Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
Imo State governor has been criticised badly by his detractors, particularly over salaries of civil servants, but in this inter- view with Sunday Sun, the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba, explained why there was delay in payment of the workers’ salaries as well as pension in the state. He also cleared the air on why some major roads have not been given attention and the governor’s achievements in the 10 months of governing Imo State. Excerpt:
Can you clear the air on workers salary in Imo, there has been this lingering controversies, as well as pen- sion arrears, tell us why there are still complaints if the government has actually paid the workers?
The issues of salaries and pen- sion have been resolved amicably. There are just few people that still have issue with that, but their money is there. During the Independence anniversary, Arch- bishop Anthony Obinna said that somebody told him that he received his six months pension arrears, he stopped receiving in February when the automation started. Some people had issues, but immediately, they are resolved their money was paid . The government is not deny- ing the fact that there are issues , that one is the fact. However, what the government has said is, it has set up a mechanism for fast resolution. So, nobody is really supposed to be complaining, like somebody said he was paid this month and not paid the other month. There is pension portal in the head of service office, there is special adviser on pension matters the governor has appointed to handle everything about pension. The government has said if you have any complaint or issue go there, IT experts are there working to resolve issues, the IT ex- perts working there will help you to key into the data centre and you will see your problem, it is either that your BVN or account number does not tally or your employment documents, but whichever problem you have , it would be solved. We have said it so many times if you have not received your salary or pension go to the office of the head of service, there is a provision there now for resolution where these matters would be resolved and you get your payment instantly. The governor has given a deadline, which will end all matters on salary and pension to be resolved. If after the deadline anybody still complains of non-payment or whatever, it means the person is not taking the advantage of the provision made avail- able by the state government. Some people entertain fears of being arrested probably for falsification, this has accounted for why some people are scared of going for their automation. I wonder those who are still saying they have not been paid, if they have not been paid, do you think they would be happy riding in the buses the governor has provided with snack to go with it, if they have not been paid, do you think they will be happy, they will be ask- ing for their salaries first, not bus or snacks. So, if there are people that have not been paid their salaries hey are minute. The civil servants have been paid up to date. Few who have issues are being resolved. That’s why you cannot use that to say salaries are not being paid. Then there are about 1000 pensioners who were not captured during Emeka Ihedioha’s time, they just kept their raw data there, so we are trying to capture those people who did not even know that they were not captured, but stayed there and be expecting their pension. That’s why I said when you go to the office of head of service whatever is your problem you will be told. I will like somebody to come and say he or she went there and his or her problem was not solved, then you know that is another situation. You know a new process, must come with new challenges because this government is determined that there will be nothing like manual payment of anything. It must be electronically done, and that is the only way to eliminate fraud because digitalization is done in such a manner that if you are pensioner who retired on grade level 10, your pension as approved by government Pension Act is there you cannot manipulate it. But payroll, people will be adding small money here and there, at the end of the day, they mess up the whole thing.
Can you tell us why the Issue of roads construction in Imo suddenly stopped?
When we came, Emeka Ihedioha was there for seven months and had already awarded contracts, but did not start because of the rains. We came in the thick of the rain and not minding the rain, we went on and people are saying how can he be working in the rain, don’t you know that the roads will be disturbing and the roads will not be standard. We then said let’s rest a while, now, people are asking again why are the roads bad, they expect us to go into the thick of this rain and be doing roads. They also forget that before the rain became heavy, this governor commissioned roads; didn’t he? These are roads he built, that shows he took advantage of the dry weather and did some work. Now, the weather is too wet, we would wait
until after the rain, we are already planning towards that, once the rains are over, all the roads that need to be attended to would be done. We have signed with Julius Berger that when the rains stop, they will start work. I am also aware that the opposition is doing everything to stop them, if they can because they know that it is going to be unbeatable reward. But we already have an MoU with them, we are watching closely with them, once the dry season sets in, they would come and people will be surprised at the speed which they would do the work , we know this will be a nightmare to the opposition. The same opposition now are restless because they don’t have major issue again to challenge the government. There are no longer issues to talk about, so from time to time, they will manufacture one. Their latest propaganda is send- ing rumour that the bus and snack the governor has provided the civil servants, every month the government will be deducting N10,000. I want to use this opportunity to say, there is nothing like that. The thing is free, the governor made it clear, both the bus and snack are free, nobody is going to be charged for anything. The state government has always hammered on propaganda by this same opposition. I want to believe that the business of opposition is to engage the government constructively on the its policies, but when you don’t have any vi- sion in that direction you just want to find something that will keep you busy, then you will begin to start manufacturing rumours. And there is something I want to use this opportunity to say. You keep forgetting that this is a presidential system, there is no official opposition. You know we are thinking this is a parliamentary system of government like in Britain where the opposition is paid by government to be an opposition. That’s why when you go to the parliament, you will see the prime minister one side and the opposition the other side. They are paid by the government to criticise the opposition and they work very hard to bring down the government of opposition because
that when they go to another election, they may have the chance of winning. But in the presidential election, there is no official opposition, because presidential system, is considered winner takes all, there is nothing like sharing power. So, the kind of opposition you find in a presidential system, is something that’s constructive and visionary, where the governor said he is go- ing to bring in Julius Berger to con- struct the Owerri , Orlu and Okigwe road, and you say if you are in government, you would have brought in a better company that would be cheaper. That’s the kind of thing the opposition should be talking about. If you noticed, when Emeka Ihedio- ha was there, we were busy, pursuing our case. I don’t think you heard any time we criticized them, we didn’t, we concentrated on getting our mandate back. We would have decided to be criticising and dis- crediting them in anything they did, but that’s not opposition because it does not lead you anywhere. So, that’s what they are trying to do now, as if when they discredit us be- fore the public, which they are fail- ing because the public is now realising that they are liars. They said the state government wanted to rename the state university to Abba Kayari University, did it ever happen? They said he was going to establish Amajiri School, did it ever happened, they said he created three emirates in Imo. All those things are meant to discredit the governor, but they don’t seem to have shame. Some even said the governor is yet to find his footing, I don’t know the ideal of what they meant by saying that the governor has not found his feet. This is a governor that came, within 25 days, gave permanent secretaries official cars, within 28 days in offic, he brought back life within the secretariat, within 10 days, he revived the Adapalm and had water flowed back into the Otamiri river, and the same month, he commissioned roads which have not been done be- fore. Today, he has repositioned the civil service and you can see that the civil service is now more vision oriented. And this is a government that came in January and by March; the full cabinet was in place in less than two months. I don’t know what they meant by finding feet, but if you asked me if there is any government that has found its feet from day one, it is this government, remember this government came sudenly, no handover note, nobody was there to direct or tell you anything, yet, the government was able to find its feet immediately and in less than one month. The COVID-19 came, the government they say has not found its feet, but it has been able to manage the COVID-19 in such a manner that Imo State is one of the states where there is lowest cases . I don’t know how else a government can find its feet if all these indices I have enumerated are not relevant. If there is any government that did not find its feet, it was the Ihedioha’s administration because the same months they were there, all I know the former government did was that Ihedioha took the period to consoli- date his estate, in fact, his personal estate, both in Lagos, Abuja and his village. Governor Uzodimma has challenged that if anybody knows where he owns land in Imo State, let the person go and expose it. That if anybody knows where he has used Imo State money illegally or appropriated it for his personal
gain, let the person expose it. He is not a greedy man, he has come to serve in all capacity, the other people came and were busy grabbing land. These government in less than five months called a stakeholders meeting across all the parties where he gave account of his stewardship and he received applause. This is a government that has practically reduced security issues by launch- ing security operation, Search and flush, launched emergency security call centre.Today, you can say it to a reasonable extent that crime rate has abated. So, tell me where else the government is lacking, so the people who are groping in the dark, who are confused and filled with realities are the opposition because they didn’t anticipate that the governor will record this kind of success at such a short time. This governor is so careful and that is why he has been able to detect some of the frauds perpetuated in the past. It is in that process that he discovered all these fraud in the civil service and other sectors and the state is better for it today. Also, the University of Agriculture and Environment School, neither could not really take off in Rochas Okorocha administration because of his personal hidden agenda. He wanted the university to be a private, public partnership arrangement, but Ohaji/Egbema peo- ple suspected that the private aspect was fraudulent and they protested it. But within three months Governor Uzodimma was able to solve that problem because they trust him.
You have been in politics, so tell us in a nutshell what makes Governor Uzodimma different from his predecessors?
The difference is between an orange and an apple. First, Governor Uzodimma has knowledge of policy formulation and implementation, he is versatile; secondly, he is committed and selfless, he has the courage to do the right thing and most importantly he is not greedy, he doesn’t have appetite of acquiring estates and land. He is satisfied with what he has. The life style he has been living as a private citizen is what he is still living today as governor, nothing has changed about his lifestyle, those who know him will tell you. Some people were there and they imported a vehicle for N196 mil- lion to use as governor. The life- style of Governor Hope Uzodimma as a private citizen is the same life- style applicable to him today. In fact, if there is anything, the thing has dropped because we lived with him in Abuja, we used to go to his house, and we eat and drink choice wine, but since he became the governor, I have been to the lodge many times; I have not seen any choice wine in his bar. One day I asked him, Oga are we moving forward or backwards , he said we are in government. That is the difference so, he is not greedy, he is satisfied with who he is and what he has. So, he is not going to steal Imo people’s money and above all he is very focused and has a clear cut vision of where he is going ,and I know that by this time next year, you will see a world of positive difference that will make people wonder if this is truly Imo State. He doesn’t sleep, he has a passion for his job, and he has a passion for respecting his people. He has a passion for humanity and all this will bring to bear and to the best of calculation, make him the best governor that this state has ever had.