By Sani Adamu
Unarguably, Imo State had witnessed great infrastructural development in the last three years. Some people say that although successive administrations have tried to provide basic amenities like roads, housing, electricity, potable water, hospitals and standard schools, there was a big leap in the last three years. They also say that public infrastructure like schools and hospitals across the state were hitherto in state of disrepair as a result of neglect, with students studying under unfavourable conditions.
Even economic ventures, hitherto gold mines like the 30-year old Imo Palm Plantation, Imo Concorde Hotel and Oguta Blue Lake Treasure Hotel, were neglected by previous administrations. Observers, however, say that within the short period Gov. Rochas Okorocha was on the saddle, he has succeeded in repositioning the state for sustainable and pragmatic development. They commend his achievement in the education sector, especially the construction of 305 schools in rural communities as well as the provision of free school desks, bags, sandals and stipend to school children.
To stimulate consciousness in science and technical education, the Rochas Okorocha administration established Young Scientists College as well as a degree awarding college of nursing, the first in the country. The administration also established a college of advanced professional training to provide skill acquisition training to youths, as part of measures to achieve self-reliant. It is also on record that more than 10,000 Nigerians across the country have benefited from the Rochas Foundation’s free education programme, with about 2,000 of them in various universities.
The foundation recently received a boost, as a group of businessmen, under the aegis of the Imo citizens in South Africa, donated 45,000 exercise books for free distribution to schools in the state. Available records also indicate that the administration has so far constructed more than 1,000 kilometres of roads across the 27 local government areas of the state. Rationalising the government’s huge investment in road construction, Okorocha says it is aimed at opening up urban and rural communities to facilitate enhanced economic activities and attract investors to the state.
On the health sector, the governor says that his administration is also working assiduously to guarantee accessible and affordable quality health care to the people of the state. Shedding more light on his health care initiative, Okorocha says his administration is constructing specialist hospitals in each of the 27 local government areas of the state at the cost of over N20.2 billion. Speaking while taking visiting editors round some of the projects being executed by his dministration in the last three years, the governor says contract for each of the hospital was awarded at the cost of N750 million. He said that the hospitals would concentrate in the treatment of medical conditions such as cancer, brain tumor, kidney, heart, among others.
He said that in order to ensure effective management of the hospitals, a foreign firm would be contracted to manage them for a period of 10 years. Okorocha said that patients seeking medical care would be required to pay N200 only as part of measures to make their services affordable to the people.Besides, the governor said that an Israeli company was also building a state-of-the-art diagnostic centre in Owerri, the state capital, as part of efforts to reduce medical tourism.
Okorocha said that the project, which has reached an advanced stage, would also provide Tele Medicine facilities, saying the equipment necessary for its smooth operation had already been procured. According to him, the government has also constructed a children park to foster recreation among children in the state.
To foster the growth of small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) and reduce youth restiveness, the governor said that artisans operating in the state had been given tax relief. The governor also said that the government has started getting returns from some of its resuscitated ventures. “The resuscitated Imo Palm Plantation is providing employment opportunities to hitherto jobless youths and generating more than N2billion in revenue. The state is also paying N20,000 minimum wage as against the N18,000 national minimum wage. I have also settled the over N2 billion pension arrears inherited from the previous administration.’’
On housing, the governor’s wife has built more than 100 homes for the less privilege persons across the state, while a centenary 16-storey building tower of 1,000 apartments are being constructed by the state government as part of efforts to reduce the cost of accommodation in the state. This, according to Okorocha, is in addition to the five new city development centres planned by the administration across the 27 local government areas of the state. They include the Akah New City Development Centre, Oriubi New City Development Centre, Anara New City Development Centre, Amaraku New City Development Centre and Akokwa New City Development Centre.
Okorocha says the Imo Government House and the deputy governor’s office, which hitherto were in state of decay, have also been remodelled and equipped with state-of-the-art facilities. He said the state government had also built a new Presidential Guest House and executive council chambers, the first of its kind in the history of the state.
Okorocha says that his administration has never borrowed money in the last three years to finance its projects. To complement the efforts of the Okorocha-led administration’s `Imo Rescue Mission’ the Federal Government approved a cassava processing cottage industry for the Federation of Agricultural Commodity Association of Nigeria (FACAN) in the state.
Mrs Stella Opara, State Coordinator of the programme, said that the cottage industry would be sited in the state capital. She noted that the industry, when operational, would enhance cassava production and create more jobs for unemployed youths in the state.
The coordinator said that the association had already paid N500,000 counterpart funds to the Federal Government as part of the criteria for establishing the cottage industry.
She added that one hectare had also been donated to the association by the traditional ruler of Oforola in Owerri West Local Government Area of Imo for the project.
To add value to the initiative, Opara said that the association had acquired 15 hectares at the Federal College of Land Resources Technology, Oforola.
She also said that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) had been signed with the college, explaining that the association and the college would set up a committee that would supervise the operation of the project. “While the school provides the land, the association would provide money to implement the project,” she said. Opara said that the association, the umbrella body of all agricultural commodity associations in the country, had started leasing five hectares to every 10 farmers in the state for a period of 10 years.
Sani Adamu works with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).