Moments after Governor Emeka Ihedioha of Imo State announced that his administration has flagged off the construction of a N13.5billion road project, encompassing 380.7 kilometers of rural roads across the 27 Local Government Areas (LGA) of the state, a group of elders has asked the governor to at least credit his predecessor, Senator Rochas Okorocha, for commencing work on the project.
Ihedioha and Okorocha have been on a war path since May 29, 2019 and have traded bitter words in the media for full measure.
In a statement sent to Pulse, a group called the Imo Concerned Elders and led by Chief Macron Onwuanibe said the Okorocha administration began the processes for the project.
The French Development Agency under the Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP) is partnering the Imo state government on the project.
Speaking at the flag-off of the project at Onuimo, Isu and Mbaitoli LGAs of the state on Tuesday, August 27, 2019, Ihedioha said he speedily approved the swift payment of the counterpart fund to activate the project upon assumption of office, because fixing roads is at the core of his agenda for a new Imo state.
Decrying the poor state of roads in the state, Ihedioha said the project will boost Agriculture and socio-economic development in Imo and reduce rural urban migration.
"As soon as we assumed office, the RAMP project attracted our attention, and so came under review. Our task teams and committees analyzed the program and its processes, and being satisfied with its objectives, immediately ratified it, then provided the necessary approvals and directives therein including updating payments of counterpart funds.
"As a State, and indeed as a person, we are particularly grateful to the two institutions that have made today possible – The World Bank and the AFD (the French Development Bank). As a policy of state, we will continue, as a matter of fact, to intensify our engagements with the development partners and multi-lateral institutions, in order to leverage on their pedigree", Ihedioha said.
The governor revealed his administration's readiness to revive the Imo Rural Roads Maintenance Agency (IRROMA) in order to ensure that all rural areas in Imo remain accessible all year round.
"In order to ensure that beyond the construction of these projects, their continuous use is guaranteed, we will revive the state road maintenance agency. This will ensure that our roads remain in satisfactory conditions even years after construction,” Ihedioha had promised.
'Okorocha started it'
However, the concerned Imo elders insist that Ihedioha should have mentioned that he inherited the million dollar project from Okorocha.
The group stated that a couple of days before his exit from Imo government house, Okorocha had told an audience in Avu local government that the processes leading to the approval of the project was facilitated by his administration for 7 years before the nod for a formal take-off was granted in early 2019.
“The senator representing Imo West senatorial district wants his successor to build on his many giant strides and to continue to move the state forward.
“We advised a few days ago that the governor needed to focus on governance and It is quite refreshing to see the government of the day in Imo continuing with the RAMP project which was one of the many projects embarked upon by the former administration.
"This is the way to go. Government is a continuum and instead of the many attempts to paint Okorocha bad and rubbish his achievements, they should think more along this line”, Onwuanibe said.
The elders also advised the current administration in Imo to stop claiming credit for the RAMP project or any other one initiated by the preceding administration, for that matter.
Ihedioha has often accused Okorocha of running the state aground, while stopping short of accusing his predecessor of looting the treasury dry during his reign.
Okorocha however says his administration left N42.5bn in the Imo coffers.
Ihedioha has wasted little time tearing down Okorocha-era statues and monuments, amid widespread allegations that the nation’s anti-graft agency, EFCC, has been dispatched after the former Imo governor on Ihedioha's orders.