Posted by Collins Ughalaa | 11 April 2018 | 4,711 times
Burdened with the need to create a robust economy for Imo State, make her independent on the bowel-in-hand monthly allocation from the Federal Government, make her really be like other oil producing states and a proud member of the Niger Delta states, Dr Ikedi Ohakim, in the midst of global economic meltdown with crude oil selling at about $40 dollars per barrel, came up with a refinery project called the Oak Refinery or Imo Refinery.
This project which was sited on 250 hectares of land at Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State has been a subject of heated debate since Dr Ikedi Ohakim left office in 2011.
But is this lofty refinery project a failed project?
In search for answers, let us first get what Ohakim’s successor and the anti Ohakim chief propagandist in 2011, Governor Ethelbert Anayo Rochas Okorocha, has to say about the refinery project.
According to a report by The Nation newspaper on Wednesday, January 27, 2016, “Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, Wednesday assured that his administration will complete the abandoned Oak Refinery started by his predecessor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, as part of the industrial drive of the state government.
“The Governor, who gave the assurance during an interactive session with journalists at the Government House, said that he had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Chinese experts concerning the construction of the Refinery, as a continuation of his discussions with the Federal Government on the need to build a refinery in the state.”
Okorocha’s answer and promise to “complete” the refinery project is noteworthy because it answers the question that Ikedi Ohakim’s refinery project is not a failed project in any way.
Noteworthy also is that Governor Okorocha has failed to “complete” the project as he promised. This is not surprising considering that the Governor despite the huge revenue stream at his deposit has not been able to come up with any economically viable project since 2011.
Away from Governor Okorocha’s position on the Oak Refinery project, one may ask: why did Ohakim not complete the project?
Dr Ikedi Ohakim gives the answer in an interview with AIT in 2014, explaining: “A refinery is not what you use your mouth and award the contract and it would begin to happen...These things take quite some time.”
He continued: “We set up a refinery. A refinery is not what you use your mouth and award the contract and it would begin to happen. First of all, we acquired the land from Ohaji/Egbema people, 250 hectares.
“We got the President of Nigeria and took our report to him. We led a delegation of Igbo leaders to him, and then the President gave us an approval to partner with NNPC and they signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with us. We got the foreign investors who wanted an account of Imo State. We had to prepare an account of Imo State, from 10 years before we came in. We got it right. And there are other approvals you need to get to partner with people.
“These things take quite some time. There are certain approvals you would need from the National Assembly, and they have to be presented to the National Assembly and the National Assembly would have to sit and deliberate.”
Few things stand out as sacred facts in Ohakim’s answer: Ikedi Ohakim had completed all the processes needed for the takeoff of the refinery, including securing Federal Government approvals and foreign partnerships. He had also sourced fund for the project and acquired land for it also.
What remained was the physical infrastructure and the operational takeoff. And Ikedi Ohakim lost reelection. The refinery project is stalled, like others, including the Oguta deep seaport and Oguta Wonder Lake and Conference Center, etc.
Another question: Had Ikedi Ohakim followed the tradition of edifice mentality of the Okorocha government and erected a gigantic building at the site with big inscription: Imo Refinery, or Oak Refinery, without anything going on or without the necessary processes in place, would Imo people have praised Ohakim for a job well done? Some could. But Ikedi Ohakim is a decent man who believes in Due Process, and that government should be honest and hardworking.
On the other hand, was it better to work hard and get the processes in place before erecting buildings, or erect buildings first? Most Imo people think that getting the processes needed for the project ready was better. They believe that with the right processes in place any well-meaning government can implement it.
But what happened to the money Ohakim secured for the refinery project? It was handed over to Governor Okorocha. What of the land? Did Ohakim sell the land? No. Governor Okorocha said he’s building an international market on the land instead. Nevertheless, no international market exists on the site, rather the land has been acquired by cronies of the Governor.
Can one say that Dr. Ikedi Ohakim was a victim of his honesty and hard work?
Igbo people believe that the reward for hard work is more work. Since Dr Ikedi Ohakim did good work on the Refinery project, is it not proper to allow him one more term to actualise it, including the Oguta Wonder Lake project and the Deep seaport project?
The need for all to support Ohakim for one more term is pertinent, especially for the fact that most of the governorship aspirants in the state talk about a vibrant economy for Imo people.
Ohakim has the best policy for the Imo economy. And it is better to allow him one more term to actualise his vision for a vibrant Imo, than bringing in another person that would go on abandoning those fine projects.
Abandoning those projects means unquantifiable loss for Imo people, but with Ikedi Ohakim everyone is a winner.
•Collins Ughalaa writes from Owerri. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
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