EXCLUSIVE: A “no holds barred” meeting with Governor Rochas Okorocha

Excerpts from a no holds barred meeting with His Excellency, Owelle Rochas Okorocha. In this briefing, the  Governor speaks on the challenges of his Administration and how he intends to work towards restoring the glory of the State. He opens up on why he deemed it necessary to revoke the 10,000 jobs and  his vision for the State.  This is Governor Okorocha like we have never seen or heard before. Please take out time and read through to the end.

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I want to intimate you with the activities of my administration and what I might consider as the journey so far.

You may recall  that on the 29th of May, 2011, I was sworn in as the Executive Governor of Imo State, after what I might consider a controversial turbulent election, which eventually demonstrated the popular  view of the people of Imo State,  on whose mandate I hereby speak.

My election was a unique one that attracted different shades of
opinion and was brought to the knowledge of every democrat in the world because of the peculiar nature of that particular election. But having won the election  and sworn-in, after the supplementary election of   April 26, 2011 governorship election, it became obvious  that Imo people was full of expectations and  wanted to see what next: How would this man that we have all toyed and suffered for in a democratic election, have for us, and that became a major challenge.Settling down in the office on the   29th May, 2011, I decided to take the bull by the horn. And is precisely what I am going to talk about.

 

 

First is to let the people of Imo State understand what I have done so far and what I intend to do. Let me start by thanking Imo people who for one reason or the other best known to them and their judgment, have decided to pour encomium on this administration since its inception.  The cooperation I enjoy from the people of Imo State is such that gingers me to do more.

Why the Imo people said that I have performed or done this or that, for me, I still believed that I have not done enough. Because my idea of governance is quite far-far than
the normal expectation. But  all the same, I still  thanked them, but let me say  even as I speak, this whole report is not meant to sound bistros neither is it to join the normal praise-singing, or campaign on the activities of government as has been the  practice in the country and in most democratic world.

But let me say, this is for me to put the truth in a practical manner, so that those who did not understand will understand better what this government is all about. Above all that, all honour and  glory should be  given to God Almighty, who gave me the strength, wisdom to have done what I have done so far  for which many have  claim to be  a huge success, but to me, it is just a starting point.

Immediately on assumption of office, I did address Imo people on my intentions and action plan. But shortly after that, the first step I took was to give up N4 billion of my security  vote and that demonstrated the  nature of this government, which is  sacrifice based. Because for us to achieve any meaningful result in this administration, the name of the game should be sacrifice.

So I started by demonstrating the spirit of sacrifice by giving up what  most people will call security  vote, unaccountable fund, which should be available to any governor and that N4 billion was put in the coffers of Imo State.

Shortly after that, I decided to say that one of my major concerns by nature has been education, so I decided to declare free education in Imo State. This is total comprehensive free education for every child of Imo and those in Imo State. That means that every child has the right to go to school without  paying for school fees.  

Every child has the rights to go to school without buying uniform, shoe, or any learning materials. So the government decided to take the responsibility to ensure that every child go to school irrespective of the child family background.

That was a contract I have signed with my creator when I started in Rochas Foundation.

In any position I found myself, I must give free education to give hope to  the hopeless as well give  future to our children. For me, education is not negotiable, but to most Imo people,
it appears impossible task, of course, I suffered some criticism on the issue of free education, and thank God it is now a reality.

The sacrifice I made with my security vote will all be channeled to free education and that we have done which has helped a whole lot.

Still on education, I went to  some schools myself  and offered myself to teach in some classes as to truly feel the feelings of the
children, that learning  environment  and I saw a horrible situation – that our children go to school on what  I can best describe as a local house. That did not go down well with me at all.

In reaction to that, no child again will go to school under such
terrible condition in the state, in which many children don’t go to school because of the condition. As long as the school premises is worst than their poor home, no child is easily attracted to go to school,  but if we can make the school premises a better place, every child will like to go to  school and that prompted the first contract we issued in this administration:- to construct and equip 305 new primary schools of International  standard of classroom block each and computer centre and the   project is on-going.

Hopeful, within the next 18 months, the 305 building will be
completed. And before the end of this administration in four years, we must have completed   this school in every community in which every child will study in conducive environment. I take education very seriously and to repeat it in secondary schools, but the challenge is that people are leaving the private schools to the public schools.

Another challenge is the Mission Schools which has gone back to
encourage them to retain  their education system. The private schools are now in competition with the public school, owing to the improvement in the public schools system since this administration.

Still on education, if you have the best of buildings equipment
without the best of teachers, you cannot address the issue of
educational challenges.

In that regard, I called all the primary and secondary school
teachers in the state, and I educated them through the training-the-teachers programme towards getting all our   teachers back to the classrooms, workshops and seminars introduced in order to give them the best for our children before going back to the schools, hoping that Imo State that have being known for being the best in education sector in Nigeria will still retain the number one position.

The only industry that have moved well in Imo State is education and in my own time as governor, my love for education will come to bear more than what we had in the past.
Looking at the tertiary institutions, one of our biggest problems is the university.

Imo State University remains the pride of our State. It is an institution that has produced so many figures, but unfortunately, still on a temporary site. The University appears to be a girls’ secondary school and there seems to be no infrastructural development in that place.  The environment does not look like that of a University. That gives me a big concern. But before then, there were controversies as  to the name of  the school. It took my political will to say to them that the school should be changed to Evan Enwerem University to Imo State University.  So that we don’t politicize d the issue of that University, because the university tends to have a bigger name and a better image as Imo State University than been named after an individual.

We also observed that after a long strike, the lecturers appears to have lost control and grip of the students and so there was the need to effect some changes to restore the confidence of parents and the glory of the school by changing the Vice Chancellor which bought in Prof. B.E.B. Nwoke as the Acting Vice Chancellor of Imo State University.

Something to curtail with, it was the students school fees. I
cancelled the issue of One Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira (N150,000) school fees by the senate of the institution, and brought the school fees back to Thirty Thousand Naira, (N30,000) which  was a welcome development.

We have the issue of subvention. Before we came into office, Imo State University was receiving Seven Million Naira (N7,000,000) monthly subvention. I increased it from  seven to One Hundred Million (N100,000,000) monthly subvention for the past 5 – 6 months or thereabouts, Imo State University have been receiving one hundred million naira (N100,000,000) subvention from the state government  as against the seven million before with only Thirty Thousand  Naira paid as  school fees by the students.

The University can no longer continue to stay in the temporary site, this coming year  (2012) we shall do all we can to relocate the University to a  permanent  site  with a  view to construction of Imo State University, which is billed  to be located between Ideato North and Ideato South local government  Areas to provide a better learning environment  associated with a University because of its metropolitan location and to give it a befitting learning environment before the end of this  administration.

I   visited many of the  higher Institutions. One of them is the Imo State Polytechnic, where I saw the school in a sorry state and wonder why the school was considered a higher learning institution.  There is no hostel at all-what they call hostel can only accommodate few students. The problem of the school has been addressed. The government has awarded a contract of new hostel blocks for boys and girls and all abandoned projects in the institution to be completed as well.

The institution is also paid N42 million subventions monthly which has been increased to N88 million monthly subvention. The issue of confidence and trust was a problem in the institution in which the Rector was changed  to clergyman.  The Institution, after investigations needs other Two Hundred Million Naira (N200,000,000) to accredit about 17 new courses in the Institution.

All the higher institutions in the state   are receiving attention and most of them will be given due attention within the first quarter of 2012.

You may recall that the 10,000 jobs became a major issue in Imo State and frankly, there were no 10,000 jobs anywhere in Imo State. I think my predecessor  must have made a statement which the  whole state cashed on by saying that he is going to create 10,000 jobs and made a very big mistake by asking the youths to  pay N2,000 each, which put the then government  on a very bad light and the government as looking for an escape route and since it was towards the  end of an administration, he decided to issue 10,000 letters to different people and post them to different  ministries, without  following due or civil service process and the right vacancy job creation before going into recruitment. We have about 15 persons in one office with 2 tables. We have about 500 people posted to governor and deputy governor’s office where they were doing nothing. That was not a job.

It was just like a deceit. It was like solving an immediate problem and creating a danger for tomorrow. I suspended the 10,000 jobs for the purpose of creating the necessary 10,000 jobs. We have created 2,000 jobs for teachers. I realized that we don’t have a enough teachers in Imo State, we fished out 2,000 plus of teachers out of the 10,000 jobs beneficiaries and returned them to the schools.

The second thing we did was on some of the Mbakwe’s abandoned projects.  One of them is the Adapalm which the present government has renamed “Imo Palm Plantation”  It was very magical. I want to announce to Imo people that Adapalm which was at the state of decay   for  30 years  has not generated any money to the coffers of the state government, but within 6 months of this  administration, Adapalm has generated N3.2 billion to Imo government under partnership and not
in any way selling  Adapalm. I brought in an Irish Company “Roche Group” who are now managing Adapalm for the period of 15 years and has to give us an upfront payment of N3.2 billion. That tells you the amount of waste that has been going on there in the past years.

The company is to employ about 2,500 workers of Imo indigenes back to Adapalm. The recruitment is on-going. Most of the 10,000 workers we have are semi-skilled or non skilled workers.

The issue of white collar jobs has become an issue among our graduates as they always want jobs without practical’s.That is why we set up Institute of Advanced Professional Studies which is under construction. It is a finishing and professional school.

We have signed MOU with various World International Institutions who are coming to train youths, especially in the areas of oil and gas, road engineers among others with some of them to be sent to India, Lebanon, China for more training. Some of the trainings our graduates receive are more of theory without practical’s and account for massive unemployment in the state and country.

A well certificate graduate is to be chased by  jobs and not him
looking for job. We want to change that, which I called employment bondage in Imo State. The first intake of the school will be 10,000 students and they will be professionally trained in various areas. The Institution will be affiliated with Imo State University. The Institute of Advanced Professional studies is one of the greatest achievements of this government by my own standing. That will make more Imo people   become an employers  of labour.

We have also competed signing of MOU, hopeful it will take off soon. We are hoping to generate about N3.5 billion from Avutu poultry from our partners in America. We have two strong contenders.  One from America, another from Thailand,  we are looking for the best deal.

Within the first quarter of this year (2012) we hope that Avutu
poultry will come to full life. That is a huge industry in Imo State that has been allowed to rout.  We are assuring Imo people that Avutu Poultry will soon come to life and  will take  up to 2,000 – 3,000 workers from Imo State  when completely revived. You can see that the issue of 10,000 jobs is gradually been addressed. My idea within my own time, is to create not less than 50,000 jobs opportunities for Imo people.  You have to  create the job before employing somebody.

We also plan to bring back some of the abandoned projects of Chief Sam Mbakwe, whom I consider as a great leader and great governor. Another one is that shoe factory which was abandoned due to a debt been owed for some kind of agreement signed that have now mortgaged the entire state to the tone of  N627 million been owed by Imo State government on the same shoe factory.

The issue of the factory has been resolved and we have also given them a contract to produce the first one million pears of shoes for the school children as well as school badges. With that, the firm will start employing people   from the state.

The arrangement to revive Nsu ties factory has been concluded. Any moment from the second quarter of next year (2012) our investors will come to take over the factory on partnership basis. We also try to encourage them by assisting in securing their visa, accommodation transportation and offices, which has accounts for more foreigners into Imo recently. It has really worked for us.  I have also good news for the clay factory in Okigwe. They will soon come to life in short time.

The question is, am I going to stop where Mbakwe stopped by just mere reviving Mbakwe’s abandoned projects?  I am making sure that all the legacies of Mbakwe come alive.

In addition to that, the government has a target to establish ten new industries within the life time of this administration.  Most of these industries are going to be food processing and agricultural processing industries towards creating jobs opportunities for our teeming unemployed people of the state.

On execution of projects, this administration on assumption of office, saw what I can best described as the   biggest challenge to the government is how to reduce current and increase capital, that would not go down with  people.  Of course you know that on assumption of office, the first name I was given is that I have “Aka gum” and some applauded it. I am not stingy. If I am, I would not have trained over 5,000 children who have no parents.  I just want to save for tomorrow for our children’s future. I have locked up all the leakage ways of government funds, especially that, that  has to do with  comfort that
has no relevance to the  development of the state.

I have stopped FPOs. Where somebody will write an FPO that he has supplied a product that is  not up to N5 million and can be paid in the ministry without the  knowledge of the governor. I say all FPOs must pass through the governor. And there turn around vouchers that has been paid for years surfacing after 5 years in which over N100 million disappeared through that means. I was mad about that, Ieven wanted to demote some people so that everybody will sit up. That is one of the biggest success we have recorded.  

What had happened in the past appears that Imo State does not have money. Every state government has money. Imo State gets N4 billion spent about N2.0 billion on salary and left with N1.0 billion or less. That money is enough money. I locked all the taps. I said any project, especially the stationeries that cost N1 billion within 1 month, has to stop. If you can’t write, then forget it. 

In government House, we had an issue every time the issue of diesel and maintenance sometimes cost N200 – N300 million. So there was a month, all the expenses in Government House was N833 million for one month.

When I came into government, my first expense was N54 million for one month and heaven did not fall. I then know is possible to save this money.

We have the issue of cleaning of the city which was costing N60
million and I reduced it to N26 million a  the city remain clean.
I had the issue of reducing the cost for fuelling the generating set
from N34 million to N18 million  and it is  still working.

  As I speak to you now, we have signed a contract for somebody who can fuel the generating set, free of charge, change the electric bulbs and use the poles to advertise his company. That is business.

I am begging to introduce business ideas   into governance in Imo State.  We have been able to save a lot of money for the state. Then to special events. I said to my wife, the first lady that we have being feeding  thousands of  people  as Rochas, why can’t we  feed them now. Why most he collect N50 million for feeding of people and other things from government  coffers that is not fare and that should not come out of government purse. That should be my responsibility and that is part of the sacrifice we are making. We have save much money for the state.

We have paid the pensioner their outstanding 12 years plus 2 years pension. We insisted that every pensioner be paid with  a cheque. Out of the cheque payment,  we have saved 13o million naira  every month that was going into private pockets. We also went back to civil servants and start paying with cheque and able to  save over N50 million.

At the local government level, that is even the  worst of it all, we are saving money here and there for which we are using to touch lives of our people positively and as well create meaningful  development in Imo State.

So, what Imo people have seen is a product of prudence and sacrifice in action by this government. I hate waste and saw waste in Imo State.

Along the Concord hotel, is the House of Assembly quarters build over 20 years ago. Within one week in office of my administration, I declared that the project be completed. Is even more expensive than building a new house, but we  were able to face the challenges and if you go there now, you will be proud to say that this is an edifice much bigger than Concord hotel itself. We hope to commission the project in  the 2nd or 3rd  quarter of next year (2012). The value of that property has been billions of naira laying waste.

Then I went into Concord hotel that was in a sorry state with odor which was coming from the carpet that has been there for  30 years as well as dirty furniture’s which  has not encourage investors who would want to stay in a five star hotel. It became a challenge to me. Now, I went in with the rescue agenda and today I am proud to say that Imo Concord Hotel is coming back again as a full Five Star hotel, which will serve the tourism needs of our people.

But the interesting thing about Concord hotel also is the same
business ingenuity which I have introduced in Imo State.  Governments are not good business people, but for me, I am a good business man, I therefore appointed a committee to run the hotel hence if you allow the bureaucracy in government it will die, in which about N39 million has been generated for the first time in the history of Imo State, which shows that little discipline has been introduced in governance in Imo State.

On the business side of Concord hotel, we must make a concession of PPP arrangement with the Concord hotel. I have said that anybody coming to knock at the door of the Concord hotel, because that is a monument for Imo State will pay N1 billion entry fee to the coffers of government in addition to N250million every year. Because the agreement the previous government had with Lebanese company who was managing the company was to pay N45 million every year and government
is owing the same company now from the records, subject to reconciliation about N450 also gave N450 million  to the company for renovation.

So, in total, government is owing the company a sum of N900 million on Concord hotel. This is something one could not understand what is the gain in such transaction, but we have been able to reverse some of this things. I have gotten an offer of N750 million and  N200 million a month, but still   expecting a higher  bargain.

But not just the higher offer, but a good management company since the idea of a good hotel is to attract more investor. Sometimes people come to a city because of the hotel.  We believe that going by the renovation on Concord hotel, we are going to make more money from Concord hotel for Imo State government. Beside the Concord hotel is the hero square and that was the driving spirit of this government to celebrate excellence among others.

EDITORS NOTE: We have heard straight from the Governor’s mouth. With all that has been said above, are we convinced that Gov.Okorocha is on the right track or are there some “kuku-kere” red flags that we need to re-visit?

Please share your thoughts.

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