From Damian Duruiheoma, Owerri
Governor Hope Uzodinma on Tuesday granted full autonomy to Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Imo State.
He stopped deductions from federal allocations meant for them.
In his maiden state broadcast, he promised to conduct a credible council election soon.
The governor said his administration would reconstitute the State-Local Government Joint Accounts Allocation Committee (JACC) to manage council funds.
“Accordingly, all deductions from Local Government funds are hereby stopped.
“Local governments will henceforth receive their full allocation and be accountable for same.
“The state government shall contribute 10 per cent of its net Internally Generated Revenue to JAAC as counterpart funds towards rural economic and social development.
“The autonomy of local government shall be restored forthwith,” Uzodinma said in the broadcast.
The governor assured Imo people of his commitment to their wellbeing and security.
The governor, while hosting the traditional rulers on Monday, faulted his predecessor Rochas Okorocha for conducting what he described as illegal council elections.
According to him, conducting elections in 645 autonomous communities as wards were not only illegal but not well thought-out by the Okorocha administration.
Uzodinma said the state could not afford to bear the financial burden associated with it.
He said pending the conduct council elections, LGAs would be run by the Directors of Administration and General Services (DAGS).
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During the broadcast on Tuesday, the governor warned mischief-makers against fomenting trouble, vowing to bring the full weight of the law on protest sponsors no matter their status.
He said: “There is a need for vigilance. It is crystal clear to me that some of those who lost out in the final battle at the Supreme Court, where the real winner of the March 2019 governorship election was determined, are finding it difficult to come to grips with reality.
“They have consequently resorted to mischief-making and incitement of the public. They spread falsehood against me and the government.
“They sponsor pockets of protests against the government and seek to divide us on clannish grounds.
“They deride our institutions when such institutions take decisions that do not favour them.
“Let me make it clear that while our doors are wide open to accommodate everyone, including my political opponents, and while we insist on enduring peace and reconciliation, we shall not brood any reckless breach of the laws of the land.
“Those encouraging or sponsoring any breach of public peace should desist forthwith or face the full wrath of the law.
“Make no mistake about it; I have a responsibility to govern Imo State and to maintain the peace therefrom.
“In the discharge of these duties, I shall not hesitate to bring the full weight of the law on anybody, no matter how highly placed, who constitutes himself or herself into a public nuisance.
“I also advise law-abiding people of our beloved state to resist attempts to be used for selfish reasons by desperate politicians.
“We know those behind these incitements; who are sowing seeds of discord to divide our state.
“I appeal to them to have a rethink and remember that power comes from God and that even more importantly, no election is the end of elections but rather the confirmation that more elections are ahead. So, the losers today can be the winners tomorrow and next tomorrow.
“As we celebrate the birth of a new Imo which we achieved with your support, it is time for us to harp on the things that unite us not on the things that divide us.”
The governor said his vision was for an Imo “where equality and the rule of law shall reign supreme.”
Calling for unity and a departure from the past, he promised to build a new Imo “defined by the common will of the people, in which equity, justice, freedom, and rule of law prevail over impunity and executive recklessness”.
“This is the essence of good governance and it is my firm belief that democracy without good governance is nothing but a mirage,” he said.
According to him, over the last decade, there had been a slow, steady but devastating loss of the core values that had defined the state.
“In place of those cherished ideals, an insipid culture of lawlessness and neo-feudalism had crept into the body fabric of our state.
“The time is now to take action and free our state and her people from the stranglehold of the false religion of executive lawlessness, exclusive governance and total disregard to due process.
“I challenge every Imo man, woman, youth and child to hold us by the same standards and the same scales by which we judge past administrations.”
He said his administration would restore financial discipline, entrench due process and conduct government business transparently.
He promised economic and civil service reforms, restated his campaign promises, and urged the people to judge by the same scale they did previous administrations.
“We shall dismantle all existing structures in the state civil service that encouraged the massive looting of public funds.
‘It takes a willing civil servant and an overbearing politician to engage in covert expropriation of the commonwealth.
“Civil Servants who are part of the existing mode of plundering the treasury shall be handed over to the appropriate anti-graft agencies.”
To ensure maximum security in the state, the governor announced the establishment of a new security architecture.
He said it would be enhanced with the installation of state-of-the-art digital technology/equipment linked to the 27 council areas to enhance crime detection, intelligence gathering, tracking and apprehension of criminals.
“We shall create a neighbourhood security watch code-named ‘North East-West’ (NEW) involving a coordinated network of community intelligence-gathering programme in liaison with the police, Department of State Services, NSCDC, NSO and some Private Security Companies.
“In tandem, we shall launch Operation FOC (Flush Out Criminals) – a combined security operation targeted at flashpoints and centres of high criminal activities, including hideouts, jungles, uncompleted buildings, forest, shrines, lakes and creeks, etc.”
He said community leaders will be held responsible for failing to report the crime within their domains.
He announced a cash reward for a whistle-blowing campaign.
“Our new Imo shall no longer be a haven for kidnappers, armed robbers, cultists, Yahoo Plus, and Alibaba Gangs, baby factory, and ritualists, human trafficking, etc,” he said.
Nine lawmakers join APC
Also on Tuesday, Imo State House of Assembly Deputy Speaker, Mr Okey Onyekanma, resigned.
His resignation was announced by the Speaker, Chiji Collins. during plenary.
The deputy speaker also resigned as chairman of the House committee on rules and business.
His resignation came at a time about nine members of the Action Alliance (AA), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Those defecting lawmakers are Chyna Iwuanyanwu (Nwangele LGA, PDP); Innocent Egwim (Ideato North LGA, AA), Chidem EMELUMBA (Okigwe LGA, PDP); Obinna Okwara (Nkwerre LGA, AA) and Paul Emeziem Onuimo LGA, APGA).
Others are Ekene Nnodumele (Orsu LGA, APGA); Duru Johnson (Ideato South LGA, AA); SN Obiefule (Isu LGA, AA); Herculus Okoro (Ohaji-Egbema LGA, PDP).
Apart from the representatives of Okigwe and Onuimo constituencies, the rest of the defectors are from Orlu Senatorial District and were interested in replacing Onyekanma as the new deputy speaker.
The House yesterday screened and confirmed a commissioner nominee sent by Uzodinma.
He is Mr C.O.C. Akaolisa, a lawyer.