Mr. Edozie Onyeakor is Imo State born Lagos based industrialist .A philanthropist committed to the plight of the downtrodden, Onyeakor in this interview with INNONEWS.COM.NG, speaks on Governor Hope Uzodinma’s administration in Imo State, proffered ways of boosting the Imo economy in the face of the Covid 19 pandemic, and other wide ranging issues on the State.
May we know you sir?
I m Edozie Onyeakor. I m an industrialist and a philanthropist, who is disposed to affect lives positively. I come from Oru West local government area of Imo State.
How do you asses governance in your home State of Imo, particularly the Uzodinma administration?
I will say, so far, so good. He has not performed badly. Governor Uzodinma never had the opportunity of a transition period just like his predecessor, Ihedioha had. So we must not be quick to judge him barely few months in office.Governance is a complex venture. It requires time.The former Governor, Ihedioha, had three months Transition period before he was sworn in as Governor of Imo State. That gave him time to prepare how to run his government.Senator Uzodinma never had that opportunity.
Such Transition period do give incoming Governors, the opportunity to fine tune their programmes and policies before they are sworn in into office.Uzodinma was proclaimed as rightful Governor of the State by the Supreme Court on January 14th. On the 15th, he was sworn in as Executive Governor of Imo State.I must salute his courage for being able to cope so fast with the dynamics involved in governance,together with other daunting challenges such as the outbreak of the covid 19 pandemic.
Would You Say He Performed Creditably Within 100 Days In Office?
100 days is not enough, to assess his Administration considering the challenges particularly the Covid 19 challenge, which just popped up barely a month he was in office. And like I said,he never went through a transition period. But I think he has shown impressive capacity to govern the State and I advise Imolites to continue to support his vision for the State.
How do you asses complaints of non payment of slaries of Workers in the State?
I think that issue is very clear. The Governor in his 100 days in office speech, said he identified payroll fraud and because of the shocking discovery, workers should tender their BVN.
I do not see anything wrong with that.Verification is a usual practice to identify ghost workers in the civil service. And the State Government cannot afford wasting scarce resources on ghost workers particularly at this period, oil price is so low, and there is downward slide of the global economy, which has impacted negatively on Nigeria’s economy
There is a drop in the revenue allocation from the Federal to the State governments. In other words, what is coming from the centre is to the States is so low. No sensible government will continue business as usual. This is the time to close up leakages and avoid waste. This is the time for belt tightening. No State Governor can afford to waste scarce resources in the face of these frightening economic realities.
So I believe what the Governor did, was to save some money for the State, by ensuring that the right workers are paid. I do not see why any genuine worker will lose sleep, when he or she is asked to tender his or her BVN number for him or her to receive salary.
We must understand that these are tough times, and we must accept this fact and support our Governor who has shown commitment for the good of the State.
What Is Your Take On The Outbreak Of Covid 19 Pandemic And It’s Effect On The Economy?
As you must have observed, Covid 19 has an adverse effect on the global economy. Covid 19 may go, but the effect of the pandemic will be with us for a long time. This is why we need a post Covid 19 Economic Roadmap, to address challenges which we envisage in the economy and other aspects of our social life.I will say a ‘new normal’ is in the offing, and we must brace up ourselves for it.
If the spread of the virus can be contained, I believe it will go a long way to revive the economy though gradually. I also suggest that we begin now to think of ways of diversifying our economy.
In your State, Imo, What Do You Suggest The Uzodinma administration Should Do, In The Face of This Economic meltdown
We need to reduce dependence on Federal Allocation from Abuja because like I said before what is coming from the centre is low. Our IGR needs to be boosted. There should be aggressive measures to ensure our IGR is high.We can achieve this.
We must begin now to take urgent steps to boost other sectors such as Agriculture and also encourage Industrialization. Agriculture sustains an economy while industrialization grows it. We can feed our people, we can also feed others. We have the capacity to do it. And we can do this if we get our policies right. I strongly suggest that the State government should look at ways of boosting the food processing sub sector of the agriculture sector.
Food processing holds the key to wealth creation which will reflate Imo on the global economic map if it is properly harnessed. This has been the most challenging sub sector in the agriculture sector in the country.
The government should also focus on the enormous value supply chain that goes with food processing. It is one thing to produce food and it is another ball game to process it. But I can assure you, that if concerted efforts are taken to address the food processing sector, we would have gone a long way to achieve a lot in the agric sector in the State which is pivotal to the economic development and growth of our State.
Also, there should be focus on reviving our industries. There are many moribund industries in Imo State. Sometimes, I wonder why past administrations, never took up reviving our industries as a priority. I believe Governor Uzodinma can reactivate them. Industries are key driver’s of economic development.
As an industrialist, I understand the importance of industrialization in the economy.Industrialization is the major driver for employment. If 20% of hotels in Imo State are to be industries, there would have been massive employment in our State. Imo State will develop better if we have functional industries.
However, I m gladdened about Governor Uzodinma’s industrialization policy. I read in the newspapers, where the Governor said, ADAPALM can employ more than 35, 000 people when it is fully rehabilitated. That’s good news to hear. It shows he understands what he needs to do to get our State working again, but I must say, there are opportunities in the State to have about 20 more of ADAPALM.
I speak based on my experience. When I wanted to set up a factory in the State, the place they called the industrial hub in the state, was in total state of decay and that gave me an insight the challenges faced by other prospective investors who want to invest in the State.
The growth in the industrial sector can be geometric if government gets it right. I do recommend that the State government should establish the Investment Promotion and Protection Agency, IPPA, which will identify industries that require attention and assist industrialists who want to set up industries in the State. Such an agency will meet the needs of those who want to build industries in the State and assuage their challenges.
You Are An Apostle of Youth Development, How Do You Suggest We Engage Our Youths?
Our youths must be engaged. If we can get our youths employed, then we will be making remarkable progress towards the development of our State. Imo State do have the highest number of graduates in the country, considering the number of tertiary institutions in the State.These institutions produce graduates yearly. It is clear now that government alone cannot give them jobs.And if government cannot give all of them jobs, then government has to create the conducive environment to enable them be self employed, thats the trend across the world.
I have always been an advocate of youth development. We need to make our youths to become self sustaining, to be able to create jobs for themselves.Unemployment has been a major challenge across the world. But there are workable measures to engage our youths.
I suggest to the state government to engage our youths on Entrepreneurship Training and Mentorship programmes. This module has been effective in other countries. It will provide the platform for our youths to engage in ICT, industrialization and agriculture. This will make our youths to be self dependent and this will aid in the collective task of developing and sustaining our economy
You were Among Prominent Sons Of Oru West LGA Who Gave Out Palliatives To Your People During Covid 19 Pandemic?
We were motivated by the passion to assist our people during this challenging times because of Covid 19. I believe it is part of my responsibility to assist the needy and the less priviledged during this period of adversity. We must see ourselves as our brothers keeper.
Thank you for your time?
‘If 20% of hotels in Imo State are to be industries, there would have been massive employment in our State. Imo State will develop better if we have functional industries’ -Onyeakor