By Chidi Nkwopara
Not too long ago, a devastating torrential downpour swept across Imo State, destroying public and private buildings in the state.
Rampaging flood took over all the streets in Owerri municipality. Vehicles that unfortunately ran into gullies dug by contractors, supposedly to widen the roads, were either swept off or drowned.
People’s homes were flooded and property worth millions of naira destroyed. The affected citizens wept like wet babies and prayed fervently that such should not be their lot again.
But they were completely wrong. Their prayer was not heard as the rain god came visiting again in ferocious anger, Friday, June 8, 2018, albeit in the night.
Earlier in the week, what looked like a harbinger’s warning shot, destroyed a bridge constructed by the Rochas Okorocha administration, in the Children’s Recreation Centre, near Concorde Hotel, Owerri. No life was lost but nobody believed that it was a solid signal of an impending colossal disaster.
The angry reactions to the collapse of the Children’s Recreation Centre bridge had hardly died down when a more devastating storm came calling and destroyed property worth hundreds of millions of naira across the state.
June 8 was a bright, sunny and hot day. The sun set lovingly and night crawlers were preparing to set out, but the weather suddenly changed! There was pitch darkness at about 8pm. The Enugu Electricity Distribution Company that barely remembered to supply power to residents of Area M, World Bank Housing Estate, withdrew their service unceremoniously at about 8.25pm, when it started drizzling.
The gentle shower soon metamorphosed into a blistering rainfall at about 9.15pm. This was subsequently accompanied by a ferocious wind. Most families, who had gone to bed with the hope of having a cool, sound sleep, became jolted, as the wind appeared very determined to pull off roofs.
The reality of the previous night’s experience dawned on the citizenry as many started counting their losses. The sad story was all over the 27 local council areas of the state. Mr. Magnus Ohiri, who called South-East Voice from Umuoba, Uratta, Owerri North Local Government Area, narrated the litany of destructions left on the trail of the devastating storm.
On a visit to the Deputy Governor’s Office, South-East Voice noticed that it was in a dilapidated condition.
The office now leaks profusely, with all the air-conditioning system begging for immediate servicing. Other aides of the Deputy Governor, atop the building, equally abandoned their offices due to the threatening collapse of the Plaster of Paris ceilings, courtesy of the leaking roof.
As at the time of going to press, the Deputy Governor’s aides have abandoned their offices for safer rooms, to avoid avoidable injury or imminent death.
Again, here in Owerri municipality, the Imo International Convention Centre, IICC, Owerri City School, Heroes Square, Freedom Square, a lot of secondary and primary schools, experienced varying degrees of destruction, courtesy of the storm.
Other buildings, structures and fittings touched by the ravaging storm include, but not limited to Ugwu Ekwema Civic Centre and a good percentage of billboards, either erected by Imo State Government or its acolytes, to eulogise the Governor and his son in-law, Uche Nwosu, bowed to the superior force of the rampaging storm.
In Umuoyima Village, the roof of 36 Odueze Street, belonging to Chief Sebastian Nze, was completely ripped off, while the private home of our correspondent, was also affected.
An unconfirmed report had it that most of the government projects destroyed by the storm, were allegedly billed for commissioning by the Vice- President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, in no distant time.
Already, massive criticism has continued to trail these destructions experienced in the state.
The former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Chief Emeka Ihedioha, and the immediate past Governor of Imo State, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, were in agreement that apart from these badly constructed buildings and roads, so many other things have similarly collapsed in the state.
For Ihedioha, “these reported damages remain a solid pointer that things are intrinsically wrong with the so- called signature projects the Governor prides himself with.”
It was his considered opinion that “if there was professionalism and respect for engineering procedures, his so-called projects would not have been collapsing like a pack of cards.”
Reacting also, Chief Ohakim said: “No fewer than 70 per cent of projects built by Okorocha has collapsed. They range from pre-cast school buildings, Prince and Princess Hotels, tunnels and the collapse of the twin rivers, Otamiri and Nworie, that provided natural beauty to the municipality.”
He also recalled that roads built by the Governor have also collapsed, adding that apart from the collapsed physical infrastructure, the Imo State economy, for the first time, collapsed under Governor Okorocha.
“The government under Okorocha, has also collapsed the middle class, as small scale businesses in the state, with the attendant widespread hunger and death, with mortuary business in the state peaking at 84 as against 11 in 2011,” Ohakim said.