EKWUEME Square is now a Sports Complex, with an Olympic size swimming pool, basketball court, volleyball court and many more. All these happened within one month. The complex hosted some sporting events of the just-concluded biennial Nigeria Police Games, tagged ‘Anambra 2020.’
As at the time Gov. Willie Obiano was receiving the game’s mascot from the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, in Abuja, some people wondered the capability of Awka, the state capital to host the games. They argued that Awka has no such facilities for that. Gov. Willie Obiano promised and delivered on that.
The success recorded in hosting the games demonstrates that Awka can host two or three more national events even simultaneously. It is worthy of note that city of Awka since the creation of the new Anambra State has no significant sporting activity identified with it or event of national significance that runs into days. It further shows that with a short notice, the state’s willingness or preparedness to host a major sporting event cannot be in doubt.
Anambra State hosting the police games has created a platform for budding athletes’ in the Awka Capital Territory who had always desired to nurture their sporting talents the boost to hone their skills with the facilities at the sporting complex. As Anambra State prepares for the National Sports Festival in Edo State this month, it is not surprising that athletes and budding stars from the state now use the square as a training facility. It is a big boost to Anambra State as it strives to empower youths through sports development.
Before the Nigeria Police Games began, people wondered if there would be enough space to accommodate people. They argued that all the hotels in Awka would be fully booked. Many rushed to make reservations. Beyond the hotel bookings, which were not overbooked, the hospitality industry in the state made a lot of money. The spin-off was also the money made by the informal sector. Unlike the usual scene created during rush hour, the city of Awka recorded one of the lowest traffic situations during the games.
The hospitality industry in the state before now has shown hidden potentials. The question often asked is beyond political or social gathering which usually doesn’t last more than a day or two, could the industry handle major sporting events with thousands of guests coming to the state?
The gains recorded in the sector underscores the efforts of the state government towards maximising the hidden potentials in its tourism industry. For this reason, the state Ministry for Diaspora Affairs, Indigenous Artworks, Culture and Tourism, created Hospitality and Hotel Unit in the ministry to harness the potential of the industry.
The ministry has commenced inspection, automated hotel database management system, and digitalisation of the industry. This new policy gave the hotel and hospitality industry in the state a unique shape for the betterment of the people and economic growth of the state.
“One of the most important things for Anambra is its growth and development that requires revenue generation. If tourism can be at the centre of generating much revenue as in other climes, we can tap into it through this new department. We are working with Anambra Internal Revenue Service (AIRS) to see if we can identify the revenue windows that exist in this ministry. And they have helped identify over 35 windows of such revenue,” said Sally Mbanefo, Anambra State Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs, Indigenous Artworks, Culture and Tourism.
In tapping into the hidden gains of tourism in the state, the state government has launched an ambitious project of transforming the Ogbunike Cave in Oyi Local Government Area into a resort and tourist attraction. The state government has the same plan for the Ogbaukwu Cave and Waterfalls at Owerre Ezukala, Orumba South Local Government Area, where some renovations have been carried out.
The Anambra State Health Insurance Agency (ASHIA) whose principal objective is to provide mandatory health insurance for ndi Anambra has shown hidden economic potential beyond the health sector. Executive Secretary of the agency, Simeon Onyemaechi described his agency’s health insurance scheme as one of the best things that ever happened to the state’s health sector. The scheme requires that someone registers with N12, 000 for the year and enjoys subsidised health cost. The scheme now shows much more economic benefits.
The buy-in is that some churches through their schools now implement similar schemes; some corporations have also joined the train. Less than two years after introducing the health insurance in Anambra State, its reception has been encouraging even when similar scheme at the federal level hasn’t achieved the same success. Besides the health benefits enjoyed by participants, support of partner hospitals by making funds available to invest in their hospitals, the health insurance scheme brings in a lot of money to invest in other businesses.
Anambra has the potentials of making the state Africa’s technological hub and Nnewi town, despite the challenges confronting its refabrication and manufacturing concerns, holds the hope for Nigeria’s full-scale industrial activities.
Except for established names in the state technological sector, the technical prowess of Nnewi people does not manifest in concentrated industrial parks or estates but emanates in clusters of factories and places people would not have imagined for a technological drive.
The town is home to big players like Innoson Group, Cutix, Ibeto Group, ADswitch, Uru Industries Ltd, Tummy Tummy Foods Industries Limited, Intercontinental Feed Mills, Ngobros Industries, among others. But hardly would people mention the small and medium players who are the force behind the city’s technological prowess.
Anthony Udeogu, operates in the league of small-scale factory owners. He produces iron seats for motorcycles, bolts, nuts and other metal works. He further buttressed Nnewi’s ingenuity. “There are places in this city that you wouldn’t believe produces much more sophisticated products. Do you want to know why we produce these things in Nnewi? Often, most of the quality of imported products has no match with what we produce in Nnewi. The importers are after quantity; we are after quality.”
He asserted that they source materials in the city and its environs. He maintained that Nigeria has not grown beyond its current level in her drive for advancement of science and technology because the country lacks enablers like grants, soft and easily accessible loans, and constant government intervention. He said, by then, Nnewi should be producing some degrees of quality goods than she currently does. “We have a pool of talents in Nnewi that we can assemble to produce any machine that we want, but assistance to drive the small and medium scale entrepreneurs who drive the sector is not encouraging.”
It’s a fact that Anambra State, being the most populous state in the South-East Zone, is also the most industrial and wealthiest. But the state’s internally generated revenue fell short of the state government estimations. Gov. Willie Obiano administration has demonstrated that the state is rich enough to generate enough revenue without running to Abuja to beg for funds as some states do. Since assuming office, the state IGR has seen a steady rise in the figure, notably in the last three years.
Chairman of Anambra State Internal Revenue Service, David Nzekwu said although the informal sector might appear challenging to deal with, there were enormous potentials for revenue growth in that area. He noted that Anambra has an estimated 1.2 million people trading in the state; that only 7, 150 individuals pay tax via Direct Tax. Dr Nzekwu further stated that Anambra had fared well in tax payment. “As at the close of 2019, we realised N26.3 billion in terms of revenue collection in the state, but the large chunk of the money came from the formal pay as you earn payment known as PAYE. We hope to engage the informal sector more vigorously in the days ahead.”
Another hidden potential which Gov. Obiano administration has brought to the fore is that the state can be food sufficient. For instance, the rice project, which has produced the Anambra Rice and other branded premium quality rice, shows that the state can be food sufficient, the state’s small landmass notwithstanding.
Anambra State has shown possibilities that all stakeholders can work together; that everybody can be involved. The state has been working on the policy of the winner takes it all but under Obiano’s administration; the winner doesn’t take it all. Everybody participates. The synergy reflects that’s why we have security and calmness because nobody has seen ground for the expression of anger.
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