By IFEANYI Maduako
ince the advent of the Fourth Republic Democratic dispensation in 1999, successive governments in Imo State had always dedicated or allocated a dominant chunk of their yearly annual budgets to capital expenditure with recurrent expenditure taking the smaller chunk. They usually allocated 70% to capital expenditure with recurrent counterpart taking 30%. But, in reality, those administrations usually applied the reverse gear when they implemented these budgets. Conversely, they would use 70% for recurrent expenditure and applied 30% for capital expenditure or even lesser percentage. This explains the dearth of infrastructure development in Imo over 20 years after a seemingly stable civilian administrations by sons of the state at the helm of affairs.
Younger states like Akwa-Ibom, Ebonyi, etc, created many years after the creation of Imo State have overtaken the state in all indices of development. If Akwa-Ibom could be excused for overtaking Imo infrastructure development a result of its humongous federal allocation as a very rich oil producing state, even though Imo is also an oil bearing state, what about Ebonyi that doesn’t produce oil? Its heartrending to see solid flyovers, durable roads and other monumental infrastructures in Ebonyi of just yesterday whereas Imo created in 1976, and which is also oil bearing state with a far greater allocation both in LGA’s and state than Ebonyi, is lagging behind a “common” Ebonyi in physical infrastructure development. Is Imo cursed or her leaders have been the cause of her underdevelopment?
Apart from late Chief Sam Mbakwe who governed the old Imo which comprised of the present Imo, Abia and half of Ebonyi States, other civilian governors of the state didn’t govern with altruism. If Chief Mbakwe whose territory was larger with a smaller revenue could do what he did as a governor in just four years, why did previous governors, especially the civilian ones failed abysmally even with a bigger revenue and a smaller state? Some of Mbakwe projects like Concorde Hotel, Adapalm , Avu Poultry, etc, which he built in just 51 months as governor (October 1979- December 1983) are still standing, where are the legacy projects of Chiefs Achike Udenwa, Ikedi Ohakim and Rochas Okorocha’s combined 240 months? That’s 96 months for Udenwa , 48 months for Ohakim and 96 months for Okorocha.
I deliberately excluded Chief Evan Enwerem and Chief Emeka Ihedioha because they didn’t last long in power. For the incumbent Governor Hope Uzodinma , its rather too early to judge or assess him even though he has shown a promising start under just six months.
Still using Ebonyi State for comparison. The flyovers and bridges former Governors Sam Egwu and Martins Elechi built are still standing, strong and solid. The incumbent Governor David Umahi has been adding his own, and that’s how a state develops and progresses.
Ironically in Imo State the substandard bridges, tunnels and flyovers Rochas Okorocha wasted the state’s scarce resources on them are now death traps which necessitated the present government in demolishing them. When Governor Uzodinma starts re-building roads, tunnels and flyovers built by Rochas Okorocha who just left power barely one year ago, how does the state make progress? If Okorocha loves Imo State as he hypocritically professes, shouldn’t he have bequeathed projects that could last a minimum of 10 years to the state? For instance, if Mbakwe’s Concorde Hotel built nearly 40 years ago could still be standing, is there any project of Rochas Okorocha that’s still standing or could last for the next five years without collapsing? Since Rochas Okorocha concentrated his substandard development on Owerri Zone for 96 months, if he gave the state solid infrastructures, the present government would have shifted focus on Orlu and Okigwe Zones. And that’s how a state develops uniformly over a period of time. A situation where a new governor starts rebuilding roads , tunnels and flyovers built by immediate previous government sets the state backwards with a lot of funds wasted at the same spot.
In economics, recurrent expenditure entails funds spent on salaries, pensions and overhead payments. Whereas capital expenditure means money spent on infrastructure development like roads, hospitals, schools, etc.
Against this background, should Governor Uzodinma dedicate a bigger percentage of Imo total revenue to payment of salaries, pensions, etc. against the development of infrastructure?
Imo State, with a population of over seven million has less than five per cent as the population of her workforce. Therefore, should workers, pensioners, etc, which constitute about five per cent, swallow 70% of the state’s accruable revenue? Granted, civil servants or workers of the government are said to be the wheels through which government moves, but since the whole country has been locked down as a result of Covid-19 pandemic, all the three tiers of government have been running and their FAAC allocations being received on monthly basis even when these workers have been at their homes. Precedence should be given to infrastructure development against salary and pension payment by any serious government.
Even if Governor Uzodinma dedicates his first four years on payment of salaries and pensions promptly, the same workers and pensioners will still nail him on the cross of Imo for neglecting building of roads, schools, hospitals, etc. That a privileged five per centers constitute the workforce and pensioners of government doesn’t give them the right or bonafide to demand for a greater share of the state’s patrimony or common wealth. The remaining 95% of Imolites who are not on government’s payroll are also entitled to revenues accruable to the state, and the state government can only give these 95 per centers their own share through the building of infrastructures. In any case, even these civil servants and pensioners also make use of the roads, hospitals, schools, etc. So workers get double ration while the remaining 95% Imolites who are not workers only benefit from infrastructure development .
Against this backcloth, Governor Uzodinma is advised not to be intimidated by the noise all over the place in respect of workers and pensioners’ payment. This writer is not in any way encouraging the government not to pay workers their monthly salaries and pensioners their monthly stipends. NO. The bible says that a diligent worker deserves his/her pay, but not a ghost worker or a truant. Workers or civil servants should also be honest to themselves for God to hear their prayers whenever they pray concerning salaries payment. The wife of my cousin who is living in Lagos is a staff one of the LGAs in Imo State. She receives a monthly alert of salary payment while she doesn’t do the job she was employed several years ago to do. Another young man is a pump attendant in one of the filling stations in the State. He’s also a civil servant in Imo. I see him on daily basis in the filling station doing his pump attendant job, when then does he do the government job? He’s always at his duty post as a pump attendant because he can’t cheat the private sector business owner but he can cheat government. He’s even one of those condemning the state government whenever his salary delays in coming. What justification does such a fellow have against the state government if he prays to God to punish the governor for not paying him as and when due?
Maduako, a media practitioner, writes from Owerri. (08061562735).