Owerri streets deserted as Buhari commissions projects in Imo
• My administration has done extremely well, but those who ought to say it have not – Buhari
• Bandits would have overrun Imo but for Buhari’s intervention – Uzodimma
• Ohanaeze: Igbo need justice, equity, fairness, committed to Nigerian project
Major roads and streets in Owerri, Imo State capital, were, yesterday, deserted, as President Muhammadu Buhari visited for the commissioning of some signature projects executed by Governor Hope Uzodimma.
The President’s visit coincided with the sit-at-home directive issued by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in solidarity with the detained leader of the pro-Biafra group, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, whose case came up for hearing, yesterday.
As early as 8:00a.m., the usual bustling Bank, Okigwe, Weathedral, Douglas and Teltow roads were deserted. Also, major markets, shopping malls and commercial banks did not open for business.
There were, however, heavy presence of security agents in strategic locations in Owerri, to ensure a hitch-free visit. The President was in the state last September to also commission some projects.
Buhari subsequently met with Southeast leaders. However, other governors of the region were conspicuously absent.
Speaking while addressing some stakeholders at the Government House, Owerri, President Buhari said his administration had done ‘extremely well’ since its inception in 2015, but regretted that those who ought to say it are not doing so.
The President, who was in the state to inaugurate three critical projects executed by Uzodimma – Phase 1 52km Owerri-Okigwe road, dualised 35km Owerri-Orlu road and the rebuilt Imo House of Assembly complex, said his administration has had some economic challenges, including dwindling oil prices, crude oil theft, insecurity largely posed by Boko Haram insurgency, among other insecurity challenges, but despite the hiccups, his administration has sailed on, accusing those who have the onus to highlight it of not doing so.
He said: “This administration has done extremely well. Those who are supposed to say it are not saying it now. I don’t know why.
“I will continue to support the government of Imo State to continue to deliver the dividends of democracy, irrespective of the party affiliation.”
He also said despite earning so much from crude oil, his predecessors failed to develop the country’s infrastructure.
“To be frank with you, I blame the Nigerian elite for not thinking hard about our country. Between 1999 and 2015 when we came in, I will like people to check the Central Bank and the NNPC, the average production was 2.1million bpd. Nigeria was earning at this time 2.1 million times, but look at the state of infrastructure, look at the road, look at the railway, it was virtually killed. Power, we are still struggling.
“But when we came, unfortunately, the militants were unleashed, production went down to half a million bpd. Again, unfortunately, the cost of petroleum went down to $28 from $37.”
The President maintained that the Second Niger Bridge and provision of other infrastructure in the Southeast were eloquent testimonies of his administration’s commitment to the growth of the zone.
He recalled that when he visited the state last year, he appealed to the people to support Uzodimma, to bring progress to the state, expressing happiness that his advice was adhered to, leading to the infrastructural growth provided by the Uzodimma administration.
Earlier, Uzodimma said the roads were abandoned because of their topography, noting particularly, the Amucha-Njaba erosion area on Owerri-Orlu road, which the late former president Shehu Shagari, about 40 years ago, could not realise, but with Buhari’s support, has now been fixed.
He also expressed joy that the Owerri-Okigwe road, under construction, traverses seven councils, leading to Abia, Enugu, Ebonyi and other states.
He maintained: “Our goal is to leave Imo better than we met it. We refused to be distracted by pockets of insecurity and social media blackmailers and propaganda, especially those that are politically contrived.”
The governor added that but for the prompt intervention of President Buhari, bandits and hoodlums would have overrun the state.
“Your prompt intervention helped to restore peace and order in our state. But for your timely, prompt and fatherly intervention through the security agencies, Imo would have been overrun by bandits and hoodlums. For this, I also say thank you Mr President,” he said.
In recent times, Imo has witnessed killings and kidnappings by ‘unknown gunmen’. Uzodimma had inaugurated the state’s chapter of the Southeast security outfit, Ebubeagu, but the attacks had continued.
In his speech, the President-General of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Prof George Obiozor, said in as much as Ndigbo have seen some projects executed by the present administration, they were also firm believer in Nigeria’s project, demanding equity, justice and fair play, as witnessed by other parts of the country.
He said: “I wish to reiterate and speak on behalf of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, both at home and in the diaspora, that our people are committed to the Nigerian project. That we desire a country that provides a platform and an opportunity to contribute our utmost best to the growth of our fatherland.
“We seek justice, equity, fairness, and going by our antecedents, we are in every part of Nigeria and therefore claim to be the most federating of all Nigerians.”
Obiozor’s remarks came at a time when some Igbos seek the secession of the Southeast geopolitical zone from the Nigerian State. One of the arrowheads of the agitation for secession, Kanu, of the proscribed IPOB, has been in court facing terrorism-related charges.
Leaders of the region had, at different times, appealed to President Buhari to consider a political solution for the release of Kanu.
Although the President promised to consider it, he later made a U-turn, maintaining that he would not interfere in the judicial proceedings.
Those at the reception for the President were the governr’s wife, Chioma Uzodimma; the Deputy Senate President, Omo-Agege; his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Idris Wase; deputy governor of Imo, Prof. Placid Njoku; Chairman of Elders Council of Ohanaeneze Ndigbo, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu; a former military administrator of Imo State/Foreign Affairs Minister, Maj.-Gen. Ike Nwachukwu (rtd); former governor of Imo, Ikedi Ohakim; Minister of State for Education, Goodluck Nana Opiah and former deputy governor of Imo, Dr. Douglas Acholonu, among others.