By Sampson Uhuegbu
For sometime now, premises of the Imo State House of Assembly had remained deserted -following dilapidating state of the building. For this reason, our Honourable legislators relocated to Ikemba Ojukwu Convention Centre for safety of their precious lives. That apartment (Ojukwu Centre), was erected by the former Governor Rochas Okorocha for the purpose of promoting Igbo language and cultural heritage of our people. It is also worthy of note that the centre has never served the main purpose for which it was built. Imo has one of the well- built House of Assembly edifices in Nigeria but sadly, lack of maintenance culture has ruined the complex the necessary attention it deserves from the state government.
This Imo State House of Assembly we are talking about was first claimed to have been renovated with over Five Hundred Million (500, 000, 000) by the ex Governor Rochas Okorocha, during the leadership of Rt. Hon Acho Ihim who was then speaker. Presently, walls of the building are heavily cracked and it is unhealthy indication that the edifice is at verge of collapse if a comprehensive rehabilitation does not commence immediately. During the first term of Owelle Rochas Okorocha as Imo Governor in the year 2014, that building was also renovated under the leadership of the late Sen. Benjamin Uwajumogu( Represented Ihitte- Uboma State Constituency) who was Speaker of the Imo House of Assembly by that period.
Funny enough, legislative offices of our Honourable members in that complex have been occupied by rats, snakes and cockroaches following their relocation to the Odumegwu Ojukwu Centre. The abandonment of that wonderful building has reduced Imo legislative businesses to a child’s play. Not only the pillars are dilapidated, but the roof is nothing to write home about. The abrupt exodus of our lawmakers from the Imo State House of Assembly complex over fear of collapse, should not be taken lightly. It is now a challenge before them which requires to be collectively tackled as quickly as possible before it is too late.
They should not feel relaxed at the present building they are squatting bearing in mind the Odumegwu Ojukwu Convention Centre is not conducive for them and spacious enough to accommodate their Aides, constituents; as well as carrying out their legislative activities.
The building requires to be completely overhauled once and for all. The “patch- patch” system of work acclaimed to have been done on the Imo House of Assembly complex is not befitting at all. This protracted procrastination should be avoided immediately to avert unforeseen disaster that could claim lives of our legislators. In as much as the administration of Sen. Hope Uzodinma inherited the deplorable state of that building, he should Reconstruct, Rehabilitate and Recover it from a total collapse. Though, the former Speaker Uwajumogu is dead.(I could remember vividly that in the year 2013, under the leadership of the deceased Speaker, Lawmakers were having their sittings at Ikemba Ojukwu centre. As one of the State House of Assembly correspondents, I realized there were regular change of venues for sittings). Even when the Rt Hon. Acho Ihim, who represented Okigwe State constituency, assumed the mantle of leadership as Speaker, on 21 February, 2017, Imo lawmakers assembled one faithful morning at the main Assembly and surprisingly announced that Ikemba has been chosen for venue of their sitting. Also, the impeached Speaker (Member for Isiala Mbano), Dr. Collins Chiji, ordered for relocation of Honourable members to the same Odumegwu Ojukwu Centre and they have been there since February 26, 2020 before Rt Hon Paul Emeziem took over as Speaker, Imo House of Assembly.
The ball is now on Emeziem’s court. His Honourable colleagues and Imo Governor, Sen. Hope Uzodinma should commence investigation of uncompleted and the abandoned building by inviting former Governor Rocha’s Okorocha, Rt. Acho Ihim, Rt Hon. Chiji Collins and Deputy Speaker to the Late Sen. Ben Uwajumogu; Pharmacist Donatus Ozoemena ( Represented Oru West) for an interface to explain how it went. Particularly, Owelle Rocha’s Okorocha owes Imo people explanation why he was not able to completely deliver on the project of renovation of Imo House of Assembly. From 2011 to 2019, the structure that was never given a facelift under his administration. Is that not wickedness! There is no way over 500 Million naira could be spent of a building and one can not see the impacts on it.
This money was not judiciously used, I can bet you. It would be recalled also, that 2.3 Billion was captured in the 2020 budget presented by the sacked Governor Emeka Ihedioha for the renovation of the decaying Imo parliamentary building. The attention of Governor Hope Uzodinma should be drawn to the deplorable state of that building. Speaker of the Imo House of Assembly, Rt Hon. Paul Emeziem (For Onuimo State Constituency), should never bask on the euphoria of “Speakership” and fail to do what he ought to do as the number one lawmaker in the state. It would amount to witch- hunting if one suggests that Ahiazu Mbaise, Ezinihitte Mbaise, Ahiazu Mbaise, Ehime Mbano, Onuimo, Okigwe, Isiala Mbano, Obowo, Ihitte- Uboma, Mbaitoli, Ideato North, Ideato South, Njaba, Orlu, Ikeduru, Nkwerre, Isu, Ohaji/Egbema, Oguta, Nwangele, Oru East, Oru West, Owerri North, Owerri Municipal and Owerri West, Orsu and Ngor- Okpala Local Government Areas should contribute towards renovation of the building, it would attract serious criticisms and condemnation of people of the state.
The half- done rehabilitation on that project was a replica of the inferior roads and building projects Owelle Rochas Okorocha did during his 8 years in office as Governor of Imo state. Now, mistakes have already been made and there is no need chasing the shadows rather that fixing the almost collapsing building that was built during the creation of the state. Finding shows that some staff of the commission are still under that building while few have moved to Odumegwu Ojukwu Centre with the Honourable Members. It would be remembered that the Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha had an inspection tour of the Assembly building whereby the then Speaker, Rt. Hon. Chiji Collins took him round the facility of which he confirmed truly that the building should be upgraded. This is now one of the challenges before His Excellency, Governor Hope Uzodinma’s administration. The mutual relationship that has existed between the legislative and Executive arms of government in the state is highly commendable and it is unnecessary to express misgiving if Sen. Uzodinma will renovate the building.
The setback being faced today by the present 9th House was the architecture of Owelle Rochas Okorocha and Speakers of 8th and 7th Houses of the Imo State Assembly. Dutifully, these Parliamentarians should have monitored the renovation projects to know whether standard building materials were used in the rehabilitation. Also, the House Committee Chairmen on Works and their members can also give little explanations on how the 500, 000,000 (Five Hundred million ) was used in the course of the exercise that is still half done. Let me challenge our Honourable members to facilitate the plan to kick-start the third renovation on the building as earlier the commencement the better for them. The Speaker, Rt. Hon. Emeziem and Imo legislators should speak up on the state of the building and move to hit the ground running.