WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 1, 2020.
Umunnem ndi Imo. On behalf of my family and the government of Imo State, I am most delighted to bring you our New Year greetings. We give thanks to Almighty God for bringing us into the New Year in good health, full of hope again and having faith in a prosperous 2020.
1.2 Seven (7) months ago, Gerald Irona and I took over the reins of leadership as your Deputy Governor and Governor respectively. We thank you once again for this public mandate vested in our party, The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the sacred trust bestowed upon us.
1.3 The beginning of the year, indeed, offers us a great opportunity to renew our promise of complete dedication to the service of our people and faith in the Almighty God. That was one of the reasons why on the 20th of December 2019, we held an Inter-denominational Imo Day of Thanksgiving, to thank God for His mercies through the year. It was also time to renew our sacred pledge of fidelity to our Mission to rebuild, reposition and transform Imo State into a modern ecosystem.
1.4 Year 2020 is the famed year of possibilities. Metaphorically, 2020 also symbolizes complete vision. Here in Imo State, our vision for the future is very clear and we believe that all these possibilities are still attainable. I say so because, we have the determination of a committed Executive Team, the partnership of a collaborative Legislature, the wisdom of an independent Judiciary and the heart-warming support of an enlightened, God-fearing and hardworking people.
2.0 MAJOR ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE PAST SEVEN MONTHS.
2.1 By your prayers support and partnership, the last seven months have been both a period of liberation and that of laying the foundation for effective take-off. Our collective accomplishments in pursuit of the Rebuild Imo Agenda imbue us with a very strong faith in a positive and prosperous future.
2.2 Our harmonious working relationship with the Legislature has resulted in an unprecedented record breaking 18 Bills passed and signed into Law since we were sworn-in. This is an enviable milestone by any standards.
2.3 Government has also established strong links to multilateral development partners and we are attracting donor-agencies fund for programs to virtually all sectors ranging from water projects to erosion control, rural access roads, healthcare, agriculture and education.
2.4 In keeping with this promise, one of the first actions I took as Governor was to direct the release of N500million (Five Hundred Million Naira) counterpart funding in order to activate in the first instance, N9.9 Billion (nine billion, nine hundred million naira) funding for the Urualla Erosion Control Project in Ideato North LGA from the World Bank NEWMAP Projects. Similarly, we paid Counterpart funding to catalyse the Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP) valued at N13.5 billion (Thirteen billion, five hundred million naira) also from the World Bank. Under this programme, works are ongoing in 88 rural roads projects covering 380.7km of roads, across 26 Local Governments Areas.
2.5 In our campaigns, and indeed upon assumption of Office, we undertook to reposition our Local Governments to become strong centres of effective grassroot governance. In furtherance to this, we have restored their financial autonomy resulting in their receiving fund allocations directly, and in full too.
2.6 Under our constitutional oversight, all the Local Governments are constructing new secretariat complexes to provide conducive working environment for workers. For social amenities and youth development, we are partnering with the Local Governments also to construct mini-stadia or upgrade existing ones. I am glad to say that only a few days ago, I commissioned the Ultra-Modern Local Government Secretariat Complex at Ahiazu Mbaise, The first among those projects to be completed.
2.7 I have severally stressed that to fund meaningful development, we cannot depend on monthly Federal allocations. Not only are these funds static, they are subject to deductions emanating from our past debts and refund on bailout funds received. In any case, we currently spend about 73% of these allocations on salaries and pensions leaving us with barely nothing for other myriads of challenges confronting us. It became imperative therefore that we had to strengthen our IGR mechanisms. We are very delighted to note that from about N250m (Two Hundred and Fifty Million naira) that we met on ground monthly, IGR has risen to over One (1) billion in the month of December 2019. We are focused on an exponential increase in 2020. Furthermore, this 2020, we will be looking into optimally deriving benefits from our Oil and Gas endowments – revenues , employment, wealth creation, sustainable development etc.
2.8 I assure you that Imo is OPEN FOR BUSINESS. Our dedicated ‘ease of doing business’ desk is there to address bottlenecks potential investors may face. Our efforts are gradually yielding results. Only recently, we allocated land in Owerri to AfrExim Bank, to build its quality assurance facility for the South-East and South-South zones. The facility is estimated to cost over $50million (N18Billion) and would surely boost our economy and commercial profile. Currently, 6 airlines are now operating in the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, a clear indication of the rising investor confidence in Imo State.
2.9. Human Capital Development remains our fulcrum in the “Rebuild Imo” Agenda. Therefore, training our people is thus our focus. In 2019, we trained over 6000 teachers, while this year would witness massive training and retraining of our teachers in different skills for managing 21st century teaching skills. Government has also approved funds needed for re-accreditation of all courses in Imo Polytechnic Umuagwo which were lost during the decay of the last eight years. In addition, we have made the study of Igbo Language now mandatory for all students in both public and private secondary schools in Imo State.
2.10 In pursuit of Food self-sufficiency, as well as harnessing commercial advantage, Agriculture is our priority. We have trained over 600 Imo youths under our Youth-in-Agriculture programme and would be advancing loans to interested applicants among them to start their own agribusiness.
2.11 We are poised to bridging the huge infrastructural deficit that we met on ground, we have about 30 on-going road construction projects distributed all around the State. These projects are quickly changing the transportation landscape of the State. I regret the temporary inconvenience these construction activities have caused our citizens this festive period. It is however, a worthwhile sacrifice as we shall in return inherit a durable and well-constructed road network in the state.
To compliment this, we are pursuing an aggressive housing development programme. Just last month, we performed the ground-breaking ceremony for a 1000 Housing Unit Rebuild Imo Estate in Azara-Owalla in Emekuku, Owerri North under a Public-Private-Partnership arrangement. In addition to this, we will develop Satellite Housing estates serviced with infrastructure State-wide to decongest the capital city and stimulate rural development.
2.12 In the area of public financial management, government has implemented strategic reforms through the Treasury Single Account (TSA) thereby stemming revenue leakages, and closing up the multiplicity of over 260 different accounts in operation before we came to office. In the same vein, we adopted the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS). Our reforms have strengthened the implementation of the State Public Procurement Law, commenced the implementation of Due Process, transparency, accountability and value for money in the award of State and Local Government contracts.
2.13 Dear Imolites, it is gladdening to note that the world is watching and our humble efforts have attracted both global and national recognition. Recently, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), rated Imo State as the Least Corrupt State in their 2nd Corruption Survey, while we were also appraised the Best Overall Performing State in ICT Development by the National Council on Communication and Digital Economy. Similarly, Businessday Newspapers, Nigeria’s leading economic journal ranked our State as the fastest growing economy in Nigeria in 2019.
2.14. I would like to reiterate that we are conscious of the huge challenge posed by these sterling ratings, the expectations that come with it, and are making conscious efforts to sustain this positive national and global public opinion.
3.0 MISSION FOR 2020
3.1 The path of the just, the Bible says, is like the shining light, that shineth brighter and brighter unto a perfect day. This shall be the path of the Rebuild Imo journey.
3.2 Proper planning is based on empirical projections and prudent management of funds is vital for meaningful development. A viable budget is the basis for fiscal responsibility. On the 27th of December 2019, I signed into law the Imo 2020 Appropriation Bill signalling that the fiscal year will begin today, 1st of January 2020 as envisaged. We will keep faith with this instrument.
3.3 Many of the contracts we awarded for infrastructural development shall continue with zest to achieve their completion timelines. We shall also take on more projects that would make a greater impact in our developmental endeavours. To ensure sustenance of our road projects, we will revive the Road Maintenance Agency. We shall also vigorously pursue the rehabilitation, remobilization and reconstruction of the Onitsha Road Industrial Layout.
3.4 We shall intensify our efforts in our promotion of investment and industrialization to bolster economic development in the State and create jobs. The Bureau of Trade and Investment is currently conducting a verification process of Local and foreign companies that are ready to invest in Imo State. It is also developing specialized market clusters across the State to create competitive advantages for the improvement of business climate in the State.
3.5. We shall work to leverage our strategic position as the confluence state in the old Eastern Region, to transform into the preferred tourist and conference destination in the region. Consequently, works are ongoing to partner with our rich hospitality industry to harness our potentials. In like manner, the Ahiajoku Lectures is back, revived and shall get better in the coming years. Similarly, our tourist resorts like the Oguta Lake Resort would be upgraded this year.
3.6 Government shall pay adequate attention to ensuring access to basic necessities of life and protection for vulnerable groups, including People Living with Disabilities. In addition, we shall work to domesticate the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act in Imo. We are also looking at working with development partners and civil society groups to establish Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARC).
3.7 You would recall that in my inaugural address, I specifically declared technical and vocational education (TVET) as a major pillar of our educational transformation programme. To this effect, we are investing more than N4Billion (Four Billion Naira) in the reconstruction, physical upgrade and curriculum improvement at the four premier technical colleges in the State. We have set a target for ourselves to have over 70 percent of these TVET graduates to get jobs, be self-employed, or advance to tertiary institutions for Higher National Diplomas or Degrees.
3.8 Information Technology (IT) is like they say, the new “Oil “. Imo is leading the way in technological development with a view to making the State an IT hub. We have facilitated IT Tech Incubation centres, trained our women & youths, and are attracting the big names in Tech such as Google, MTN etc. in partnership as well as operations.
3.9 As the new decade beckons and the march to the 4th Industrial Revolution nears, the teaching of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning and Data Science would constitute a core of the curriculum of our schools. This is pursuant to our stated policy of inculcating in our young ones globally competitive skills and preparing them for the 21st century workforce. We reaffirm that we will continue to deploy ICT in our governance processes.
3.10 Information Technology will also be the platform that we will use to sanitize our previously abused land administration and allocation system. The newly constituted Land Use Allocation Committee (LUAC) will work within a framework of a digitalized geographic information system that we are in the process of procuring. This will further provide geo-spatial data for agricultural, environmental and transportation challenges.
3. 11 My good people of Imo State. We are making our civil service work again. Government shall sustain salary payments in full and create necessary incentives to promote productivity. All the Commissions of Enquiry we set up would soon be submitting their reports and Government shall implement their valuable recommendations for the sanity of our institutions and the good of our people. Similarly, the Visitation Panels on our tertiary institutions would equally be submitting their reports and we shall be surefooted in repositioning our institutions of higher learning for better results.
3.12 In agriculture, we are looking to substantially reduce our dependence on food imports. We have set a target of planting 4 Million oil palm seedlings in the coming years. Consequently, we look to plant One (1) million this year. Our rice Mills in Ihitte/Uboma would be expanded and the Arondizuogu Mills would be revived.
3.13 In the Health Sector, I am glad to inform you that significant provisions have been made towards improving the health of all Imolites in the 2020 Budget. Our areas of emphases shall include; programmes against childhood malnutrition and reduction of maternal and infant mortality rates to its barest minimum.
3.14 Government shall renovate, re-equip and re-staff Primary Health Centres in all the Local Government Areas, in line with the national objective of achieving Universal Health Coverage. We shall also upgrade one general hospital in each zone to the status of a specialist hospital in specified areas of medical proficiency. Government shall also ensure effective operation and reach of the re-invigorated Imo State Health Insurance Scheme.
3.15 Let me please state that we have declared zero tolerance to all forms of stigma and discrimination against Persons Living with the Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV). The State, in collaboration with donor agencies will support the procurement of all the necessary kits and consumables in a concerted push for HIV/AIDS epidemic control, tagged HIV ART Surge. I personally have agreed to be the mascot and face of the Campaign to eliminate stigma and reduce prevalence rate. Members of the expanded State Executive Council have all agreed to join in this crusade.
3.16.This year, Owerri would return to its eminent status as the cleanest city in Nigeria. In this regard, we will further institutionalize our “ Go Green, Stay Clean “ Initiative, and mobilize the entire state for the planting of about 100,000 trees.
3.17. Imo State would take its pride of place as the home of sports, as our repair and rehabilitation works in all our sports institutions and stadia would be completed this year. The indomitable Grasshoppers Women Handball Club of Owerri, is up and running again. These Imo State born African Amazons have qualified to represent Nigeria in the 30th edition of the African Club Championships scheduled for Algeria in April 2020. Similarly, our volleyball team, the Heartland Spikers have qualified to represent Nigeria in an International tournament in Morrocco next year.
3.18 We would be gallantly participating in the 2020 National Sports Festival scheduled for March this year. In addition, after consideration of the immense benefits derivable from sports, Imo State would be bidding for the rights to host the 2022 edition.
3.19. We shall sustain our efforts at mobilizing Diaspora participation in the Rebuild Imo Agenda. Our Diaspora Summit has been scheduled for January 3, 2020. By this we are providing a veritable platform for Diaspora participation in critical sectors in the efforts of government to rebuild, reposition and transform the state.
3.20. Another area of major attention shall be youths. In the passing year, we commenced a process of data capture of all youths in the 27 Local Government Areas of Imo State, we hope that this would be concluded soon. We shall embark on Youth employment programs, especially, the One-youth – one skill program with a target of generating direct and indirect employment for 500,000 youths. To pilot this, we have just set up, by law, an Imo State Employment Trust Fund to serve as a foundation for supporting youth empowerment.
3.21. This government understands the critical role of genuine data and statistics in the planning and developmental process. Consequently, upon assumption of office, we revamped the statistics department and upgraded it to the level of a bureau, known as The Imo State Bureau of Statistics.
4.0 APPEAL FOR PEOPLE PARTNERSHIP.
4.1. My dear brothers and sisters, I am sure by now we have been asking ourselves, what is our place in all these? What must we do, to bring about a realization of these noble programmes and projects? The answer is simple, a renaissance of spirit and our collective partnership.
4.2 For instance, I earlier talked about Government IGR target to meet up with the infrastructural development we have projected in the 2020 Budget. As we are aware, all over the world, governments are run from taxes paid by the citizens. As citizens and residents of Imo therefore, we should observe our civic obligations by paying our taxes as and when due.
4.3. On our part, we restate our solemn pledge to account for very Kobo Imolites pay and to bring it to bear on the quality of our infrastructure and improved living standards. Imo State is a blessed State. We will harness our strategic location, rich human capital and abundant natural resources for the greater good of our people. We are not abuja (the Federal Capital Territory). We are not Lagos (the commercial capital). We are not Port Harcourt, Rivers State (the oil capital), but we are Ndi Imo, a people known for industry and excellence.
4.4 You are also called to participate in our joint efforts to keep our environments clean always. We must be law abiding citizens and indeed have a re-orientation of values. Citizens should join hands to undertake community and neighbourhood development projects. Let us form an unbroken chain of support to the Operation Iron Gate security network by remaining alert in our neighbourhoods.
4.5 To our women folk, we truly appreciate you. I was excited by your zest and eagerness to contribute to this rebuilding effort typified by your participation in the last Imo Women’s Day. We will intensify our efforts to mobilize your beneficial involvement in the social, political and economic activities in the State.
4.6 Umunnem, let us also pray for the peace and prosperity of Imo State and work for its progress.
4.7 Today, we have an airport which is like the crowning jewel of our State. Many of us went through pains to make the contributions then, but today, we look back rejoicing for the harvest of an airport that has become a leader among many others.
4.8 In the same spirit we shall arise and build, so that when tomorrow comes, we shall look back in pride and satisfaction that we heeded the clarion call to the Rebuild Imo Agenda.
4.9 I must stress that I am impressed thus far by the show of goodwill by Imolites to our administration. I am also excited by their willingness to partner and support us as we rebuild the state from the ruins of the past. Moving around the State this festive period, I have seen a highly spirited people, eager and resolved to move the State forward. On the 26th of December, 2019, we held a stakeholders luncheon at which our people committed further to the rebuilding task. This, in no small way, strengthens my resolve.
5.0 Ndi Imo, Ndi Oma, I wish you all a Very Happy and Prosperous New Year.
Long Live Imo State
Long live, the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Imo wu nke anyi nile!!!