Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State at the weekend rose to the challenge of hardship recently made worse by the removal of fuel subsidy in the country, raising the minimum wage of workers in Imo State to N40,000 and rolling out multiple palliatives that will go a long way in alleviating the sufferings of the citizens.
The multiple palliatives include but not limited to enhanced free transportation, feeding and medical care for workers, generous loans to genuine farmers, establishment of marketing and commodity boards, payment of gratuities to retirees, mass housing, recruitment of more teachers for primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, bursary and scholarship for Imo State students, among others.
Governor Uzodimma unveiled the package at a special meeting of critical stakeholders comprising religious leaders, politicians, farmers, traders, labour leaders, among others, which he convened at the Rockview Hotel, Owerri.
The Governor said he knows that “because we are buying petrol now at the rate of N530 per litre as against the previous rate of N189, you may hardly believe it. But I know that faith and hope are recurring words in our everyday lives.”
“Because you have hope and I know you also have faith in what we are doing, you will ultimately triumph. And I want you to be rest assured that this promise will come through. My dear brothers and sisters, you must believe me, when I tell you that I am truly touched by the reality on the ground. Yes, I am personally affected because whenever the nose weeps, the eyes join.”
Governor Uzodimma said he had “watched with keen interest how our people have been faring since the removal of the subsidy on fuel was announced,” noting, “I can tell you that I have been deeply worried by my observations.”
The Governor said: “It is clear to me that our people are suffering, particularly the low-income earners and those in paid employment. I have therefore convened this special meeting with the leadership of Organised Labour, Traders, Farmers and Artisans, to announce the comprehensive palliative measures we are putting in place, which I am sure will ease these sufferings, in addition to the measures expected from the federal government. I want you to know that I am with you in your travails. I share in your worries.”
He said he shared in their pains and anxieties, “but most importantly, I am here to tell you to worry less, to give you HOPE and to assure you that help is on the way. I want to let you into my plans for you. The plans that will alleviate the impact of the subsidy removal, stimulate the economy, create additional jobs and enhance the wages of workers.”
The Governor added that the plans he was unveiling”are aimed at making life more meaningful for ordinary people in the face of the current economic challenges aggravated by not only the removal of subsidies on petroleum products but also the effect of global economic challenges,” adding, “Let me say, however, that although the impact of that policy appears harsh in the short-run, it will, in the long run, bring positive results.”
Governor Uzodimma’s palliatives are not limited to the raise in minimum wage of the least worker in Imo State, but all encompassing.
His remarks read in parts:
“There shall be an immediate upward review of the salaries and wages of workers in the state. The minimum wage is hereby raised to forty thousand naira (N40,000), with discretionary consequential adjustments. At least your salaries would be able not only to take you home, but to also provide your basic necessities to enable you to make ends meet. Apart from the free transport which the workers are already enjoying, I shall increase the fleet of buses carrying workers to and from work with ten more new buses. This is to ensure every nook and cranny of the state capital is captured in the routes that the buses ply, to bring the service closest to the doorsteps of every worker.
“Also, each civil servant shall henceforth be entitled to a free meal every day, from the canteen at the state secretariat (meal Vouchers will be issued to workers). I have directed the Head of Service to work out the modalities for implementation. Workers shall also receive free medical treatment in designated hospitals across the three senatorial zones of the state.
“To beat down the prices of food in the market, Imo state marketing/commodity board will be resuscitated and expanded. Henceforth, the marketing/ commodity board shall be established in each of the 27 local government areas. These Commodity boards shall help to beat down food prices by serving as credible and competitive alternative markets for food items.
“Government will create and release immediately a revolving soft loan facility of Five Billion Naira to local farmers. The loan shall be granted to qualified farmers to stimulate production in the value chain. Farmers will also be encouraged to form cooperatives to facilitate organized farming. In addition, we shall support the farmers with tools and seedlings to boost their yield.It is expected that these measures and the expansion of commodity boards will generate 500,000 jobs in the value chain.
“A mass transit scheme shall also be established for members of the public. In that regard, Imo Transport Company shall be resuscitated and reorganised for efficient service delivery and also act as a credible alternative of choice for transportation. In addition, we plan to establish a light rail line that will transport people across the three senatorial districts of the state.
“There will be recruitment exercises for new teachers from primary to secondary and tertiary levels to boost employment and income generation, particularly among our graduates.
“The government has approved bursaries for students in tertiary institutions. Students benefiting from this scheme must however produce evidence that both themselves and their Parents or Guardians are captured in the Imo social register platform.
“A scholarship Board will be constituted immediately to ensure that indigent and vulnerable indigenes are not forced out of school. The scholarship scheme will cover both secondary and tertiary institutions. To this end, the government will avail full scholarship to Imo indigenes who excel in their West African School Certificate examinations and those who perform very well in Joint Admission and Matriculation (JAMB) exams.
“As you are aware, our administration still stands very tall as the first state in the federation to fully embrace the digital age by establishing the Ministry of Digital Economy and E-Government. Through this laudable initiative, the state government targets to train 100,000 of our youths every year in different digital skills. So far 5,000 of them have been successfully trained and have graduated. Another batch of 15,000 are currently in training. They will graduate in a few weeks.It is noteworthy that the first set graduates of 5000 have all been equipped with relevant kits and tools by the state government. All of them are now gainfully employed. Some of them have secured jobs with international companies abroad and have long resumed work in foreign lands.
“I am therefore very glad to announce to you that one of the worthy fruits of our foresight in embracing digital economy is that Imo State is now an exporter of skilled digital labour to western countries. We are determined to sustain this trail-blazing accomplishment. To this end, the state government has worked out a scheme wherein those graduating from our skill-up Imo Project, who secure jobs abroad can be assisted. We shall do this by facilitating the processing of their visa applications and payment of their flight tickets to their countries of destination.
“Arrangements will be intensified to source funds to commence the payment of gratuities from 2008/ 2009. This is to ensure that the palliatives are served on retired workers also.
“Our current efforts at providing mass housing for Imo people will also be accelerated. The ongoing mass housing estates in Mgbidi, Anara and Nekede will be pursued with utmost vigour. This is to ensure that affordable houses are made available to our people soon enough.
“With the dredging of the Oguta, Orashi River to the Atlantic Ocean, and the approval of a free-trade zone for Orashi by the federal government, we are expected to create one million jobs for Imo people in the coming months. This will be achieved through public, private partnership (PPP).
“My dear Imo workers and Ndinwem, you know I have never made you any promise that I didn’t fulfil. Our relationship has also been more than cordial. The fire of the romance is not about to wane. The trust and confidence engendered by our performance would still be strong long after this period of grave economic temptation. It is indeed tempting for novices to jump in and promise you heaven on earth even when they cannot lift a finger to help themselves. Beware of the empty promises of those wolves in sheep’s clothing. Their mission is just to kill and plunder the state. Reject their overtures to use you to foment trouble in whatever guise.
“My promise to you is that I will never abandon you. My thoughts for you will always be that of good and not evil. Long before I became your governor, I was known for my benevolence and philanthropy. In the days ahead, we shall work with the various MDAS & Ministries, to ensure the implementation of these frameworks we have put forward.”
The Governor told the audience that his government is set to launch the 10 year development plan, the first in the State, which will go a long way in repositioning Imo State for national and international socioeconomic and political competitiveness.
Also, plans have reached advanced level to recalibrate the tax system in Imo State, with Governor Uzodimma hinting that those who earn below N100,000 annually are likely going to be yanked off the State’s tax net.
The event was also an opportunity for Governor Uzodimma to discuss what has been done in the area of security in the State with the audience.
His words: “Let me use this auspicious event to reassure you that Imo State is safe, contrary to the propaganda of our detractors. If we look back, with every since of honesty to 2020/2021 when we started, we can only thank God that the security situation has been effectively contained. Can anyone in true conscience say that the insecurity situation we had in 2020/2021 is the same as we have today? Of course, the answer is obvious.
“Imo state is far safer today than it was two years ago. Don’t forget that it took our dogged commitment and resolve to bring the security situation under control, thanks also to the support of the federal government.So when next someone carries the self-serving political propaganda that Imo State is not safe, ask the person to point to you any South-east state that is safer than Imo State today.
“Therefore, when political jobbers come to you with tipid political campaign abracadabra of how they will end insecurity in the state, just ignore it as the rantings of a political desperados. Those who mean well for the state don’t need to wait to be governor to contribute to fighting insecurity. Like they say, from their fruits we shall know them. So, find out what such people did or said, when the state was really burning two years ago. Did they lift a finger to condemn the brazen criminality that engulfed the entire state at that time?
“So, if they condoned insecurity when it mattered most to condemn same, from what background will they be coming to solve insecurity challenges in the state? Can anyone give what he does not have? Don’t be deceived, those who are in a hurry to make political profit out of the security situation are the perpetrators of the insecurity in the state. Finally, I assure you of the protection of the state government, come rain or shine. Be rest assured that we will do all in our power to keep you safe.”
The event which turned out to be an interactive one, saw speakers like the Anglican Archbishop of the Owerri Ecclesiastical Province, Most Rev. David Onuoha, his counterpart from the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri, Most Rev. Lucius Ugorji (represented), the Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Imo State, Dr. Philip Nwansi and his colleagues from the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), the Imo State Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Dr. Eches Divine Eches, among others, commending the governor for taking the lead in providing solutions to the sufferings of the people.
They also thanked Governor Uzodimma for his leadership qualities that have started yielding results in South East in particular and the country at large and urged him not to relent despite the challenges he may be facing.
Chief Press Secretary and Media Adviser to the Governor