =N=81million naira for unpaid gratuities. Furthermore, workers and pensioners undergo a lot of hardship before they collect their monthly salaries and pensions as they are always asked to troop to the state capital each time to collect cheques for their salaries. Also, there are no provisions for capacity building like training, courses, symposia, workshop etc to enhance the performance of public servants. Also many allowances and other entitlements are not paid to many of these workers and some of them are complaining that the taxation on their pay is much.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Government should sustain its payment of salaries as at when due and see how to reflect the minimum to benefit civil servants especially those at the higher cadre. Furthermore, a lot of man hours are lost every month having public servants leave their offices to Owerri to collect cheques for salaries. Many of them are exposed to automobile accidents and untold hardship. This also applies to pensioners. Nevertheless, a good online banking system where salaries and pensions will be paid as it was done before should be restored. Also, government should divert some of the funds meant for physical projects to the payment of pensions and gratuities as ‘a laborer deserves its wage’.
TO BE CONTINUED
Barr Emperor Nnabuihe Iwuala (Ksc.)
Legal/Media Practitioner writes from Owerri,ImoState
08037247295, 08185772166, emperoriwuala@yahoo