THERE’S a wise counsel in Thembu, yes Dr. Nelson Mandela’s tribe in South Africa, that not even longevity sours war song. This is why a day like today calls for garlands in Anambra State as Gov. Willie Obiano adds yet another glorious year to his lustrous span. It is so because if there was no August 8, Anambra would certainly not have had an illustrious son of the governor’s mould to re-launche the state on world map of gloss and radiance.
No aspect of Anambra State bears tell-tale marks of this noiseless revolution than Gov. Obiano’s imprints on Anambra economy. Where some of his predecessors for political correctness dared not tread, Obiano is not only bestriding like a colossus but also exploring everywhere and indeed, posting watersheds that would in the future become leadership benchmarks or parametres. In a way Gov. Obiano, in similar vein with Pope Francis’ new direction for the Catholic world, is bringing up every facet for exploration for ultimate synthesisation. Where economic blueprints of previous administrations came unstuck, Gov. Obiano’s Five Pillars – and their eight enablers – not only delivered good governance but became roadmaps for succeeding administrations. Soon, Anambra Economic Transformation Programme (AET-P) was launched to enhance modulated development of all sectors.
Gov. Obiano’s economic nous did not take time to transform Anambra into an investment hub – attracting over $4 billion primetime and portfolio investments into the state in its first two years with Anambra Investment Promotion and Protection Agency (ANSIPPA) driving crucial levers – but a new template for development for other states in Nigeria.
Take Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) for instance. Before March 17, 2014, this had always a snag for the state despite its strategic role in delivering greater good. Rather than play the role envisaged for it, this subsector remained an all-comer affair where nobody is answerable to anybody. There was no way to know just how much the state really generated every fiscal year. The corollary is that bogus figures were bandied about at each turn, but nowhere was impact of fantastic numbers felt on the economy in concrete terms. But with Gov. Obiano’s assumption of the reins, sanity was not only restored but IGR became an instant cash cow that calibrated Anambra economy to a rung which drew even oil producing states green with envy.
Little wonder, when other states in the federation and even Nigeria itself plunged into recession, Anambra economy was gliding in the sky like a diamond.
Posting this feat did not take rocket science from Gov. Obiano. Rather, he keyed into his treasure trove as a seasoned accountant, institutionalising probity and accountability as criterion of public business in new Anambra State in which prudence assumed a pride of place in the hierarchy of new ethos, particularly procurement. Old ways gave way for new life in new names. Civil service was shorn of it erstwhile tag of oluoyibo or what translates to a communal heritage (in which the buck really stops at nobody’s desk) and evolved into oluobodoanyi where it became easy to track productivity and award reprimands or reward as may be appropriate at anytime.
Gov. Obiano quickly digitalized Anambra economy, introducing cutting edge, smart sense templates. Fromabolition of right of way charges to waiving the charges from N600 per linear metre to zero naira, he expedited broadband penetration, optimising economic activities and ease of doing business in the state tweaking commerce, education, innovation, manufacturing and governance to irreversible diversification and leveraging.
Another dimension to Gov. Obiano’s bold, resourceful leadership strategies is his commitment to youth participation. This indicts some of his predecessors paid no more than lip service to youth development. Here, Obiano brought Dr. Mark Okoye into his cabinet not only as the youngest commissioner in Nigeria but also gave him the job of managing the state’s economy as Commissioner for Economic Planning, Budget and Development Partners.
Gov. Obiano’s COVID-19 palliatives through tax relief, special intervention for small and medium scale enterprises, social intervention for low income households and infrastructure for jobs have stimulated economic activities in Anambra State as nowhere has recorded in Nigeria since coronavirus pandemic assumed frightening dimension globally. Through the tax relief cushion, the governor suspended the collection of taxes that hit directly on lower class enterprises, although they are backed by the laws of Anambra State. These comprised such status as the emblems for mostly commuting auto vehicles, Hawkers Permit on all streets in the state; wheel barrow tax in all markets and abolished imposition of unapproved levies on pupils and students of public primary and secondary schools.
The Anambra State Government has since kicked off disbursement of 10 per cent tax deductions to traders and business owners from last year’s taxesin the state.
Earlier, at the peak of the pandemic, government distributed 400 bags of rice to each of the181 communities in the state for youths in such communities after 200 bags of rice were shared in each community for elderly people from 70 years and above.
Anambra Small Business Agency (ASBA) was also leveraged to provide backbone worth N3billion in soft loans to SMEs and MSMEs at nine per cent rate across key sectors. This won confidence of Bank of Industry, Bank of Agriculture and Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme that each lined up to partner Anambra to the tune of about N1.5 billion. Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was not left out as it provided support to the sector through Anchor Borrowers Programme for SME and MSMEs in the agriculture sector.
In his traditional eye-on-the-future approach, Gov. Obiano equally set up the Prof. Chukwuma Soludo-led 48-man think-tank to envision an economic and social development of the state in the next 50 years. Termed Vision 2070, Obiano said the plan was for the security, prosperity and happiness of the state’s people by laying necessary bulwarks for future planning under current global dynamics.
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