That Imo’s “Billion Billion” Hospitals

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As usual, Imo State outgoing Governor, Rochas Okorocha cannot swin out of controversy anytime he picks the microphone to speak.

Surely, one thing people of the state would miss in the politician that has few days to spend in Government House is a waggish disposition borne out of unguarded comments.

Swimming in fleeting fantasy of fallacious populism, it is worrisome to observe Okorocha make certain claims that most time query his charismatic disposition and sartorial elegance in public speeches.

As he is about to say goodbye to Douglas House as Government House Owerri is fondly called before he came up with the People’s House name, as number one citizen of Imo State, Monday’s claim that he spent 30 billion naira to erect the new “General Hospitals” fertilizes the belief in quarters that his Rescue Mission administration simply re-skewed people of the state instead of Rescue Mission he named his government.

Speaking while handing over state government structures constructed in form of health facilities to some churches to operate as hospitals under the Public Private Partnership, PPP, Okorocha told those who cared to listen that it cost his administration N30 billion to build the so called hospitals.

According to him, the said 30 General Hospitals his administration built in eight years cost N30bn which translated to N1bn per one.

Speaking further on the issue, his idea of the bogus hospitals facilities in Imo is to make the state a health tourist destination in the country.

It was the Health commissioner, Angela Uwakwem who said that the Ogwa General Hospital in Mbaitoli LGA and Ehime Mbano Hospital were handed over to the Anglican Diocese of Owerri and Okigwe South Diocese respectively. That of Isiala Mbano was handed to the Okigwe North Anglican Diocese while the Lord’s Chosen Church takes over Ohaji/Egbema Hospital in what the government official said would be used to build a Teaching Hospital for the purpose of the Church’s University.

From the explanation of government, it is a 99 years lease. Imo State government has 10% investment share.

It is on record that on getting the mandate to become Imo State governor eight years ago, Okorocha tried to give all sectors of the state a facelift different from what he met. Part of the programs was the decision to abandon the existed General Hospitals in all the LGAs for new modern ones. It was in the process that the body responsible for the management of the hospitals, the Imo State Health Management Board, IMSHB was also grounded since no
General Hospitals were available for the workers and management.
With few days remaining for the Rescue Mission government to call it quit, non of the 28 General Hospitals Okorocha claimed to have put in place is functional except for that of Ikeduru on the Owerri-Okigwe road that appears to be operated by a private investor the identity cannot be ascertained.

General hospitals by government design are meant to provide health care to the people at the grassroots. It is meant for those who may not have the wherewithal to visit health facilities in the municipal areas of the state or unable to raise the amounts charged by private operators in the localities.More so, unlike the conventional hospitals operated by private professionals, General Hospitals provide services at manageable rates.

The issues raised above may not worry people of the state any longer considering that the Okorocha era has faded away with few days left to exercise power but the implausible tales of spending a whooping sum of N30bn for the hospitals that are about 28 in number further puts a serious question mark on how the outgoing governor handed finances of the state. Simple arithmetic showed that each may have gulped not less than N1.2bn to erect.

Okorocha’s incredulous claim of using N30bn to build the hospitals is inclined to doubt considering that each of the 28 health facility are at different stages of formation. It is obvious that what is in place in most of the locations is mere block work even of poor quality as some of the particles holding the building have started disengaging from the main structures.
Ordinarily, a modern hospital in Okorocha’s thinking expected to gulp billions should have state of the art facilities and equipment but in that of the outgoing governor, there is no single bed for patients to back up the “billion billion” claims. A closer look at many of the so called hospitals shows uncompleted block work that 20 million can execute.

One of the aggrieved persons lamenting the governor’s claim and a lawyer from Ohaji/Egbema, Ejike Eshinkoye while expressing disgust over the governor’s claims in a tweet was of the view that the amount quoted those not correspond with what has been done with the block work in his locality.

According to the lawyer cum activist, “Onye Ishi Sir” (referring to Okorocha as His Excellency Sir), the one in my local government is right in my village. That one, the stage it is, am sure it did not take you up to 20 million naira. Infact Sir, if you go there now, you will not even see anything because it has been overgrown by weeds”

In a comical way, Ejike Esinkoye added “pls minus that one from the Billion Billion list”.

Several others in similar posts in the social media raised eyebrows over the claims adding that what is in their locality can’t be beyond N20m if properly assessed.

Before I leave the Ohaji/Egbema General Hospital case raised by Ejike, it is important to highlight the unfair treatment Okorocha’s administration visited on the people of the area. For record purposes, the oil producing LGA had two functional hospitals under district arrangement before the governor came on board. While one was at Umuokanne, the District Headquarters of Ohaji, the other one was in Egbema, the council headquarters.

But Okorocha came to asphyxiate the hospitals that had provided medical needs to the people. Ironically, while closing down the General Hospital Umukanne, he left behind the accompanying mortuary; to perhaps cater for the corpse of dead ones who would have died because of lack of medical treatment occasioned by the absence of a government hospital. When protests trailed his action in the area, the governor returned with a counterfeit school of Nursing project to assuage enraged minds. But the phony Nursing school project, the governor claimed would be funded from the Imo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission; ISOPADEC coffers died on paper afterwards.

Eight years after Okorocha’s reign, the people of Ohaji can’t feel any General Hospital for medical challenges except the one Ejike Esinkoye requested the governor to minus only N20m from the N1bn claim used for it because weed had already taken over the structure.

Back to central theme of this central this commentary as i allow the Ohaji people to take their case to the incoming administration for salvation. Certain vital questions need to be asked concerning the manner Okorocha gave out part of the N30bn naira worth of hospital to some churches.

Apart from non provision of facilities in any of the hospitals to raise the cost price to billion, concerns are raised about the legal implication of a governor giving out government health facilities without legal backing from members of the House of Assembly . Private Public Partnership PPP/ concession of either Completed or uncompleted government projects are expected to have legal backing if the governor means well for the state. The action somehow speaks volume of Okorocha’s disregard for due process and proper accountability. It was not surprising that even when he had not revealed the identity of the contractors who handled the job and cost of each based on contract papers, his choice of giving the cost to people of the state at the dying minutes of his government is suspicious.

More disturbing in the whole episode is the pedigree of those Okorocha handed the hospitals and the conditions agreed upon for the operation of the PPP arrangement.

In view of the specialized area of medical sector, only certified and qualified operators of medical facility are entitled to be handed the General Hospitals. Have those the governor handed the hospitals any prove of handling such facilities successfully in the past?

It is worthy to note that few of the General Hospitals handed to Federal Government Agencies like Police, Navy and Army in the state by the Rescue Mission government have not become operational, thereby opening fronts to ask when Imo State Government turned father Christmas to give out its structures to other operators in such a critical sector?

Maybe the governor was trying to recite one popular Igbo highlife musician from Anambra state whose song “One One B” for “One One Billion” is crating waves in the market, if not, he shouldn’t seek court order to stop EFCC, ICPC, Police and CCB from probing his stewardship immediately he leaves office on May 29, 2019