Gov. Emeka Ihedioha of Imo State

The newly inaugurated Government of Imo State, South East Nigeria has raised serious concerns over the high debt profile inherited from the immediate past administration, saying that more worrisome is the fact that there is nothing to show for such high debt profile.

Elected under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP, Governor Emeka Ihedioha and his deputy, Engr. Gerald Irona took over reins of power on May 29, 2019 from Mr. Rochas Okorocha of the All Progressives Congress APC.

Governor Ihedioha, who spoke at the first enlarged stakeholders’ meeting, held in Owerri, the state capital, Thursday, said the decision to convene the meeting was in keeping with the government’s commitment to openness and communication and also to make open the facts it met on ground as well as the enormous efforts required to address them.

The governor also said that the meeting was necessitated by the need to keep the records straight for posterity and for the purpose of making the nation’s leaders accountable, assuring that despite the challenges being encountered in setting up the new government, the depth of the decay has strengthened its resolve to keep its promise to rebuild Imo and restore its past glory.

According to him, unsustainable debts were incurred on behalf of the state running to over N100billion without anything to show for it, and consequently, saddling the state with a myriad of lawsuits and Garnishee Orders as part of grand plans to make things difficult for the new government.

The governor disclosed that so far, the new government has received over N30 billion worth of such Garnishee Orders arising from several ill-conceived and fraudulent contractual agreements deliberately consummated by the past administration, to destroy the future of the state and its teaming population by fettering the state in a humongous debt trap.

“From the Interim findings of the Financial Advisory Committee set up to ascertain the state of the finances of Imo State, several mind boggling, incontrovertible but unsettling facts have emerged.

 “More revelations are underway as the forensic investigation continues. I have also chosen not to bore you with details and the unpleasant state of the infrastructure we inherited including buildings and equipment”, the governor further lamented.

But he however assured that though his government inherited monumental rot from the immediate past administration, the reason for the meeting was not to bemoan the unfortunate situation but tell the stakeholders steps that have been taken in the last few weeks to re-route the state to the part of progress, insisting that Imo people will indeed, overcome.

 It was gathered that the government has adopted some innovative approaches and initiatives even with the serious financial constraints it is facing in order to reflate and grow the state’s economy, which include to maximise support from development partners particularly to fund health, water, sanitation, and education projects and accessing some intervention funds of the Central Bank of Nigeria CBN, Bank of Industry BOI and Development Bank of Nigeria DBN to stimulate small and medium-scale enterprises and create employment.

Others include to adopt measures that would attract private sector investment both foreign and to stimulate economic growth, employment and poverty reduction while expanding the state’s Internally Generated Revenue IGR base through relevant taxes and fees, all of which are designed to help relax the fiscal pressure and enhance prosperity.

 Investigations also show that the new government has so far taken some steps, which include improving the relationships with other arms of government, which was informed by the realisation that in the new Imo, there must be strong institutions built and anchored on the rule of law and due process.

The governor said: “To this end, our first task on assumption of duty was an orientation programme with members elect of the Imo House of Assembly held at the shores of Oguta Lake. The venue was deliberately chosen to market Oguta as a tourist destination and for local and international conferences. This was followed with the inauguration of the House of Assembly and the peaceful election of its presiding officers.

“Two weeks ago, we swore-in the Chief Judge of the Customary Court of Appeal to ensure the quick dispensation of justice. We are committed to the principle of separation of powers and open government. As a government, we are profoundly committed to due process, transparency and accountability in conducting government business. This will be a complete departure from the past where transactions were shrouded in secrecy, non-conformity, nepotism and lack of acceptable standards”

To address these anomalies, the government has revitalised the public procurement process with the appointment of a new Director General for the erstwhile moribund Bureau of Public Procurement and Price Intelligence in line with its commitment to ensure due process is followed in the review, selection and award of contracts.

It has also introduced a participatory budgeting process, which is a clear departure from the previous administration, where public expenditure was not backed by a budget, as the new administration is committed to citizens’ involvement and engagement in the budget process and to use the budget as the guide for proper allocation of resources, in alignment with the state’s policy priorities.

Other new innovations include the open government partnership, where efforts are being made to ensure that the state signs up to the Open Government Partnership OGP as this will not only promote transparency and accountability but serve as an anchor for the administration’s reforms in the public sector.

It also dismantled existing structures for retooling and proper take off of the new administration as well as the setting up of the government appointment of principal staff and other key officers of government, which was designed to make critical appointments of staff to assist the governor and deputy governor in running the affairs of government, which also informed the immediate appointments of the Secretary to the State Government; The Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice; the Chief of Staff, Special Advisers, Senior Special Assistants and Special Assistants in various areas requiring immediate attention, among several others.

The governor also disclosed that the Imo Transport Company ITC has received government’s attention. “In order to halt the drift and corruption that has over time been associated with the company, where revenues are paid into the personal accounts of individuals and company assets sold to family members and cronies of government officials, an interim Management Committee has been set up to apart from managing the company, develop an implementable framework for repositioning it for optimal service delivery. I am confident that the new management will make far reaching recommendations to revive the transport company”.

He also assured that plans are underway to revitalise the state-owned palm oil producing company Adapalm, as well as the state’s has a rubber estate which may have forgotten by many by setting up an Interim Management Committee to review all purported agreements and forestall all illegal harvests of rubber products in the state.