Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State Tuesday met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja.
Governor Uzodinma told journalists after the meeting that he discussed the erosion ravaging parts of his state with the president.
The governor also spoke about his stance on his party, APC, zoning its 2023 presidential ticket to the Southeast.
He also spoke on the APC situation in his state and his relationship with his predecessor, Rochas Okorocha.
Uzodinma: I came to see Mr President, first to greet him and share some of the issues that are confronting my administration in Imo State. In specific terms the issue of erosion, the level of erosion in Imo State is alarming and I have taken time to explain to Mr President and he has assured me that the Federal Government will intervene as soon as possible.
I used the opportunity also to bring to his knowledge the development in the South East and that our people are grateful on the completion and opening of the Enugu Airport and we are also happy with the speed and the pace of work at the Second Niger Bridge and the various agric intervention programmes he brought to South East; and also use the same opportunity to ask for more because you know in this business, the more you get, you must ask for more. I am sure and I believe that Mr President is committed towards alleviating some of the problems in the South East region and Imo in particular.
Q: There is a bye election in Imo North Senatorial District. What are the chances of APC considering the internal crisis?
Uzodinma: If you understand my history and know where I am coming from, you will agree with me that my knowledge of party management is robust and I can assure you that issues and activities that took place before election, of course any seasoned and experienced party administrator who is in-charge like I am now will do his best to ensure that there is no faction or all those factors that would weaken the strength of the party.
On the contrary, of late, I have taken time to unite the party, bring all the people in. You must have heard how 23 members of the House of Assembly left their parties and have joined APC. You must have heard how a sitting state chairman of the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) left PDP and joined the APC with his executive. You must have also heard how AA (Action of Alliance), the followers of former Governor Rochas Okorocha, have also joined back the APC. APC is the ruling party and APC is very strong not only in Imo State, it is growing from strength to strength now in the entire South East region.
Q: There has been agitation in the South East for the zone to produce the president come 2023. But former Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor-Kalu, said any person can contest from anywhere and that APC hasn’t zoned it, what is your reaction?
Uzodinma: Well you know the position is not vacant now, there is a sitting president and we are practicing partisan democracy and not tribal democracy. So the emergence of presidential candidate will come on party by party basis, not tribe by tribe basis. But if there are other internal factors that will form part of the considerations for parties taking decision of course, that will be entirely the job of the leadership of those political parties and I think that is the right thing to do.
Q: What is the situation with the pensioners in Imo?
Uzodinma: Well, the issue of pension in Imo State like I did say in so many fora where I had the opportunity to speak to press men is that I met a pension system that was analogue based where the number of pensioners are not known, where those who are pensioners are not known where those who are not pensioners are receiving pension.
So I embarked on the process of automation and this is a recommendation from World Bank under their SFTAS (States’ Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability) programme.
Of course because of the automation we had some slight delay in meeting up with the regular payment of pensioners. But now that we have almost finished with the automation, there is no verified pensioner in Imo State that has not received his pension allowance since I became the governor.
And true to it, we have captured most of the biometrics of those who were not captured under the former regime. The leadership of Nigeria Union of Pensioners Imo State branch is working with us, they even have a desk in their office taking complaints and regularizing those who have not been verified to be verified before they will be paid.
But we have this experience of political opponents who hired those who are not pensioners to carry out protest and 15 or 20 of them have been remanded in prison custody, those that were caught with arms and ammunition. It is a criminal issue, they are not pensioners. Those that were caught by police that were remanded are not pensioners. Of course the matter is now in court. But I can tell you if there is anybody from Imo State who says he is pensioner, tell him to give you his new ID card because we have a new ID card with biometrics.
We have introduced Nips automation, once we have your BVN and bank details, you don’t need to go to anybody to ask for your pension. Only yesterday I received a team from the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Auditor General of the Federation who came for SFTAS inspection and they were marveled with the level of automation I have done within a short period. What we are trying to do in Imo State now is e-governance so that we can make life easier for our people.
Q: What’s going on between you and former governor Rochas Okorocha?
Uzodinma: On the issue of Okorocha, the former governor, he is my brother, my very good brother in whom I am well pleased. I have no issue with him, the only thing is that he is now the former governor and I am now the current governor. Once we we understand that, we don’t have any issue.