GOVERNOR Rochas Okorocha may not have imagined the extent of viral and collateral damage his characteristic bravado will spiral into, when he personally supervised the closure of Abia Line loading bay at 5 Wetheral Road Owerri Imo State.
He ordered its closure without the option of notice for the company to at least pitch tent elsewhere. This may not have tickled anybody’s fancy, except that over one month after forcefully up-rooting of Abia Line Network, the established sleight of hand of pretending to have picketed other transport companies, who carried on with their businesses unmolested, has been made open.
Abia Line was forced out of a yet-to- expire rented property at 5 Wetheral Road, but ironically other transport companies were allowed to continue business in the premises.
The Imo State Governor, who personally supervised the ejection of Abia Line, may have done so on account of how he desperately wanted to restore the master plan of Owerri Capital Territory, but the strategic adoption of selective punishment, meted out to Abia Line is casting a huge doubt on that position.
Imo State Government is at liberty to leverage on any aspect of the Land Use Act for the good of the people. It is also true that the dispossessed native owners of such properties are treated with some level of dignity, given that governments should serve the interest of the people.
The management of Abia Line, rather than hurriedly instigate a reprisal, cautiously and wisely made representations in a move to drive home the point that “two wrongs don’t make a right.” Retinue of evidence, located in public domain, abound to drive home the point that Abia Line General Manager Ugochukwu Uwaeke wrote Governor Rochas Okorocha, copied Abia State Governor Sir T. A. Orji and the General Manager of Imo Transport Company Limited, requesting the Imo State Governor to reconsider his decision or relocate the company, no matter how remote the location, to ameliorate hardship his action was causing Abia Line.
Days turned into weeks and weeks into months without a word from Governor Okorocha. In this irritating and unacceptable milieu, Abia Line wallowed in limbo, while business flourished for Imo Transport Company both in Aba and Umuahia where the magnanimity and brotherly bond of Governor T. A. Orji allowed it unfettered access to strategic and centrally located loading bays in Abia State.
The hurriedly ejection of Peace Mass Transit and Rivers Transport Company after Abia State reacted is comically deceptive. It is not anything different from the volte-face of Imo State mouth piece; Chinedu Offor whose unfounded allegation that the General Manager of Abia Line hurled insults at Okorocha could not fly. The General Manager of Abia Line wrote a harmless letter with graphic details of the economic woes his outfit was facing on account of Okorocha’s closure of Abia Line loading bay in Owerri and humbly requested him to rescind the decision. It is also pedestrian to hoodwink the public by clinging to another falsehood that Abia Line ran into a breach of tenancy agreement with its former landlord at the Egbu Road loading bay.
Abia Line had tenancy issues at Egbu Road loading bay which a court of competent jurisdiction resolved. It is not in any way related to Wetheral Road and its strategic business interest which is being hurt. Even if these conjectures were true, would they constitute grounds for the government of our sister State, Imo, to aggravate the misery of Abia Line by throwing it out of the Wetheral Road loading bay, which it legally paid for and acquired? Does the government think of the hardship it is imposing on Abia Line and its passengers?
All the boasts about political influence Governor has have no relevance to this issue. Over estimating our invincibility is one reprehensive attitude that pitches man against God and makes Him livid.
Governor Okorocha in aspiring to cater for the public interests should enlarge his understanding of the public. Great as his resolve to restore the Owerri master plan may be, it is not adequate reason to impinge on the right of others. He cannot protect the interests of his people by denying others access to property they have acquired legally.
The olive branch and commendable entreaties of Abia Line General Manager advanced through a harmless protest letter to Governor Rochas Okorocha should have been reciprocated, especially in the spirit of long existing sisterly bond between the States.
If Governor T. A. Orji should be large hearted enough to allow Imo Transport Company the use of juicer loading bays in Umuahia and Aba, denying Abia Line a fragment of such opportunities in Owerri under the circumstances being witnessed turns equity on its head.
Public interest is not the same as discrimination which is what governor Okorocha is unleashing on Abia line.
Mr. KEN CHUKWUEKE, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Aba, Abia State.