Facts and lies
In terms of numbers, Ripples Nigeria investigation showed that Governor Okorocha, indeed, scored good marks in roads development in Owerri and other adjoining cities. The roads include 1st, 2nd, 3rd inland roads, and the ‘tunnels’, among others, that were not in existence prior to his becoming the state governor.
Further findings, however, show that most of these celebrated roads collapsed as soon as work on them were completed. Ready example is Okigwe Road flyover in the Orji area of Owerri Capital Territory. The project was awarded to RG Holding Nigeria limited. As stated on the firm’s website, work on the flyover commenced on September 2015 and was meant to be commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari on June 6, 2016.
While a visit to the flyover showed that work on it was completed, it showed clear signs of distress with several cracks on it even when no vehicle has plied on it.
Another ugly example is the newly-completed Ikemba Ojukwu tunnel along Port Harcourt Road. Just a few months after it was completed, a portion of the road on the top of the tunnel has already collapsed and non-motor-able.
The tunnel itself is turned into a river the moment it rains. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd inland roads all have their fair share of distress, with near craters that question government spending on the roads.
Of the contractors handling most construction works in the state, Ripples Nigeria discovered three major firms which are: RG Holding Nigeria limited, RHAS Nigeria limited and Irish Green Global Concept. Efforts made to get information about the firms from their work sites in the state proved abortive, but a visit to their websites showed that the three firms are all Nigeria-based construction firms.
RG Holding, apart from a residential building allegedly constructed in a certain undefined location in Ireland, every other known work displayed on the website, both completed and ongoing was in Imo State and awarded by the Okorocha administration.
RHAS Nigeria limited, also based in Owerri, has on its website an office location at Teachers House, Port Harcourt road, Owerri. Sources say they were relatively more active under the administration of former governor Ikedi Ohakim but add that they now remain a shadow of their old self, and have become a willing tool for petty contractors in the government house.
The case of Irish Green Global Concept is entirely different as its website at the time of this report was non-functional and little is known of its pedigree.
ALLEGED ABUSE OF POWER
Ripples Nigeria probe of alleged abuse of power by the administration threw up an interesting case. The Imo State NBA President, Nwakaeti, responding to enquiries said, “I have heard stories like that and I have had cause to take a case by a man who came to my office and said he bought his land in the year 1993, fenced it, had all his papers, but that some people in government who are as lawless as you cannot imagine went into the man’s house, bulldozed it and sold same to private individuals.
“This is a matter we are in court for and it gives credence to the allegation by people. It’s unfortunate, a man that bought his land in 1993, can you imagine? It’s not that the land was acquired legitimately for public purpose, but for him (Okorocha) to give to his friends and cronies.”
Sharing another experience, Nwakaeti said, “There is also the case of a land given to FIDA, a group of women lawyers that was forcefully taken away from them and that’s where House of FREEDA is standing today. The land is eight plots; they took over six plots and gave it to the governor’s daughter and her husband, Uche Nwosu, who is the Chief of Staff.
“In a meeting that we held in October, the FIDA chairperson came to the bar and complained that her life is in danger, that she is being threatened to let go off the land. The Imo experience reminds one of the story of Napoleon Bonaparte, wherein he got Europe to be divided among his siblings. That is exactly what is happening in Imo State. You take over land legitimately given to a group by force.”
He added, “We are not saying that the governor may know about all these, what I’m saying is that the governor’s children, siblings and relations are doing a lot of illegal things in the name of the governor. It’s time all these stop because these people are stakeholders. Every citizen of Imo is a stakeholder in the affairs of Imo State; you cannot threaten him/her as if he/she has no right.”
Another source familiar with the development corroborated the NBA President saying, “The area that is worrisome is that land is being forcefully taken from individuals and same is not being reallocated for public purpose.
The spirit of Land Use Act is that, if government acquires land compulsorily, the government will make sure that it is used for public purpose and then make compensatory payment to the original allottee. That’s where he got it wrong and why people are saying that all the acquisitions are aimed at giving land to his cronies.
“For example, the house where the governor’s daughter and the husband have the House of FREEDA on MCC Road is a land allotted to FIDA. They wanted to build a motherless babies home there. Today, what is on the land is the property of Uche Nwosu, Governor Rochas Okorocha’s son in-law, who is also the Chief of Staff.
Other choice properties linked to Rochas and his family members include Spibat Estate, where he resides and Akachi Estate.
Our source said, “This is the first time somebody in government will be developing properties in the glare of the public. Nobody can go and show you where former Late Governor Evans Enwerem, Ikedi Ohakim, Achike Udenwa built houses all over Owerri.
“Most insensitive is the school he is building at Ogboko which he started as a permanent site of Imo State University, then changed it to Imo European University.
When he wanted to pass a law at the State House of Assembly and it failed, he then called it Eastern Pan University. We asked him who owns it and he said Imo State government and some stakeholders. Go to the documentation, Imo State government owns only five per cent. Who are the stakeholders? he queried.
In his reaction to these allegations, the state Information Commissioner, Nshirim, said that they were the making of some mischief makers and frustrated politicians.
“Let me tell you, the elites are so bitter. They feel if they keep quiet Rochas will shit on their head, so, they are talking rubbish, looking for something they will accuse him of. It’s not true. It’s an allegation being circulated by defeated politicians.
“The Spibat some of them are talking about was a land Okorocha acquired even before becoming governor. It was a construction company called Spibat that used to be there. He bought the place when they left. It is true that part of it is his residence, but a major part of it is his Foundation College of Africa.”
He added, “I want people to know that before becoming the governor, he had Rochas Foundation College at Ogboko, his home town. He also has others in Owerri, Jos, Kano and in Ibadan. So, it’s not because he was the governor. Having gotten five colleges, there is nothing wrong admitting children from outside the country in a bigger school environment.”
But the story is not yet fully told. In the concluding part (3), there are more intriguing revelations on Okorocha’s alleged squandering of riches. Keep a date.