Friday, September 6, 2019.
A 100 days ago, my Deputy, Hon. Engr. Gerald Irona and I were sworn into offices as Deputy Governor and Governor of Imo State, respectively. At that solemn event, we pledged to serve you with honesty, transparency and the fear of God. We have not, for one day wavered from that commitment. Let me begin by thanking you for entrusting the leadership of our dear State to us at this auspicious time in our history and for your support and prayers that have taken us thus far.
In keeping with the hallowed tradition in democratic governance, a 100days in Office has always been observed as a benchmark to measure the initial achievements of any government. I can assure you, that the executive arm, the legislature and you the good people of Imo State, are working together to rebuild Imo State.
2.0 Imo Growth and Strategic Development Plan
2.1 As you are all aware, prior to our inauguration, we constituted a high-powered Transition Technical Committee (TTC) comprising distinguished Imo sons and daughters from both within the state and the diaspora. This was to harness our huge human and economic resources to set a clear path in our rebuilding process.
2.2 The outcome of the great work accomplished by this team is being reviewed to come up with an Imo State development agenda to be known as Imo Growth and Strategic Development Plan (G-SDP). The Plan involves a two-stage development horizon of a 5-year Economic Blueprint. These noble men and women assisted us at no cost. To them, we say, a big thank you for their time and sacrifices.
The Plan include the delivery of 381km rural access road projects, restoration of an improved Owerri Master-plan, restoration of water supply in Owerri metropolis, roll-out of a State health insurance scheme as well as the reactivation of four technical education institutions in the state. Others include an economic growth and strategic development initiatives along 5 sub-themes of; Human Capital Development, Agriculture and Food Security, Infrastructure, Industrialization and Job Creation as well as Security and Environment.
3.0 Building Institutional Framework for Good Governance
3.1 In this direction, we have set up a structure for transparency and accountability in the governance process. Accordingly, we have signed into law, Executive Order 005, known as Treasury Single Account (TSA) Order to consolidate all government revenues under one account. We have also adopted other measures designed to plug leakages and increase Internally Generated Revenues (IGR) in the state coffers.
3.2 We cannot achieve the right growth as a state without a sustainable revenue generating system. The State has less than 5% of the working population of over 2 million paying taxes and this is not an acceptable position. We met an arbitrary tax collection system leading to leakages, fraud and all sorts of irregularities.
To ensure a sustainable IGR regime, we took steps to reform the state Internal Revenue Service. From August 2019 all cash tax payments have been banned and the Government has mandated the use of the PayDirect platform with a single source sweeping of revenue. This has started addressing the issue of multiple accounts and leakages, and the IGR has grown from an all-time low of about 300m in July to 600m in August.
3.3 We have commissioned a Central Billing System which will drive the use of technology in tax collection. We have started a tax payer enumeration exercise with the attendant benefit of identifying the tax payers and ensuring they pay the right amount of tax to the right source.
3.4 A transformation of the revenue service built on the pillars of People Processes and Technology to ensure that we serve the needs of the populace in the most efficient and professional manner, by operationalizing the autonomy of the Imo Internal Revenue Service in line with global standards.
3.5 We have also listened to your issues on multiple taxation and commenced a tax harmonization exercise in a bid to eliminate multiple taxation and streamline taxes in a manner that will only focus on the most relevant taxes to be paid.
3.6 Due to these strategic and fiscal responsibility moves, Imo State has gained positive image and is now on track to join the Open Governance Partnership league. It also now qualifies for performance-based grants of the World Bank as well as other multilateral development institutions. We are also currently developing the Imo Growth and Economic Development Fund. The fund will be unique in Nigeria and would serve as an investment catalyst for the Imo State economy.
4.0 Restoring Confidence in the State Civil Service
4.1 Another immediate concern we confronted head-on was the weakness of the State Civil Service due to high nepotism, lack of motivation, delayed salaries and under-payments by, sometimes, as much as 30 percent of salaries due. We, thenceforth, set up a review committee to look into cases of improper or irregular appointments, promotions and other related matters.
4.2 The Committee has turned in its report and, subsequently, we have approved the restoration of payment of 100 percent salaries to all workers in the State, recalled all unjustly suspended Directors, reversed some undeserved promotions and sponsored officers to capacity building programmes. Similarly, Local Government workers have been paid the backlog of salaries owed them by the last administration. I can tell you that there is a renewed sense of motivation in the civil service across the state today.
5.0 Rebuilding our collapsed infrastructures
5.1 We inherited a huge swath of collapsed infrastructures. Except those built by the Federal Government that are useable, the roads built by the state are in a very bad shape, despite the billions of naira purported to have been spent on road construction by the immediate past administration.
5.2 However, we are happy to inform you that the expanded State Executive Council has approved the award of contracts for the reconstruction of 14 critical roads across the State to relievethe sufferings of our people. These include: Naze-Federal Polytechnic Road-Ihiagwa-Obinze road; Ahiara Junction-Okpala Road; Aba Branch-Ahiara Junction road and the Imo Stare Teaching Hospital Road. Others include, the Umuowa-Old Orlu Road; MCC-Toronto Road; Mgbidi–Oguta road; Ogwoghoranya-Avutu with spur at Avutu Poultry FarmRoad andthe Douglas–Emmanuel College-NazeJunction road.
5.3 Also captured in under this phase of reconstruction are: the Assumpta-PortHarcourt Road; OkigweOkpara Road-Police Station Road; Control Post-World Bank–Umuguma Road; Okigwe Road-IMSU-Bishop Court Roundabout Road and the Concorde Boulevard Ring Road-Zuma–PH Road. To show that we mean business as usual, yesterday, we embarked on an aggressive flag-off of seven (7) of these projects.
5.4 Just last week, at Onuimo, Isu and Mbaitoli Local Government Areas, we flagged off one of the most ambitious rural road construction projects in the country. Valued at N13.5 billion the World Bank assisted Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP), involves over 70 rural road networks with a cumulative distance of 381 kilometers across most of the 27 Local Government Areas of the state. We met the project just on the drawing board, we immediately harnessed the necessary resources to pay the counterpart funding.
6.0 Security, Public Utilities and Social Services
6.1. Security in the State has been a big challenge since we assumed office. Pursuant to this, we have held several meetings with our Security Chiefs on how to chart the way forward. Accordingly, a few days ago, we launched Operation Iron Gate, as a strategic measure to combat crimes and criminalities as well as rid the State of all undesirable elements.
6.2 We have taken practical and sustained steps to get our health care delivery system in Imo working again. We have relaunched the stalled Health Insurance Scheme to connect effectively into the already existing federal government insurance scheme. We have also committed 1% of our Consolidated Revenue to this scheme. We are therefore confident that, in no distant time, a good percentage of our populace would have registered and started benefitting from the scheme.
6.3 Indeed, no meaningful industrialization can take place where there is poor power supply. Power supply in the state, over the years, has been limited by generation shortfalls as well as transmission and distribution deficiencies. Other hindrances include, the absence of modern electricity management systems and the non-exploitation of green technology in the energy mix.
6.4 Consequently, we have set up the Imo State Power and Rural Electrification Agency (I-POREA) to evolve strategies to remove barriers to adequate exploitation of our power generation potentials. We also empowered I-POREA to take advantage of the State’s natural gas and alternative energy resources to bridge the gap in access to electricity in the state. We have also made remarkable progress towards the restoration of electricity supply to some areas of the State where they were nonexistent in the last seven to eight years. This include, the replacement of 79 failed transformers across the State, completion of electricity supply to Inyishi Aluminum Extrusion Company and its environs as well as the Oguta 33kv line electricity project.
6.5 For several years, the Otamiri Water Supply was not functional and our people in the State capital and its environs suffered untold hardships. We have therefore, provided what was required to get it working again. Specifically, water started running again in Imo on 24th July, 2019 after almost seven(7) years of dry pipes. In the same vein, work is ongoing to rectify cases of burst pipes across the major roads. Similarly, when we assumed office, we discovered to our consternation that there was no functional fire-fighting equipment in the state. We took prompt and practical steps. Today, we have successfully repaired four firefighting trucks to restore the operations of Imo emergency and firefighting services.
6.6 We are tackling the housing deficit in the state by taking concrete steps towards repositioning Imo State Housing Corporation. We are entering into partnership with primary mortgage institutions such as Federal Mortgage Bank, the Family Homes Funds and other reputable private sector investors, towards providing 5000 affordable homes by the year 2023. We also have a Social Housing Initiative designed to create about 15,000 jobs in the next four years.
6.7 Since our assumption of office, we have carried out the renovation of the Odenigbo lodge which presently serves as the offices of the Governor and Deputy Governor and commenced the renovation of Commissioners’ quarters and quarters of security chiefs. We have also completed comprehensive enumeration of all public buildings in the state capital for accountability purposes.
7.0 Reviving Agriculture and Enhancing Food Value Chain
7.1 Pursuant to our resolve to harness our agricultural potentials as well as generate employment, just a few days ago, we launched our Agricultural Roadmap which represents a comprehensive framework for self-sufficiency in food production, both for domestic consumption and for exports purposes. By our strategic location at the heartland of the South East and our endowment with the only international cargo airport in the region, we are certain that with the right investments, the state would harvest monumental benefits in this sector.
7.2 I am happy also to report that the first batch of 500 youths selected from all the 27 LGAs in Imo State will be sent to a modern farm at Nasarawa State, in a few weeks, under the Imo Youths in Agribusiness Programme (IYAP). Here, they would learn the best practices in tropical agriculture, after which they will be supported to start their own businesses in Imo State.
7.3 We have also commenced the establishment of a Rice Seed Farm Cluster on the Imo River Basin at Amumara – Ezinihitte Mbaise LGA. This programme will make Imo State self-sufficient in the production of improved variety of rice seeds with a view to strengthening our rice value chain. Experts in rice breeding, production and processing from the Africa Rice Centre at IITA Ibadan will be training our groups of rural young farmers to grow and process improved rice seeds.
7.4 We have also commenced the introduction of light mechanization to farmers in areas where full tractorization may not be possible. This is intended to reduce the drudgery of farming and make it more efficient and attractive for the youths. Experts in power tillers, threshers etc. would soon arrive from the National Centre for Agricultural Mechanization (NCAM), Ilorin, to commence the pilot scheme. Specialists in light irrigation and water management have also been invited and I have released funds for equipment to pilot the teaching of youths on how to make use of our perennial water sources for an all-year-round production of crops.
7.5 The process for the rejuvenation of Imo ADP has commenced and plans are underway to train staff and reintegrate them back to intervention programmes that have suffered severe setbacks in the past as a preclude to granting access to reputable, time-tested investors.
7.6 It is noteworthy that, the Avutu Poultry Farm has been cleared for a full restoration to a world-class standard. Similarly, Adapalm is being cleared through the relevant Committee and we would soon commence operations. The challenge of pending legal issues is being attended in order to clear the way for full optimization of its potentials.
7.7 Our state is set to host the only Agribusiness Park in Nigeria at Ngor-Okpala. This comprises an agribusiness academy, and a smart agribusiness centre, thus positioning the facility for revenue generation and job creation. In a few weeks’ time, we would begin the process of data capture of afffected Imolites in the upcoming agriculture revolution program targeting 400,000 participants between the ages of 15-64.
8.0 Rebuilding our Sports facilities
8.1 In the area of sports development, you would agree with us that Imo State used to be the fishing ground for sporting talents. Many celebrated sports stars have emerged from our State. But in the last few years, even our Heartland Football Club and the Grasshoppers Handball Club have performed abysmally due to complete neglect.
8.2 The Dan Anyiam Stadium was completely broken down to the extent that NFF barred it from hosting matches and our football team, the heartland football club was nearly relegated from the Premiership as a result. Happily, our prompt intervention just before our inauguration arrested the slide. We have started re-grassing the Dan Anyiam Stadium, installing new flood lights, replacing the seats and constructing Olympic standard tartan tracks, while the Grasshoppers Stadium is beginning to wear a new look. Furthermore, local councils have joined the talent mining program of the state government through construction of sporting facilities in their respective local government areas.
9.0 Strategic Reforms to Enhance Investment
9.1 For years now, Imo State has been the ugly bride in the area of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the country. No amount of moulding of statues can attract the needed investment in the state if the government lacks integrity and the enabling environment for both domestic and foreign investments is not there. Accordingly, we have designed a framework for implementing the necessary reforms to improve our place on the World Bank Ease of Doing Business ranking, which has taken a battering in the last eight years.
9.2 In a few weeks’ time, we would be inaugurating the Imo State Enabling Business Environment Council – ISEBEC. The Council, would draw up, implement and oversee an agenda for business process reforms. We have commenced initial engagement with development partners like the World Bank and DFID, to provide technical assistance to the Secretariat and related MDAs to implement the reforms.
9.3 As mentioned earlier, we are reworking the Tax Billing System (TBS), to stem the debate over multiple taxations and to restore transparency and accountability in our tax collection regime. In the coming days our Imo people will know exactly what taxes are due to them and how and where to pay such taxes.
9.4 The government has revamped the Imo State government Bureau of Public Procurement and Price Intelligence and appointed a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply as its Director-General. Thus far, the BPPPI has dusted and resurrected the State Public Procurement Law No.12 of 2010, which was kept moribund since its enactment. Similarly, we recently embarked on investment and trade promotion visits to the United Kingdom, Germany and others, where we interacted with prospective investors, development partners and donor agencies.
10.0 Getting the Pension Process Right once and for all
10.1. We inherited over 6 years of pension arrears and discovered baffling discrepancies in the total number of pensioners in both the State and the 27 Local Governments. Consequently, we are carrying out a comprehensive audit of the pension administration system in the State with a view to ascertaining the actual number of pensioners and ending the perennial cycle of verifications that has plagued the process. In a short while, the exercise will be concluded and all the troubles hitherto experienced by our senior citizens, would be a thing of the past. I assure you that this will be the last pension verification exercise in this state.
11.0 Environmental Sanitation.
11.1 Owerri our State capital was famed for its cleanliness, but in the last eight years, we witnessed a gross deterioration of our standards of beauty and sanitation. It could rightly be said that no State capital in our federation at any moment in our history suffered a conscious infrastructural dilapidation and decay like Owerri. Every visitor that visited Owerri had alluded to this fact. Immediately we assumed office, therefore, we embarked on the removal of mountains of refuse dumps that littered the state capital and followed immediately with the de-silting of blocked drainages to ensure a permanent solution to the issue of flooding in the capital city.
11.2 We have also revived the monthly state-wide clean-up exercises and have set up a high-powered committee to work with ENTRACO, the Imo State sanitation agency. We are delighted to observe that the face of Owerri is progressively changing. Only last week the Nigerian Association of Town Planners gave Owerri the 2019 Green Cities Promotion Award.
12.0 Restoring the Autonomy and Integrity of the Local Governments
12.1. I am glad that we have fully restored the autonomy of the Local government as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution. The Interim Management Committee for the Local Government as resolved by the 8th Assembly, is a stop-gap measure to hold the forte as we work towards free, fair and credible local government elections.
13.0 Rebuilding Technical & Vocational Education/ Creating ICT Hub as a Catalysts for Industrial growth.
13.1 Giving our children quality and affordable education is a priority of our administration. Preparatory to the assumption of our schools in the new session, we hosted a well-attended Education Stakeholders’ Summit in which we felt the pulse of the administrators, operators, practitioners and students alike. We are geared to this time, making our systems work.
13.2 My good people of Imo State, you may recall that in my inaugural address, I promised that we would resuscitate technical and vocational education in the State. The need to create a pool of highly skilled youths that would be the pride of the State in the coming years, cannot be over-emphasized. Consequently, on June 2nd, 2019, we inaugurated a Taskforce on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) under my office. It has been charged with the mandate to deliver tangible outcomes on the transformation of TVET within 180 Days.
The resuscitation of TVET being a priority of the Rebuild Imo Project is anchored on our firm belief that the acquisition of critical technical and vocational skills by majority of our youths has the capacity to stimulate sustainable industrial development, job and wealth creation and ultimately rapid improvement in the socio-economic life of our people. Security of lives and property will also be assured when our youths are off the streets because they are gainfully engaged.
13.3 I am glad today, to inform you that just yesterday, we flagged-off the rebuilding and equipping of four technical colleges in the State namely; Government Technical College Owerri, Ahiara Technical College, Government Technical College Okporo, Orlu and Government Technical College Osu. Our target is that by 2020 we should have hit 60 percent mark of post-Basic students as enrolees in the TVET system.
13.4 Similarly, we recognize the place of Information & Communication Technology- ICT, as the bridge to the future. Consequently, again just last week we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a major technology incubation company in the United States to harness the budding technology potentials of our youths. We are also in contact with Google Inc. on how we can invest in the capacity of our young ones.
13.5 I am glad to inform us that today we shall launch the first phase of the Chief Leo Stan Ekeh Entrepreneurship Support programme for Imo State indigenes. In this first phase 1,300 people will be given interest-free loans. The main interest free loan for bigger businesses and school fees on the N1.5 Billion support shall commence on Oct, 2019. The objective is to encourage our people engaged in genuine businesses and to empower our people. I therefore commend Chief Ekeh for this gesture and encourage other Imo industrialists to emulate his example.
14.0 Rebuilding Culture and Tourism in our State
14.1 Less than a month into this administration, we successfully revived the abandoned Ahiajoku Lecture Series. It has, indeed, been elevated to an Institute with the appointment of a Director-General to take charge of its affairs. By doing this, Ahiajoku has become a first rate cultural and intellectual resource centre on Igbo culture and civilisation like the Goethe Institute in Germany and the Italian cultural institute.
14.2 The lingering crisis between the indigenes of Nekede and the State government over the alleged misuse of the land designated for the zoological garden has been resolved and we have repositioned the zoo to ultimately become a tourist destination.
15.0 Strengthening and Optimizing the Doctrine of Separation of Powers
15.1 In this period, we have had a cordial relationship with the legislature. On assumption of office, we immediately hosted a retreat with the members of the State Assembly. This interaction had led to fruitful outcome such that a total of 8 Bills (3 in the 8th Assembly and 5 in the 9th Assembly) were signed into law in the period from May 29th to date.
15.2 The are: Imo State Public Procurement (Amendment) law (2) Imo State Local Government Administration (Amendment) Law, (3) Imo State Universal Basic Education Board (Amendment) Law; (4) Imo State Power & Rural Electrification Law , (5) Imo State Electoral (Amendment) Law, (6) Imo State Market Development Authority Law, (7) Imo State Facility Management Agency Law and Imo State Sports Commission (Establishment Law). Moving forward, we are working on domesticating the Administration of Justice Act as well as the Child Rights Act, respectively.
15.3 In the same vein, we recognize the independence of the Judiciary and are supporting the establishment of a multi-door court house to create alternative windows for dispute resolution. Only a few days ago, I inaugurated the reconstituted Imo State Judicial Service Commission made up eminent jurists, renowned legal practitioners and reputable Imo citizens. All emoluments and other entitlements of the Judiciary are released as and at the when due.
16.0 The Nagging Question of Accountability by the Immediate Past Administration
16.1 It is important to recall that we took over the reins of government without even a single handover note. Handover notes, traditionally, is the least responsibility an outgoing administration owes an incoming one. Usually it presents a clear picture of the status of government funds, assets, liabilities, pending judicial matters and even policies to enhance continuity. But unfortunately, this was not done.
16.2 We discovered upon inception that the inability to provide the necessary documentation was due to a total abuse and neglect of laid down procedures of good governance. Most shocking were the litany of “garnishee absolute orders” amounting to over N30billion in addition to six years of unpaid pension as well as salary arrears. Projects were poorly conceived, shabbily executed or hastily abandoned. We have even found some of them very hazardous to human safety.
16.3 It is worthy of note that with our wage bill at an average of N2.5b per month, almost N1b monthly pension bill and in an atmosphere of very low IGR, leaves very little for development. This is compounded by the almost N1b statutory deduction on our FAAC, majorly for the repayment of the N26.8b bailout funds, given to the last administration by the FG. But we shall not despair.
16.4 As a government that espouses the Rule of Law, we will never endorse any manifestation of arbitrary powers. As a result, we have set up two judicial panels of Inquiry, namely: the Judicial Panel of Inquiry into Land Allocation from 2005 to 2019 and the Judicial Panel of Inquiry into Award of Contracts from 2005 to 2019. We have also set up an Inquiry into the Management of Local Government Finances from 2011 to 2019. These panels are made up of very credible Imo citizens with impeccable track records and we are certain they will give ndi-Imo justice.
17.1 Ndi Imo Nwemadu, we have made progress in a short time. The outlook of our state is good. These could not have been possible without the cooperation of our vibrant legislature as well as your support and sacrifices. I, once again, express our heartfelt gratitude to the State House of Assembly, and you my people. I continue to appeal for your partnership and prayers as we work rebuild Imo State and work to restore the glorious days of our beloved State.
17.2 Thank you all for your attention and God bless.
Imo bu nke anyi nile.