By Lancelot Obiaku
Petroleum marketers in Imo State had recently embarked on a protest strike over a judgment debt inherited by the Gov. Hope Uzodimma administration from its predecessors, leading to the artificial scarcity of the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) otherwise known as petrol in the state.
Expectedly, there were grumblings, groans, and murmurs. And while some people had pointed accusing fingers at the Uzodimma administration for a problem it did not create, others who reasoned deeper held the view that the petroleum marketers had not approached the issue with a human face. Some said there was politics to it.
For the Governor, how the people conceived the issue does not matter, really. Being a father [the father of Imo State], what was important to him was to figure out a solution to the imbroglio so that frayed nerves could be placated and the people could be happy once again. It was on this premise that Gov. Hope Uzodimma met with the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) on Wednesday, September 15th, 2021. The meeting birthed a 15-man committee saddled with bringing a lasting solution to the problem. And PMS is now available all over the state, and at the normal pump price.
Imo people are delighted to have the burden of the grueling petrol crisis that brought hardship upon them relieved. The Governor’s action has attracted plaudits to him. His meeting with IPMAN also had him reveal that he had instructed that Imolites whose monthly incomes are below Seventy Thousand Naira (N70,000) be exempted from tax. By this, many believe that he has proved himself empathetic to the plights of the masses, as a father would do his children’s.
“I do not also believe in the over-taxation of the people”, Gov. Uzodimma said.
“Last week, I signed an instruction that those whose incomes are less than seventy thousand Naira in a month should no longer pay tax in Imo State.”
In the meeting, the Governor acknowledged that the petroleum marketers may not have handled their agitation in the best possible way but extended his hands of cooperation. His words were soothing, to the admiration of the lmo public.
“I want to thank the Almighty God that this opportunity of meeting with you presented itself today and sincerely welcome you to Imo State. All we want is peace in our state. It’s impossible that I will hear that tanker drivers and petroleum marketers in our state are not happy and refuse to invite them,” the Governor added.
“But it is also of you to give me my first right which is to hear you out. You did not allow me to hear you out. You made no effort to meet with your Governor. It is only when you meet with your Governor and he is not able to keep agreements that you can begin to take action. Fair hearing is necessary and it is a right for all of us. So whatever are the grievances, we would set up a committee of government officials and members of the union. This is how it is done even at the national level. Any issues you are not able to resolve, you can bring to my attention. I would either overrule you or the government team and make sure that everybody is happy and that progress is made.
“Let us not take part in the destruction of this house [the office I occupy] which you all contributed to the building. So you must continue the partnership that would make your businesses grow, and also make our government work. Feel free at any time to call on me. When people are buying from the black market and there is trouble everywhere, it does not make me happy. If the people are not happy, I cannot be happy. And the people cannot be happy by my efforts alone. It would take mine and your efforts to make the people happy”, he said.
Imo people are knowledgeable of the fact that there were many judgment orders obtained by citizens against the State Government under the watch of former Governor, Rochas Okorocha, whose administration did nothing about them.
Gov. Hope Uzodimma, being kind-hearted and in obedience to the rule of law went a long way to settle the debts. He explained: “When we assumed office, to be honest, we met a lot of court judgments, garnishee orders here and there, that if we had to pay all of them, we may not have been able to pay salaries. What we did was to call the affected person and listen to them. For most of them, we returned their lands and other affected properties so that government can move forward. So if we could do that, what about you that are strategic stakeholders very necessary for development in Imo State. Why can’t I seat down and discuss this with you?
“I want to thank you for coming. Let’s not begin to dot the Is and cross the Ts. But you need to understand that I am not your enemy. I am cooperating with you so that we can move forward. We have to work out something implementable and affordable. Please bring back your tanker drivers to supply our people with fuel because they are suffering. I plead with you to join my government in serving the people and making them happy. I would not disappoint you,” he promised.