By Collins Ughalaa
Imo State is wearing a new look since Governor Emeka Ihedioha and his Deputy Hon (Engr.) Gerald Irona, took over the reins of power on Wednesday, May 29, 2019, amidst jubilation from the people. The Go Green Stay Clean policy on the environment is producing results. With the ongoing evacuation of the about 400 metric tonnes of refuse in Owerri, the capital city, alone, and the declared war on erosion sites, coupled with the 100% salary payment to the civil servants in the state and the Governor’s reopening of Douglas Road hitherto closed down for two years by the Okorocha led government, Imo people cannot but rejoice, that a Daniel has come to judgement. Specifically, Imo people have seen that a new Sheriff is in town and that a new driver, a cool headed one for that matter, is on the saddle.
We have so far seen a new way and better ways of doing things. We have seen that doing the right thing is possible. Just within one week we have seen that democracy can work for all of us if we commit to it.
Unlike former Governor Okorocha who during his first statewide address to Imo people in June 2011, wherein he sacked the elected local government chairmen and councilors, the 10,000 jobs beneficiaries, the chairman of the Imo State Traditional Rulers Council, etc, Governor Ihedioha has committed himself to following the rule of law and due process. This is in clear contrast to Governor Okorocha who publicly repudiated the rule of law and due process and rather claimed they were waste of time and breed corruption.
Okorocha’s abrogation of the rule of law and due process throughout his eight years tenure was alarming. At several fora he admitted that he did not like due process and the rule of law. He was recently quoted in the media as saying that he was bending the law but not breaking it.
Okorocha’s bending of the law did not go without painful consequences. Governor Ihedioha underscored the awful consequences of Governor Okorocha’s abhorring of the rule of law and due process when he noted in his inaugural speech that “The absolute lack of transparency and due process in land administration and the distortion of the carefully laid out Owerri Master Plan resulted in many citizens losing their lands, houses, and business premises which they acquired legally while public open spaces and green belts were converted to unapproved uses”.
Governor Emeka Ihedioha is equipped with over a decade of lawmaking experience, where the rule of law, due process and separation powers are some of the essential ingredients for the meal of democracy. Expectedly, all the anomalies associated with the Okorocha era are far away from Governor Emeka Ihedioha’s administration.
Imo people are not in doubt that things have gone awry in the state. They understand the magnitude of the damage that has been done and the magnitude of remedial work that will be done too. That was why they voted for Governor Ihedioha.
The Governor too, since assuming office on May 29, has seen that truly there is a lot to be done and he is living up to it. He underscored the huge damage done in the state in his inaugural speech also, saying that Imo State “has been a tale of woes for the people of Imo State, these past eight years”.
The Governor pointed out that “The APC administration degraded and destroyed most of our institutions and values. Indeed, all aspects of governance were debased and desecrated. The Legislature, the Judiciary and the Civil Service, all suffered grievous assault. Imo State House of Assembly was made redundant, court orders were routinely disregarded and often times government appeared to act in breach of our Constitution and laws”.
According to him, “Eight years of maladministration, policy inconsistencies and disregard for rule of law destroyed, literally, the foundations laid by our founding fathers, dis-articulated a thriving economy, lowered the educational standards, chased away investors, confiscated people’s lands, expropriated our commonwealth and threw to the dogs our collective esteem. Eight years of bad governance led to a mind-boggling decay of critical public infrastructure; a crippling debt burden without any meaningful infrastructural or institutional developments to show for such a humongous debt. The health sector fared even worse”.
Imo people are aware that two wrongs cannot make a right. We cannot address Okorocha’s lawlessness by being lawless. That is why, in addressing the challenges confronting the state, Governor Emeka Ihedioha will not resort to self help. He will follow the law and do the right things always. This optimism is better illustrated by the two committees he has set up to look into certain transactions of the immediate past government.
One of the committees, the Review Committee, was constituted to review appointments, recruitments, etc, made by the immediate past governor of the state, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, from 2015 to 2019, in line with the resolution of the Imo State House of Assembly. This committee reinforces the idea that government is not run by the whims and caprices of any leader. It also reinforces the idea that no matter how high a leader assumes himself he must subject his operations to the dictates of the law. Therefore, if the immediate past governor’s appointments, recruitments, etc, are found to have been not in line with the resolution(s) of the Imo State House of Assembly, or against such resolution(s), then he has questions to answer. That is how decent societies operate. No witch-hunting. Only doing the right things based on the dictates of the law.
The Review Committee which is headed by Mr. Okey Anyanwu is specifically charged “To evaluate the recent appointments of Head of Service, Permanent Secretaries, Solicitor General, Accountant-General, and Heads of Extra-Ministerial Departments…To examine all staff recruitment, command promotions, transfers and secondments of officers without following due process – from 2015 to date, applying the Public Service Rules and Regulations”. The committee will also “review all extensions of service period of retired officers and contract appointments” and “To investigate cases of officers who were unduly suspended or retired – from 2015 to date”.
The Governor has also set up the Financial Advisory Committee (FAC) to look into the transactions of the past government from 2011 till date. Owing to the misleading reports from the former governor on his claims on the finances of the state, the only way to ascertain the true state of the finances of the state is to undertake a review, better put, an audit.
Led by Dr. Abraham Nwankwo, the Financial Advisory Committee (FAC) is charged with the responsibility “To ascertain and document the locations of and balances on all bank accounts operated by Imo State government, its Ministries, Departments and Agencies as at May 29, 2019” and “To review all financial transactions and where necessary a forensic audit, with a view to ascertaining sources of funds and the application of same”. FACC is also mandated “To review such disbursements/applications of State resources to ascertain the propriety of charges levied on accounts, interest payment on loans and deposits where applicable, authorization” and “To review the operations of the Imo State Board of Internal Revenue (BIR) with a view to recommending appropriate strategies to reposition the agency for better performance and sustained growth”.
Other functions of the committee as stated by the government include “To conduct governance/financial reviews of key agencies of government with a view to”, including “Documenting all revenues generated or subventions/allocations between 2011 -2019” and “Reviewing the propriety of applications/disbursements of State resources between 2011 -2019”, and “Recommending measures that would strengthen internal controls and enhance the performance of those key agencies of government”.
We recall that we had previously called on the state government to embark on an audit of the state finances. In an article published on the back page of The Oracle newspaper of Wednesday, June 5, 2019, captioned, IMO DEBT BURDEN: NEED FOR AN AUDIT, we did mention the staggering debt profile of the state. The Imo State debt profile is worsened not only by OKorocha’s insistence that he did not borrow or owed any bank, but rather by the fact that for eight good years Imo people never saw audited accounts of the state despite demands for it. This lacuna makes it imperative for the new government to want to know what had truly transpired. If the Ihedioha administration will produce outstanding results, then it must ask the needed questions and demand to know who did what, why and when.
The Committees already set up by the Governor are therefore in consonance with the promise of rebuilding the state as made by the Governor. They are steps in the right direction. To rebuild Imo State, no doubt, corrective measures will be effected from 2011 when things took a nosedive in the state. If we don’t rebuild from that time, or perhaps focus from 2015, we would be building on very faulty foundation.
It is in the light of this that Imo people applaud Governor Ihedioha. He could have gone on a statewide broadcast and condemn anyone he wanted to and tag them thieves. He could have announced the sacking or dissolution of so-so and so. But he did not do this. He chose to assemble men of integrity to make the necessary inquiries and tell the government and the people who own the government what they found out, and what they think could be done to remedy the situation.
This is good governance in action, and Imo people are happy for it.