Chidi Obineche and Chinelo Obogo
Chuma Nnaji, was a former deputy speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly and Commissioner for Information and Strategy in the state. He is a commissioner –nominee in the new government of Emeka Ihedioha . He speaks on the last administration in the state headed by Rochas Okorocha, the RUGA policy of the federal government on Fulani cattle herdsmen, the heightened insecurity in the country among other sundry issues.
There is a new government in Imo State now. What are the expectations from this new government?
The vision of this government is to give a thorough rebirth of the state in all ramifications, inclusive of infrastructural decay, the civil service, the educational system, the financial system and other observed deficiencies that the state has been bedeviled with in the last 8 years of the APC administration in the state. The challenge now is for the governor to begin to give solutions to all these myriad of problems because it is in the public domain that the last 8 years have been very horrifying for our people. The task ahead is huge, but the new government is determined to surmount it.
What are the shocking discoveries by the new administration which they intend to correct?
So many things did not go well. As I said earlier, they are legion. From the poor financial standing of the state to many other things, the state has been left broken. The last government left behind a debt portfolio of over 200billion naira. The last government did not operate with any perfect or near perfect financial orderliness. That was why one of the first things this new government of Emeka Ihedioha did was to set up a Financial Advisory Committee headed by Abraham Nwankwo, a renowned financial expert, the ex- director general of the Debt Management Office, DMO. One of the strategic products of that committee was to advise the government to go back to the TSA (Treasury Single Account) policy. This will enable the government to monitor the financial inflows and outflows with a press of the button. The second important thing they did was to begin to address the issue of pensions. They have been bandying some figures. It may shock you to know that not even the out gone government can tell you where they stopped and where they started. That is why the state has witnessed a very sordid and disturbing pension s situation which is about the worst in the country. What they are doing now is to give enough notice to pensioners in order to begin to address it while embracing a comprehensive and scientific approach towards solving it. Payment of pension is to be standardized. What the last government did was to arbitrarily come up with payments in stop- gap manner depending on their whims. They paid a few people and left out many others. That is why people are dangling all kinds of figures. Not even in the Head of Service office do you get records of happenings in that particular scheme. Some people quote all kinds of credit and debt portfolio. Some say 50months, some say 53 months and yet others insist it is 56 months that are being owed. This is very unfortunate. Again, before the end of August, that particular issue of pensions will be laid to rest from the actions and projections being undertaken.
What are the good things or innovations by the last administration that the new government would like to adopt, especially the controversial Community Development Council initiative?
It may shock you that those things like the Imo Community Development Council; CDC of the last administration was a sham. First of all, it was unconstitutional. Secondly, the last administration wanted to use it to beef up the support base of the party. Thirdly, there is nothing innovative about it. If he had conducted local government elections he would have discovered that it was a fluke that would not meet his expectations. The people he put there could not have been alternatives to councilors that emerged from local government elections. So, it was a sham. On a wider level, I have personally sat down to review some of the policies the last administration had and the only thing I could see there is probably the destruction of peoples properties in order to extend the roads. Well, he succeeded in expanding the roads. I have to give him credit for that, but at what cost?
There were also some allegations of corruption leveled against the past government. Anti- corruption agencies have sealed some facilities purportedly being proceeds of corruption and owned by the family of Okorocha. How can this government safeguard the corrupt tendencies of some government officials?
I want to react to the presence of the EFCC in Imo state and would like to say just as the government has reacted that it has no hand in it. About two years ago, the entire political space was awash with EFCC visits to Imo State. It didn’t start today. I think the EFCC now found it more convenient to move in now that he was no longer in power and does not have immunity again. I can authoritatively tell you that it has nothing to do with the Ihedioha administration. What I know is that based on the way Ihedioha operates, he is not going to subvert the rule of law. Unlike the last henchman, he promised Imo people that he was going to run a government based on rule of law and openness as far as governance is concerned. In all his actions he has shown it.
In the face of heightened insecurity in the country brought about by the activities of Fulani herdsmen, do you not think that RUGA project is required in the state?
Each time I hear about this RUGA, I aske myself what the need is for. There is no need for it. All over the country, the Fulani have settlements. Some of them are legal others are not legal. The current method of herding is what we have to look at critically. We understand that South Africa, Argentina and other countries herd cows without making it look like problem. This is all about leadership. Instead of bickering about RUGA, it would have been better to send people out there to study their own models with a view to adopting it here. This can be done within six months. RUGA, to me has transformed into a system designed to create instability in our nation. It must be addressed. Virtually all the governments in the south are saying that they have no land for RUGA ; to create a colony for the herdsmen.
What about moves to repeal the Land Use Act of 1978 to remove the governors as custodians of land and transfer it to the federal government. If that eventually happens, how would Imo respond to it?
What you should ask yourself is what does the constitution say? The constitution does not give the federal government this kind of unrestricted power to control land. The sensible things to do is not to use the federal might to forcefully acquire land from the people or force the state governments to relinquish land for the purpose of RUGA. The thing to do is to look at the issue and confront it frontally the way most civilised countries did. Even if you forcefully seize land for these herdsmen, are you going to be there round the clock or you withdraw all the soldiers and policemen from their regular beats and send them to guard each RUGA colony? How can we tame the restiveness that may likely arise?