As Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State recently clocked 100 days in office, the Commissioner for Special Projects, Simon Ebegbulem, has said the administration is in an hurry to change the fortunes of the state positively.
He said the administration is determined to put the state on a pedestal of growth and development.
In this interview, Ebegbulem spoke on various issues.
How do you respond to insinuations that the continuity in governance policy of Governor Uzodinma is an indication that he lacks the idea on projects to embark upon or a sign that he is unprepared for the job?
This government has said it does not want to play with the lives of Imo people unlike Ihedioha and his PDP. We are focused on what we want to achieve and will not succumb to the blackmail and lies. When this government came in, our governor did say he’ll continue with any good initiative of the past administrations. Uzodinmna does not want to play politics of discrimination because he is too experienced. He wants to satisfy Imo people who voted him into power overwhelmingly.
What about the claim by the opposition that the administration has nothing to show in 100 days?
What do you expect from them? The truth is that this administration does not believe in making so much noise even though the PDP has chosen to malign and blackmail this administration after the failed, sacked leadership of Emeka Ihedioha. From what Imo people have seen recently, he is not who he claimed he is. It is obvious that that administration was a fraud and that is what Uzodinma is correcting.
Senator Uzodinma is a man coming with a lot of knowledge to better the lives of Imo people. He prepared for this job. When he took over the mantle of leadership, as an astute lawmaker, he believes that a suitable society is governed by law and by making good laws you can economically revive the state and guarantee the security of lives and properties.
He signed into law the criminal justice administration bill. This among other things will aid justice for Imo people as well as guarantee the security of the citizens.
He also signed into law the amendment of the Imo State Revenue Administration Law 2020. This law is geared towards generating revenue, boost the internally generated revenue as this will help to revamp the economy of the state. This is just to mention but a few of the laws the governor has assented to that will form the success story of his administration.
How has he impacted the civil service?
He has strengthened the civil service, making them proficient. Salaries and pensions are being paid and our Imo workers are happy for it; our fathers and mothers have been jubilating because the governor has shown commitment to meet their needs and he has vowed not to neglect the senior citizens. You remember the pensioners had a meeting with the governor, and they expressed their gratitude to him for paying attention to their needs.
What the government is doing now that is very important is the cleaning of the rot we discovered both in the state and local governments where they padded names of workers. This has been happening over the years. We believed politicians connived with some bad eggs in the civil service to perpetrate this evil. You find a situation where billions of Naira are criminally going into the pocket of individuals.
The governor reportedly gave cars to permanent secretaries of state ministries, what for?
He bought vehicles for permanent secretaries of the various ministries that have been abandoned because he wants them to be more productive and proficient in their duties.
The previous administrations never cared about them and their welfare. It affected our state negatively but is being corrected today.
The governor wants the permanent secretaries to be more productive and focussed so as to assist genuinely in moving the state forward. The workers have complained bitterly that they have been working under a very bad atmosphere. The buildings are dilapidated and there are even no furniture. The roofs have been leaking and rains have damaged some of their documents. Now this government has started a complete renovation of the building. The bottomline is to make sure they are comfortable. The governor wants to do that at all levels.
Can you take us into some of the discoveries?
Because the governor wants to pay salaries as at when due and equally provide the dividends of democracy that he promised, he decided to look into the books and discovered several shady deals in the payment of workers. You have a situation whereby one person was earning salaries in different banks with one name. The same thing applies at the local government areas where one person will be receiving salaries from two or three councils.
We found out that the wage bill of local government areas have increased astronomically when there was ban on employment by the previous administrations and people were retiring. Of course, these criminalities would not have succeeded without the connivance of some top government officials.
For instance, in Ihitte/Uboma, a rural local government, you find a situation where salary wage bill was N58 million while that of Owerri municipal was less than N25 million monthly. They ran a cartel. They succeeded in perpetrating these padding by going to rural local government areas so they know they will not be detected. They believe that they may not be caught. Now, they have been finding it difficult because we have a governor, who has zero tolerance for corruption.
How much has the government saved with the ongoing clean up in the civil service system?
At the state level, the state government will be saving about N750 million monthly. By the time it is concluded, you can imagine what will be saved. These monies will be channeled towards the development of the state, pensions will be paid and workers would receive their salaries. This will improve the welfare of Imo State workers and make them number one in Nigeria. Our governor believes it will be difficult to get the best out of the civil service unless the workers are happy. The governor intends to come up with other civil service reforms whereby the workers will be proud of the job that they are doing.
What is the idea behind resuscitating Imo Adapalm?
Adapalm is one of the biggest assets of the state. It is unfortunate that previous administrations have failed to exploit the potential of Adapalm. Governor Hope Uzodinma has come with a different style in governance. We are looking at reviving moribund industries, one of which is the Adapalm. We want these industries when resuscitated, to create employment for the youths.
The whole idea is to make Owerri an economic hub of the South East region. We want to change the old narrative that Owerri is a civil service state. Governor Uzodinma intends to tap all the potentials in the state and turn them into wealth.
This will boost the economy of the state, whereby poverty will be drastically reduced. The government wants to ensure that people are empowered; everybody both young and old will be busy. Governor Uzodinma will surpass the records of the late Sam Mbakwe.