By Kissinger Ikeokwu
By the time Ikedi Ohakim of PDP handed Imo State to Rochas Okorocha in 2011, Owerri had reestablished itself as one of the cleanest cities in Nigeria. The then Governor Ikedi Ohakim put sanitation and beautification of Owerri city at the core of his Government program. The Clean and Green Initiative was one of the largest government program even carried out by any government in Imo State from 1999 till date.
To make his love for sanitation and beautification a sustainable policy beyond his administration, Chief Ohakim envisioned and midwived the creation of a body called the Imo State Environmental Transformation Commission (ENTRACO). He appointed Barrister Willy Amadi who became the first general manager and he stamped is authority in all areas affecting sanitation beautification, aesthetics and traffic management. ENTRACO has become one of the greatest legacies being passed from one administration to the other in Imo State and that is credited to the wisdom and foresight of Chief Ikedi Ohakim.
Under Governor Rochas Okorochas all the gains recorded by his predecessor in the area of beautification and sanitation were reversed. Unlike Ohakim who gave Barrister Willy Amadi free hands to clean and beautify Owerri city, Governor Okorocha put Jeff Nwoha as ENTRACO General Manager. He however undermined that all important office when he put waste management, sanitation and beautification directly under the control of his wife, who used fronts to execute same on her behalf.
Under Rochas ENTRACO, sanitation, waste management became worst. To compound the situation, the government embarked upon his failed urban renewal program without regards to the Owerri drainage system originally planned by the white expatriates. His refusal to engage technical experts to help channel the Owerri drainage to be in line with the Owerri city drainage management plan led to the blockage of major manholes and tunnels meant to collect and dispose water from the drainage into the Nworie River.
Upon the appointment of Hon. Alex Emeziem, Government Emeka Ihedioha established his administrations willingness to allow the ENTRACO perform the task for which it was established by law. By that alone, Governor Ihedioha has reversed the trend set by his immediate processor who used his wife to usurp the function of ENTRACO.
Hon Alex Emeziem on his part, took the challenge. It is heart warming to note that he has engaged and is seeking the assistance of those who helped make Owerri clean during the Ohakim Clean and Green era. This is very much in line because a good and responsible government must not allow political parochialism to deny it the guidance of his predecessor or those who served the state under it especially in the areas they performed better.
But Hon. Emeziem cannot move forward without evaluating what was left on ground and devising how fast he can reverse the ugly situation. It is a fact that in eight years, Rochas Okorocha did not invest in Environmental sanitation and waste management. In a chat with the staff of the ENTRACO, they boldly revealed that the last time Imo state bought equipments like compactors, waste bins, bulldozers, trucks etc was under the Ohakim administration.
The most disheartening is the report that the few bulldozers and pay-loaders, compactors in use by ENTRACO before the May 29th 2019 handover, all disappeared. The staff said two compactors under their service were also taken away by agents of the exiting government of Rochas Okorocha. The 27 bulldozers and Trucks procured by the Ohakim administration for all the 27 LGAs in Imo State are largely unaccounted for the trucks only but few can be seen.
The situation is such that Hon, Emeziem is starting almost from the scratch. But in a chat with a cross section of Imo media on the 14th July 2019, he declared the ENTRACO readiness to recover all verges and make them Green areas again to restore the aesthetic beauty of Owerri city once again.
Going further he stated that though the task is daunting, ENTRACO under his leadership had identified and outlined a short term, medium term and long term programs which will restore sanity and cleanliness in Owerri city. Among the programs he enumerated are as follows;
1. Desilting of all blocking drainage/ tunnels – already in progress.
2. Planting of grasses and flowers on green areas and verges – already commenced and would be expanded.
3. Provision of waste bags to houses for better evacuation of refuse. – To commence on a short term.
4. Provision of waste bins and enforcement of laws against littering in the medium term.
5. Door to door evacuation of refuse and opening, construction of tunnels, manholes and new drainage systems – in a long term.
There is no doubt that Hon. Emeziem is on the right path. His ability to reach across to engage all state holders in the execution and enforcement of his task shows clearly that Imo has departed from the ignoble path of the last administration where ENTRACO was utilized only for recruitment of thugs and hoodlums who terrorize residents of the city.
But that is not all, Hon. Emeziem is evolving a system where all ENTRACO operatives must be identified by a uniform and a unique Service Number inscribed at their back. He has also evolved a plan for a Customer Service/Complaint Numbers to receive instant complaints from people or victims of high handedness perpetuated in the name of ENTRACO.
All Imolites must lend their support to the Go Green and Stay Clean initiative of the Ihedioha Government, especially as it starts with reorientation of the mindset of the citizens.