Magnus Eze, Enugu
While some countries celebrate years of uninterrupted power supply, many oil bearing communities of Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta Local Government Areas of Imo state lament years of living in darkness.
Such communities as Asa, Awara, Mgbirichi, Ohuba, Obosima and Obiti, in Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area have been off the national grid for about 10 years just as they lacked other social amenities.
It was such reason that prompted the administration of Governor Emeka Ihedioha to probe the alleged mismanagement of the funds of the Imo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (ISOPADEC) by the immediate past administration of Senator Rochas Okorocha.
Deputy Governor Gerald Irona had while receiving a delegation of stakeholders from Ohaji under the auspices of Ogbako Ohaji, led by Chief Goddy Obodo said that the sum of over N420million was released on the orders of the former Governor for the purchase of vehicles few weeks before the end the last administration.
Irona said: “The funds were not for ISOPADEC use, but for other uses. The funds were ISOPADEC funds. The salary wage bill is a little over N40million and they were receiving about N95million. There were a lot of issues. We now insisted that we must look into what has transpired. We are not witched hunting anyone. We just want to get things right.
“We want ISOPADEC to work well. We must ensure that ISOPADEC functions properly as an interventionist agency. It is unacceptable that till date, communities in Ohaji/Egbema/Oguta do not have potable water and electricity. The new ISOPADEC management must rise to the challenge of addressing the needs of the people. We constituted an ISOPADEC Advisory Council to be able to guide and encourage the new management, with a view to ensuring that the spirit and letters of ISOPADEC are strictly adhered to. The era of sharing ISOPADEC money is over.”
Daily Sun gathered that the new management of the agency has taken the bull by the horn without delay. Its Managing Director, Owuoma Okwuosha, last Wednesday, said that the Commission was ending the darkness that had enveloped the oil producing communities of Ohaji-Egbema and Oguta Local Government Areas by restoring electricity in the area.
Addressing staff and volunteers of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) of ISOPADEC at the Commission’s headquarters, Okwuosha said that they had started putting smiles on the faces of the people.
Even though the previous government had claimed that it was paying electricity bills for the people of Ohaji-Egbema and Oguta local government areas, he regretted that the people never had electricity for eight years. To worsen the situation, he added that the government rather left a debt of over N150m of electricity bills with the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC).
He said: “We met with the EEDC and discussed the challenges and paid them part of the money. We insisted they fixed the electricity in our communities before we continue the discussion with them. They have gone to Oguta and done some work and parts of Oguta LGA now have electricity. They have also gone to Ohaji-Egbema and evaluated the situation and informed us of what they intend to do in the area. It is over 25km stretch of the road. We will develop it and have substations at some points. This project will cost over N400m. But we are determined to do it for the benefit of our people. We have done the engineering design and others.”
He further assured that the Commission was doing other things to serve the people, including programmes in agriculture, bursary, trainings, security and job creation: “We want to help our mothers at home in what they do in agriculture by making it simpler for them and increasing their margin, so that even the youths could be attracted to it. Our farm programme is huge and has the capacity to absorb those of our brothers who chose to live in the bush.
“We have programmes that will support every single person in our communities. For the first time in the history of ISOPADEC, every single person from our communities will feel that he is from the oil producing communities. To get good result takes time and sacrifice. The planning of any meaningful project is usually difficult. But if we get the planning right, we also need to get the execution right. We are making sure that we get it right and we are not leaving anybody behind. We will use ISOPADEC fund to work for our people and not share it to a few people”.
Okwuosha recalled that ISOPADEC recently awarded six contracts for the construction of six classroom blocks at Ekugba in Ohaji/Egbema LGA, reconstruction and upgrade of Awa Secondary School in Oguta LGA, upgrade and construction of Agwa police station in Oguta LGA, upgrade and rehabilitation of Oguta civic centre, among others.
He clearly threw the challenge to the staff and ADR volunteers, to ensure that they deepened the peace in the oil producing areas, because “peace has to be sustained in our communities for meaningful development”.