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Anyone who has been abreast with the state of things in Imo state of recent would know that Governor Hope Uzodinma is anything but an ideal model of a state Governor. From owing of pensions and salaries, manipulating state and local elections and sheer neglect of state infrastructure to siphoning and embezzling state funds in the name of carrying out projects, Governor Hope Uzodinma has always been in the news for negative reasons.
Imolites yesterday awoke to the rude information of a law (The Imo State Administration of Criminal Justice law), passed by the Imo State House of Assembly, giving the governor, the power to arrest and detain Imolites as well as subject them to any form of confinement at his own pleasure.
Based on the law, any person detained on the orders of Uzodinma can only be released when he grants a license to the said individual. It also abolished all forms of preliminary enquiry or preliminary investigations into a criminal charge by a magistrate or any court in the state and replaced them with the preparation of proof of evidence.
According to the Imo State Administration Of Criminal bill No 2 of 2020 (ISACJL, 2020):
‘Chapter 38 (section 484 to 485) deals with detention during the Governor’s pleasure.’
‘Section 484 of the ISACJL, 2020 provides that where any person is ordered to be detained during the governor’s pleasure, he shall notwithstanding anything in the ISACJL, 2020 or contained in any other written law liable to be detained in such place and under such conditions as the governor may direct and whilst so detained shall be in proper custody.’
‘Section 485(1) of ISACJL, 2020 enacts that a person detained during the governor’s pleasure may at any time be discharged by the governor on a license which said license may be in such form and in such conditions as the governor may direct under section 485(2). ‘
‘Finally, in section 485(3) of the ISACJL, 2020 a license may at any time be revoked or varied by the governor and where a license has been revoked, the person to whom the person the license relates shall proceed to such place as the governor may direct and if he fails to do so, may be arrested without warrant and taken to such place.’
This, in other words, means that the Governor, wielding his Executive Power will be able to expressly call for the arrest or detention of any individual in the state with or without trial, whenever or however he deems fit and for as long as he wants.
This is a direct slap to the face of Imo indigenes and inhabitants as well. What is worse is that this same bill was manipulated and configured to accommodate this unethical law by the Governor himself. He manipulated the bill to give him the allowance to use whatever means possible to detain someone on his whims and desires. This means that if Hope Uzodinma wants an Imolite to be locked in a cage and hung under a tree, it is within his power, as provided by the law. It also abolishes all forms of preliminary inquiry or preliminary investigation into a criminal charge by a magistrate or any court in the state and replaced them with the preparation of proof of evidence.
The controversial law was actually birthed by a PDP lawmaker and lawyer, Hon. Barrister Frank Uboma, who represents Oguta State Constituency. He expressed outrage over the controversial Imo State Administration of Criminal Justice law stating that what he saw in the newly accented bill was completely different from what he forwarded to the Imo State House of Assembly. He said the bill he sponsored had 372 sections while the law signed by the governor has 484 sections, adding that the bill both in the first and second readings during plenary, did not contain the obnoxious provisions in the law signed by the governor.
In his words:
‘For the avoidance of doubt, the Bill I presented had about a total of 372 sections. How and where it was amended, recreated and reshaped into Section 484 and beyond remains a mystery and a legislative wonder of our time as what I presented and circulated to my colleagues during plenary, both in the first and second readings did not contain such obnoxious and embarrassing Section 484. Neither was it deliberated in the House Committee of the whole. It indeed never existed in the House.’
‘No one has been able to explain to the members of the 9th House how and at what stage the said Section 484 was inserted into the Bill. It smacks of an evil manipulation to throw Imo people into the dungeon.’
‘This particular provision is a nullity ab initio in view of the unambiguous provisions of sections 1(1),(3),4,5,6 and 36 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria (as Amended). This is very appalling.’
‘In my quest to ascertain which hands of Esau made it into the Bill I presented, attention was drawn to a list said to be the names of Imo people that facilitated the domestication of the Law in the State. It need not be overemphasised that in lawmaking, such contributions and or inputs from members of the public are usually submitted to the House for deliberations.’
‘I am however saddened that there is no record of presentation of such obnoxious contributions to the House. There is no record anywhere that such contributions was laid and/or circulated to members during plenary.’
The lawmaker said he had requested that the State Assembly constitute a committee to ascertain how such horrendous act was done.
He noted that he has forwarded another bill to amend the one assented to by the governor.
‘This was not the Bill I presented and sponsored.’
‘In the manuscripts that I received after each hearing and which I have compared with that given to my colleagues, there is no hand of Esau. ‘
‘This has informed my view and I have forwarded a Bill for the immediate amendment of those offensive and draconian sections,” he added.’
Governor Hope Uzodinma by cunningly assenting to this has descended into the calibre of those intoxicated by power. With his very controversial method of attaining power, many are not surprised at the childish and high-handed manner in which he rules Imo state.
The Bill has been met with much criticism and disagreements but in his usual ‘I don’t care’ attitude, his office has not tendered an official statement as regards his stand on the bill. If the daily protests of old, weak pensioners and starving civil servants in the state could not draw his attention, certainly some social media uproar can do very little to get his attention however it’s pertinent to lay it bare here for all and sundry to know the callousness and insensitivity of Governor Uzodinma, and his clueless team of maladministration for the sake of posterity since the Internet is a machine that, ‘never forgets’.
The Organised Labour in Imo State has an unenviable record of being owed salaries from February to August since Uzodinma assumed office as Governor after Supreme Court sacked Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP who was paying salaries and arrears owed by the APC administration of Rochas Okorocha. Also, workers in primary and secondary schools in the state, as well as those in nineteen parastatals, are being owed salaries. The affected agencies where workers are being owed salary arrears include Imo Broadcasting Corporation (IBC), Agriculture Development Programme (ADP), Imo State Water Corporation, Imo State Poverty Alleviation Bureau, primary and the Secondary School Teachers. Others are the Imo State University, Imo State Polytechnic, Imo State Library Board, Imo State Universal Basic Education Board, Imo State Secondary Education Board and the Imo Tourism Board. Governor Hope Uzodinma has blatantly refused to disburse salaries and pensions to those deserving of them and he has turned a deaf ear to the numerous protests and petitions by civil servants on the issue of salaries and pensions.
Talking about state infrastructure, a visit to Imo state, or better still the State’s capital Owerri would show you how terrible and inaccessible most of the roads are. Within the state capital, roads leading to Port Harcourt and World Bank from Control Post/Assumpta Roundabout are death traps. Roads to MCC/Uratta, Federal Polytechnic-Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Hardel Junction to Akwakuma Orlu Roads, Amakohia-Egbeada-Onitsha roads, Owerri-Akabo-Atta and Egbu-Emekuku-Mbaise roads are in bad shape.
Despite their importance, these roads present a very sorry sight to see because the present Uzodinma led Government has not deemed it fit to do anything about them. Even though the past Ihedioha led Government started some ground scale rehabilitation on the road during the dry season, Governor Hope Uzodinma couldn’t carry on with the project till the raining seasons came and worsened the condition of the roads further. In most communities across the three geo-political zones of the state, bad roads have snowballed into gully erosion and bridges are collapsing. The people are stuck and have continued to groan since they are compelled to spend more time and more money to convey their goods and services, using bad roads that have been completely ignored by the Governor.
Governor Hope Uzodinma has proven to be a power-drunk tyrant whose major aim is to turn the state into some form of the personal wallet while using the new bill to stifle, bully, intimidate or silence any opposition from well-wishing Imo State indigenes.
This law is completely draconian in nature and it sets a bad precedence for the Imo State Government. It also contradicts the constitution of the Federal Republic. There is suspicion also that the law is targeted at vocal opposition voices and activists in the state who have been tormented in several ways since the inception of the Hope Uzodinma administration. Governor Uzodunam is definitely not putting the future in retrospect. He wants firmer control forgetting that he will not be Governor forever and that one day, he could become a victim of that dictatorial law he created and orchestrated himself.
AFRICA DAILY NEWS, NEW YORK