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EDITORIAL

Roads: Make hay while the sun shines

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Roads: Make hay while the sun shines

Soon it will be raining again. How seriously or terribly the impact will be on Imolites, both those living in and outside Owerri, the State capital, can only be imagined. By hindsight, it will be dreadful. So, there is no better time to remind Imo Government to prepare for the inevitable or more figuratively, to make hay while the sun is shines, than now.

Clearly speaking, the sun has been shining for months now and does not have much longer to shine before the rains come down. Given what the meteorologists have forecast, what happened last year will be a child’s play if things remain as they were in 2020.

We are urging Governor Hope Uzodimma and his team to quicken their pace and to hasten up with road repairs, road construction, re-construction – whatever – to save us from the bitter experiences of last year and the years before.

In the spirit of Easter, let the work continue but at a faster pace to avoid being caught in the rain. We commend the Government for the journey so far. Government deserves kudos for every death trap fixed or every dilapidated road rebuilt. But we urge Government, truly, to double its effort and also get the contractors to do the same. Where funds need to be released or disbursed for the work, Government should do so without delay. Similarly, contractors should quicken the pace of work, get more equipment, where necessary, and hire more hands so that the job is finished before the feared downpour.

It is also important for Governor Uzodimma to pay unscheduled site visits to encourage contractors to speed up work. Any unnecessary delay will be too costly for the state and Imolites
We commend Government for roads so-far completed or nearing completion. Roads such as the decrepit World Bank, Amakohia-Egbeada road, Assumpta Avenue, Port Harcourt road and a few others, which have significantly improved.

However, we want to remind Government that it is not only in the Owerri Metropolis where work needs to be done. Roads in the other towns and local government areas are crying for attention. We must remember that food and agricultural products have to be moved from the rural to urban areas, and the poorer the roads the more difficult the movement and more expensive the products will eventually become. Already food prices are high in the state. Any addition to the problems farmers face in moving their products will make life more miserable for Imolites.

We however need to remind Governor Uzodimma about his earlier statement or rather promise that rain would not affect road construction. We also recall a state Governor telling contractors not to give him any excuses with heavy rain because he is paying them the agreed amount whether or not it’s raining. In essence, no excuse is good enough or justifiable, given last year’s experiences. To be forewarned is surely to be forearmed. Let every precaution be taken, let not last year’s experience be repeated. It is possible to give our roads a facelift before the rainy season begins in earnest. Imolites expect and deserve it. In the Spirit of Easter, let everything dead including bad roads in Imo rise up again.

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EDITORIAL

Owerri and the unexpected

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Owerri and the unexpected

Owerri could once pass as one of the safest places in Nigeria. This is in spite of little or no Federal Government presence by way of jobs and industries. Even in recent times, the Eastern Heartland was still deemed comparatively peaceful, even with rising poverty and unemployment. But things are changing for the worse. Owerri is fast losing its attraction as a good place to live and do business, whatever Government’s propaganda tells us.

Easter Monday’s shooting, jailbreak and destruction of police headquarters, located near the seat of power, is a shocking evidence of the changing times and rising insecurity. If criminals could break into police headquarters, so strategically located and perform such heinous act, then there is no security in the state.

The attackers formerly identified as “Unknown gunmen” have been linked to the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), with or without investigation. The Owerri attacks came some days after the massacre of over 20 innocent souls in a community in Ebonyi State, by the notorious Fulani herdsmen.

We condemn the attack irrespective of who carried them out and urge Government to track them down for punishment. However, we note that the Federal Government has not said much about the perpetrators of the Ebonyi attack and many other such attacks but has read the riot act on IPOB. We also condemn any form of selective justice. Crime is crime and criminals whoever they are should be punished, according to the law.

Another issue of concern is that our police seem to be more reactive rather than proactive in fighting crime. To deal with the enormous crime rate we now have, police should be more up and doing with utilizing of intelligence. Community policing should not be in word only.

Additionally, Nigeria must rise up to the fact that insecurity is at a record high, even with new Service Chiefs in place. Regional policing is not a bad idea at this time. We would have suggested or backed the call, in some quarters, for the establishment of a state police. However, when we consider the availability of funds or lack of it, resulting in nonpayment of salaries and pensions in some states, including Imo, we hold back. That is in addition to the possibility of state governors hijacking the outfit and using it to fight political opponents.

The Federal Governments is well aware that the existing security system is inadequate. There is no point in burying one’s head in the sand like the ostrich, allowing parochial interests to rule and dominate. There is fear in the land and that fear is real. While the Federal Government wrestles with Boko Haram and its other arms – killer Fulani herdsmen and Bandits, there is need to empower the states and regions to deal with their own “smaller” or peculiar security challenges before they balloon to the size of Boko Haram.

Fighting crime is also not about waiting for it to happen and then appearing like a rainbow after the rain. For now, it seems criminals are walking several miles ahead of the police. This should not be.

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EDITORIAL

Imo pensioners and pensions

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Imo pensioners and pensions

To be called a pensioner is usually to recognize one’s age and service to the nation but not anymore in Nigeria.  After laboring in the civil service or elsewhere for 35 years or more, one is only too happy to come home, relax, sleep longer and get paid the correct pension, at the end of the month.

Today, the word pensioner is synonymous with poverty and disrespect, especially in Imo State where the tired pensioner, literally, has to wrestle with the authorities to get paid monthly.

When you see frail looking pensioners, some of them bent-over and just managing to walk, going for endless verifications and accreditations, the last thing you want to be in Imo State is a pensioner. 

The standoff between Government and pensioners is annoying, at best. The issue has been so long drawn that no one is asking who is at fault anymore but why has no lasting solution been found in a state that boasts of many educated people and trained pension managers?  Is Government playing politics with pensions, do they have the right people working in the pension scheme?  Are pensioners being dishonest or reaping what they sowed prior to retirement?  Whatever the answers, we are saying that the battle between the strong and the weak has taken so long and desperately needs a permanent resolution.

Since ageing is not exclusive to anyone, commonsense demands that we treat elderly people right.

Last year, Government published names of supposed cheating pensioners who were making millions out of the scheme.  At least, one of the accused spoke out, denied the allegation, tendered proof to the contrary, and demanded an apology.

Despite endless verifications, the problem is still there. Selective payment of pensions, arrears of unpaid pensions are still piling up. Government insists there are ghost pensioners and pensioners insist on their innocence.

Government said some pensioners are taking pensions in more than one place, that is collecting more than one “salary” and pensioners say this is not true. Government says pensioners who bank with microfinance banks should re-register with regular banks so as to be better served. Pensioners say those of them who have migrated to the said banks still have the same problem.

Government hired contractors to oversee pension payment, and pensioners say that is the root of the problem. They insist that pension matters rightly belong to the office of the Accountant General.

We know that the legal body charged with pensions according to the Pension Reform Act is the Treasury Department headed by the Accountant General. Unfortunately, since the Hope Uzodimma administration, we have been told that the delay in payment is because the administration is working on its own unique database which would clean up the system and eliminate fraud. Even so, the situation is still the same.

There are only about 30, 000 pensioners in the state and it is a shame that Imo   still cannot get it right. As long as the pension problem persists, it will be hard for Imo State to wriggle out of poor press and publicity.

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EDITORIAL

Rising unemployment – A growing concern

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Imo as Unemployment Capital

We have again been hit with distressing figures of the dreadful rise in unemployment rate in our country. The latest tally given by the National Bureau of Statistics shows that 33% of Nigerians are unemployed, meaning some 66 million eligible workers have no job to go to either by day or night. The first man, Adam, even in the perfect setting of Eden was given a job to keep him busy. Nigerians have every reason to worry about the growing unemployment statistics, as an idle mind can easily become a workshop of the devil.

Nowhere is the rate of joblessness more critical than in our South-East, where millions of people who are willing to work cannot find anything meaningful to do. Educated or not, young and old; graduate and non-graduate, male and female alike, are walking around aimlessly looking for what to do. Many so-called employed are, also, in fact, under- employed, as less than half of Nigeria’s labour force is fully employed.

Adding to the problem is the inflation rate. With inflation in double digits, and food prices rising daily, both the unemployed and employed have difficulty feeding well, while the Federal Government struggles to bring insecurity, kidnapping and banditry under control.

But these problems did not just start. Unemployment has been long in the making. They are the byproduct of corruption and tribalism. No one government can be blamed for the decay but it will take the honesty, determination and creativity of a government to begin to turn things around. That Government must be one which understands that robbing Peter to pay Paul never works. Keeping one ethnic group down to uplift another is robbing the nation of growth and development.

Nigerians need jobs; youths need somewhere to deploy their youthful energy. The name of the game is job creation and infrastructural development.

There are moribund industries and factories in the South-East like the Nkalagu Cement Factory, whose revival will create jobs. Yet the Federal Government is content with helping Dagote create a monopoly in cement production. The Federal Government has been paying lip service to developing the raw technological know-how in the South East. All raw Biafran talents and ingenuity are still untapped.

The South-East needs to make hay while the sun shines. Government needs to think hard and fast on how to engage its bourgeoning jobless youths. Agriculture is important and must be encouraged especially in the light of the recent food blockade from the North.

South East Governors should do all they can to point our people back to farming, at least to produce staples like garri, yam, rice etc. The region may not have a comparative advantage in agriculture but abandoning farming entirely will be a deadly mistake.

Without ignoring God-given talents in manufacturing, the South-East must remember that a hungry man remains an angry man. We must be able to put food on out tables without depending on the North. Government must free our lands from killer herdsmen, rebuild roads and encourage a return to food production.

Agriculture plus manufacturing equals freedom and self determination.

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