By: Kelechi Eke.
One of the dominant news that made the rounds in the state and perhaps the country last week, was the massive agitations for the recovery of government property allegedly converted by the immediate past administration in the State. From the protest by Association of Town Unions in the state to the revelation that the past administration operated over 250 bank accounts with the intention to siphon public money, to the motion by the State House of Assembly urging the current state government to recover all illegally acquired land and other government property allegedly converted by the last administration, the agitations kept surging like an ocean surge.
The public outcry is coming on the heels of wide spread belief that the Rochas Okorocha administration massively plundered the state’s commonwealth, especially lands, which many believe he converted to private use, and at the same time allocated to cronies which included former political appointees, top civil servants, as well as family members in his eight years reign as the governor of the state. To majority of Imolites, nothing can assuage them than the recovery of these public lands and property by the Hon. Emeka Ihedioha led administration.
This feeling may have necessitated the flurry of demands witnessed last week. It is important to note that amidst the mounting request for the recovery of these Imo common patrimony and the mind boggling allegations against the former Imo first family, it is important to conduct the expected recovery under the armbits of the law and in line with internationally acceptable standards.
It is on this sideline that one has to applaud the Imo State House of Assembly motion seeking to invite key civil servants in the state ministry of lands and other relevant former aides of the former governor to voice their knowledge on how public property in the state went into private hands overnight with particular attention on the IBC quaters at Orji which was converted to Rochas Okorocha Foundation College, and some portions allegedly allocated to some individuals.
The motion which was sponsored by the member representing Ikeduru State Constituency in the State Assembly, Hon. Uche Ogbuagu and co- sponsored by Hon Philip Ejiogu and Hon Dele Onyemaechi for Owerri North and Owerri West State Constituencies respectively, is not only timely but will provide a legal perspective and backing for the recovery mission, as well as obliterate any thought of vendatta in the entire excercise. Although, one may not want to preempt the outcome of the House resolution on this motion, Imolites expect that the House resolution will birth a panel of enquiry that will holistically look into the alleged convertions and other financial activities of Rochas Okorocha’s eight years administration.
The reality is that no sane society will remain passive and watch her collective wealth willed away by a privileged few who were given the trust to protect and manage such shared assets. It is ludicruous, covetous, wicked, and the height of greed. This is therefore the reason why the state Assembly should take Hon. Uche Ogbuagu’s motion seriously and ensure that the spirit of the motion and the resolutions reached are carried out to the later.
Interestingly, the House has already resolved to invite some named former and current officials of the state government to interface with the House. It is expected that this parley will go a long way in finding out the genuine status of the allegedly converted property with the view of recovering them for the state. It is also expected that proper sanctions be meted out to individuals especially civil servants found culpable in the alleged looting spree. This will serve as a deterent to other civil servants and political appointees who may find it fashionable to feast on public property.
In a country where the United Nations Development Program latest report indicates that over 98 million people of her citizens are multi dimensionally poor, and Imo State grappling with her own share of the poverty plague, it smacks of unbridled deceit and insensitivity for few individuals to use their privileged position to infringe on the living standards, psyche and emotional sensibilities of the majority. If the quatuum of convertion by the Rochas Okorocha administration as alleged by the Association of Imo State Town Unions is anything to go by, then all Imolites should be in unity with the present administration in ensuring that all looted property by any individual no matter how highly placed, are duly recovered.
The list is as worrisome as it is mind blowing. They include, the Eastern Palm University built with state fund but allegedly personalized by Okorocha, over N40 billion looted through the failed 27 general hospital projects, the IBC premises at Orji, the Nekede and Orji Mechanic Villages, and the vast expanse of land on the Sam Mbakwe Airport road acquired by the government for the purpose of attracting a Naval Base. Others include, the Adapalm in Ohaji allegedly leased out to investors by Okorocha but was left in ruins till date, the Concorde Hotels, Westbrook Hotels which is linked to Okorocha’s son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, WODDI Wellness Center owned by Okorocha’s wife, Nkechi Okorocha, the Reach FM, the multi billion Naira Farmers Market, among others.
One need to also commend the patrotic, pragmatic and courageous disposition of Hon. Uche Ogbuagu in sponsoring such populist motion. The state cannot continue to do things in the same way and expect a different result in a state that is blessed with top notch professionals, and some of the best brains in this part of the world. Like they say, evil strive when good men do nothing. Imo State can only grow when people are made to account for their actions.
Hon Ogbuagu has shown early signs of his capacity to offer quality representation to the people of Ikeduru state constituency. He has most importantly proved that the euphoria that trailed his emergence as a state lawmaker is not a fluke. The future is indeed green for him, as posterity will never forget him and his colleagues in the state Assembly as they join hands with Governor Emeka Ihedioha in rebuilding Imo State.
- Kelechi Eke, is a media consultant and public affairs analyst, and he wrote from Umuomi Uzoagba, Ikeduru LGA.