WHY IMO CIVIL SOCIETY GROUPS BEGIN PROTESTS

By Collins Opurozor

The eight years of ruinous misrule of Chief Rochas Okorocha left every sector of Imo State completely destroyed. Health prospects drastically dropped, as no single hospital in Imo was functional under the Ogboko-born politician. Imo had only two surgeons, no psychiatrist, no pathologist on the payroll of the State Government.

The 590 public secondary schools in the State had only 57 Mathematics teachers, 26 Physics teachers and 13 Literature in English teachers. Okorocha’s obsession with brick and mortar only yielded in the construction of terrible concrete beams with overhead iron projectiles on the roads, even as Imo occupied an indisputable top position in the rate of bad roads across the southern hemisphere of Nigeria.

In the other indices of social misery, Okorocha also got a laurel of shame for the Eastern Heartland. For instance, youth unemployment rate in Imo reached all-time highest with 88% (about one million persons) of Imo’s youth population totally unemployed.

A financial snapshot of Imo would also reveal that Okorocha ran the worst form of bazaar economy ever known. To be clear, Imo had no tenders board and award of contracts was simply an avenue for creating slush funds for money laundering. Just the overhead costs for running Okorocha’s bureaucracy stood at an average of N3.5 billion per month. This amount could have built ten industries monthly in Imo State and by now unemployment would have been banished from our shores forever. Yet, Okorocha preferred to spend same on lengthy convoys, champagnes, guesthouses, birthday parties and idle appointees!

Destruction of livelihoods was elevated to the status of state policy, and sources of collective prosperity were either undermined or unabashedly bulldozed away. The marketplaces and landmark investments that had been revenue-spinning ventures in Imo were sent to their terminus.

Worried by the intolerable scale of plunder and concomitant ruination wrought on Imo by Okorocha, all the civil society groups in the State today resolved in unison to begin to march on Owerri until the incumbent governor, Chief Emeka Ihedioha, does the needful by recovering to the last kobo all that Okorocha looted. This coalition convened by Chief Emeka Diwe is made up of the leaderships of the Association Imo State Indigenous Town Unions, Imo Elders Council, Orluzurumee Cultural Union, Olu Owerri, Olu Okigwe, Amalgamation of Imo Professional Associations, Orlu Ekulie, the clergy, the various youth movements as well as students’ unions in Imo State.

Their demands are simple and clear. They want Governor Ihedioha to recover from Okorocha the N40 billion diverted through unexecuted hospital projects, the N120 billion diverted through unexpected road projects, the N21 billion diverted from the LGA allocations, the N6.4 billion looted through Okorocha’s sister, Geraldine, for Christmas trees, the N4 billion looted through the Akachi Tower project, the bailout funds and Paris Club refund which disappeared under the watch of Okorocha, the N96 billion diverted from Imo’s IGR for eight years, the N43 billion looted from Imo’s share of the 13% oil derivation and the N25 billion diverted through UBE primary schools reconstruction projects.

They civil society groups also insist that some investments which were made by Okorocha and his family members with public funds must be recovered. These investments include Extervia Shopping Mall, House of Freeda Malls in Owerri, Abuja and Lagos, Owerri Plaza, WODDI Wellness Center, Eastern Palm University, the Reach FM, Westbrook Hotels, Akachi Estate, a greater portion of Spibat Estate, Uche Nwosu’s schools and many mansions, Shell Camp and many other looted investments dotting the landscape of Nigeria.

What is refreshing and indeed commendable in this agitation for recovery of loots and prosecution of looters in Imo State is that it has set a standard for public office holders and seekers, birthed an era of performance metrics for leaders, even as it has brought to popular conscious that Imo neither condones nor venerates corporate rogues.

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