One of the cardinal activities the Rochas Okorocha-Led Government seems to be taking seriously in Imo State is rural road construction. Since its inception, the administration has been in control of all the Federal Government Allocations meant for local governments in the state.
To justify this ‘trusteeship’, the administration early this year directed that certain kilometers of roads be asphalted in all the local government areas in the state. Nevertheless, this project is under the supervision of the local government councils. Therefore, contracts were awarded to some companies to this effect and work commenced accordingly.
Ezinihitte Mbaise is one of the local government areas in Imo State. Consequently, it is a beneficiary of this road construction arrangement. Investigations revealed that some companies were engaged by the local government council early this year to execute some road projects in the area. Virtually all the companies ‘contracted’ were directed to start work without any formal agreement. The Governor appointed the T. C. Chairman, member representing the area in the state legislature and the commissioner to oversee the execution of the projects in the area. Consequently, the companies started road clearing, water drainage construction, earth-work etc of certain elected roads. However, most contractors involved in this projects claim that they did all the work so far done on these roads with their own funds while waiting for mobilization fund from the government.
The contractors have had series of meetings with the Transition Committee Chairman of the LGA for fund to be released to them for work to continue. But investigations from the council revealed that no contractor has been given a penny for either work done or work to be done till the time of writing this piece. The most ironical part of it is that not minding that most of these companies have done reasonable job in many of these roads yet no contractor has received any evidence of contract with the government. The most puzzling part of the saga is that throughout all the days in the months of May, June and part of July this year, the government has always promised to release funds to these contractors but all to no avail.
This was the situation in Ezinihitte till it was rumoured that Gov. Rochas Okorocha ‘freezed’ local government accounts in Imo State. This has been followed by the present impasse in local government administration in the state resulting from the recent Court of Appeal judgment re-instating sacked local Government Chairmen in the state. Presently, the Governor has directed all Local Government Directors of Administration and Treasurers to proceed on leave.
Ironically, the Transition Committee Chairman of Ezinihitte Chief Hilary Eke was or is also Governor Okorocha’s ALGON Chairman. It is also said that he is one of the closest old time pals and confidants of the Governor. However, what baffles some people is how similar road projects in many other local governments in Imo State were partly funded while that of the purported ‘ALGON Chairman’ was left completely ‘unattended’.
However, at the time of writing this piece, I called the T. C. chairman’s phone number. It rang severally but ‘as usual’, nobody picked it. However, when I called one of the T. C. Chairman’s aides, as usual, he told me that the money might be released to the contractors ‘this week’. When the member representing the area in the state legislature and the commissioner from the area were also contacted, they said that their T.C. Chairman of the completely sidelined them from knowing how the projects were being handled.
Be that as it may, most contractors here are mostly Imo citizens. As earlier said, they have so far spent many millions of naira out of their own pockets to do the lot they have done on some of these roads. Unfortunately, some of them are now being hunted by some financial institutions which provided them with loans used in doing the bit they have done on these roads. But the most unfortunate thing is that the rains have already destroyed work so far done on many of these roads. This has also invariably constituted big financial loss to the contractors in question. Meanwhile, work has stopped in almost all the roads construction sites in the area for the past three months from the time of this write-up. With the rains, people now find it more difficult to pass through many of these roads under ‘Rescue’ while some have been completely blocked.
The present government in Imo State has boasted severally that the state has too much fund at its disposal. As I earlier said, since its inception, the Okorocha Administration has been in full control of all allocations and revenues accruing to all the local governments in the state. If so, why then will money not released for road projects in Ezinihitte? This is already generating a lot of anxieties in the minds of the people of the area. Therefore, as an acclaimed infrastructural, people-oriented responsible and responsive government, the government has a duty to explain this puzzle for the people of the area to understand.
Incidentally, on the 2nd of July this year, Governor Okorocha had an interactive session with some stake-holders and leaders from Eziniitte. I thought it would have been an opportunity for the people of the area to bring the road issue to the in-depth attention of the Governor. But the trip almost turned to a jamboree for sycophancy and for job application. People like the former embattled Member of House of Representatives for Ahiazu/Ezinihitte Federal Constituency, Hon. Independence Ogunenwe who is a supposed leader in the area played into the hands of the Governor by pursuing shadow when the people of Ezinihitte were asked to react to the Governor’s remarks. Instead of eliciting the problems facing the area for the Governor’s reaction or action, the former lawmaker and few of his likes turned themselves into sycophants and ‘job seekers’ leaving the most pressing challenge to their people being road. However, it was only the member representing the area in the state legislature Dr. Obioma Ekennia that was able to mention one or two problems facing the area. My point here is that there was no strong case made for the above mentioned abandoned road construction in Ezinihitte during the said meeting.
Therefore, it is my humble wish that the government should release fund to contractors presently handling some of the roads in the area. It should also formalize the said contracts and release some funds to the contractors so that work can continue on the roads. If there is no money, the contractors should be made to understand accordingly because the hide and seek game being played by the T.C. Chairman on daily basis with the road contracts is becoming embarrassing and nauseating. On the part of the T. C. Chairman, I think his acclaimed closeness to the Governor should be more of an advantage for the benefit of his people than what is presently the case vis-a-viz government projects. He should therefore use this supposed advantage to help his people because at the end of the day, posterity will judged him with what he was able to attract to his people.
Incidentally, there have been a lot of complaints against the said T.C. Chairman over non-performance. The Governor should eschew sentiments and look at some of these complaints and see how meritorious they are so as to save the local government administration of the area.
Written by: Barr. Emperor Iwuala