By Emeka Ihedioha
Ndi-Imo ndi Nwem, it is with great humility and gratitude to God Almighty that I stand here before you today, grateful for the trust and confidence you have bestowed on me and the Deputy Governor, Hon. (Engr.) Gerald Irona, by entrusting the leadership of our dear State to us at this auspicious time in our history.
It has been a long journey. A journey that has been guided by divine favour and the endeavours of so many. We would not be here today but for the enormous sacrifices and prayers of our people. We are here, because Imo State citizens, from all walks of life; market men and women, professionals, students, farmers, artisans, organized labour, civil servants, Women, youths, senior citizens, traditional rulers, the clergy and indeed all segments of the society rallied round our cause and message for a new positive beginning for Imo. Yes, we are here today, because the Almighty God is deeply involved in this undertaking to bring change, peace and prosperity to Imo. And to Him belong all the glory.
May I pay tribute to all those who suffered untold hardship, intimidation, violence and loss of life during the campaign period and the elections, your sacrifices will not be in vain. To all those who were involved in the conduct of the elections, I also thank you all, for giving Imo a credible, free and fair election.
To my children, my siblings and family members, in-laws, kith and kin, my friends, colleagues, associates, and all Imo people and stakeholders in the Imo project, I appreciate you for the uncommon dedication, and commitment to ensure that we arrived at this great opportunity for renewal and renaissance.
However, a day like this also belongs to two special people in my life: My wife, Ebere who has been a wonderful pillar of support as well as my mother, Dame Dorothy Nsomma Ihedioha. It was from my mother, I learnt very early in life that nothing is more ennobling than keeping faith with those who gave you their trust. That has guided my career in public office in the past twenty years and will remain my guiding philosophy in discharging my responsibilities as the Governor of Imo State.
I thank all members and leaders of our Peoples Democratic Party, both at the National, State, Local Government and Ward levels. Without nominating me to fly your flag, and supporting me as we traversed the nooks and crannies of Imo, this day would not have been possible. To my campaign team and the army of volunteers who worked so hard for our victory, please accept my sincere appreciation. I urge our party members and campaign team to be humble and magnanimous in victory as the task of re-building Imo is a huge and challenging one that requires the involvement of all Imo men and women of goodwill regardless of political leanings. To my 65 brothers and 4 sisters who contested the election with me. I extend my hand of fellowship and seek your cooperation in the monumental task of restoring our State to its former glory. I wish to appreciate also our Transition, Inauguration Planning and Handover Committee members for a job well done. We do not take all your sacrifices and support for granted.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, though some may argue that today is not for a long speech, a brief assessment of where we are coming from is necessary in order to draw a realistic compass for tomorrow. It has been a tale of woes for the people of Imo State, these past eight years. The APC administration degraded and destroyed most of our institutions and values. Indeed, all aspects of governance were debased and desecrated. The Legislature, the Judiciary and the Civil Service, all suffered grievous assault. Imo State House of Assembly was made redundant, court orders were routinely disregarded and often times government appeared to act in breach of our Constitution and laws. Pensioners are owed for over 77 months, accruing fifty-seven (57) billion naira in Pension liability alone.
Eight years of maladministration, policy inconsistencies and disregard for rule of law destroyed, literally, the foundations laid by our founding fathers, dis-articulated a thriving economy, lowered the educational standards, chased away investors, confiscated people’s lands, expropriated our commonwealth and threw to the dogs our collective esteem. Eight years of bad governance led to a mind-boggling decay of critical public infrastructure; a crippling debt burden without any meaningful infrastructural or institutional developments to show for such a humongous debt. The health sector fared even worse.
The absolute lack of transparency and due process in land administration and the distortion of the carefully laid out Owerri Master Plan resulted in many citizens losing their lands, houses, and business premises which they acquired legally while public open spaces and green belts were converted to unapproved uses.
In the light of recent revelations by interest groups, various institutions and agencies of state, many have asked what becomes of those who recklessly plundered our commonwealth. My answer is simple: They will be held accountable. While this administration will be forward looking and not embark on any witch-hunting, those who have held positions of authority must prepare to render account of their stewardship to the people because our resolve to hold their feet to the fire of probity and accountability is iron-clad.
We must tell ourselves the ‘frank truth’ about the state of our State. We cannot play the ostrich pretending that all is well when indeed we are in a deep hole. Imo is broken and the climb out of the depths of despair will be steep, arduous and tortuous. Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious, and they are numerous. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time.
But let no one underestimate our resolve to do what is right for the good of our people. There is nothing wrong with Imo which cannot be cured by all that is right in Imo. Imo State will, as always, endure. Imo will revive. Imo will prosper again. The task of rebuilding our broken State is a sacred one. It must be done. We are armed with the courage of our conviction. We are not captives of fear, for if we were, we would not have dared and if we did not dare, this day would not have come.
I diligently sought this office, knowing not only the issues involved, but also the questions that agitate the minds of our people. We do not have all the answers, neither do we have the magic wand. But we promise you our honesty, sincerity and genuine commitment and candour. We will strive to always tell you the truth. We promise a complete dedication to your service, and yes, my considerable experience and capacity would be brought to bear on governance issues with due humility. With God on our side, we shall prevail.
One of the immediate actions of our government will be to take appropriate steps and measures to restore faith and confidence in government.
We will not waste a day getting to work to renew the Imo promise of our founding fathers. The direness of the situation dictates that we hit the ground running. The fulfillment of the promises we made during the campaigns starts right now.
Elections are over. Governance must now begin. Politics is over, development must now begin. We must now shove aside partisan political battles, petty bickering and quarrels and work together for the common good of our people. I pledge before you today, that I will be the Governor of all Ndi-Imo irrespective of your geo-political zones and political affiliations. We will run an accountable, transparent and inclusive administration.
Our mission is to rebuild, reposition and transform Imo into a modern ecosystem for education, agriculture, industry, tourism, culture, sports, entertainment, human capital development, science and technology, and exploitation of our natural resources, thereby creating an enabling environment for sustainable economic growth and quality life for our people.
In pursuit of the above objectives, we have articulated measures and activities which must be implemented immediately, some in the short term and others in the long term. These will be announced from time to time, as the situation demands.
The manifesto I presented in the course of our campaign to the people of Imo, contains details of our contract with Imo people. I am once again making this document available to you today. A brief mention of some of the key salient points will be made here.
i. Good Governance, Democracy and Rule of Law
We are on a rebuilding mission and our pathway to success is good governance, human capital and integrated infrastructure development which will fast track job and wealth creation.
The engine of good governance must always be lubricated with the oil of due process, rule of law and fiscal discipline. We will abide by that philosophy. Our government will embark on Civil Service Reforms that will ensure a well-trained, well-resourced, well equipped and motivated civil service that will champion the efficient implementation of government policies. To ensure efficiency, achieve cost savings and promote good maintenance culture in government administration, we shall establish a Facility Management Agency to manage government facilities and assets.
We shall enthrone appropriate Due Process mechanism as a cardinal administrative tool of our government in order to achieve value for money and ensure fairness, transparency and competitiveness in the running of government business. To this end, we shall revive and revitalize the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) in the State and strengthen enabling laws on the subject.
Without checks and balances and the dedication of the legislative arm of government to its oversight functions, the tendency of the executive arm, or even the judiciary, to make mistakes is high. As an accomplished lawmaker, my abiding faith is in the mutual respect and cooperation of the three arms of government. The principles of separation of powers and checks and balances will define the relationship of my administration with the State legislature.
Likewise, we shall respect the financial autonomy of the Judiciary by implementing the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) as it is at the heart of judicial independence. This we know is the surest way to promote rule of law. In addition, for the advancement of speedy dispensation of justice, we shall overhaul the criminal justice administration and domesticate the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).
ii.Human Capital Development
Our administration shall commit to developing and harnessing the God-Given talents and potentials of Ndi-Imo at home and in the diaspora, towards preparing the present and future generations of our people to become world class leaders in various fields.
On Education, I wish to announce that we shall ensure the provision of qualitative education in Imo State by taking appropriate measures for quality control. We shall review the present, so called, “free education” to ensure that Ndi – Imo gets the best.
In our strong belief that development of a well-trained and motivated middle level manpower is critical for supporting our industries and for self-employment of our teaming youths, we shall pay special attention to Science, Technical and Vocational Education in line with our commitment to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
In this context, the four Technical Colleges in Imo State: in Owerri, Ahiara, Orlu and Okigwe will be re-furbished, re-equipped and provided with well-trained teachers within the first 180 days of this administration. Our ambition is that our artisans and craftsmen should be the best Nigeria can offer.
To support our educational objectives, we shall send a Bill immediately the 9th State House of Assembly convenes, to set up an Education Trust Fund. The Fund will mobilize the resources necessary to support the qualitative education and other educational initiatives in the State.
On Healthcare, within the first 100 days of our government, we shall conduct a critical needs assessment of the health institutions and service providers across the State, with a view to repositioning the sector for optimal services to our people. We are committed to providing sustainable free healthcare services for pregnant women, children under 5 years of age and senior citizens seventy (70) years and above.
Our government shall align State priorities with real healthcare needs and partner with the federal government, the private sector, civil society groups, development partners and other stakeholders alike, to promote universal access to affordable quality health care in a participatory and inclusive manner. We shall also explore the possibility of expanding a sustainable health insurance scheme for our people.
iii.Industralisation, Job and Wealth Creation
Employment issues shall be tackled head-on. We shall by Executive Order, and where necessary by Legislation, make it mandatory that all those doing business in our State, and especially with the State Government, must employ qualified Imo citizens and establish functional offices in the State.
Our government shall undertake a massive investment in agriculture and public works programmes strategically designed to be labour intensive, as to absorb more people into the workforce.
To compliment this, a Job Register will be established to collate the particulars of unemployed people, and the jobs available in all sectors of the economy therefore bridging the information gap between jobseekers and employers. Thus, matching unemployed youths with opportunities, initiatives and partnerships.
We shall also explore and exploit the abundant solid minerals and mineral resources abundant in the State in partnership with the private sector and financial institutions.
v.Agriculture and Food Security
Our government shall promote massive investment in agriculture with a view to reducing unemployment and tackling poverty in the State. This shall be done in collaboration with the private sector, multilateral agencies and development finance organizations in the agricultural value chain, in addition to leveraging on the various agricultural development programmes available in the financial sector as supported by the federal government.
Every community will be encouraged to set up functional cooperative societies which the State will support with agricultural loans, improved seedlings, and other support services.
An Agricultural City, in form of a layout, will also be established for our agro-allied industries and agricultural initiatives geared towards achieving self-sufficiency in food production and food security.
vi.Peace and Security
We can only attract businesses and prosperity to Imo if the security of lives and properties are guaranteed. We wish to make it very clear that Imo State under our watch will have zero tolerance for crime.
We shall partner and support all federal security agencies and deploy the latest modern technology to detect and combat crime. To this end, I implore all who live and work in Imo to assist and cooperate with the law enforcement agencies in order to make our State safe, secure and attractive for investments.
The existing security infrastructure, including the Imo Security Network, will be overhauled, re-organised and confined to its constitutional roles.
vii.Integrated Infrastructural Development
To address the many years of infrastructural decay, poorly executed, and uncompleted projects that litter the State. We shall do the following in partnership with appropriate federal government agencies and the private sector;
a. Introduce an integrated infrastructural development master plan that will include, constructing quality roads, dualisation of the four major roads linking Owerri Capital Territory namely; Owerri-Orlu, Owerri-Okigwe, Owerri-Umuahia and Owerri-Aba Roads.
b. The proposed Lagos-Benin-Onitsha-Owerri-Aba-Calabar rail line is critical to the economic development of the State, and we are committed to partnering with the federal government to actualize this project. We believe strongly that the realization of this project will ultimately develop our State as a multi-modal transport hub for the region.
c. We shall also partner with the 27 Local Government Councils in the State to construct rural access roads.
d. We shall upgrade the existing power infrastructure in the State. It is our firm conviction that we can only succeed in our industrialization drive with remarkable improvement in power supply. To achieve this, we shall work closely with the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC), and Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN). We shall also explore private sector initiatives and other alternative sources of energy to improve power supply in the State.
e. Public Water Supply in both urban and rural areas is particularly non-existent in the State. We shall revive the State Water Corporation, and activate UNICEF assisted Rural Water Supply and Environmental Sanitation Agency (RUWASA) programs to make clean water available to our people once again.
f. In light of the above, we shall assess the quality and number of projects undertaken by the previous government to determine their viability, propriety and where necessary we shall complete them to ensure continuity and save funds for the State. In the same vein, those that fall short of established architectural and engineering design and standards will be discarded.
viii. Land Administration.
You will agree with me that the matter of land administration in the State has been a vexed issue over the past 8years, characterized by illegalities, lack of due process and transparency, or even near privatisation. To address this, we shall revitalize and reposition the moribund Imo State Geographic Information Agency (IGIA).
We shall also institute appropriate measures to review all land allocations made by the immediate past government, and of course, where necessary, revoke or revert to original purposes. I consider this an irreversible obligation to Ndi Imo.
ix. Smart Imo
My fellow citizens, the economic prosperity and inclusive development which we seek can only be attained if our people, especially our youths, are able to join and benefit from the global movement in Information and Communication Technology. To achieve these, we shall deploy internet broadband connectivity across the State. Our people should have access to the latest technologies and innovations to provide development solutions, which will improve their socio-economic well-being and competitiveness.
The entire government service would be computerized and an e-government platform will be established so that government activities can be conducted online for improved efficiency and transparency.
Within our transition period, we have attracted Google Cloud Engineer Certification Programme for Imo State University, which shall be pursued and implemented with vigour.
Also, within the first One hundred (100) days in office, we shall set up a Digital Incubation and Innovation Hub in collaboration with industry leaders to train thousands of our young people in IT Skills that are deployable globally.
x.Sustainable Development Goals
We subscribe completely to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), and commit to making maximum efforts towards the implementation and achievement of the goals, targets and indicators agreed by all member States of the United Nations in 2015, to become the compass for achieving inclusive socio-economic development. In particular, we shall endeavor to alleviate abject poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy and other social problems and inequalities.
As a commitment to the above, a revamped SDG office will be dedicated to monitoring and tracking the progress made in implementing the goals. We shall leverage on programmes available in the financial services sector to improve access to finance to our people. Our government will align its development plans and programmes with the SDG’s.
I recall with nostalgia that in those good old days, Owerri was ranked the cleanest State capital in Nigeria. We shall once again aspire to attain that status in the coming months. Consequently, we shall promote a Go Green and Stay Clean environmental policy for the health and wellbeing of our people. Our government shall also embark on a waste-to-wealth environmental policy that creates jobs, promotes healthy living and international best practices.
xi.Women (Gender), Youths and Vulnerable Groups/Sports Development
Our government shall be sensitive to gender issues, and ensure gender equity in government appointments and activities. We shall equip Imo women and youths with resources, micro-credits, skills training and entrepreneurship programmes to ensure productive undertakings. We shall offer opportunities to physically challenged persons in the State to ensure that their special needs are addressed. Our children deserve special care and attention which are enshrined in the Child Rights Act, passed by the National Assembly since 2003. We commit to promptly domesticate this statute in the State.
Sports activities shall be given its pride of place, through supporting the State’s sporting associations and teams. We shall partner with the private sector to establish a football academy, and other sporting academies to train our youths and expose them to the best facilities. Inter-school sporting activities will be re-introduced. Also, a one-stop- shop for youths will be established in each Local Government Area which will contain, sports facilities, Arts Gallery, Library, ICT Centre, and Unemployment Data Capture Desk.
xii.Other Associated Programs:
Functional engagement with Development Partners and Civil Society groups
My dear Ndi-Imo, I am encouraged by the outpouring of support and willingness to help our State navigate out of its problems by International Development Partners including the World Bank, UK Department of International Development (DfID), Agence for Francaise De Developpement (French Development Bank), Commonwealth Enterprise Investment Agency, the Government of German, amongst others.
To this end we shall dedicate an office with the sole mandate of attracting, and coordinating international development support and efficiently administering same. We pledge to meet all obligations as may be necessary to access such support and maintain a healthy relationship between us and the partners. Consequently, we shall enact enabling legislation as circumstances demand.
We shall promote citizens assess to government by holding regular consultative meetings with all segments of our society. This will serve as a feedback mechanism to ensure that our government remains that of the people, by the people, and for the people.
Relationship between government and civil society will be based on shared concerns and information exchange that is frank and respectful. It is in this regard that we shall establish an Imo citizens outreach and communication mechanism to deepen inclusive and accountable governance.
xiii Culture, Tourism and Diaspora Initiatives
May I use this opportunity to call on Ndi-Imo, living at home and in the diaspora, to think home and invest at home. Our citizens are leading industrialists and investors all over Nigeria and abroad. I shall spare no efforts in providing the necessary enabling environment at making Imo a preferred destination.
Imo is potentially a compelling investment destination, considering its location as a confluence State, and gateway to the South-East and South South. With an international cargo airport, abundant manpower and a hospitable people, we should take maximum advantage of these opportunities.
In this light, we shall develop our diverse cultural festivals, films, music and entertainment potentials as a major driver of investment and economic growth. We shall ensure that the tourism calendar of Nigeria, and indeed the world, contain events happening in our State.
xiv Trade, Investment and Commerce
Imo sons and daughters are well known all over the world for their entrepreneurial drive and activities. Our government shall partner with the private sector to develop industrial parks and clusters.
We shall revive and re-position the Imo State Investment Promotion Agency to drive and anchor investments in the State. Improving the ease of doing business index in the state, for which Imo is presently, shamefully ranked 34 out of 36 States in Nigeria, will be our priority.
In the Oil and Gas Sector, I wish to announce that we shall take full advantage of the ASA North gas processing project at Ohaji. We are committed to setting up a Petroleum Industrial Park, where oil and gas related businesses will be domiciled. This park will be provided with necessary facilities to make it functional.
Apart from the Onitsha Road Industrial Layout, which we shall revive, we intend to set up another Light Industrial Park to take care of other aspects of industries and commercial concerns.
Our government shall promote home grown initiatives and programmes that will support the development and growth of small and medium enterprises (SMES) across the State. We shall enter into partnerships with Markets’ and Traders’ Associations on one hand, and financial institutions on the other hand to support young trainees from these markets to startup businesses. We will set out a new policy for development and management of markets, in consultation with Local Government Councils, in the entire state.
I stand ready to personally interface and facilitate with any person or company willing to establish business in Imo.
xv Local Government /Community Development
In view of the role of the communities, in matters of security and governance at the local level, our administration shall reach the grassroots through partnership with town unions, the traditional institutions and local government councils. The town unions will thus be the fulcrum for community development efforts.
We shall revamp administration at the grassroots level by reinvigorating the local government system, by restoring the constitutional powers and responsibilities of the local councils as provided in the constitution. Good governance at the local government council level is critical for delivery of our anti-poverty and other developmental programmes.
Furthermore, every community and local government council shall be required within the first one hundred days of this administration, to carry out needs assessment of the projects they identify as priority for implementation by the State government. This will form the basis of the development of Imo Rural Infrastructure Development Plan.
xvi Funding Sources
On financing our ambitious projects and programmes, we shall introduce innovative strategies to optimize Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), through ICT platform solutions designed for complete revenue cycle management and business process automation. In doing this, we shall strive to balance revenue goals with social justice imperatives. We shall introduce a Treasury Single Account (TSA) where all government receipts and revenue will be domiciled. This will enhance transparency and accountability of government revenue and increase the IGR component of our financial standing.
Our government shall work out arrangements, in co-operation with the federal authorities, leveraging on our experience, contacts and competencies for various government programmes to our comparative advantage. We shall equally key into the other funds available at both the federal level and from the multi-lateral agencies.
I conclude by once again, thanking all of you, Ndi-Imo, for making today possible and assure you of our resolve to rebuild our state. To make Imo work again. To make Imo prosper again. To make Imo triumph again. We have resolved that never again shall our Imo be neglected and abandoned to the forces of retrogression. Never again shall we succumb to forces of darkness. Imo shall rise again. With God on our side, we shall deliver on the promises we have made. The Deputy Governor and I ask for your cooperation. We ask for your trust. We ask for your patience. Yes, we ask for your prayers. If we offend some of you or step on toes in the course of doing the people’s business, we ask for your understanding. For together we shall achieve the Imo of our dreams with all hands on deck.
Finally, while awaiting various actions and directives in the coming days, it is the responsibility of the Permanent Secretaries of the Ministries and Chief Executives of the various Government Agencies to secure government properties and facilities at this transition period. I expect to immediately receive an accurate status of affairs in the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government under their watch.
Long live Imo State!
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
Thank you and God bless.
Imo. One State. One People. One Family.
“Imo wụ nke anyị niile”
Ihedioha, Governor of Imo State, made this spaeech at his swearing-in on Wednesday, May 29, 2019