By Kizito Duru
It is no longer news that Gov. Hope Uzodimma has clocked one year in office. Expectedly, the Governor’s media handlers took to the print, social and electronic media to showcase his scorecard within his first 365 days in office.
The main opposition in the state, the PDP, also made publications attemptimg to discredit the Governor’s impressive leadership. No doubt, contrasting opinions are part of the beauties of democracy, but when it is done out of malice, it loses its taste. Notwithstanding what the opposition say about the government, there is hardly any critic of the government who has criticized the Governor on his great performance in the Oil and Gas sector in the state since he took over the reins of leadership in the state.
Upon ascension to the throne of Imo governorship, Uzodimma made clear his intention, vision and desire for the Oil and Gas sector in the state by his appointment of Rt. Hon. Goodluck Opiah as his Special Adviser and Coordinator for Petroleum and Gas Matters.
Opiah’s experience in the Oil Sector is as old as it is outstanding. To start with, he is from one of the oil producing communities in Imo State and he grew up to meet oil at his backyard.
To equip himself further he proceeded to gain knowledge at the Rivers State University where he studied Business Administration and later worked with the UTC and BEWAC PLC respectively. He rose to the position of the General Manager before trying his hands on politics.
Opiah’s stay in the Imo State House of Assembly as the lawmaker representing Ohaji-Egbema State Constituency saw him singlehandedly sponsor a bill that is yet to be rivalled in the history of the state – which is the creation of ISOPADEC which caters for the development of the oil producing areas in the state.
And having represented the oil producing areas at the Federal House of Representatives, his appointment by the Governor is therefore widely believed to be the bold step Governor Uzodimma needed to do more in the Oil and Gas Sector.
To ensure smooth working relationship between the oil companies in Imo and their host communities, Opiah met with the host communities during which they tabled their grievances, with a view that the government would address the issues raised and resolve whatever crisis that may have bedevilled the communities.
On each of those meetings, Opiah reiterated the Governor’s commitment to the development of the host communities and emphasized the urgent need to develop the youths as well.
With what is on the ground, the commitment in the Oil and Gas Sector and his subsequent appointment of Opiah as the Coordinator for Petroleum and Gas Matters have started yielding impressive results. Sanity is returning in the host communities as the oil companies have started making needed adjustments towards responding to the needs of the host communities.
This too, has brought peace and tranquility. Some oil companies have started writing new Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) with the host communities and most of the youths who hitherto resorted to violence against the oil companies have all dropped their arms. These are feats never recorded since 1999.
Within the one year in office of Governor Uzodimma, the State Government announced that it has established the Imo Petroleum Development Company (IPDC), as part of measures to make the state play meaningfully in the Oil and Gas sector.
Opiah who made the announcement disclosed that the IPDC was established about 20 years ago as a major player in the Oil Gas sector for the state, noting that Governor Hope has increased the share capital of the company to 10billion shares.
He added that the oil producing company partnered with Oak Company, a company based in the United States of America, for the establishment of a refinery in Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area during the Ikedi Ohakim. He noted that the deal could not sail through partly because of the restiveness in the Niger Delta region which forced the US Government to place travel restrictions on the states in the Niger Delta, which also led the Oak Company to pull out of the deal.
According to Opiah, the Imo Petroleum Development Company will also establish refineries in addition to prospecting for Oil and Gas, and that the company will also engage in the production of petrochemical products beside oil production.
Opiah also assured that the state and her oil producing communities would begin to have better deals in the Oil Gas sector as the government was poised to making sure that the State maximizes all the opportunities open to her in the sector, including making the oil producing companies operating in the state relate with the oil producing communities in better ways than they had done before, stressing that the oil companies operating in the State had not treated their host communities fairly, regretting that since their operation in the state only one of the oil producing companies has office in the state.
It was also within Uzodimma 365 days in office that the presidency stormed Imo state for the inauguration of the 5,000 barrels per day Waltersmith modular refinery in Ibigwe, Imo State, as well as the Ground-Breaking Ceremony for the Phase-2 works to expand the capacity of the refinery to 50,000 barrels/day.
This project has since kicked off. Beyond the refinery and other such investments, Waltersmith will construct the Asaa/Awara/Obitti/Umuapu Road, terminating at Owerri-Port Harcourt Road, and Ohie/Umuokanne Road, terminating at Assumpta Cathedral, Owerri.
Gov Hope Uzodimma has intensified efforts towards recovering oil wells lost to the neighbouring state, Rivers State precisely. Delegates from the National Boundary Commission led by the Surveyor-General of the Federation, Surveyor Samuel Adeniran, and the Director-General of the National Boundary Commission, Surveyor Adaji Adamu, had few months ago visited Imo State to get first hand information on the boundary matter between Rivers and Imo States.
The latest development in the oil and gas sector is the news that Imo Petroleum Development Company has got its first oil block and set for mining. This was contained in a letter from the Department of Petroleum Resources of the Ministry of Petroleum, Abuja, and addressed to the Managing Director/CEO of the Company, dated January 22, 2021, and signed by the Director of the Department of Petroleum Resources, Engr. Saraki Auwalu, titled: 2020 MARGINAL FIELD BID ROUND (MFBR) EXERCISE: SIGNATURE BONUS PAYMENT CURRENCY DENOMINATION.
Reacting to the letter, Opiah said it was in fulfilment of Governor Hope Uzodimma’s pledge to make the state a major player in the oil and gas sector. He added that the Governor’s selfless interest in the sector had started yielding tremendous results.
Besides Opiah, many people in Imo State commend Governor Hope Uzodimma for his wonder stride in the Oil and Gas sector. Dr. Jude Ibegbulem said that this is the first time a Governor is showing the level of interest Uzodimma is showing in the sector. He added that the first time Imo State would truly own an oil company and go ahead to own it’s own oil bloc and ready to mine oil and gas.
He noted that the effect of the IPDC would be for generations, even as he called on Imo people to rally round the Governor to serve as the incentive to do more.