Hope Uzodimma

•Wants end to Muslim-Muslim candidate debate

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru

Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State, Friday, urged the federal government to identify the brains behind crude oil theft in Nigeria and bring them to justice.

The Governor has also pleaded with President Muhammadu Buhari to approve the conversion of the Federal Medical Center, FMC, Owerri to University Teaching Hospital for the Federal University of Technology, FUTO, that the National University Commission, NUC, approved its Medical department.

Fielding questions from correspondents after a meeting with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, he likened crude oil theft to a cancer in the nation’s economy that must be dealt with.

He warned against treating perpetrators as sacred cows, saying that anyone involved in the practice must be brought to book irrespective of the status in the society.

The governor who sought to deflect questions from the controversy surrounding the All Progressives Congress (APC) single-faith presidential ticket, noted that the country actually faces more threat from its inability to produce enough crude having seen capacity plummet in the last few years as a result of theft causing stress to the economy.

According to him, it is time to put an end to the Muslim-Muslim presidential candidate debate and leave the decision on who is elected to the electorate.

He stated: “First, the mood of the country today is not about who the candidates are. The mood of the country is that two years ago or three years ago, we were producing 2.1 million barrels of crude oil every day, for over 12 years that has been our main source of foreign exchange.

“Suddenly, because of the activities of those who are our anti-national interest we’ve lost over a million barrels and barely managing to produce 1 million.

“I think we should arise in unison to condemn the activities of crude oil theft by anti-Nigerian interest groups and bring back the economy of the country. Because you have to have a country first before you have a president.

“Look at the quantum of banditry going on in Nigeria today.

To the extent that bandits are courageously even coming into the capital city. We should you rise in unison and condemned these activities.

“We should make emphasis on things that will unite the country. And please do by the grace of God abandon those things that are capable of dismembering the country. Our national interest is important. Our national unity is important. Our ability to live together as brothers and sisters also important.

“The primary purpose of government is for the security of lives and property and the welfare of our citizens. To what extent have we supported federal government in achieving this primary purpose? Those are things that should occupy our minds now.

“But if you throw Nigeria into a situation where religious dichotomy, ethnic jingoism will be at the front burner, it means you are working against Nigeria. So, let us allow political parties who have chosen their candidates, no matter the religion where they come from, to go out their campaign. It is left for the electorate to reject the ticket by not voting for them. Or accept the ticket by voting for them.

“But if we continue to make these things headlines, you are hitting up our polity unnecessarily. I want to beg you in the name of God, let us serve our country.”

On the World Bank’s recent projection that Nigeria faces an existential threat over its precarious financial situation, he said,” Even 25 years ago, before 1999, World Bank has always said Nigeria will break into pieces and today Nigeria has not been broken into a half piece. This country is loved by God and our faith in God has been keeping this country.

“We have had friendly enemies as partners, both internationally and nationally, but yet Nigeria continues to exist. There is nowhere in the world you will go and the gas stations you will see are not Shell, ExxonMobil, Texaco Overseas, all the major oil producing companies. It is only in Nigeria that you will hear languages like independent marketers, Okafor & Sons Filling Station and all that. What is the World Bank saying about that?

“It is only in Nigeria you talk about subsidy. What is World Bank saying about that? It is only in Nigeria you hear jargons like Turn-Around-Maintenance. Where else in the world do you have such language?”

On his request for the conversion of the FMC Owerri to Teaching hospital, he said, “It is not easy to overnight to build a university teaching hospital. I have approached Mr. President to approve that the Federal Medical Center Owerri be converted to Federal university of Technology Teaching hospital. So, if it is upgraded to a teaching hospital, it would be available to Federal University of Technology use in maintaining and managing the medical school approved by NUC.

“On second hand, you will recall that Alvan Ikoku College of Education prior to 2015 was taken over by Federal Government. The process started under a regime of the late President Musa Yar’Adua, completed by President Goodluck Jonathan and in 2015, it was placed on hold.

“Now that the school have met with all the requirements expected of them, I have come to plead with Mr. President to direct that the hold be lifted, so that Alvan Ikoku College of Education will become Federal University of Education Owerri. I am so excited that Mr.President gave me the assurances that these two requests will be approved.”

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