Imo cancels N18.5bn bond

Listen to article

The Imo State government has concluded plans to terminate the N18.5billion bond it raised in the stock market in 2009. The bond was facilitated by the United Bank for Africa Plc.

The state governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha disclosed this Monday at a breakfast meeting with newsmen in Owerri, the state capital.

According to him, the bond is a pain on the ass of the state and therefore should be cancelled to free the state from its bondage.

Okorocha revealed that the state was paying N1.5billion yearly to service the bond even when the Imo Wonder Lake and Conference Centre for which the bond was obtained was yet to come on stream.

Reacting, the Managing Director of Imo Wonder Lake and Conference Centre, Mr. Chinedu Okparaeke admitted that the project has suffered delays but believed that if properly briefed, government may consider reviewing it instead of out-rightly cancelling it.

Mr Okparaeke, who spoke on telephone Monday, insisted that the project has the prospects of turning around the fortunes of the state if allowed to come on stream.

N18,000 minimum wage
The state governor assured that his administration would pay the N18,000 minimum wage to its workers. He however, called for a review of the revenue sharing formula to give the states more fund to discharge its obligations to the people.

He believes that N18,000 was paltry, pointing out that no state should refrain from implementing it. 'Imo State will pay minimum wage. It is fair to pay the N18,000 minimum wage. If it is less than N18,000, how would the worker to go to work? How would he cater for his children? We only ask for a review of allocation sharing formula to assist states to cope with the new wage bill, he opined.

Okorocha insisted that there is no unemployment in the state. He reasoned that what people termed unemployment was the absence of white-collar jobs. He however, directed a compulsory skill acquisition programme to run in the state's secondary schools.

Free education
According to him, the free education programme of his administration was on course, pointing out that he had ordered the refund of fees already paid in the current school calendar by some students.

Still on education, the governor disclosed that he had sent all education secretaries on compulsory leave with pay in order to sanitize the system. He added that his administration has released N2.7billion to the state's 27 local government councils to renovate schools, health centres and tackle security in their domains.

Imo State, he said has a total of 256 health centres and 19 general hospitals. He said his administration would turn three health centres in each of the councils and one general hospital in each of the three geopolitical zones to centres of excellence even as he said government would soon acquire mobile ambulances to respond to emergency needs of rural dwellers.

Okorocha asserted that the Nigerians are not patriotic because government has not shown love to the citizens.

The state government, he disclosed, has employed under-cover security personnel to fish out the bad eggs in the society even as he identified three councils namely Oru-East, Orlu and Nkwerre as crime endemic areas in the state.  According to Okorocha, a study conducted by his government shows that any three young men travelling in a motor vehicle at same time are potential criminals.

He refuted reports that he had dissolved the Local Government Development Areas (LGDA). Rather, he said, he has converted them to security centres.

Inflated contracts
His administration, he said, had discovered a lot of malpractices perpetrated by the previous administration in the award of contracts. According to him, all contractors of inflated and unexecuted contracts would face the music.

He disclosed that he would soon raise a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate contracts awarded by the previous administration.

Okorocha announced the termination of Imo Concorde Hotel contract to Rhas Nig. Limited. The Lebanese firm had been managing the hotel since 2003 when it signed a contract with the Achike Udenwa administration.

Okorocha said the state government spent N430million to renovate the hotel, adding that eight years later, government is indebted to the hotel to the tune of N450million.

Responding, the Public Relations Officer of Rhas Nig. Limited, Mr. Charles Nwankwo said the company was yet to receive any official communication from government on the revocation of the contract.

Speaking on telephone on Tuesday, Mr. Nwankwo said the company would take the appropriate action once government notifies it formally about the termination of the contract.

The governor said his administration was committed to the rapid industrialization of the state. According to him, government had appointed an interim management committee for Adapalm, a company, he said, that has the capacity to fetch the state N1billion yearly. He said the company would soon come back to life.

On Imo Modern Poultry, Avutu and Standard Shoe Factory, Owerri, Okorocha said government would resolve the legal bottlenecks encumbering their operations with a view to reviving them. He disclosed that another challenge facing government in respect of Imo Modern Poultry, Avutu was its customized machines. He assured that government would re-tool the poultry completely to bring it back to life. He also hinted that government would soon revoke certificates of occupancy to lands at its layouts that have not been developed for industrial purposes.

New code of conduct for natural rulers
Okorcha reaffirmed the rightness of his dissolution of the Eze Cletus Ilomuanya-led state Council of Traditional Rulers, saying its disbandment was done in good faith to sanitize the traditional institution.

According to him, the traditional institution had lost focus and been badly politicized necessitating in the inauguration of a new council headed by Eze Sam Ohiri, the traditional ruler of Obi-Orodo Community in Mbaitoli LGA.

He reeled out a new code of conduct for the natural rulers to include not taking any matter to the police station, be resident in their kingdoms, and participate in alternative conflict resolution. Okorocha said no royal father would confer titles on any citizen henceforth without state government approval.

He also announced of plans to recertify traditional titles, adding that any community seeking autonomy would pay a levy of N1million, a payment, he said, does not guarantee that the community would be granted autonomy.