(The Future Begins Today)
The Executive Governor of Imo State
Owelle Rochas Anayo Okorocha
The whole world views you as the epitome of democracy in Nigeria. We have observed talks of high expectations by your people, the Igbo people and the international community. It’s our earnest prayer that you succeed by putting your name into the history books as the man who came, saw and conquered. The other day, an associate of one of us from Ondo Sate just returned on a visit to Nigeria, and he said: “All eyes are now on Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, to see if he will deliver exceptionally on good governance and development…if he fails, the future of democracy will become bleak.” On that note, we encourage you to leave no stone unturned in giving Igboland a name through a meaningful development of Imo State. As Igboland desperately needs an unequivocal political leader, what you do with this God-given opportunity will shape your destiny of emerging the undisputed Igbo leader, which our nation is in dire need of.
Since the end of military rule in 1999, Imo State has not been able to recapture and build on the great developmental strides of the Sam Mbakwe administration in spite of abundant human and material resources due to bad governance. This predicament has left the infrastructure comatose, created an unsustainable level of poverty and unemployment which has in-turn led to unprecedented levels of insecurity. By contrast, according to a 2009 World Bank report, China has between 1981 and 2007 reduced the number of people living in poverty by more than 500 million, which is more than three times Nigeria’s total population. What is more spectacular however is that China achieved this feat through industrialisation policies that saw to the setting up of cluster industrial parks with special incentives where goods such as shoes, handbags, furniture, plastics, toys, clothes and other textiles etc., are produced.
Coincidentally, the production of such goods that brought unprecedented development to China is an area in which much potential has been demonstrated in Aba, Nnewi and much of the Southeast but regrettably various governors in the Southeast have never invested in building the capacity and human resources in an industry that is capable of eradicating poverty and unemployment in the Southeast and creating a sustainable economy. China has today become the 2nd largest economy in the world and an emerging world power through her investment in the human resources and productive capacities of her people. We in the Igbo council of Europe hereby present a strategic 4 year development plan whose purpose is to present an industrial trajectory similar to that of China in which the Southeast and Imo state has much potential to unleash rapid industrialisation and infrastructural modernisation in Imo State.
Industrialization and Economic Development:
Small and medium scale enterprises remain the greatest area of potential growth and job creation in the immediate short term. In order to make this possible and to harness the abundant human resources and entrepreneurial spirit in the Southeast, Imo State government should immediately commence the setting-up of dedicated cluster industrial parks in all the major towns and cities in the three senatorial zones in Imo State.
Modalities for the setting up of industrial parks with adequate incentives will include the provision of land for industrial clusters, the construction of access roads, construction of industrial units, warehouses and tax waivers. Power generation remains a major challenge facing the development of an industrial base. Pending the construction and completion of independent power plants that will service the industrial areas at special subsidised rates, the government can provide industrial generators in the interim and subsidise the funding of fuel or diesel for the running of the generators until such a time that the independent power plants have become operational.
The industrial clusters will aim for the mass production of soft-goods such as shoes, bags, toys, clothes-textiles, plastics, pharmaceuticals, food processing and others for local consumption and export. Vigorous training programmes should be undertaken for youths to acquire relevant skills for the mass production of goods. The Imo State government should create a targeted “enterprise loans scheme”, that will provide funding for the setting up of small and medium scale enterprises to prospective entrepreneurs. The Imo State government should also establish an “equipment procurement and leasing agency”. This agency will purchase equipment such as industrial sewing machines and other critical equipment for leasing to some of the operators of the small and medium scale enterprises who cannot afford such equipment to boost productivity.
The Imo state government should establish special free trade zones and export processing zones and create a “quality control agency” with a specific agenda to control the quality of goods produced and aid the standardization of all produced items to make them more acceptable for the export market.
Establishment of Oguta Lake Resort: Africa’s first Disneyland Park
The Imo state government should partner with the private sector to actualise the long proposed Oguta Wonderland Lake Resort. The resort will comprise of all the modern amenities of tourist parks including ship and boat tours on the lake, amusement park rides, lakeside restaurants, zoological gardens with all kinds of exotic animals in the mould of the famed Disneyland parks. The resort centre will be a haven for tourists with a potential to create thousands of jobs.
Infrastructure and Housing: Models Towns, cities And Villages
Owerri as the Paris of Nigeria-Africa
Owerri acquired a reputation as the cleanest city in Nigeria during the Dr Sam Mbakwe administration; unfortunately that reputation has not been maintained by subsequent leaders. One of the critical areas of assessment of the present administration will be in infrastructure and urban renewal. The Imo state government should, thus, pursue policies of intensive beautification, regeneration and infrastructural development of Owerri. Using direct labour, all sidewalks can be paved and lined with trees together with a comprehensive solar powered street lighting and an effective waste disposal system that makes Owerri once again the cleanest city in Nigeria. Major boulevards and dualisation of roads should be undertaken within Owerri with well decorated round-abouts, water fountains and green areas or parks. A modern central business district (CBD) hosting beautifully decorated water fountains with skyscrapers should be created in Owerri where most banks and corporate organisations can cluster as a modern business and banking hub. An ambitious 8 lane superhighway ring-road around Owerri with interconnecting bridges linking all routes in and out of Owerri should be constructed as part of the regeneration and modernisation of Owerri under a public private partnership arrangement with a tollgate. This superhighway can be structured in such a way as to link all the major towns and cities in Imo State in a major road construction initiative with toll gates.
Direct Labour Initiative In The Construction Of Model Towns, Villages and Cities:
There is a lot to be done and with high levels of unemployment, plenty of idle hands to do the jobs at lower costs. Every village, town and city can be made models through an initiative that uses direct labour under the supervision of engineers and florists to pave sidewalks, plant trees, install solar panel street lights and dig water wells for the rural waterworks schemes and other public works. By using direct labour, so much money can be saved and so much work can be done within a short time frame in the transformation of all the rural communities in Imo State into models.
Housing: Construction of Ultra Modern Estates:
Build, Sell And Recycle Scheme
The real estate industry is one of the core areas of growth in most economies, but ironically while people of Southeast origin are heavily involved in the real estate industry in major cities in other parts of Nigeria, there has been a near total absence of the organised real estate industry in Imo State and the Southeast in General. Under the build, sell and recycle scheme the state government can either on its own and/or through partnership with the private sector incentives begin the construction of ultra-modern housing estates that will comprise of large walled complexes with manned gates and CCTV cameras. The houses in the complex will be duly advertised and sold at modest profits with the initial capital immediately recycled to build another phase of housing estates. With this win-win method, a whole new modern city dotted with immaculate housing estates can be developed in a short-while with much profit accruing to the investors and a construction induced growth taking root in Imo State.
Land Management Strategy with Skyscraper Estates:
It is recommended that 50-60% of estates to be built should be skyscrapers of upwards of six storeys and beyond which is a perfect strategy of land management that can suck in a huge population in a relatively small area, necessary for Imo State and the Southeast as part of a long-term sustainable strategy of managing a large and growing population in a small landmass.
The skyscrapers should be built in well planned self sufficient complexes which will be guaranteed for the provision of electricity, security, pipe borne water and general maintenance of the estate through the payment of service charges to be contributed by all residents of the complex. This housing initiative is capable of creating a modern city skyline and transform major urban centres like Owerri in just 4-8 years.
Expansion and Modernisation of Imo Airport (Sam Mbakwe International Airport), Owerri
With the expected rapid industrial and infrastructural development of Imo State, the Owerri international cargo airport should be expanded and modernised to build capacity for the expected increase in passenger and freight-cargo traffic. Enlargement and modernisation of the airport should include the construction of a modern international terminal, the enlargement of the runway, the dualisation – enlargement and beautification of access roads to the airport and construction of industrial warehouses to service the cargo unit of the airport which is expected to gain a substantial boost. This modernisation of the airport project can be actualised through a public private partnership.
Construction of Independent Power Plants For Industrial Growth:
Industrialisation cannot be possible without regular power supply. The Imo State government should thus rapidly undertake the construction of independent power plants that will power the industrial and economic growth of Imo State.
Evolving a Sustainable Tax Economy:
Studies have shown that compliance in the payment of taxes by the citizenry is usually very high where the government is transparent and is seen to be undertaking critical social and infrastructural projects. It is thus very important for the Imo State government to demonstrate in deeds, a commitment to good governance that will help cultivate a disciplined tax compliant citizenry that will make it possible for the State to move away from the unsustainable over-dependence on crude oil allocations and evolve a robust, sustainable and efficient tax economy. Tax collection efforts should be more aggressive to raise revenue for the implementation of critical projects. An efficient tax system can be evolved through partnership with a private firm charged with the collection of taxes for the State. All activities in the State should be tied to the presentation of a tax clearance certificate. The tax net should be widened to include an annual property tax, with rates determined according to the size of house. Special annual Mansion tax for wealthy people who live in mansions should be introduced while a special annual tax should also be applied to commercial property. Vehicles registered and domiciled in Imo State should also pay annual road tax. Other categories of sustainable taxes should be introduced to evolve a sustainable tax economy.
Prudent Management of Resources:
The Imo State government must manage resources very prudently in order to be able to achieve all the critical milestones of transformational leadership. In particular, the government must at every level avoid the temptation of appointing a large retinue of personal aides, special assistants and all other such unnecessary portfolios that usually constitutes a drain on resources that could be put to better use in infrastructural development and the provision of social services.
Security and Safety:
The protection of life and property is the most important duty of government and economic growth is inextricably linked with security. Unfortunately, since the last few years, the new crime waves of kidnapping and other violent crimes have become a phenomenon in Imo State.
Kidnapping is a crime that thrives only in failed States and other such places where there is conflict or strife and, thus, a near total breakdown of law and order. Such a state of anarchy and terrorism must not be allowed to thrive in Imo State. The following recommendations are our own contribution in the effort to permanently stamp-out kidnapping and other violent crimes from Imo State.
Audit and Registration of All Unemployed Youths:
Much of the emphasis in crime fighting is made only through the perspective of applying tougher punitive measures and increasing the fire power of the security services, while totally ignoring the social aspects of crime fighting when it is obvious that poverty and youth unemployment constitute the most fundamental underlying cause of most crime. We therefore recommend a new approach of social engineering by the Imo State government to create unemployment offices in each of the three senatorial zones and take the initiative of carrying out a biometric registration of all unemployed youths from 20 to 40 years of age who are neither in school, in apprenticeship, self employed or employed resident in Imo State.
Registration will make it possible for the government to, as proposed earlier, use some of the youths for purposes of direct labour, while some will be sent for vocational training programmes and those who might have had some apprenticeship training before will benefit from grants which will help them to set-up business in their areas of training. Registration will also make it possible to mobilise resources by appealing to international aid organisations, private individuals, the federal government, religious organisations and other charities and philanthropists that will help to fund the training programmes, provision of grants and other initiatives that may be undertaken.
Grassroots Community Initiative: Mobilisation and Use of Traditional Institutions in Crime Fighting:
Communal initiatives and mobilisation remain the best way to root out crime and create social order in Imo State. Every individual is a product of a community and highly cohesive communities always have better standards of social order. Thus the best methods of crime prevention and eradication have always been community based. In any community where cohesion, rules, regulations and taboos by communal traditional institutions are well established, crime is always reduced to the barest minimum
This has been the case in communities like Abiriba and recently in Awka amongst others where traditional institutions were used in forbidding crimes such as kidnapping which has led to an eradication of the crime in these communities.
All towns, villages, and clans in Imo State have traditional institutions which include village shrines, traditional rulers, communal elders, youth leaders, town development unions, amongst others which cut across a broad spectrum of practically everyone who lives or hails from that community. The Imo State government should initiate a mass security mobilisation of every community in Imo State through all the segments of traditional institutions. The traditional rulers, communal elders, youth leaders , chief priests of the village shrine and other communal units of every single community in Imo state should issue a communal decree to every citizen of their respective communities forbidding the involvement of anyone from the respective communities in crimes, such as kidnapping, which must be established as a taboo with severe consequences, apart from certain death for the offender, could include the total ostracising of family members of any offender.
The chief priests of the various village shrines should also issue a decree forbidding the involvement of any citizen of their respective communities in crimes such as kidnapping by using the traditional institution of the shrine to place a decree of death and other consequences on any offenders and their accomplices. This initiative which targets the grassroots with strong communal cohesion is sure to bring immediate results in the eradication of kidnapping and other violent crimes, making Imo State the most secure State in the nation and, moving from insecurity to security through robust community initiatives. The mass security mobilisation in every community in Imo State should be an annual ritual that yearly reinforces the forbidding of crimes such as kidnapping.
Creation of Special Task Force:
It is obvious that because of the nature of kidnapping, the regular police force cannot tackle it. The wider public has also lost confidence in the ability of the regular police force to tackle kidnapping cases, because of complicity and corruption; hence many kidnap victims do not even bother reporting their cases to the police. It is therefore necessary that a special goal-oriented task-force be created that will be dedicated to the eradication of kidnapping and other violent crimes. The task force can combine members of the intelligence services such as the SSS, the police force and possibly, the armed forces, and should be provided with adequate equipment and special incentives to enable them carry-out their duties effectively. To boost the confidence of the public in the dedication of the task-force it is recommended that the task-force should be under the direct supervisory control of the Governor of the State or any other person that may be appointed by the governor and the commissioner of police to ensure efficiency and accountability.
The duty of the special task force will be to coordinate all reported kidnap cases and organise operations to trace, track and capture or kill kidnappers. A dedicated and possibly free phone numbers should also be established to make it easier for members of the public to report kidnap cases and suspicious movements to the specialised units.
Amnesty and Gun Control Initiatives:
There is a worrying proliferation of arms which has led to an increase in violent crimes including kidnapping. There’s therefore the need to have a regime of very strict gun control measures in Imo State in order to control the increasing menace of arms proliferation. Firearms control initiatives should begin with an amnesty by the Imo State government that gives a deadline for every person in possession of firearms to surrender them to the government possibly with some cash and other incentives for those who surrender their firearms. The Imo State government should then demonstrate its zero tolerance for gun-running by passing very tough state laws possibly up-to a maximum of life imprisonment for the supply or possession of explosives and firearms.
Establishment of Free confidential Police Telephone Lines:
In every nation with effective policing, there are always free police telephone lines that make it easier for members of the public including anonymous persons to report crime and give valuable tips or intelligence to apprehend criminals. We recommend therefore that Imo state government partner with telephone service providers to set-up free police confidential lines in the State. Call centres should then be set-up in police units that will rapidly pass-on distress calls or reports of suspicious individuals or incidents of crime to operational units of the police. The free police lines should be widely advertised so that every resident of Imo State will have knowledge of the numbers. This initiative will make communication between the public and police easier, leading to more effective policing.
Security Cameras and Street Lighting:
In many cities and communities around the world security cameras located in strategic private and public places are increasingly being used for crime fighting and detection. We, therefore, recommend the installation of security cameras in strategic places, such as major roads, major streets, schools and other busy thoroughfares in all major towns and cities in Imo State. The Imo state government should partner with private organisations like banks, petrol stations, supermarkets and other private premises to make sure that security cameras are installed in such locations. Since criminals are known to operate more easily in the dark, street lighting is an indispensable strategy of fighting crime and building thriving communities with night life and a night economy. We therefore recommend a comprehensive installation of street lighting, preferably solar-powered, for all major towns and cities in Imo State.
Tenancy and Hotel Lodging Registration:
As part of the overall strategy to create security and social order, the Imo State government should consider passing a “tenancy and hotel lodging registration law” which would oblige all landlords in Imo State to register their tenants and submit copies of the registration documents which must include photographs and other personal details of the tenants to the police and relevant local government. The hotel lodging registration will ensure that people who lodge in hotels must provide an official identity document which the hotel must register in their records for purposes of security.
Civic Registration by Biometric Identity Cards:
The absence of a data base in Nigeria has made it difficult for effective planning, thereby significantly aiding criminals as they can easily operate as anonymous persons. The Imo State government should take advantage of the digital age to break new grounds in the modernisation of the art of governance by applying digital solutions to planning and crime fighting. Identity cards are very useful for carrying out a comprehensive audit and thus identifying all those resident in the State and consequently for planning. It also has the added advantage of raising revenues as modest fees will be paid for the cards.
We recommend therefore that the Imo State government set-up civic registration centres where all residents of the State will register for a biometric identity card by having their fingerprints, digital photographs and other personal details captured and stored in a database; and an identity card with a unique lifelong social security number issued as proof of registration. To facilitate registration and issuance of identity cards, the Imo state government can contract or partner with private IT companies to set-up database logistics and commence registration of all residents in the State.
To make sure that everyone registers, identity cards should be made compulsory by law in Imo State and also be tied to accessing public services such as hospitals, schools, etc. The law should make it mandatory for every resident of the State from 16 years of age to carry an identity card at all times. It should be an offence punishable with a fine and or imprisonment not to carry an identity card.
Creation of Special Courts-Tribunals:
Convictions and application of sentences are fundamental to law enforcement as deterrence to potential offenders. Without convictions, the perception that kidnapping is profitable will continue to attract more and more recruits into its fold. It is, however, obvious that the regular courts cannot cope with a high security strategy to eradicate kidnapping by applying quick convictions. Around the world, many nations have special tribunals to deal with specific issues of national security. It is recommended, therefore, that Imo state create or dedicate special courts to try such cases as kidnapping and other violent crimes. The special dedicated courts should adjudicate only on special high priority terrorism security cases, such as kidnapping and armed robbery in view of getting quick and tough convictions as part of the message of zero tolerance.
Seizure of Properties Used For Kidnapping:
Kidnappers can operate only where they can find sanctuary since they need to hold and accommodate their victims before ransoms are paid, and in most cases, these victims are held in properties. To deny kidnappers of this important loophole, we recommend that the Imo State government pass legislation that stipulates the confiscation or destruction of any property used to hold kidnap victims. This would send an immediate message to landlords and homeowners to be more vigilant over the activities of their tenants or children. This psychological war would have the immediate effect of denying kidnappers any sanctuary or hiding place.
Indoctrination and Public Enlightenment:
Crimes are now committed not only because of poverty and lack of employment but also because of a steep decline in values and norms. Therefore, a major strategy for fighting crime would be a massive and consistent indoctrination campaign in every community and in the local media, i.e. the FM radio and traditional institutions that would forbid involvement in crime. The indoctrination drive would seek to re-establish taboos, strong value systems anchored on humility, chastity, selflessness, hard work and honesty, while strongly forbidding crime.
There can be no transformational change in Imo State without prudent management of resources, careful planning, creativity and security. We believe that a careful implementation of infrastructural initiatives, industrialisation initiatives and social engineering will make Imo State a role model in good governance. In the area of security, we believe that the most important key to a secure Imo State lies in the mass mobilisation of communities through traditional institutions which will re-establish community cohesion and, strongly influence the behaviour of citizens of the various communities. The communal initiatives when complemented with other security initiatives and social programs, such as a regime of strict law enforcement, deterrence, indoctrination and the provision of employment for the youths will eradicate kidnapping and usher in a more secure state, which will in turn move Imo State from insecure to secure, thus, ending the embarrassment of crimes such as kidnapping; and opening up the State for an upsurge in local and foreign investments.
For further information, please visit: www.igbocouncilofeurope.org to read the Igbo Council of Europe’s strategic development plan for Igboland, known as the ‘African Tiger’.
George C.E. Enyoazu Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu
Dated: 10 June 2011.