How Imo State Is Under-developed: The Legislative Perspective
In recent times, I have faced rain of abuses, “assaults”, blackmails, intimidations, media harassments etc. because of my genuine desire to have or see that the Imo State of our collective dream is realized so that our future generation will be very proud of us.
If Imo State is better, Nigeria will equally be better and Nigerians will be very proud of their Country. But a situation where one is making sincere, genuine and honest efforts to see that his environment is better vis-à-vis; good government, better leadership, contributive and suggestive opinions, constructive critisms, good advices, whistle blowing, exposing corruption and frauds in high places, leading and demonstrating good leadership by personal examples etc., and he is being discouraged through blackmails, intimidations, media harassments and abuses, our society will continue to suffer and pay the price of under-development vis-à-vis; bad leadership, corruption and fraud in high places, prostitution, poverty, unemployment, un-resolved conflicts, Highway robbery, youth restiveness, Boko-Haram, drug abuse, cultism and of course general instability in our system.
But I am not discouraged in any way; rather I am renewed in strength to continue to speak out on how to make our society a better place. I will continue to bring positive suggestions on how to encourage government to better the living conditions of the people of the state and beyond. Also, I will continue to expose how our leaders under-develop the state and the Country through unbridled greed, selfishness and lack of patriotism.
This brings me to the title of this article – HOW IMO STATE IS
UNDER-DEVELOPED: THE LEGISLATIVE PERSPECTIVE.
As a former appointee who effectively and efficiently managed and handled the media machinery of the Imo State House of Assembly for 2 ½ years (two and half years), I am in the best position to brainstorm on the above subject matter. I can therefore be described as an authority in this field of discourse.
In any given democracy, the legislature performs three primary or statutory functions as follows (1) lawmaking (2) Appropriation and (3) Oversight.
The Imo State House of Assembly which is the legislative arm of government is not an exception and can never be an exception, as far as these functions are concerned. In lawmaking, they make laws and these laws are supposed to make lives of the citizens of the state better. The present House which is actually called 3rd House, fifth Assembly has passed over 40 bills and over 105 motions. These laws and motions are expectedly not to upset the system, hence some of them are people oriented and others passed to serve personal interests.
As for Appropriation, the present House do a lot of it so long as its interests is well accommodated, otherwise how can one explain why unless budgets are jacked up to accommodate some interests, it cannot be passed. This is un-patriotism to its highest level. On oversight functions, they are expected to exercise that particular function on the executive, but unfortunately instead they perform it on road contractors, suppliers of goods and services etc.
Having laid the foundation of this article let me now declare that our lawmakers led by their leadership have contributed immensely to the under-development of the state and its people. Before moving to open the minds of the reading public, I must state in clear terms that the executive arm of government can only be powerful if the legislative arm wants it to be so and can also be held accountable if the same legislative arm wants it to be so. But our Executive must be held responsible for the implementations of laws and motions and infact order in the society. This arguably means that the Executive runs the machinery of government day to day, week to week, month to month and year to year. But there is what we call “the principle of separation of powers and also checks and balances”. While the judiciary serves as the check, the Legislature serves as the main ingredient of democracy.
The legislature is the fulcrum through which democracy revolves. Once the legislature is removed or collapses, democracy crumbles.
Conversely, I boldly argue that democracy is democracy because of the legislature. But to effectively put the executive in check, we need a very active, proactive and infact hyperactive legislature. Imo needs a legislature that can fearlessly, ruthlessly and patriotically put the executive on its toes through genuine oversight functions.
This is the crux of my matter and I am going to use the so called “over-sight functions” of the current House to make my case.
I am going to use the current “Probe panel” set up by the Speaker of Imo State House of Assembly Rt. Hon Benjamin Uwajumogu to prove my allegations of corruption I leveled on the Speaker to establish my disgust on these so called oversight functions. I accused the Speaker of corruption and fraud vis-à-vis; Road contract scams, Financial Assistance Scams, Employment Racketeering, General supply scams, Stipends for correspondents scams, etc. and using the proceeds to acquire properties all over the place. I asked the Speaker to set up a panel so that I would prove my allegations. That was last year (November/December 2013). The Speaker refused. I resigned my appointment and three days later I reported to the Executive Governor of the State and pleaded with him to compel the leadership of the House to set up a panel. This was not done. After waiting for two months, I petitioned the EFCC on my allegations against the speaker and his aides. Later, the Governor, during his recent Local Government road assessment tours vindicated me on ROAD CONTRACT SCAMS ALLEGATION against the Speaker.
Then suddenly, the leadership of the House woke up to its oversight responsibilities by setting up a belated Kangaroo panel. The Six man panel headed by Hon Ikenna Emeh can be described as a one man show because other members of the Kangaroo panel have according to recent Newspaper reports distanced themselves from it, considering the fact that the Speaker is yet to step aside, since he is the one being investigated, and at the end of the investigation, will still receive their “report” on him. Imo Speaker being judge over his own case.
Oversight functions indeed.
I am very sorry to be so cynical. Most reports of probe panels set up by the Present House do not see light of the day as vested interests are always protected. Another illustration will further prove me right. A petition in 2012 to the House by Hon Chief Philip Uwazuruonye, a former Transition committee (TC) Chairman of Nwangele LGA against Chief Tony Black Nduka, former TC Chairman of Isiala Mbano and then state chairman of ASSOCIATION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA
(ALGON) Imo State Chapter, for alleged embezzlement of N229.5m from September 2008- January 2010. The Speaker (Chief Uwajumogu) set up a
3- man adhoc panel (Hon Samuel Anyanwu, Hon Obinna Okwara, and Hon Robertson Ekwebelem). Till today, the reports and recommendation of that panel are yet to be made public. Rather, what the people of the state saw was that the accused in the said petition was made the Director General of Okigwe Peoples Progressive Movement (OPPM), a political structure of Imo Speaker. Later, Speaker Uwajumogu facilitated his (Tony Black) appointment as the current mayor of Okigwe zone. Conversely, if allegation against a former government appointee in the last administration could not see the light of the day, how can the allegation against Imo Speaker see the light of the day, and if it does, are we not certain that it will not be doctored to favour the Speaker who will eventually receive the “report” of the Kangaroo panel/Committee? It is pertinent for me to mention here that one of the members of the Kangaroo panel (Hon Acho Ihim) was indicted on the 23rd of January 2006 for embezzling the sum of N48, 269,274.29k when he was Local Government Chairman of Okigwe LGA. He was indicted by a six-man panel headed by Hon. Chukwunonye Irouno. Based on the indictment, Acho Ihim was removed as LGA Chairman of Okigwe. One therefore begins to wonder why and how such a character got elected as an Honourable member of Imo State House of Assembly in 2011 and today, a member of a belated Kangaroo panel “investigating” the fraudulent and criminal activities of Speaker Benjamin Uwajumogu.
I can go on and on to explain myself, but the truth is that the leadership of the Assembly has truly failed the state, that is, judging its conducts and the evils they have perpetrated in Imo State.
It is an open secret that Honourable members in the good books of the Speaker are placed on Special allowances and are quickly made members of committees that would always play, sing and dance the music of Speaker Uwajumogu. At this point, let me boldly state that there would not have been any need for EFCC to investigate crimes, frauds and absolute corruption committed at the State levels in this country (Imo State inclusive) if our state lawmakers have been alive to their oversight responsibilities in their respective states. The truth is that the laws of the land empowers only the Houses of Assembly across the country to probe cases of fraud against a Governor, Deputy Governor, Speakers, Deputy Speakers etc., and remove them from office if found guilty. It was on this note that the former Deputy Governor of the state, Sir Jude Agbaso was removed based on minor road contract misunderstanding.
Still on oversight functions of the legislature; how can our present Lawmakers in Imo State be doing their oversight on road contractors and suppliers of good and services, rather than doing oversight on the Executive? No wonder 70% of our newly constructed roads in the state are in bad shape because our lawmakers are the ones supplying Asphalt materials to the inexperienced contractors.
These Honourable members shamelessly agreed to be chairman and members of a monitoring committee to oversee the construction of these “DUBAI”
roads without stone base in the state. Few months ago, the executive sponsored some Honourable members to USA to praise sing the achievements of government: in a foreign land.
In more ways than one, the Imo Legislature has contributed to the devaluation of leadership and underdevelopment of the state.
Otherwise, how can our lawmakers be accepting flight tickets and other pecuniary benefits from the executive, whom they are expected to, put in check? How can our lawmakers be sending list of “requirements”
before 2014 budgets can be passed? How can they be colluding to jack up the budget in exchange for road contracts and kickbacks? Today, apart from Speaker Uwajumogu, and his chief of Staff, and indeed other aides; Other Honourable members are now road contractors. They have abandoned their legislative responsibilities to the state. Up till this moment, Imo lawmakers have refused to react, despite having confirmed that Speaker Benjamin Uwajumogu pay rolled over 120 aides with 90 of them as ghost workers including an 85 year old woman, Madam Monica Anamekwe. Imo State has indeed been devalued. A state where youths are unemployed, but an 85 year old woman receives salary without working for it.
When a social crusader complains or exposes them, they will simply turn around to accuse him of being insane, mad, cursed, unstable, mental case and other funny accusations. All in a bid to divert attention from the real issues at stake, just to make my allegations against the Speaker to look like a child’s play or a kindergarten movie. After all, Professor Wole Soyinka, Dr. Tai Solarin, Chief Gani Fawehimin, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Professor Chinua Achebe etc were once called mad men. Even our Lord Jesus Christ was once called a mad man. If Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr could fight for change in America, If Dr. Nelson Mandela could fight for change in South Africa, I Citizen Ikenna Samuelson Iwuoha will surely continue to fight for change in our society.
Let there be legislative sanity in Imo State.
I rest my Pen.
Citizen (Dr.) Ikenna Samuelson Iwuoha.
Former Senior Special Assistant on media Immediate past Senior Special Assistant on Special Duties, 3rd may 2014