Insecurity: Position I found myself as governor has been challenging –Uzodinma
Governor of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodinma, speaks on the state of insecurity in Imo and the ongoing agitation for the South-East to produce the Senate President in the 10th Senate, among other political issues, in this interview on Channels TV Politics Today, monitored by Deborah Onyofufeke
You recently unveiled a project which aims to address insecurity in your state, how far do you think it will go in addressing security challenges?
The entire situation I find myself in Imo State as the governor has been challenged very seriously in terms of insecurity. Insecurity occasioned by the activities of unknown gunmen, banditry, crude oil theft, and all types of criminality within Imo State. We have spent so much money using kinetic and non-kinetic approaches to see how we can ensure that there is peaceful existence in Imo State. Part of our strategy to solve the problem of insecurity is to do those things that will support our programme. Things like ensuring that our creeks have become a habitat for criminals; vandalising crude oil pipelines, and stealing crude oil from the Federal Government shall not amount to economic sabotage which is also telling on our economy as a state, reducing drastically the amount of money that we get from the 13 per cent derivation as defined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So, we conceived this project that is holistically meant to address the problem of insecurity, and improve the economy of the state and indeed the South East region. When you dredge the water lakes, from Orashi to Dedema up to the Atlantic Ocean you would have cleared all the criminals on that route that are vandalising crude oil pipelines; that are stealing crude oil; that is putting us into this hardship in our revenue generation. If we can do that, we would have addressed the issue of pollution, and environmental degradation, and what is more, it will come with economic activities, it will encourage commerce and trade, and residents in the various communities on that route would be empowered. Job creation will be heard, and our young boys and girls running the streets for lack of what to do will gainfully be employed. So, it comes with, apart from addressing the insecurity in the state, job opportunities, reducing unemployment, empowering our people, and enhancing the capacity as a state. The provision is multi-faceted.
How much will this cost Imo State in terms of money?
Well, it is an idea that we have just conceived, I have the concept and what is there is that because what we have done is what we call the preliminary engineering, after the preliminary engineering we’ll do what we call the detailed engineering where the quantities will be established and until that is done the exact cost of the project will not be done. Conceptually thinking, what we have now is a memorandum of understanding with the Nigerian Navy to generate the necessary data that will allow us to get the exact cost of the project; things like the calculated survey which has started today. Things like the geotechnical survey, tests like underwater engineering studies, and environmental impact assessments, all these are different departments. The project is multifaceted and I’m very confident that it’s something worth doing and by the grace of God, it will be realised. I mean as much as this is within the corridors and the territory of Imo State and perhaps will impact on the economy of Imo State and of course, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria empowers the Federal Government to regulate and make laws for water from sources affecting more than one state and as may be declared by the National Assembly and we do know that there is a National Inland Waterways Authority Act.
This is supposed to be the role and the responsibility of the Federal Government, why is it that it is the Imo State government that is taking up this responsibility?
The essence of government is to protect the citizens. Maritime security is exclusive powers conferred by the constitution to the Nigerian Navy and the Navy is part of the Federal Government. I just told you we have an MOU to work with the Nigerian Navy to ensure that the criminality along the region is put to check. As governor of a subnational government, an integral part of the Federal Government, there is nothing that is not constitutional. As I speak, the Nigerian Navy also has had the powers to handle naval security, empowered by the constitution and by law to also diversify and encourage other capabilities. As I speak to you, the number one hydrography of the country today is an officer or the Nigerian Navy. Nigerian Navy Holdings is also a commercial entity and all over the world what governs transactions existence now is public, private partnership, so no man is an island. The Federal government cannot be an island, a subnational government cannot be an island, and other commercial entities cannot be an Island. We must encourage partnership. There is new thinking with the world over, I am a creative thinker, it’s not about claiming your right, it is about serving your people and making sure the dividends of democracy are made available to the people. So, forgetting about everything must not be politics. The Oguta Lake is in Imo State, Orashi River is in Imo State, Degema River is in River State, the Atlantic Ocean belongs to all of us and there is no federal government without state government, we are the same thing. So, what we are saying is that we’re collaborating with the Federal Government to ensure that we make life more meaningful for our people.
Have you measured what this project would cost when completed and the kind of revenue it will be generating for the state?
Well, I just told you that we are at the conception stage of the process and the latest now is that it has been flagged off today and it is what we call the preliminary engineering.
It is after the preliminary engineering that we will now do the detailed engineering about which time the necessary data required to have a very high integrity detailed engineering would have been gotten. However, from the point of concept, it is assumed that on the point of completion, this project is capable of generating over 500,000 jobs. The agitation you see in the South East, the confusion you see in Nigeria, and the Coliseum you see among our youth population can be blamed on idleness, unemployment and I am sure that the Federal Government of Nigeria under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari is interested in creating jobs for our Nigerians youths and that is why the Federal government alone cannot do it, they have to partner with not only subnational government, even the private sector, so every good conscience in Nigeria, every good Nigerian who is interested in our national interests and the need to allow relative peace for government to regulate the environment must be interested in creative thinking. Ideas have ruled the world.
There’s been an agitation with what the APC leadership had done with the zoning of the National Assembly leadership, you are a very experienced politician, and you’ve played politics at that level. They are saying the South-East has been played out, as a leader of the party what will you be telling your people?
Every political party and every democratic dispensation must be governed by rules. APC as you know is the largest political party today in Nigeria and it is a rule-driven party what we practice in Nigeria is Partisan democracy. Before you win an election it will be sponsored by a political party.