Imo State Commissioner for Information, Declan Emelumba, speaks with ALEXANDER OKERE on the recent attack on Governor Hope Uzodinma’s country home, the violence in some parts of the state, the proposed security outfit by South-East governors and the rift with his predecessor.
First of all, the governor made a broadcast to Imo people on Saturday (May 1, 2021) where he assured them that the situation is under control and that they should go about their normal businesses. He also made it clear that investigation has reached an advanced stage to expose all those involved and to bring them to book. With that, the situation in Imo is calm now. I understand that some arrests are being made, so that shows that the governor is keeping to his words.
I don’t have an official figure but I know that some arrests are being made.
We have redoubled security in the state. Every nook and cranny of the state is now properly policed, properly safeguarded by security forces. So, every measure has been put in place to ensure that people can go about their normal businesses without fear of any form of molestation. So, security has been redoubled and that is one clear measure that the governor has taken.
No, there is no curfew.
Like I said, the governor made it clear that the investigation has reached an advanced stage, and that soon, all the perpetrators will be exposed and brought to book. So, until then, that is the situation now.
Yes. What we say is that the attack was politically sponsored (by) maybe the opposition. And when you say opposition, people get it wrong or a narrow-minded view of it because they just look at those outside a political party; it doesn’t follow. Those within a party can still be part of the opposition.
What we have said is that it was politically sponsored. We have not said that it was IPOB or any group, and that is our position.
That is, maybe, a statement they have made in anger or whatever. But I don’t think the government is a threat to anybody. The governor has also said he is not going to negotiate with criminals. So, if any group is a criminal gang, the government will not negotiate with them. That is the position of the government.
No. First of all, the governor left Imo for an official assignment and he was even in Abuja when this thing (attack) happened. So, he couldn’t have anticipated that such a thing would happen and that’s not the first time he was going to Abuja. He goes to Abuja regularly because a lot of things about the federation happen in Abuja. Most governors go to Abuja and he is not an exception. It was in one of the trips he made to Abuja that this (attack) happened, so it couldn’t have been because of one threat. He came back and addressed the Imo people. So, if it was because of it (threat), why would he come back?
The governor swore an oath to protect the lives and property of Imo people and he is doing exactly that and he has sworn again before Imo people that that is what he has come to do and he would not stray away from that responsibility. And that is what he is doing – protecting the lives and property of Imo people.
Everybody is entitled to his or her opinion but I know the government is doing everything that is needed to make sure that the lives and property of Imo people are protected.
What the South-East agreed was to establish a vigilante group to be called and addressed as . And I know that in the nearest future, the governor will be launching the Imo State vigilante group, which is nicknamed .
A bill will soon be presented to the state House of Assembly to give legal teeth to the new outfit. So, it is that law that will define how the nomenclature and the things that are necessary will be rolled out. It doesn’t have to be modelled after Amotekun. But I know that what will constitute , in terms of content, operational modalities, will be clearly spelt out in the law; it won’t be a secret. Let us not be in haste. The bill will soon be submitted in the House; by then, the whole ingredients of the vigilante group will be made clear and all other questions can follow from there.
I speak for the state government; I don’t speak for any other group.
I don’t know why you want to be dragging me into this ESN, IPOB thing. Like I said, I speak for the state government. Why don’t you wait for the outfit to be established? There is no need making conjectures or anticipating what will happen or what will not happen. I said there would be a law that will clearly define the operations and when that law comes out, we can take it up from there.
Honestly, I don’t know. I am not in a position to establish that correlation. This is something that requires intelligence and very empirical study to be able to determine, so I am not in a position to establish that. I am not a security operative but the government’s position is that these attacks are politically sponsored and investigations are on. But I also must add that there is no need to make conjectures because this is a security thing and it is a sensitive thing.
There is no ownership crisis. There is no Eastern Palm University, to start with; K. O. Mbadiwe University, formerly Eastern Palm University, was built as the second state university in Imo State, and it was built with state funds, which is empirically verifiable. Somebody wanted to appropriate it and then all we did was to recover the property from the illegal claimant. So, having done that, we are putting necessary instruments in place to ensure that the university takes off formally as a state university and that includes determining whether it will be more of an independent university or whether it will be a campus of another university.
While that is on, we decided that the management and students are not part of the problem. So, we don’t want to touch them until we have again finished what we are doing. So, when somebody, without authorisation from the government, decided to make an announcement, of course, that was an exercise in futility because he (vice-chancellor) didn’t have such authority from the government. So, all we did was to counter the announcement and ask the students and everybody to return to the status quo. There is no struggle for ownership between the government and anybody. The university belongs to the government and that is the truth of the matter.
The first thing is that we have officially recovered the university. The second thing is to assess the situation there and determine whether to leave it to continue to operate as a full-fledged university or whatever other capacity. When we have done that, we will then determine what would happen to the management – whether to retain them or do away with them. Those are decisions that will come very soon.
They are not at loggerheads. They don’t have any personal issues at all. What is happening in Imo State is that before the governor came on board, there were judicial commissions set up by the administration we took over from to look into both land use and related matters, contract awards and others issues. And the former governor happened to be indicted by this commission here and there, it’s a matter between him and the law, not him and the governor. So, it cannot be a distraction. It’s just like any other citizen of the state having to go through the law to answer for some wrongdoing. It cannot be a personal thing with the governor, otherwise so many other people that are regularly charged in court, both high and low, for different crimes, will be a distraction to the governor.
That is a rarely personal question. I wish you would ask the governor that question. But what I know is that regularly, invitations have been thrown open for stakeholders meetings and everybody who is qualified to be a stakeholder has always been invited to such meetings. What I am not sure is that whether Ihedioha has attended such meetings. But in terms of personal relationship between them, I am not in a position to say that.
It is a non-issue, as far as I am concerned. What they forget is that there is no governorship election in Imo State that has not been determined by the Supreme Court. (Former governor Achike) Udenwa’s governorship was finally determined by the Supreme Court. That of (Ikedi) Ohakim was by the Supreme Court; ditto for Rochas’. So, the difference is that maybe, for the first time, somebody who was denied his legitimate votes got them restored by the Supreme Court. So, it is a non-issue. Those who want to delude themselves about it are free to do that if it makes them happy, but it changes nothing, absolutely nothing.
I know that when we came in, we met a monthly internally generated revenue of about N600m. but right now, we have increased it to about N1.5bn. That is a lot of improvement. The government is also providing an enabling environment for private sector investments, like the siting of a gas plant in the state. All these are aimed at improving the revenue base of the government. And the government is consciously taking steps to improve commerce, small and medium scale businesses and all these add up the revenue base of the government. So, we are doing well in that area.
The investments I told you about are multinational investments. The gas plant owned by Seplat is a multinational company that nobody can hijack. This governor has no tendency for estate acquisition, so such a thing can never happen, not under his watch. I can assure you of that.