Ben Eguzozie in Port Harcourt
Governor Hope Uzodinmaof Imo State has been scored an appalling 40 per cent performance in the governance of the Eastern Heartland state, which under his watch currently enjoys an unenviable status of having the highest unemployment rate among Nigeria’s sub-nationals.
Shadow Government, a pressure group with the target for good governance by the executive arm and its agencies at all levels, said Uzodinma performed abysmally in all governance indices after nine months in office in the state. The group set up by Iroegbu Njoku, monitors activities of government and its agencies at all levels, with a view to ensuring that the government in power does not derail from providing good governance to the populace. In the assessment of Uzodinma’s administration, which came into office via a controversial Supreme Court judgement of January 14 this year, the group said the governor “must step up and get focused on people-oriented policies.”
The pressure group also asked the governor to jettison his current policies that are tending towards dictatorial, and also stifling the state’s productive sector. An example is the newly signed much-criticized Imo State Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ISACJL, 2020), which empowers Governor Uzodinma to arrest and detain any resident of the state for as long as he wishes. But he accused the opposition party of sponsoring dissent in the state. Nnamdi Obiaraeri, a professor of law and former commissioner for information, had while delivering a lecture in Owerri, cited Sections 484 and 485 of the law as “draconian,” as they vested too much power on the governor to order and detain anyone.
It is also common knowledge that Governor Uzodinma, for yet explained reasons, has since March engaged in disjointed payment of salaries of thousands of civil and public servants of the state; whereas pensioners have simply gone without anything for seven months, plus huge unpaid arrears and debt stock of over N200 billion left by the Rochas Okorocha administration, variously described as Imo State’s worst government since its creation 44 years ago.
Meanwhile, the governor has said he would review all parastatals and agencies of the state, with a view to merging some of them. After the state cabinet’s meeting last week, he said he will set up a committee to review the viability of the parastatals and agencies. He said those found to be unviable and unproductive will be merged with those that are efficient and effective so as to maximize productivity for increased development. He assured that no worker will lose their job as a result of the merger.
Covid-19 apart, Imo hasn’t fared any better so far since Uzodinma mounted the saddle. Under his watch, the state has plunged into humongous unemployment. Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) put Imo’s unemployment at 75.1 per cent, the highest in the country. NBS said Imo’s total number of employable population is either unemployed or underemployed. The highlights are total employable population – 2.48 million; fully employed people – 618,481; unemployed people in the state – 593,347; underemployed – 656,394. Imo, an oil and gas-rich state, with a 2016 estimated gross domestic product economy of $18.316 billion, is largely a civil service state. It is said to have been unlucky with governors in the last 25 to 30 years.
Private sector jobs are hard to come by with only a few enterprises in the state. Most private industries rather set up in nearby cities like Aba, Onitsha, Nnewi and Port Harcourt. Additionally, the state’s educational status has also taken a southward direction. Once renowned for high education performance by its students in external examinations (WAEC, JAMB, others), the state since 2011, the era of Okorocha’s dubious “free education,” moved to the bottom ten. It is yet to ascend.
For Njoku, the president of Shadow Government, Uzodinma must immediately clear all arrears of salaries owed Imo workers, speed up the on-going roads reconstruction, particularly those in Owerri metropolis, to save motorists and other users daily nightmares while plying the roads. He is also dissatisfied over the governor’s donation of vehicles to some categories of workers while the majority of them are yet to receive their arrears of salaries and pensions for several months. He also wondered the benefit of donating vehicles to the commissioners and some civil servants when the state roads have become death traps. He advised the Uzodinma administration to hasten efforts to rebuild Imo’s two major roads: Owerri to Okigwe and Owerri to Orlu. Shadow Government said Governor Uzodinma must use good companies to do the roads; and wondered the delay in the take-off of his much-touted MoU with Julius Berger, the construction company he earlier promised Imo people.
“With such roads in place, the economy of the state would be boosted. The roads are commercial and strategic which link Imo to other states,” the group said. For Samdady Anyanwu, former senator, the bad roads in Imo have set the state backwards when compared with its neighbours.