By Collins Ughalaa KSC

On Monday, October 5, 2020, Governor Hope Uzodimma announced the reconstition of the Board of the Imo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (ISOPADEC) and the appointment of a new Managing Director for the Commission, an illustrious son of Ohaji-Egbema Local Government Area and shrewd businessman of many years standing, Chief Charles Orie. For the uninitiated, ISOPADEC is the interventionist agency created by an act of the Imo State House of Assembly in 2007 to cater for the developmental needs of the people of the oil producing communities and local governments. By the appointment of the new Board and MD, the Governor has addressed the agitation in some quarters about what seemed a delay in the appointment of the MD and reconstitution of the Board. By this appointment also, ISOPADEC and the oil producing communities are placed on a new pedestal for inclusive growth and development.

Created in 2007 by act of the state assembly, ISOPADEC as an interventionist agency for the oil producing communities is saddled with the responsibility of managing the 40% of the 13% Oil Derivation Fund from the Federal Government, for the development of the oil producing communities ravaged by the operations of the oil exploration and mining companies. The Commission had upon its establishment showed good faith in developing the oil producing communities, but that commitment was lost four years after, resulting to the ruination of the once glorious Commission for almost a decade.

The emergence of Chief Orie, therefore, signposts a New Face of ISOPADEC, an era that would bring back the glorious days of the Commission, ensure that the people of the oil producing communities are served, and not the other way round where some people choose to serve their appetites and pockets. As a matter of fact, the Governor’s declaration that the years of sharing monies belonging to the Commission were over holds great meanings to the new MD, Chief Charles Orie, the Board Chairman, Eze Prof Dele Odigbo, and the entire members of the Board, who are already committed to serve the people. The urgency of the time would dictate that the new MD sets out to sail on time and to run with the ball, as it were. There is no time to waste, because the harvest is plentiful.

Chief Charles Orie understands the tasks at hand and he is hitting the ground running. Barely 24 hours after his inauguration, the Board had their inaugural sitting to have a critical look at the challenges. On Thursday, October 8, the Chairman of the Board, alongside the MD, met with the staff of the Commission. Few hours after the meeting, the MD had marathon meetings, meeting with the heads of department of the Commission and the Labour, where he was reported to have “patiently listened as the management team brought him up to speed with the state of affairs in ISOPADEC”. The MD was also reported to have assured the Heads of the department that the Commission would grow in leaps and bounds under his leadership.

Truth be told, the challenges are enormous, but the people of the oil producing communities and staff of the Commission are optimistic that Chief Orie will be on top of the situation. His reputation as a man of solutions will aid him in getting stakeholders buy-in into his programmes, in order to leapfrog the Commission. For example, while addressing Labour leaders in his office, Chief Orie assured them that their concerns would be taken care of in such a way that there would be no need for anyone to embark on needless public demonstrations. He added that he would assist in building the required trust with the government.

According to him, ISOPADEC under him is ready and committed to harnessing “the abundant natural and human resources in the oil producing areas of Imo State for the modernization, transformation of the ISOPADAC catchment areas”, as well as creating “an increased income and productivity which would ultimately enhance the quality of life of the rural dwellers”.

As a successful shrewd businessman, Chief Orie no doubt easily understands how to manage human beings and their resources. A man who has proved himself worthy in his private enterprises is worthy of being entrusted with the bigger public enterprises. His emergence as the MD of ISOPADEC is a direct answer to the prayers of many that seasoned technocrats should be allowed to manage the Commission, and when the Governor hinted a few months ago that he was looking out for the right person to be appointed to man the Commission, Orie might just be it.

With Chief Orie as ISOPADEC MD, the issues of infrastructure development, award of scholarship and capacity building programmes would be addressed headlong. No doubt, the operations of the oil producing companies have impacted negatively on the communities, leading to hunger, disease, poverty, environmental degradation, insecurity, unemployment, etcetera; but with Orie, a man of proven track records in youth empowerment, scholarship, etc, there is the guarantee that ISOPADEC will use the resources available to serve the people and reposition the Commission. As a man who understands community service, Orie will waste no time addressing the issues of lack of infrastructures, such as lack of electricity and good roads, dilapidated health facilities and near absence of healthcare services; rising unemployment, poverty, hunger, amongst others.

Remarkably, the new MD has assured that the Commission under his watch would embark on institutional or legacy projects. Speaking with stakeholders of Umuokanne Autonomous Community in Ohaji-Egbema LGA, when they paid him a solidarity visit at his residence in Owerri on Sunday, October 18, Chief Orie said the institutional projects would not prevent the Commission from embarking on other more traditional projects like aggressive road construction and rehabilitation, as well as rural electrification and human empowerment programmes, adding that every penny belonging to the Commission would be used to serve the communities. He said: “We are immediately ready not only to build roads and restore electricity for our people through ISOPADEC, but to build and equip a first grade School of Nursing. Think of the development and prosperity this type of project will bring to our people when it is completed! This is the vision of governor Hope Uzodimma.

True to the MD’s words, ISOPADEC is poised to empower about 15,000 youths under its empowerment and skills acquisition programme. In a meeting with youths from Orlu Zone under the auspices of Orlu Zonal Youth Movement led by Mr. Emmanuel Ezike, recently, Chief Charles Orie assured that the Commission has already put in place measures to provide skill acquisition programmes and job creation for the youths through agricultural programs, empowerment of over 15,000 youths from the oil producing areas, and introduction of sustainable scholarship programs for the youths. He added that Governor Hope Uzodimma is determined to restore the lost glory of the oil producing communities of the state.

If you were close to the MD, you would know he is a man that has already committed himself to addressing the challenges posed by his office. “It is not going to be a walk in the park as we have a lot to do”, he assured.

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