Last year at the Orlu political summit held at the Nkwerre Country Club, Nkwerre, Chief of Staff to Gov Rochas Okorocha, Ugwumba Uche Nwosu had thrown a banter that was as serious as it was humourous. He had told his listeners about a mad who operates close to Government House Roundabout who once said while Owelle is building, Rochas is demolishing. Both the lunatic and CoS may have actually said what they said as jokes but a deeper analysis would surely reveal that what was said was also largely true.
One of the traits that has characterized the Rescue Government in Imo State and which has consequently being given the citizens sleepless nights is the government’s build and demolish policy. Since it debuted the government has built and pulled down many structures in different parts of the state particularly in owerri. For instance it is on record that the administration has built, demolished and rebuilt the Government House Fence, built and demolished a flyover at Imo State University IMSU junction, built, demolished and rebuilt the fence on old works now Owerri Girls School just to mention a few. As we write catapillars and graders have returned to Weathral Road for what many suspect is another round of pulling down and demolitions on that road perhaps, in continuation of government urban renewal program. Yet, a few years ago this same government had pulled down shanties in a bid to recover the road. At the end of the exercise it had built dwarf fence along the road to beautify it. Today, however, government is back on the same Weathral destroying the same fence and other structures.
One thing that can be gleaned from this approach to development is that this government does not pay attention to proper planning in the administration of the state. And naturally, anything done or built without proper planning rarely stands the taste of time. Perhaps, it is this shabby style that can be blamed for the many projects littering the nooks and crannies of Owerri, the state capital that have been adjudged inferior by groups, individuals and even professionals.
We are concerned about this build and demolish policy also because it has become a conduit for wasting scarce resources. In a state where salaries and pensions are not paid as at when due, where salaries are cut and where economic hardship is biting harder each new day indulging in wasteful expenditure portrays government in a very bad light.
We are aware of government’s position that the pulling down and demolitions are in pursuit of its urban renewal programme. We have no problem with that. Our problem is that first and foremost, the program from all indications seems not properly planned. Again, nobody can deny the fact that it has worsened hardship in the state as thousands of citizens have lost homes and business premises to the program. Most importantly, it seems very plausible that the program is being executed without recourse to Owerri master plan.
Unarguably, if this is true then it can be said that program would cause more harm than good to the State. Already, even before the program has ran it’s full course we have begun to see snipets of evidence to buttress this sentiment. Take the issue of public water supply for example. It is an open secret today that the issue of water supply in owerri may have become seriously endangered as most of the major pipelines of the multi billion naira owerri water works built by Chief Sam Mbakwe are now buried under roads. Same is the case with other pipelines such as those of power and telecommunications uprooted from the utility paths that have been converted to drainages. Indeed, like ex governor Ikedi Ohakim argued in one of his letters to Gov Okorocha we are persuaded that the gains of the urban renewal and indeed, general demolitions going on in the state, would pale into nothingness when placed side by side with their demerits.
Against this backdrop therefore, we are calling on the government to take a break, sit down and think seriously about it’s renewal policy. But, if we were in a position to advise the administration we think the best thing it should do now taking into consideration many minuses of this policy is to discontinue it immediately.