A group that goes by the name ‘Imo Political Group” has arranged a political summit on the theme: “Recovering Looted Imo Assets from Sen. Rochas Okorocha, His Relatives and Cronies”. The group has listed me as one of the keynote speakers at the summit. I have received so many inquiries regarding my involvement with the group and the summit. I have decided to issue this statement to clarify the issues regarding this summit for the benefit of my colleagues, comrades and all those who value my public activism and commentary and would like to know where I stand on the issues.
For the avoidance of doubt, I make the following categorical statements.
- I fully support the efforts of the present administration in Imo State to recover stolen assets of the state from former governors and their privies, especially Senator Rochas Okorocha who was governor from 2011 to 2019 and under whose leadership Imo State witnessed the most rapacious confiscation of public land and other assets in unlawful exercise of executive power. I was partly involved in efforts to stop him from evicting retired academics from their lawful residences at the Alvan Ikoku College of Education towards the dying days of his administration. He never respected court orders in this rabid acquisition.
- I have publicly declared that every reasonable administration should consider it a matter of priority to recover such assets through vigorous invocation of rule of law. The present efforts by the Hope Uzodinma administration are based on the report of a panel of inquiry set up by the Emeka Ihedioha administration. The report of the panel was turned into a White Paper and adopted by the State Executive and approved by the House of Assembly. The report of the Ihedioha panel extends beyond the administration of Rochas Okorocha. The panel report and the White Paper arising therefrom should form a legal framework to recover those assets through the due process of law. What is expected of the Hope Uzodinma administration is to take further legal and legislative actions to implement the White Paper through transparent and reviewable administrative actions based on objective criteria.
- The efforts to recover stolen or improperly acquired lands and other assets that belong to Imo State should not be limited to Rochas Okorocha’s administration. Previous administrations should be similarly investigated in respect of illegal and improper acquisition of public land and other public assets. Imo State is a terribly governed state. Its previous Governors have been largely corrupt and incompetent. They brutalized and bruised the hapless citizens mercilessly, with the support of a supine and mercantilist political class. This is the opportunity for the Hope Uzodinma’s administration, in spite of its disreputable pedigree and emergence, to rise to the occasion to provide relief for the besieged Imo people. Let us start with Rochas Okorocha administration but not leaving out Ikedi Ohakim and Achike Udenwa administrations as the case may be.
- I have also started in the past that recovering allegedly looted assets from Rochas Okorocha and anyone else is not a political project and does not require an engaging and distracting political fight. It is a matter of legal and legislative procedures. It should not be another opportunity for corrupt Imo politicians to mount another political initiative to steal public funds, distract the government from its responsibility and, deceive the people to embrace political rhetoric instead of effective governance. So far, this government has not shown any real understanding of the challenges of development and governance in Imo State. It has not announced any policy initiative that is transformative. The mantra of 3RRs exposes the ill-preparation and lack of intensity of the administration. The government needs all the attention it can summon and does not need a political fight that merely creates opportunity for mercantilist Imo politicians to make a living at the expense of the impoverished Imo citizens.
- It is in the light of the foregoing that I will not be part of the advertised political summit as a speaker. I will not attend. I will not speak. I do not believe that recovering public assets from Rochas Okorocha requires political rallies and conferences. The Emeka Ihedioha administration proceeded in the right way by resort to legal and legislative framework. Hope Uzodinma did well to continue on that path. He should remain on tract and not veer off in political summitry that will create a sandstorm that may cover the failure to effectively govern. We need clear actions that will ensure all those properties are recovered from Rocha Okorcha and others and also that Governor Hope Uzodinma and his own cronies do not repeat the theft and illegalities that Rochas Okorocha and his cronies are alleged to have committed for 8 years. So far, I have not seen any clear departure from the traditions of the past. There is no legal framework of accountability and oversight that ensures that Governor Hope Uzodinma and his cronies will not share public lands to family members and associates. Good intentions and rhetoric are not enough. We need rules that can constrain and deter. Sadly, the current House of Assembly in Imo State is looking as dependent and incompetent as Rochas’s.
- One of the urgent legislative work is an executive bill that establishes objective criteria and requirements of due process (including request for public objection) before the Governor exercises the right to revoke or grant Customary or Statutory Right of Occupancy based on the power in the Land Use Act. Those powers make the Governor the trustee of the people in matter of public interest over public land. As undemocratic as the Land Use Act is, it does not constitute the Governor into emperor whose fancies are matters of law. The State House of Assembly owes the people the duty to constrain the Governor’s power over public land by creating due process requirements before any revocation or allocation can be validly made. This will be a proactive response to the spate of misuse of executive power in matters of public land in Imo State. I will be very willing to assist the state government in this regard. I will not charge or receive any renumeration or reward for helping the state entrench a due process regime over land administration in Imo State.
It is true that the organizers of the summit contacted me about speaking at the summit and I agreed. I had though it would be a broad summit to look at the issues of governance and procedures for the recovery of every looted property in Imo State. But since the announcement on radio and other media platforms, I am getting the impression that it may have turned into another political fight that will create a sandstorm that will obscure the acute need for radical change to governance in Imo State and may feed into self-serving political momentum that will not lead to real change. In this context I will no longer participate in the summit. I continue to support Governor Hope Uzodnma’s efforts to recover the ‘looted’ assets from Rochas Okorocha and any other former Governor or political officeholder.
I will be willing and available to offer any help in the areas I have indicated. I will do anything to help Imo State short of these political gimmickries. The problems are deep and festering and require intense and intelligent attention, not cheap politicking. I have no evidence to doubt that the organizers mean well. But the summit is now a political event that distract from real actions.
Thank you and God Bless
Dr. Sam Amadi
(Associate Professor of Law, Baze University, Abuja)
March 29, 2021