By Nnamdi Ojiego
Governor Hope Uzodinma has been a bastion of hope for Imo State people since his assumption of office on January 15, 2020, more especially, during this critical time when the masses are confronted with the threat of Coronavirus pandemic.
Despite unfounded criticisms of his person and personality, he has remained focused, firm, unwavering and has endeared himself to the good people of Imo state within this 100 days in office.
Prior to the Supreme Court judgement in his favour, there were doubts over the possibilities of Uzodinma making a good governor because of misconceptions and campaign of calumny being peddled by fifth columnist.
As the governor set to mark his 100 days in office, it is gladdening to know that the perception index about him has moved from slow to speed lane despite the entire drama and distractions from the review appeal by the ousted governor Emeka Ihedioha and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
The Supreme Court judgement and the recent perception of him as a governor has made him a saint, judging from his initial carriage, comportment, administrative style, quick response mechanism and his willingness to work with structures or foundation laid by the former administration. Governor Hope Uzodimma has proved that truly, the taste of the pudding is in the eating.
Continuity of govt
Interestingly, right from the outset of his administration, Gov Uzodimma made it clear that he understood the concept of continuity in government. He declared that he would continue from where his predecessor stopped. Many had thought that he would jettison anything that is linked to the former administration no matter how impactful and useful they would be to Imo people.
It is worthy of note that for the first time in recent history, a governor from a different political party is adopting projects, policies and programmes of his predecessor. Uzodimma has kept to his promise by placing the interest of Ndi Imo above self. After proper review of all the roads contracts awarded by his predecessor, he approved all of the contracts and asked contractors to go back to sites. And by so doing, he disappointed the naysayers and scaremongers.
Again, many, especially those in his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, had expected him to disband all the judicial commission of enquiries set up by former governor Ihedioha to look into the activities of previous administrations. However, in his usual characteristic manner, Governor Uzodinma not only retained the commissions, he extended their duration to enable them do thorough jobs that would be acceptable to all.
The governor also adopted the pension verification exercise done by former administration and continued the payment of pensions to retirees without subjecting the senior citizens to another tedious round of verifications, which most times are done to siphon funds.
Prompt payment of salaries
Governor Uzodinma certainly does not belong to the league of governors who sees payment of salaries and pensions as an achievement. He has always maintained that every labourer deserves their wages. In the three months he has been in charge as the executive governor of Imo State, payment of salaries has not been delayed. As a matter of fact, workers and pensioners in the state receive their pay from the 25th of every month.
The governor did not stop at that, he also has gone a notch further to procure and present official vehicles to senior civil servants to aid them in the discharge of their duties.
Imo initiative programme
Governor Uzodimma has unveiled his ‘Imo Initiative Programme’. Explaining reasons behind the initiative, he stated: “Imo Initiative is a comprehensive package that seeks to clinically confront and conquer the health and safety challenges of Imo people. It is a programme designed to keep our people safe and healthy beyond Covid-19.
“As we focus firmly on Covid-19 because of its awesome potency, we must never lose sight of the fact that other threats to our collective safety and peaceful existence abound. Crime, other contagious diseases and disasters inclusive.”
When the Covid 19 pandemic was reported in Nigeria and was spreading across the country, the Imo State government immediately swung into action to prevent the disease from entering the state.
To achieve this, a 9-man Committee on Prevention of Coronavirus disease in Imo State was constituted, with an erudite scholar and Professor of Pharmacognosy, Maurice Iwu, as Chairman. In addition to this, similar committees were set up at the local government areas and ward levels with 28 state-of-the-art ambulances provided to fortify the state in readiness for any emergency.
The government has also provided six well-equipped isolation centres at Okigwe General Hospital, Aboh Mbaise General Hospital, Orlu General Hospital, Federal Medical Centre Owerri, General Hospital Umuguma and the Ultra-Modern Well-being Centre, Owerri; as well as an operational Test and Treatment Centre for Corona virus in Owerri metropolis, with a molecular laboratory to test all viruses, including COVID-19 and Ebola.
As far as the dreaded Coronavirus is concerned, the state government is not leaving any stones unturned. In its determination to ensure a Covid-19 free Imo, the government has embarked on fumigation of all nooks and crannies of the state.
Governor Uzodimma being human, knows the hardships people of the state are going through presently. To cushion the effects of the lockdown in the state due to the Coronavirus pandemic, state government through various local council areas, has begun distribution of food items to alleviate the hardship and put smiles on the faces of the people, most especially, the poor and vulnerable.
Tackling security challenges
During his inaugural speech, Gov Hope Uzodimma made it clear that protection of lives and property would be his utmost priority and warned criminals to leave the state. He followed it up immediately with the launch of a security operation codenamed: “Search and Flush”.
He provided over 100 security pick up vans for the operation and charged the combined team of security agencies to flush out criminals in all parts of the state. From available reports, this measure has paid off as crimes such as kidnapping, armed robbery, thuggery and cult activities have reduced drastically. Today, there’s peace and tranquillity in Imo and people now sleep with their two eyes well closed.
Plugging holes in IGR
To ensure probity, prudence and transparency in revenue generation, utilization and management, and to shore up internally generated revenues of the state, Gov. Uzodinma has assented to the Imo State Revenue Ammendment Law, 2020, recently passed by the State House of Assembly. This is a milestone in the revenue generation and utilization of the state.
It is instructive to note that before now, the law provided for a consultant to collect the total revenues accruing from the state. Ten per cent (10%) of these monies goes to the board of Internal Revenue; 20% goes to the Imo State Environmental Transformation Commission (Imo ENTRACO), and 20% goes to Owerri Capital Development Authority (OCDA). At the end of the day, 50% of Imo State Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) is given out to consultants, which is an aberration going by the Lagos State Revenue module which was adopted in Imo.
What the government of Gov Uzodimma has done is simply go back to the initial agreement. The law now empowers the Board of Internal Revenue to spend 5% of the IGR as the cost of the collection. This money takes care of their wage bill/salaries and capital expenditure. The good news is that the 5% expenditure will be subjected to appropriation by the State House of Assembly.
Justice system reform
It is a known fact that the wheels of justice grind very slowly in Nigeria. To make the pursuit of justice easier for all imolites, Gov. Uzodimma on March 12, 2020 signed the Criminal Justice Administration Bill into law. With this law in place, the judiciary is once more equipped to dispense justice without fear or favour. It will also make justice readily available for the people and help in decongesting the Correctional Service (prisons) facilities in the state.