Is Uzodinma’s foreign ministry a sanctuary for fraud? ~ By Collins Opurozor
When Hope Uzodinma created the Ministry of Foreign and International Affairs, Imo people already had their suspicions about the actual purposes which the Ministry was called up to serve. Insinuations were everywhere that because of his alleged decadent and questionable past, the Omuma-born ruler might not freely travel abroad, and so he needed a front overseas. Many people suspected that this Ministry could be that front, which would be undertaking and discharging some very sordid functions outside of its widely-confessed mandate.
Even though, among other things, the Ministry claims to be attracting Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) into Imo State, the controversies over its actual functions still rage on.
A more unpalatable issue is the fact that since the Ministry came into being, Imo State has completely stopped attracting Foreign Direct Investments. For instance, we have it on the authority of the recent report on capital importation into the country, which was compiled by the CBN and released by the NBS, that a total value of capital inflows into Nigeria for 2020 stood at 9.7 billion dollars. Abia State got 56 million dollars, and Anambra got 10.2 million dollars. Lagos secured the highest, which was 8.3 billion dollars, while Abuja came second with 1.3 billion dollars. The rest was shared by Ogun and Niger, and Imo State got zero.
It is really pathetic when a government pretends to be attracting FDI by creating a ministry of this nature, even when it is clear that a state chiefly needs to shore up its foreign investment portfolio, in addition to associated infrastructure, is to improve on the ease of doing business. And through Uzodinma’s opaque accounting system, draconian regulations and branding of Imo State Civil Service as fraudulent, Imo today ranks 35th out of 36 States in World Bank’s ease of doing business index.
Despite this disturbing reality, the regime of Uzodinma has gone ahead to allocate the staggering sum of nearly N1 billion as expenditure to the Ministry Foreign and International Affairs in the 2021 budget even when the projected income of the Ministry is a paltry N13.1 million. The implication is that there could be more to this Ministry than meets our bare eyes.
There are some questions, therefore, that Uzodinma and his apologists must answer very quickly: What are the actual functions of the Ministry of Foreign and International Affairs? Why is it so important that despite adding no value to the Imo economy, billions of Naira are appropriated to it? Why has the FDI profile of Imo State fallen to zero despite having a Ministry which spends billions of Naira per annum? How are these monies spent, and what are the spheres of activities of the operators of this shadowy Ministry? Imo is indeed facing one almighty disaster.