By Onwuchekwa Ogundu
“Take it or leave it, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, like the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, is a gifted orator. It can also be argued that Okorocha is a crowd psychologist”, one of his close aides told Saturday Vanguard in strict confidence.
Continuing, this aide also opined that “the Governor only needs a few minutes to understand the mood of his audience and tailor his speech to suit the prevailing mood”.
It is therefore not in doubt that the Governor’s aide knows his principal very well. This explains why Okorocha, during the hey days of his administration, exploited the Christian disposition of Imo people and began events by singing praises to God!
When asked to comment on the recent floating of Imo Air by Okorocha, he replied that “the Governor likes to be seen as having done extraordinary things”.
The respondent may be right but Saturday Vanguard is aware that a lot of scathing criticisms are now trailing the project, despite the spirited attempts by government functionaries to make the whole thing look real and scam free.
The media hype ahead of of the launching of Imo Airline was, to say the obvious, unprecedented. Apart from the avalanche of government appointees and the rented crowd, other doubting Thomases also went to see things for themselves.
At exactly 1.42pm, Tuesday, January 24, 2017, an aircraft painted in Dana Air colours touched down at the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, SMICA, Owerri. Imo Air was boldly written on it but then there was a rider: “Operated by Dana Air”, was also inscribed on the body of the plane!.
Disappointment was instantly written boldly, on the faces of some of the Governor’s aides. The shock was worse for the doubting Thomases.
Speaking at the event, Okorocha confirmed that the state does not have the licence to operate an airline. He also claimed that the state is not affected by the much talked about recession in the country!
“The Imo Air will be operated by Dana Air and we have a contract for 10 years with them. We have five of this aircraft and the first one has landed. Four others will start operation in few weeks time.
“Imo Air will have 10 percent discount to all Imo indigenes flying the plane and the operator will equally employ over 30 percent of Imo sons and daughters, to help the management of the airline”, Okorocha said.
A public commentator, who is also an Owerri based legal practitioner, Mr. Kissinger Ikokwu, expressed serious reservation over the marriage between Imo State Government and Dana Air.
Then his million Dollar question: “Which comes first, getting operating licence before operation or operating before acquiring a license?”
Saturday Vanguard also heard as people complained that the aircraft was not a new one and all documents relating to the plane belonged to Dana Air.
A government functionary, who spoke confidentially to Saturday Vanguard, wondered why his principal should make so much noise about the plane.
“. Was this project captured in the 2017 budget? If yes, how much was budgeted and how much has been spent? I expect Imolites to insist that the Governor should disclose his agreement with Dana Air. It should not be treated as a secret transaction”, the Governor’s aide said.
IMO PDP REACT
A press release signed by the State Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Nze Ray Emeana, described the deal as “another fraud”.
“This is another fraud as preliminarily exposed by saharareporters.com, which will not in any manner, address the dwindling fortunes of the good people of Imo State”, Imo PDP reasoned.
On the Governor’s claim that the state is not experiencing economic recession, the party said: “The statement is not only careless but a broad day murder of decorum, integrity and respect for the Office of Governor.
“Nigerians are aware that Governor Okorocha has sacked over 10,000 civil servants as a result of economic recession. As at today, pensioners and civil servants in Imo State, are owed 77 months and salary arrears respectively. There is alarming unemployment among youths and total collapse of infrastructure, while there is no functional education or health system in all the 27 local government areas of the state.
“Records show that Governor Okorocha has received, on behalf of Imo State, over N150 billion between January to December 2016, in Internally Generated Revenue, federal allocation, ecological funds, 13 percent derivation, bailout funds and recently, the Paris Club Debt Cancellation deductions, yet there is no trace of these funds in any sector of the state.
We had expected the Governor to be bold enough to tell Nigerians that the aeroplane was procured as part of the logistics for the 2019 Presidential campaign”, Imo PDP said.
The party then appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately order the grounding and disposal of the plane and return the proceeds to the empty coffers of the state, “to alleviate the biting hardship of Imolites”.
SAHARA REPORTERS ANGLE
Sahara Reporters have already conducted a research on the aircraft and came out with a damming result.
According to the online media establishment, the plane with serial number 53020/1789 and with F12Y128, was manufactured November 1990, and delivered to Alaska Airlines on December 7, 1990.
Sahara Reporters equally disclosed that the plane was later reconfigured as C12Y128 and delivered to Dana Air in August 2008, adding that today, the aircraft is 26 years old.
While saying that the plane is one out of the six in Dana Air fleet and has engine number 2xPWJT8D-219 at the time of manufacture, Sahara Reporters also disclosed that Dana Air leased the aircraft from WFBN Wells Fargo Bank Northwest, May 2007, after acquiring Air Operators Certificate from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.
There are strong feelers that the Governor may not disclose the content of his agreement with Dana Air management, if Imolites treat this contraption as all the previous unfinished projects in the state.