9:53, 09.Nov 2016
The Governor of Imo state in Nigeria, Rochas Okorocha is set to commission a statue of President Akufo-Addo in Owerri.
Okorocha, popularly called ‘Rochas”, is a reported billionaire and colorful character who has governed Imo state in the southeast of Nigeria, since 2011. He is well known for his education philanthropy.
He has already erected similar statues of Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Jacob Zuma in South Africa amid a backlash from Nigerian citizens.
It is unclear why the Imo State government has erected a statue of the Ghanaian President but in the case of Zuma’s statue, the governor said it was in recognition of his contribution towards educating African children in South Africa.
However, this did not prevent his citizens from raising questions as the Zuma statue was unveiled.
The public focused on the large statue of the South African president rather than the philanthropy attached to the trip.
Many raised questions about the alleged cost of 520 million naira (over $1.4 million)—given Imo state’s more pressing socio-economic needs.
Others questioned why Nigeria’s own leaders have not been celebrated in the same way. The political records and accusations of corruption levelled against both leaders eroded any confidence in the monument.
Undeterred by the criticism, there are reports that the governor plans to unveil six more statues of African leaders.
Governor Okorocha who sanctioned the building of the Akufo-Addo statue is expected to commission it at a yet to be announced date.
It will be recalled that Nana Akufo-Addo, as president-elect, visited Imo State for the celebration of their Thanksgiving Day as the Special Guest of Honour.
The Imo State government has responded to the call by a human rights group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, demanding the probe of Governor Rochas Okorocha over the statues erected in honour of two African leaders, Jacob Zuma and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
SERAP had called on the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC to collaborate with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC for a joint investigation of ‘incompatibility and/or apparent and conflict of interest’.
The group had claimed that Governor Rochas “may have spent over ‘N1 billion’ of public funds to build the statues.”
However, in a statement by the chief press secretary to the governor, Sam Onwuemeodo, on Tuesday, the government said the state agreed with SERAP’s call for probe.
“First, we want to solemnly subscribe to SERAP’s call for probe. We welcome the call. Our only concern is that SERAP contradicted itself by also passing judgements. It would have stopped at the call for probe to show they meant well. But they went ahead to pass judgements and thereby jeopardising what should have been their innocent call for probe,” the statement read.
“SERAP also said the statues might have cost N1 billion. Then, how would SERAP address the issue of cost again if at the end of the probes, the amount is either far higher or far below what they quoted?” he said.
“Again, what if at the end of the probe, it is discovered that the statues were not funded from government’s purse, when SERAP had already talked about ‘apparent misuse of public resources’?” he added.
“Our concern too is that people deliberately tell unfounded lies. A week ago, all the newspapers had reports on states owing salaries and the chairman of the Imo State branch of NLC, Comrade Austin Chilakpa said the “State government is up to date in the payment of workers’ salary” (see Nation newspaper, Sunday November 5, 2017, pg13).
In other words, the state does not owe workers including teachers. On the issue of pension, the government cleared all the arrears in December 2016 and has begun to pay monthly. These pieces of information have been there in public domain”, the statement said.