Governor Okorocha’s ‘Imo Air’ Escapade

0

Ring True

By Yemi Adebowale; yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 07013940521 (text only)

Wonders will never cease in Imo State. Actions and inactions of Governor Rochas Okorocha often leave me disheartened. This governor has persistently complained about inadequate fund to pay workers and to run this state efficiently. As a result, civil servants have gone without salaries for months (in some cases, years), while the level of infrastructure decay in the state is terrifying. Retirees are also wallowing in poverty, due to enormous unpaid annuities. All these have resulted in so much poverty in this largely “civil servant” state. Then, Okorocha suddenly crops up with a commercial aircraft, said to have been acquired with the funds of the suffering masses of the state. He then goes about celebrating, and creating a dubious impression that this is capable of turning around the fortune of the state.

I doubt if there was any consultation with the people before Okorocha made this acquisition. The amount paid for the “Tokunbo” aircraft is also still a closely guarded secret. I really can’t fathom the sense in this investment. The whole arrangement is looking suspicious. For example, the state has no commercial airline licence. As a result, the aircraft has been transferred to Dana Air, to be used as part of its fleet, to run the Lagos-Owerri and Abuja-Owerri routes. I can’t see any dividend accruing to Imo State from this arrangement. All the domestic airlines are struggling to survive. So how will this third-party arrangement bring dividend to Imo State? This is clearly a “one chance” investment. Again, it is unfair to invest the limited funds of the traumatised people of Imo State in this aircraft. Okorocha’s statement that Imo indigenes will get 10% discount on this aircraft is outlandish. Obviously, the struggling masses of Imo State have no business with air travel. So sad that funds that ought to have gone into improving the lives of the masses of the state have been diverted to the acquisition of an aircraft.

It is heart-warming that concerned citizens of this state are already tackling Okorocha over this hilarious investment. Former Permanent Secretary, Imo, State Ministry of Works, Dr. Cletus Nnorom, was apropos when he called on the House of Assembly to commence impeachment process against the Imo State Governor over this acquisition. “Enough is enough, the governor thinks everybody is a fool in this state and we must stand for our rights. We have kept quiet for a long time and I am personally going to make it official with the lawmakers,” remarked Nnorom.

The Imo State Coordinator of True Ambassador, an NGO, Mr. Kingsley Ibe, agreed that floating an airline by the governor was an impeachable offence because it was never captured in the 2016 budget: “We are calling for the governor’s impeachment because he never followed due process in floating Imo Airline. The governor should limit his projects to the budget approved for him by the lawmakers and since he decided to run the affairs of Imo State as a private business, he should be impeached.”

The tenure of Okorocha has no doubt been horrendous. The people of this state have never had it so bad. Imo has become a failed state, with its government unable to meet its basic responsibilities to the citizens. Civil servants and retirees are now walking corpses. The level of infrastructure decay in this state is frightening. Facilities in the health, education and other sectors have collapsed. For me, with over two years left of his second term, Governor Okorocha still has enough time to put some smile on the faces of the disturbed citizens of Imo State, by being people-oriented in his approach to governance. If this governor is conjecturing about how to do this, then, I am suggesting that he should go back and read the “love letter” written to him last year by former Governor Ikedi Ohakim. The letter encompasses all that is required to put a bit of smile on the faces Imo people.
The section where Ohakim criticised the “senseless” demolition of buildings in Owerri is germane. With this action, the Imo State governor has simply compounded the agony of the people. Just as Ohakim noted, the hapless people affected “were neither given adequate notice nor was compensation discussed/paid before bulldozers were sent to destroy their properties.”

Ohakim added: “There is so much unruliness in the state with government officials showing the lead. But the truth is that they are like the proverbial young goat which watches the mother while it chews cord. Your Excellency, there is a built-up anger over the way the people are being displaced from their business locations, more so as this reminds them of the indiscriminate revocation and reallocation of lands in Owerri for which several complaints have been made in the last five years. Right now, there are over 250 cases in court against the state government by the very citizens you are governing. What an irony!
“You and I know that given the current economic situation in the country, this is the most inappropriate time to destroy the houses of people or destroy structures that house their means of livelihood without adequate alternative arrangement. Agreed, multiple lane roads are desirable but it should not be achieved by suddenly throwing hapless citizens into homelessness, joblessness and excruciating economic pains from which they may never recover.”

My dear Governor Okorocha should reflect deeply on Ohakim’s message, implement the suggestions and take pragmatic steps to ameliorate the suffering of the people of this state. As a first good logical step, he should auction this unnecessary aircraft and use the money to reduce the agony of Imo civil servants.

Dino Melaye Vs Governor Yahaya Bello
All is not well in Kogi State, as Senator Dino Melaye tackles Governor Yahaya Bello over unpaid civil servants. The Kogi State chapter of the All Progressives Congress is backing Melaye. They have jointly given the governor four weeks ultimatum to reconcile the ongoing staff audit in the state and pay the distressed workers or face the rage of the people. “About 80 per cent of workers’ salaries and entitlements have not been paid since January 2016,” remarked Dino. This Senator and his gang are threatening a statewide protest against Bello if things remained as they are. No doubt, the strategy adopted for the staff audit is causing so much pain among the genuine civil servants, with many of them going without salaries for almost a year. I know that there is a lot of politics here. Governor Bello should come up with pragmatic tactics that will reduce the time spent on this staff audit. Spending over a year doing staff audit is outrageous. This governor should also provide empirical evidence on how the N30 billion bailout fund and N11.2 billion Paris Club refund from the federal government were utilised. This will help reduce the heat in Kogi. For me, Dino and his clique are surely making sense.
Memo to Chief of Defence Staff
Dear General Gabriel Olonisakin, this is to remind you of the pending appeal of 30 out of the 38 senior officers compulsorily retired by the Army Council in June last year. According to the Army, they were retired for reasons ranging from alleged money laundering and arms procurement scam, to illegal sale of military vehicle and professional misconduct in election matters. Thirty of them have appealed against their retirement and are asking for reinstatement. Some said that they were not granted fair hearing, while others claimed that they were falsely accused and wrongfully retired. Unfortunately, seven months after these men filed their petitions, they are yet to get feedback. The last seven months have been harrowing for these retired officers, while waiting for the result of their appeals. Most of the affected officers are believed to have been retired without query or indictment by any panel. This is preposterous and a contravention of Army rule. Some were not even in the country when the alleged offences were committed. One of the affected officers remarked: “I did not participate in any elections, was not invited anywhere for investigation, was not mentioned for defence contracts scam but yet I was retired without being queried.”

I wonder if you know that one of those waiting for the result of this appeal, Lt Col Ojecho Adah Baba-Ochankpa‎ is dead. Baba-Ochankpa was the Commanding Officer 343 Air Defence Regiment‎, Elele, during the 2015 general elections. He was alleged to have been involved in electoral malpractice and appeared before the army panel in 2015. However, he was not court-martialled and had appealed his summary retirement. His family has lost a husband, father and son who was not found guilty of committing any offence by a competent court and was not granted fair hearing by the army. Similarly, his appeal is yet to be treated. How would his young wife and kids feel? Doesn’t he deserve justice and fairness even in death?

The Army authority clearly breached its own laws by ending the careers of these brilliant officers abruptly. They are looking forward to getting justice through you. They want to be reinstated into the army. The story in town is that their appeals have been passed to the President. Kindly do everything within the ambit of the law, to ensure that they get justice. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Efritin.com Storms out of Nigeria
The storm of departure of foreign investors from Nigeria has continued, with leading e-classified advert player, Efritin.com shutting its office in Nigeria. This is coming just about 17 months after its official launch. Workers are already being sacked at the head office in Ikeja, Lagos, while office properties are being auctioned. Nils Hammar, CEO, Saltside Technologies (owners of Efritin) confirmed the decision to close down its Nigerian office, blaming harsh economic conditions in the country as the primary factor. He also fears that the current economic recession in the country may remain the same up to last quarter of 2017. Cost of data in Nigeria was furthermore cited as a challenge for Efritin.com. “We are reducing our investment in Nigeria. That effectively means we are reducing our staff; everybody has to go. But in terms of using the site, it will continue as before. By investment, we mean the investment we made from the launch, it will be reduced,” Hammar said. Hundreds of jobs have gone down again. Our unemployment crisis is compounded daily, as these investors pull out of Nigeria. There is an urgent need to rejig our crooked forex policy.

I am also worried that Nigeria’s capital imports slumped to a nine-year low in 2016. Figures from the National Bureau of Statistics revealed this week that capital importation into Nigeria fell 47 per cent last year to $5.12 billion, largely because the weak currency meant fewer dollars were required for the same naira investment. It said $9.64 billion was imported in 2015. “This was the lowest value since the (data) series started in 2007, which reflects the numerous economic challenges that afflicted Nigeria in 2016,” the statistics office said. Any government that is genuinely interested in the welfare of its people should take pragmatic steps to reverse this trend. This economy is in a big mess.