In this interview with editors including Opera News’ Michael Abimboye, Emeka Ihedioha, governor of Imo state accused Rochas Okorocha, his predecessor, of grounding the state. He said his administration inherited nothing from his predecessor other than huge debts, abandoned or poorly executed projects as well as infrastructural decay. Excerpts:
Q: Why haven’t you moved into the Imo state government House?
Ihedioha: We inherited practically nothing when we assumed office. When I came in, I only saw four vehicles, two jeeps without functioning air conditioner and two pilot vehicles,” he said.
That was all I met. Nothing was left for the deputy, there was no deputy governor’s lodge. I had to purchase a vehicle for the deputy governor.
As I speak, he has no official residence or office as well. He had to stay in a hotel for two weeks. His private house is under renovation. Sadly Imo state is heavily indebted and our priority is to first of all offset these major debts.
Question: You have consistently been attacking your predecessor, Rochas Okorocha, are you still playing politics?
Ihedioha: Yes I am politician, but ever since I became governor, I have played down politics. I am talking to you people not because I want to smear the former governor but to tell you the state of things.
The man said he was doing concession and state assets were sold off. To who? To himself, you said you sell for N3 billion, where are the records of sale? Who did you pay to?
When I first got to the state secretarial, I was shocked. Weed has grown everywhere.
I went there last week Monday and I discovered none of the four big generators in that place is functioning. I saw cluster of small generator that people call “I better pass my neighbour” chained together to serve the secretarial. And every day you would see my former governor talking.
Can there be any wickedness more than that? The least educated state don’t have the problem we currently have. I was shocked when I was told that there was no power supply for eight years.
I asked myself how much it will cost to connect power supply that the former governor would allow state secretarial to be run with “I pass my neighbour”. Everywhere was leaking inside the buildings.
Service in the state was completely dysfunctional, no confidence, arbitrary recruitment and promotion. The report I got led me to find a way to sanitize the system. What did we do? Based on the report, we identified so permanent secretaries who are still good to suggest to us ways we can sanitize and bring back confidence, accountability and transparency.
When you check NBS ranking of states on transparency and ease of doing business, Imo is ranked among the lowest despite the fact the state is one of the most educated. How come people like that including myself are governed in that manner?
Our stadium here has been banned by NFF, we cannot play matches. We have to go to Okigwe for football matches. We have started governance with professionals that are distinguished in their chosen field
where the former governor comes from, they have not had power in the last eight years. He built hospital on the Douglas road which is the busiest and business road.
That hospital is just waiting to collapse. The other hospital called new mother and child hospital is a plaza that was converted to hospital and was commissioned. Hospital is supposed to be in a serene environment.
Q: What do you intend to do as regards the alleged looting of the state and poorly constructed road bridges?
Ihedioha: I have set up a recovery committee so don’t let me preempt them. The former governor is making it seem like I am oppressing him. I met four vehicles that are not functioning to capacity in government house when came in. I had to be using my campaign vehicles. We are heavily indebted, litigation everywhere and by this month we will start paying back.
There are over 32 billion naira outright judgment against us. Banks are taking our money as soon as it lands in the account. We have some people in government conniving with contractor to get judgments against the state in Abuja. We have over 150 court judgments against us.
Can you imagine that in the last eight years Imo did not access any of the federal government support fund. We did not benefit from any federal government project and he was chairman of APC governor forum yet he could not attract federal government project into the state but instead he built prison and new police headquarter with billions of naira then handed over to federal government. He was busy confiscating land left right and center.
When we implement TSA, people we begin to have some sense of confidence in what we do. You were asking about my priority, it is fundamental to restore confidence in governance.
People of Imo state have lost confidence in government due to several irregularities, lack of probity, transparency and accountability in the implementation of critical infrastructural projects in Imo by successive administrations but we can assure you that will be a thing of the past.
The governor said he is now working so hard to restore confidence in the people, saying the experience of the last eight years has given them a wrong impression of those in position of authority.
“People of Imo state have lost confidence in government due to several irregularities, lack of probity, transparency and accountability in the implementation of critical infrastructural projects in Imo by successive administrations but we can assure you that will be a thing of the past,” he said.
Q: How about the collapsed bridges across the state?
Ihedioha: I have closed some of those bridges including the Ikemba Ojukwu Tunnel as well as Orji flyover.
We are waiting for the report from Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria, COREN, and Nigerian Society of Engineers before we know what to do with the two flyovers in Owerri. You saw the bridge constructed without rods in Orashi/Umuchima as well as the one on 5th inland road.
We will definitely prosecute the contractors.
Q: EFCC claimed they helped your government save some monies from the past government, how true is this?
Ihedioha: I heard that and I believe them but I’m yet to assess the funds. My attitude is that this monies were meant for a purpose and we would apply the monies for the purpose when we get it. So for now, I’m not in a hurry to assess the money, it’s with EFCC. I want to get things running then find out what the monies were originally meant for.
Q: What are your priorities as governor of Imo state?
Ihedioha: Fundamental is restoring confidence in governance. Two, is sanitizing local government system in the state and restoring local government as the 3rd tier of government. Under the former governor, we had four tiers of government, we had community development and the local government were just functioning in name.
We are restoring sanitization. We will definitely get there.
Kindly leave your thoughts on this interview below.