During my tim
e as Governor, the government of Imo state recognises the link between road infrastructure and the State's economic productivity, growth and stability within the context of the government's commitment to sustainable development. A massive rehabilitation and construction of roads, most especially the outer ring is being undertaken by the government.
The outer ring road, also known as the Imo Freeway, is a super-highway passing through the twenty seven (27) Local Government Area of the state in 6 major segments:
I. UKWUORJI-NWAORIEUBI-MBEIRI-ATTA-INYISHI-AFOR ORU- AFOR OGBE ROAD ( 43.5 KM)
II. UKWUORJI-OGUTA ROAD (22.5 KM)
III. NAZE-EGBU-URATTA-ORJI-MBEIRI T-JUNCTION ROAD (19.2 KM)
IV. IHO-OGWA-AMAUZARI-AMAIGBO ROAD (17.3 KM)
V. AHIARA JUNCTION-OKPALA JUNCTION ROAD (25.6 KM)
VI. OGWA-ORODO NWAORIEUBI-ORLU ROAD( 10.9 KM)
The process to build the Imo State Inter-connectivity free way, perhaps the most ambitious road project since the creation of Imo State, with the complementary arterial roads is designed with a detailed study of the road and it's economic value and the financial engineering before the contractors moved to site in the first quarter of 2009. The initial project cost is estimated at N35 billion.
The 150-kilometre Multi-lane Free Way will run from Nkwesi in Oguta, cutting across through 500 Communities and 19 Local Government Areas, to terminate at Ngor Okpala. Intersection One of the road will run through Iho Ikeduru, Ogwa, Amuzari, Amaigbo to connect Orlu and terminate at Ideato North. The Spur of the road will touch Owerri North and Owerri Municipal.
Imagine the allure in terms of economic benefit, transportation easement impact, the sheer aesthetics and the realization of the One-City-Imo State Status.
In the mind's eye, one could imagine the big picture that has been put in abeyance, a projection on suspension and yet has the capacity to recreate Imo State.
The government intends to build toll plazas along these roads for the purpose of collecting fares, creating an environment and facilities for relaxation, services and conveniences to the road users. Each Plaza shall have service facility such as fire station, eateries, conveniences, shops, etc.
These plazas shall be developed and managed under the public private partnership model to ensure long term sustainability and efficiency in the collection of the fares, accountability and maintenance of the roads and plaza facilities. Revenue from the toll plazas and service charges shall be the concessionaire to recoup capital investment and maintain the roads under PPP (Public Private Partnership).
Many have asked, noble as these road projects are; why didn't Ikedi Ohakim complete these economic viable and ambitious projects that will open Imo for development and sustainable growth. The answer is simple!
However, without seeking for excuses, it was on record that the period under review, marked the most challenging period in the history of the country in terms of total depletion in resources owing to the world economic meltdown and drastic drop in the oil export which resulted from disruptions in the upstream sector of the oil industry by the Niger Delta Militants.
Allocations to the state from federation account could barely take care of salaries of workers and the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) was not too encouraging understandably.
It took prudence and strong understanding of financial management for the government to keep the ship of state afloat. Many States in the country could not even pay workers salaries not to talk of embarking on Capital Projects.
Imo State under Ikedi Ohakim was able to whither the storm without exposing the state to debt burdens or mortgaging the future of the state through asset striping or privatisation exercise, the terms and conditions of which are questionable.
The realities of the operational environment did not discourage the government from keeping an eye on the ball, rather it fired it's capacity to re-strategize 'making timelines the only causality'.
It is on record that throughout the life of the Ohakim's administration, the major loan the government took was the bound money it took from the Capital Market amounting to 18.3 billion naira under very attractive terms. Out of this amount which was purely project-based, thirteen billion, three hundred million (13.3b) naira was left in the account of the state government at the point of handing over to the new government.
Therefore, though it was incontrovertible facts that there was money in circulation during Ohakim's reign as Governor of Imo state majorly due to financial prudence, management and discipline, the positive dream of the actualisation of these signature ambitious projects was suspended temporarily because of political conflicting interests which hindered his re-election. Now that those unforseen intervening circumstances are cleared,... emboldened in the spirit of renewal, growth and development, looking at the future of Imo state, which is totally in the hand of God...apologetically, he says...Let's Do More!
Written and compiled by IfeanyiCy Njoku
First published May 7th, 2016