Imo: Agony of a privatized state

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BY ETHELBERT OKERE

When a few months ago agents of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrested some functionaries of the Imo state government over alleged financial irregularities, hell was let loose. The governor, Chief Okorocha, went berserk. He accused his so-called enemies of master minding the arrests and in a baffling betrayal of a desperate attempt to cover-up the matter, he leveled several mindboggling allegations against his immediate predecessor, Dr. Ikedi Ohakim.

Interestingly, it is the same officials that are also involved in the payment of over one billion naira to a contractor who was yet to execute his job and which has led to the ongoing impeachment processes against the Deputy Governor of the state, Mr. Jude Agbaso. As things stand, the state may have lost all that huge amount of money. More noteworthy is that this time around, it is not the EFCC but the peoples’ own representatives, that is, members of the State House of Assembly, that uncovered the sordid goings-on in the government of Imo state under His Excellency, Chief Rochas Okorocha. This is what can be deduced from the current saga revolving around Okorocha’s deputy, Mr. Jude Agbaso.

The probe of the deputy governor has exposed the unwholesome diversion of public funds through phantom award of contracts without any documentation. The Agbaso case may well be a confirmation of the series of allegations that the state government under Okorocha uses fake contractors to loot Imo funds. The particular contract award for the rehabilitation of a mere three-kilometer road at a mindboggling rate of N400 million per kilometer, as has been seen from the House of Assembly probe, was never advertised, had no project design, no bidding, no bill of quantity, no tenders, no evidence of prequalification and was not provided for in the budget.

Besides, the contractor is said not to have done any road contract anywhere in Nigeria before. Without doubt, the sheer contemplation that such a scenario must have been playing out in all the projects the administration has engaged in would sends jitters down the spines of every well meaning citizens of Imo state. Yet, Governor Okorocha keeps on mesmersing the people of the state with more proposals on phantom projects. In his 2013 budget speech, he outlined a number of projects for which he claimed he had already paid 40 per cent of the contract sum.

These include the Imo Towers of 1,000 housing units, the ecumenical centre, the magnificent towers, three five star hotels in each of the senatorial zones, an ultra modern judiciary headquarters etc. Yet, there is nothing on ground to justify the payment of 40 per cent advance as stated by the governor in his budget speech. And as with others, the contracts never went through the normal processes.

No advertisement, no tenders, no bidding, nothing. It is not a hidden matter that Governor Okorocha has, himself, made a song and dance of his disdain for due process; in fact making the people of the state to see non-compliance with due process as a virtue. Indeed, he has said repeatedly that due process is the avenue through which previous administrations siphoned state funds. The people now know better; which is that the ‘undue’ process style of the Okorocha administration was deliberately fashioned out to ease corruptive manipulations of the state bureaucracy for self serving ends.

The point being made here is that no matter how the Agbaso impeachment saga ends, it would be tragic for Imo people, indeed Nigerians, to go home with the impression that Governor Okorocha is a champion of the fight against corruption. The Governor is the chief architect of the rot in the state. The only thing that goes for him is that he has the flair for transferring his own guilt on others. Up till now, the governor has failed to explain what happened to a total of N26.27 billion left behind by the Ohakim administration.

This amount included the N13.3 billion bond proceeds out of the N18.5 that was initially drawn down, N3billion in SUBEB project account, N2.5 billion local government joint project account, N3.6 billion JAAC Account, N488 million in VAT account, N670 million Imo children fund, etc. Unknown to many, none of these amounts have reflected in any of the two budgets (2012 and 2013) so far proposed by the Okorocha administration. In a recent press conference in Owerri, the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) in Imo state brought this particular issue up again. According to ALGON, “the entire N26.27 billion has been criminally squandered without the knowledge of the Imo people”.

Yet, Governor Okorocha is famous for leveling frivolous allegations against other people. Each time he is challenged to prove it, he abandons that particular one and makes another allegation against the same fellow. Interestingly, his deputy, whom he was using to visit hatred on others, is now at the receiving end. The deputy governor, Mr. Jude Agbaso, insists that he is innocent of the charge (of taking N458million bribe money) against him and, in my candid opinion, he remains so until all avenues of proving him guilty are exhausted.

This is more so as a judicial panel, which is perhaps the most critical stage in the process of impeachment, is yet to sit over the matter. Added to this, of course, is that the deputy governor has gone to court to challenge the denial of his right to fair hearing. Is it not good to know that Mr. Agbaso is now talking about fair hearing? Only a few months ago, precisely on January 14th, 2013, he, Jude Agbaso, it was who stood for three hours in front of television cameras to level mindboggling allegations against Governor Ikedi Ohakim, based on a phantom audit report.

Before that live television broadcast, neither Ohakim nor any member of his administration was given the opportunity to be heard by Mr. Jude Agbaso and his audit panel. This is one big lesson that can be learned from the current saga. In their appraisal of the on-going imbroglio, most commentators would resort to the general refrain of “it serves Agbaso right”. Others would recoil in sheer condemnation of the deputy governor. It is a well known fact that by the time Chief Okorocha got the APGA ticket, he was not a member of APGA.

But that really did not matter. What baffled Imo people was that Martin Agboso, the undisputed leader of APGA then, found it convenient to give Okorocha the ticket of his party in spite of a subsisting arrangement wherein the governorship seat was expected to move from Okigwe zone to Owerri zone, Agbaso’s homestead, in 2015; in keeping with the Imo charter of equity. This expectation was especially so given that Orlu zone, were Okorocha comes from, had held the governorship position for eight unbroken years. Today, the Agbasos are making a song and dance of “2015 for Owerri zone”. I they had played to the rules, the governorship seat would have naturally gone to Owerri zone without any debate.

The major reason most Imolites are not sympathetic to the Agbasos over this matter includes the ease with which they extracted from Okorocha juicy portfolios based on the giving of the APGA governorship ticket to him. Interestingly, the deputy governor ran into trouble as a result of things that happened while he was combining the big position he was ‘elected’ into with that of Commissioner for Works, believed to be one of the juiciest positions in any state government. There are even those who charge the Agbasos of further immodesty for also cornering to their larger family the position of Commissioner for Health.

The current state Commissioner for Health is said to be their maternal uncle. Quite a good number of people believe that Okorocha must have reluctantly made the concessions to the Agbasos because he was desperate and helpless at the time he was giving them. It is further argued that Okorocha, reputed as very deft when it comes to ‘business’ matters, was merely bidding his time to tell the Agbasos that “before Abraham”, he was. It is in this sense that many argue that they saw the current quarrel coming.

Which brings us to the crux of the matter. The deputy governor has said that his present ordeal is traceable to the collapse of an “agreement” over a number of issues between his elder brother and Okorocha before the 2011 governorship election. Among them are said to be an agreement that Okorocha should serve for only one term and hand over to Martin Agbaso. There are other agreements that have to do with pecuniary interest but it is saddening that a section of the Imo society is already being sold on the idea that Okorocha has committed an abomination for not respecting the spirit and letter of the agreement reached with the senior Agbaso.

Pray, what was the agreement all about? To share Imo State just between Martin Agbaso and Rochas Okorocha? To cede to another Orlu fellow additional four years in exchange for political positions and material things? So, things became that bad for Imo State that two people could sit at their convenience and decide the collective destiny of a people hitherto reputed as one of the most cerebral and sophisticated in the entire Nigeria.

The ease with which the Agbaso/Okorocha agreement is being talked about, with shameless audacity, is an affront to the collective integrity of the entire state. So, if Okorocha had not breached the so-called agreement, Imo state would have been reduced to a mere convenience of two families collaborating in a perfidious appropriation of the collective patrimony of a people believed to be one of Nigeria’s best. Okere writes from Owerri.

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28 Comments

  1. This story does not evoke any sense of responsibility. It is a mere photocopy of all the tales told by former officials in the Ohakim administration. No matter how you look at it, by 2015, the four years of Rochas Okorocha will forever remain a watershed in the government of Imo state. All the projects you consider as phantom are realisable with strong vision and prudent management of state resources. Whatever you have to say about intrigues in governance and due process and all the crap, is not peculiar to Imo state. For the good people of Imo state in Orlu, Okigwe and Owerri zones, one thing is certain; they are very confident that Owelle will make them proud at the end of his tenure.

    • Any person who went through this piece and believes that the writer is against okorocha for ohakim, agbaso or pdp should examine his head. What every inteligent person will do here is try to find the real truth about this story. I keep saying that those that defend ppl blindly out of sentiment only end up destroying those they think they love and that is what most ppl are doing to okorocha.

      • I totally agree with your comments. We all have a stake in Imo State. The writer was very objective and brought out very salient issues. These are issues that demand public discourse. We shall continue to ask questions. What is happening in Imo is worrisome. We need TRANSPARENCY in all facets of governance. So far Rochas has failed in this. I am not a politician, but as an elder, I can’t keep silent when things go wrong. Time of reckoning is fast approaching. Imo State deserves better governance, like what Governor Peter Obi is doing in Anambra State. Can’t Rochas learn from the good legacy of Governor Obi?

      • I hate to stand for politicians; but denigrate Gov. Okorocha as you wish, we see where Imo state’s monies are being invested all over Imo state.

        Our ex Deputy Gov., amiable Jude Agbaso, failed to defend himself before the people of Imo state through their representatives in the state’s House of Assembly; whose fault?

        Gov. Okorocha could not have owned Imo state and thus was able to influence about 25 out of the 27 members of IMHA to impeach our deputy governor.

        Turning the events that led to the impeachment of DG Agbaso to a case between him and Gov. Okorocha amounts to chasing shadows. Wake up!

        IMHO, apart from the on-going massive road development projects all over the state, Governor Okorocha-led administration ought to know that it has a duty to provide sustainable public water supply system to people of Imo state, beginning from the three metropolis of the state.

        Privatization of water supply in the state is not it. No city, no humans develop without assured sources of public water supply.

      • The man called kalu is hallucinating as i dont even think if he has been to Imo state or one of those bastard that has lost every sense of reason without a trace of his originality.This is about or more than two years into the four years administration yet every development remains on the pages of news paper.I am very much aware of a code called Rochas project planned and run by some clandestine group in London with mandate to build his own university,radio station and many other things in which most of the fund will be siphoned from imo sate and then move to another organisation to make a donation in the name of Rochas foundation.You should only contribute to what you know and pointless saying nothing when you got nothing to say.BLOCK HEADED KALU

  2. Akins your brother stole the money to his Dubai and Lebanon Accounts only to turn back and accused the Deputy governor so that he can be impeached. It is no longer story that he has been impeached, but your brother was used by Rochas to siphoned Imo State money is in real hot soup because the private investigators have been able to trace the money to his Accounts in Dubai and Lebanon, so tell him to prepare to dance naked in the street. Besides the Chairman, projects monitoring and evaluation is also a director of the company, yet the House refused to investigate the allegations.

  3. It is good that our leaders should be accountable but where were all these critics and project and financial monitors during the past years of locusts. Like when Ohakim kept dredging equipment in canal for years in the name of creating an ocean with the attendant waste of fund. It is now that we see visible development that we hear noises. Make we hear something joor.

  4. I have not met Chief Okoroacha nor Mr. Agbaso, but l have met and seen progress in Imo state since they entered Imo state government house. If they like they can fight, tear pants, break heads, dance naked on the streets what is important is providing for the state.

    Within the short period, the present leadership has done so well that my community that was known as erosion site can now enjoy good roads, we can now travel to other neighbouring communities easily and freely.

    Please, let us allow the present leadership chance to perform and judge them after their tenure.

    Umunnem, biko nu ka anyi were ya nwayo. Onye egbule onye oga eli, tu’ m na ohia tu’ m na uzo adighi mma.

  5. Chiarman or what ever u call urself is not wise to start compairing okorocha & obi, okorocha is just two year in office & ppl is seeing what he is doing in imo while obi is doing his last 8year .

    • You are talking of people which means you saw nothing.That is to say that your information is not reliable and that means you cannot be trusted so what is the point of your contribution when you have no first hand information about development in the state and maybe you are not even from that state.Sorry man,its so shameful talking to people like you because your shameless and so stupid.Thank u

  6. Odogwu_Aganaga on

    nigeria!!! what a democracy??? where only a governor’s fiat is enough to expend any amount of state money in any manner? what are the elected representatives of the people doing? what about approval and gazette??? who ever made full payment of any amount of contract-money before work was even started has a case to answer. ndi imo must endeavor to not lose the respect they have among igbos for being politically conscious because of a tendencious handling of this matter. finally, where is the money? it is the people’s money after all and the people is sovereign. one can only hope it is so in imo state even if not in others. shikina, ogwula, oto.

  7. Caliboi Okpara on

    Please if anything must be done in Imo state, it must be general hospital all over our LGA. And again, the soldiers posted in Ihitanansa in Orsu LGA are now smoking india hemp with bad guys in the community. It was recorded that they nearly kill one man for asking they what they were doing where they are smoking india hemp in his farm. Though the man don’t know that they are soldiers because they were not on uniform. Please my governor, kindly transfer these group of soldiers out from Ihitenansa community thanks sir.

  8. Rochas Rochas !! The guy is out to milk the state blanc with the assistance of his Lebanese capital freighters. From container merchant to full cargo merchant after living office, oh, my Imolites when shall it be well with us. Our sister state of Anambra under the able leadership of humble Mr Peter Obi is 50 million km ahead of Imo that is an oil producing state. Our own 13% derivation has been mowed down by this hungry lion from Ogboko. Oh, God, is it a course to hail from Imo state? Pls, in your next creation plot Rochas Okorocha , Ikedi Ikiri Ohakim and this other herbitual criminal called Achike Udenwa to other black world, not even to be Nigerians. These humans are caterpillars and kankerworms ravaging my people of imo

  9. Rochas Rochas !! The guy is out to milk the state blanc with the assistance of his Lebanese capital flight freighters. From container merchant to full cargo merchant after living office, oh, my Imolites when shall it be well with us. Our sister state of Anambra under the able leadership of humble Mr Peter Obi is 50 million km ahead of Imo that is an oil producing state. Our own 13% derivation has been mowed down by this hungry lion from Ogboko. Oh, God, is it a course to hail from Imo state? Pls, in your next creation plot Rochas Okorocha , Ikedi Ikiri Ohakim and this other herbitual criminal called Achike Udenwa to other black world, not even to be Nigerians. These humans are caterpillars and kankerworms ravaging my good people of Imo state. His nephews in the up north has again devastated my people that were on adventure to better their lots, for he has trapped us on our home soil, when shall it be well with us, people you made in your own image, God, when will you give us our own messiah. Our sister state Anambra has theirs with humble Peter Obi, Lagos with Fashola, Enugu with Chime, Ondo for Dr Mimiko and AKWA IBOM with Goodswill Akpabio. The last one we had was Late Chief Sam Mbakwe of Blessed memory. Your people are yawning for immediate change, hear our cries Oh Lord!

  10. owerri! U are a bonefide idiot and a heater of gud things!if u continue like u will die of high blood pressure becos rochophobia. Kiss my ass

  11. if okorocha’s administration is not good only 2yrs in d saddle!all d detractors and their shuld leave imo state and jump into a lagoo. Imo must be better QED

  12. @ danok , one thing must kill a man. HIV/Aids virus will kill you in addition, so which of the illment or disease is more dangerous to kill a man with severe pains , methinks , it’s HIV/Aids. See , that means you will give up ghost through an isolated illment, that people including your relations even siblings will cast your death body to a thick jungle that is been owed by monsters. They will hung your dead body on a devilish tree for vultures to visit, can you see how you ended up?

  13. @Ethelbert Okere. U ‘ve demonstrated so many times thru ur unintelligent and biased writing that u are hungry man who needs money to keep his family to do a hatchet job 4 d PDP. Let me tell u sth abt Rochas that only d PDP don’t know. I was in Ekeonunwa Mkt at Owerri two months and was sitting among five traders who were discussing over Rochas’ change of party. One of them made a point that they will still vote him in 4 a second tenure regardless of his party and the others concurred. U can see that not even PDP can stop Rochas except God. He is a revelation to Imo and Nigeria. What PDP cud not do in 12yrs, he has done in 2ys.

  14. People can be very funny. How can anyone say that a governor that constructed d best primary school in Africa ( Owerri city school, Wetheral ), transformed and expanded and electrified a federal road ( Aba Road ); constructed Otamini road and bridge at St. Mulumba ( abandoned over 30yrs ); made primary, secondary and tertiary education free; transformed d entire Orlu and Okigwe; and many more projects space will not allow me to mention here, is not performing? Those criticizing Rochas should know that Imolites are not blind, we are seeing and touching and enjoying the good works of our amiable governor. What i know is that Rochas’s works are doing the talking for him. Those who say he is not working, perhaps, are waiting for when Rochas will come and wash their mothers pants before they know he is working. Go round Imo State and see government in action before you open your dirty mouth in public to condemn Rochas.

  15. Even if Okorocha construct fly-overs into their different apartments, they will still hate him. What is their number?, their votes will not count.
    They do not understant politics and governance, they are illitrates.

    • What is their number? Their votes can hardly make a difference. Rochas till 2019 if he does not become president 2015!

  16. This guy called Mikapower does not have enough education to make any meaninful contribution on national issues. He must be censored in this forum. Alternatively, let him just sign in to read other peoples opinion period!

  17. It is onl a blind man that would not have seen far reaching significant changes in Imo state. Rochas is working , Imo state is working. The only money Ohakim would have left Imo is such money that cannot be converted to cash. When they are buying 10 voters card with as much as 1m.

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