As the two-year tenure of Rochas Okorocha winds down as governor of Imo state, CHIDIEBERE IWUOHA examines the extent of what were known as legacy projects started by the outgoing administration and their state at the moment.
Most of Governor Rochas Okorocha’s programmes and policies were not implemented to the letter. This is the general belief in Imo state as he prepares to leave Douglas House. The programmes, according to investigations are usually half-done and in many cases left midway to the chagrin of many. One of such programmes is his free education programme which, when introduced, gave students of the state origin the impression that they would not pay school fees or any other levy. Along the line, however, students were made to pay all kinds of fees like auxiliary, acceptance and departmental fees to the surprise of ‘Imolites’. As a result of this, many have the belief that the so-called free education which was regarded as the flagship of the administration, to a large extent, is a failed one.
Also, it is the general belief that the importation of education materials like school uniform, desks and chairs was not necessary since there were people who could manufacture them locally to avoid wastage of tax-payers’ monies.
Investigation further shows that his 305 school buildings in the 305 INEC wards in the state are no longer what they used to be when they were newly constructed. Their roofs have been destroyed by the wind while the windows have been vandalized.
His healthcare programme in the 27 local government areas of the state through the construction of 27 general hospitals is in jeopardy because with few weeks to the end of his tenure, many of them have not been completed. Even those completed, according to investigation, have not been equipped in line with his promise. Rather, what is being noticed is that some are being handed over to the army, police, navy, air force as against the original plan. To that extent, residents of those local councils cannot assess the services offered by those health centres.
A look at his job creation policy originally meant to establish factories all over the state and create job for the teeming unemployed youth in the state was dead on arrival. “To compound the whole issue, few months after the programme started, his administration sacked thousands of youths who were being given N20, 000 per month thereby creating a major unemployment problem in the state,” said Murphy Uzor, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Owerri North LGA.
On his civil service policy, he once declared Thursdays and Fridays of every week as work free days for workers to enable them go to farm in order to boost food security in the state. Blueprint however discovered that after several months, the administration found out that the policy was unpopular, therefore rescinded. But his 70 and 80% cut of workers’ salaries and irregular payment of pensions continued despite several bailouts, investigation reveals.
Failed urban renewal programme:
Governor Okorocha introduced this programme with the hope of taking the state to the next level, in terms of infrastructural development. His other intention was to widen the major roads in the state capital and other major cities of Owerri, Orlu and Okigwe like modern cities. Unfortunately, instead of taking the state to the next level through the urban renewal programme, the state has taken some steps backwards. To that extent, the original master plan of the state capital has been destroyed by the outgoing government. The commencement of the programme witnessed the destruction of water pipes, standard underground drainages and good road networks constructed by the Ndubuisi Kanu and Chief Sam Mbakwe regimes. The implication is that any time rain falls, the roads are water-logged thereby leaving debris like water bottles, pure water sachets, orange and banana peels, torn papers, corn stems in the gutters of the town. All these are because of unavailability of workable policy of refuse disposal.
The state government’s urban renewal programme stopped few months to the general elections because all his efforts were geared towards ensuring that his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, is made the governorship flag bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC). The issue dragged till the election. Even after the election, research reveals that the scar is so painful that the state government could no longer continue with the programme. What he is thinking of now is how to hand over to the incoming governor who has sounded a note of warning on the mismanagement of state’s resources in the last days of the present government.
The result of this development is that that those projects under this programme have been abandoned. For example, an important road like Douglas which is being expanded has been abandoned. Motorists from Aba in Abia state who come into Owerri and those from Onitsha to Aba often make use of this road. It is also the road that used to harbour traders from Eke Ukwu Owere market demolished by Okorocha in 2018. In place of the demolished market, the governor decided to build a shopping plaza and named it after a 12 year old boy ‘Somtochukwu’ who was killed by a policeman’s bullet as the government was pulling down the market. Surprisingly, a few months after bringing down the market, the governor changed the building to a specialist hospital and removed the billboard bearing Somtochukwu. However, the building has remained uncompleted as further work has stopped since the governor’s son-in-law lost his election and Okorocha himself has been battling to secure his senatorial election.
Another abandoned major road is Whetheral which stretches from the Government House to Umuahia and Aba roads. The road expansion has gone halfway but abandoned for inexplicable reasons.
“No road has been fully completed in the real sense since the commencement of the urban renewal of this administration. Roads like Okigwe and Orlu roads believed to have been completed have some portions that are uncompleted and have their kerbs not properly done. The parking lot on Bank road which could be regarded as part of the renewal programme cannot be completed in the next two months. The same with other roads in Owerri, Orlu and Okigwe cities and in the rural areas which needed rehabilitation before now,” said Ugo Emeghara, a resident of Owerri.
In the rural areas such as Ogwa community in Mbaitoli LGA, investigation shows that abandoned erosion sites. Teams from the state government, federal government and the World Bank have inspected the sites precisely at Idem and Ochii Ogwa but till now, nothing has been done to remedy the situation. The sites are 20 ft wide threatening residential and church buildings thereby forcing the residents to take flight to save their lives. Even the bamboo trees planted as a check appeared to have been overwhelmed by the erosion menace as the roots have been exposed due to corrosion and may cave in with further erosion. The site is estimated to cover a distance of about two kilometres. Therefore, as Okorocha’s tenure winds up, the possibility of checking the menace now appears unrealistic. The only option is for Ogwa community leaders to bring the menace to the notice of the incoming governor, Chief Emeka Ihedioha, who may look into it once more.