The Imo state governor Hope Uzodinma on Friday signed into law an Executive Bill he personally sent to his boys at the Imo state House of Assembly requesting them to cancel the monthly payments of pensions to former governors, their deputies, Speakers and deputy speakers in the state.
The passage of that Bill which went with the speed of a lightning surpasses all previous legislative abracadabra known in the history of the Imo House of Assembly, including those of the former governor Rochas Okorocha who, it seems, is fast becoming beatified by Sen. Hope Uzodimma and may soon become a saint.
Governor Achike Udenwa had signed that law as ‘The Imo State Governors and Speakers Pensions and Privileges Law No. 5, 2007’ while in office, to provide monthly stipends to former governors, their deputies, Speakers and Deputy Speakers after they left office.
That law had allowed an official approval of Five Hundred Thousand Naira (N500, 000) only as a monthly allowance to a former Governor in Imo state after he or she might have left office.
My estimate is that a former Governor in Imo state is entitled to an annual sum of Six Million Naira (N6m) only to manage himself, his medicals, his family and the retinue of aides and societal dependents the allure of his former office created. This amount is about the same package given to a retired Permanent Secretary.
Sen. Uzodimma while assenting to that Bill as was swiftly passed, described it as a “bad omen” and a “condemnable law” which he could not personally condone, hence his immediate demand from the lawmakers to repeal it.
But when a governor who is presumed to have been elected through democratic processes begins to manifest undemocratic features and actions, then the making of a dictator is ongoing.
The process of law making, including the repeal of an existing law, requires some rigorous approaches, beginning from the stage of the originating of the Bill to its final assent.
An Executive Bill from a governor requires nothing less than Seven to Eight stages, with the most important being the Gazetting stage.
Gazetting of Bill before consideration comes after the initial review with the primary purpose of “giving the public notice that a new piece of legislation is being considered, and to give members of the public and concerned persons the opportunity to weigh in on the process and potentially give written representations either in favour of the proposed law or against it”
Conceding that Sen. Uzodimma as a serving Imo governor, now has all “powers” of Ndimo at his very disposal, but wouldn’t it have been decorous to have notified the public, especially, these senior colleagues (former governors, deputies, Speakers, etc.) of his intention to end their hitherto legitimate packages? So, at what point was the public notified of the Uzodimma’s Bill?
Legislative process also requires a Bill of this nature to be read at the floor of the Chambers the First, the Second and the Third time. After the debate at the Second Reading, this Bill is moved to the Committee stage where it is critically reviewed, deliberated and where necessary, subjected to a Public Hearing. The Bill returns as a Report back to the Chambers for the Third Reading and possible passage, before enrolment by the Clerk of the House for the governor’s assent.
At which points, when and where were these procedures observed by the Imo governor before the rush to extricate a legally established law of the state? Did Sen. Uzodimma critically analyze the wider implications of denying these elderly citizens, especially the former Deputy Governors and Speakers their monthly stipends, when evidences abound that most of them, due to old age and health challenges, are now economically weaker? Does Uzodimma not know that those monthly alerts are enough reasons for these guys to live with Hope? Where lies the toga of Shared Prosperity when people are daily impoverished by the Uzodimma’s administration?
My quick summation of the so-called pensions of these ‘former this and that’ shows a little above Three Million Naira (N3m) monthly for all of them put together, (excluding Okorocha who is now a serving senator). What is the effect of a N3m positive deduction from Imo allocation for our aged and retired leaders where a serving governor like Uzodimma personally pockets undeclared Millions of Naira as Security Votes monthly?
If Governor Uzodimma truly has “conscience” and cares about his place in "history" as he claimed in his brief address during his assent, why has it not occurred to him that this unaccounted Security Vote he pockets every month is illegal, “bad omen” and “anti-people”? What is the difficulty in revealing the amount and surrendering it to Ndimo “as a young state grappling with enormous challenges”? How does the governor’s “conscience” go to sleep knowing that most civil servants, pensioners and teachers still have their salaries denied them while his Information agents fling out lies and propaganda, including suspension of workers who dare to complain?
Imo’s Post Covid-19 era will require a concerted effort of all, especially former governors and leaders. This is the exact time to court them and tap from their stocked wealth of administrative ingeniuties and coordinations which, unfortunately, are major lacks in the Uzodimma's administration, not scaring them away like we witnessed under the Okorocha-led eight years of hell in the state of which consequences are well known to all.
Uzodimma should avoid the mistake of emulating Okorocha who once bragged that there were no men in Imo. Imo nwekwara men! (Imo has men), and I can tell you that they are quickly gathering having learnt from the past.
With the heeps of wastes and refuses now piling heavily on our city roads; the mess our roads are gradually returning to (especially the Orlu-Owerri road); the ineffectiveness and clueness now made of our men and women appointed SAs and SSAs; the withdrawal of Rights of fiscal control from the appointed chairmen and members of the Interim Management Committees of most councils, etc., one is daily tempted to query how and where the hell the governor spends our resources these five to six months in office with the state gradually sliding back to the Okorocha era. How did Emeka Ihedioha perform the noticeable feats we observed under him, both in administration, governance and in quality road infrastructures at the state and Local Governments Councils?
It will amount to passing the buck for anyone to use the Covid-19 pandemic as excuse in answering my various questions here, because allocations of the state have been coming to the governor even with the Covid-19. The governor may just have to humble himself and submit to superior ideas and suggestions if he seriously desires a comfortable place for himself in history. Perhaps he should review his relationship with past and present Imo leaders. He should also be humble enough to consult and acquire some administrative senses from them, or better still, under-study the Prof. Ben Ayade’s Post Covid-19 palliatives measures for Cross Riverians.
Certainly, Sen. Uzodimma needs more to be able to enliven and stimulate our people for his government. The repeal of former Governors pensions' token does not excite Ndimo.
Greg Nwadike GOC writes from Uzoubi-Umuna in Orlu LGA of Imo state and can be reached only by whatsapp +2348099088443