During the 2019 electioneering campaigns, His Excellency Rt. Hon Emeka Ihedioha made clear his campaign promise wherein he outlined far reaching programs that would radically impact on the welfare of Imo people. Unfortunately many people did not pay attention to his message. Those who heard barely took his words seriously. Many would have passed off his campaign promises during electioneering campaigns as one of those political rhetoric, judging from experience of the past administration. Many failed to realize that Governor Ihedioha is a man who is not given to flippancy and loquacity. This is a man whose anthem had always been “My Word, My Bond” and he does not mince words about it. He is not called Omenkeahurunanya for the mere calling.
Recall that during the electioneering campaigns, His Excellency, Governor Chukwuemeka Nkemakolam Ihedioha promised the Ohaji Egbema and Oguta Local Government Area people a new dispensation where the people of the oil bearing areas of Imo State would have a major stake in decision making and the management of the 13% oil derivation revenue accruing to Imo State and meant for the development of the major Niger Delta Areas. In furtherance to that, Governor Ihedioha promised to change the operation and management of the Imo State Oil Producing Area Commission (ISOPADEC) to make it more meaningful, impactful and beneficial to the people of the oil bearing areas of the state.
Recall also that before the present dispensation and since the last PDP administration in Imo State, the ISOPADEC had become bastardized. The immediate past government did not only make ISOPADEC redundant, the then governor Rochas Okorocha and his few cronies used ISOPADEC as a means of siphoning public funds. The people of Ohaji Egbema and Oguta Local Government Areas were massively shortchanged and robbed of the desired benefits accruing from their 13% derivation fund. ISOPADEC was raped, looted and bastardized. The expected benefits of ISOPADEC were denied the people of the Niger Delta LGA for the eight years of the Rochas Okorocha’s administration. Few people used ISOPADEC to funnel and divert the 13% derivation funds meant to better the lives of the people of the oil bearing communities. Few people fed fat on their resources, enriching themselves, while the people barely felt the impact of their God given resources throughout the Okorocha administration.
All these changed with the coming into power, of the government of Governor Ihedioha, whose administration placed the issue of ISOPADEC straight under the supervision of his Deputy Governor Rt. Hon. Gerald Irona who is from the oil producing area of Imo State. This is a clear departure from the past where Governors treated made their Deputy Governors redundant and without direct tasks in governance.
On his part, His Excellency the Deputy Governor of Imo State, Rt. Hon Gerald Irona has not hidden his position that ISOPADEC has not been allowed to serve its primary purpose of uplifting the well being and life of the people of the oil producing areas of the state. He has reiterated his resolve under the Ihedioha administration and under his supervision to see that the primary goals for setting up the ISOPADEC are achieved. To achieve this, he sought and obtained the nod of his Boss, the Governor of the State to allow him oversee things at the ISOPADEC. That granted, he swung into action by involving stakeholders in the area on ways to revamp and revitalize the all important commission to maximize its benefits to the people.
To achieve this objective, Hon. Irona oversaw the process which saw the Ohaji Egbema and Oguta people to harmonize the sharing formula and reach a consensus on nominees to head the ISOPADEC. He followed up the process by setting up the ISOPADEC Advisory Council to shadow- watch and monitor the activities of the ISOPADEC management to ensure they delivered on their mandate. The good news is that there is a new dispensation where the current administration has promised direct and proper funding of the ISOPADEC through the 13% derivation fund for the first time. Truly, ISOPADEC has been returned to the Ohaji Egbema and Oguta people.
In all fora, Governor Ihedioha has promised to allow the ISOPADEC apply the 13% derivation fund independently as provided by the laws of the state. He has also shown massive good faith by allowing his Deputy Governor who is from the Niger Delta area of Ohaji Egbema/Oguta LGAs to directly supervise the activities and application of its accruing funds. By this, the good people of Ohaji Egbema/Oguta LGAs have been empowered and equipped for the first time to determine how to apply the available resources meant for the development of the area with a view to actualizing the primary purpose of government towards setting up the ISOPADEC.
The constitution and inauguration of the Barrister Obido leadership of ISOPADEC has marked a watershed in the life of the Ohaji Egbema and Oguta LGAs people. It is expected that they will reciprocate the good gesture of Governor Ihedioha by ensuring that the people of the Niger Delta area enjoys the benefit of the fund meant for the upliftment of their life. The new leadership of ISOPADEC must faithfully and selflessly deliver service to the people of the oil bearing communities to appreciate the free hand and independence now given them by the Ihedioha administration.
Finally, we must commend Governor Ihedioha for his selflessness and goodwill towards allowing the 13% derivation fund meant for development and improvement of the quality of life of the oil producing communities to go to them directly. Truly, the people of Ohaji Egbema and Oguta have got the best deal under the Ihedioha administration.
Long live the people of the Niger Delta Area of Imo State. Long Live Imo State.
Ihedimma emeela na ala Imo State.
Kissinger Ikeokwu is an Owerri based Legal Practitioner