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Making integrity matter in governance

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“MANY of us have lost hope that we will ever receive our gratuities. Despite our meritorious service to Anambra State, successive governments chose to neglect us. What Governor Willie Obiano has done today is remarkable. We are praying for him because he is a compassionate governor “. These are the words of veteran Nollywood actor, Pete Edochie, while reacting to his gratuity being paid after 19 years of retirement in the year 2017.

While pushing for true federalism and oil independence, former senator from Bayelsa State, Ben Murray Bruce said in 2018,” Let us take the case of Anambra State and make it a test state for how we could possibly get out from the oil boom and bust cycle. Anambra is not an oil producing state in that it does not have oil in commercial quantities; yet, it does not take loans or owe workers salary.

  English Cambridge Dictionary explains integrity as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles that you refuse to change. Maybe, the dictionary should change the definition of integrity to Governor Willie Obiano, as the above definition qualifies him.  Before he became a governor, he was a banker and an auditor, and this was evidential as he utilised his field intelligence as the governor of the state.

Unofficially, he is known as the ‘alert governor’, ‘on time governor’ or “Willie is working”; a civil service friendly governor. From  inception, Governor Willie Obiano said he would not owe workers but pay them on 25th of every month and  has never owed his workers salaries at any level. Not only that, he pays his workers salaries on 25th of every month.

His administration was unfortunate to witness the 2016 recession that affected the country as a whole. During this period, governors and federal agencies were owing salaries and people were being sacked, and not receiving compensation of any kind. But despite the fact that Anambra State receives smaller allocations/ bailout funds from the federal government, and not minding that it is  not an oil producing state, he did not sack workers or stopped or reduced the salaries of workers. Instead, he came out with policies that kept the state afloat during the recession era.

On July, 2016, Ben Murray Bruce made Anambra State a case study despite being in a different political party. “But look at those states that thrive by depending solely on federal allocation. They are broke, cannot pay salaries and are so debt ridden. Banks will not lend to them anymore. Worst of all is that these states are performing woefully in education.

There is something to be learned from Anambra. Is it their policy? Is it their budgeting practice? Is it their sense of community? Whatever it is, it is working! The federal government and other states should study what Anambra State has been doing right and replicate it nationally.” Anambra proves that Nigeria does not need oil to thrive. During the coronavirus pandemic in the national lock down, he did not reduce salaries either.

Another area that distinguishes Gov Willie Obiano from his peers is the payment of pensions and gratuities being owed by his predecessors even before Anambra State was created. Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS), Anambra Newspapers and Printing Corporation (ANPC) and other local government agencies’ retirees as far back as the 80s, 90s have all been traced and given their benefits. Pete Edochie, a veteran in the movie industry was a beneficiary of the kind gesture. This is a feat that his predecessors could not achieve which he said he would do and did it.

Civil servants were not the only ones that gained from the integrity of the beloved governor. Anambra State, widely known for her entrepreneurial prowess, was almost threatened during the recession period, between 2016-2017, but Obiano came up with policies that saw businesses – macro and micro thrive under harsh economic conditions.Gov. Obiano enforced his economic stimulus package to the people of Anambra State with four key areas of his government’s intervention. He established a clear understanding of the development and how to tackle it. He made ndi Anambra know that there is nothing to fear but fear itself.

Dr. Obiano’s intervention highlights four vital areas . They are: Tax relief; special intervention for small and medium scale enterprises; social intervention for low income households and infrastructure for jobs.

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 the imposition of unapproved levies on pupils and students of public primary and secondary schools.

He also intervened through the injection of fund for small and medium enterprises upon noting the need for rejuvenation of productivity and businesses in the low rung.

 2020 will be remembered as the year that youths chose to say enough is enough to  police brutality, there were protests nationwide to that effect and Anambra State was not exempted, but when governors in other states were busy shooting, jailing or ignoring protesters, Obiano stood with the youth and  even sacked one of his security aides,,Mr Nwafor, who has been accused by multiple sources of allegedly committing various extrajudicial killings of SARS suspects during his time as the Officer Commanding (OC) of Anambra State SÁRS.

“James Nwafor, former OC SARS in Anambra State is sacked and will be prosecuted.” Governor Obiano said he was in support of the youths and  against brutality, harassment, extortion and extrajudicial killing of Nigerians by any agent of government, not only the police.

 “Today, I joined youths of our dear state to say #EndPolice Brutality and I support them because they did not only vote and defend their votes in my 21-over-21 victory but all their requests are genuine and germane, and I oblige to honour them all.

“I felt honoured being in their midst to share in their feelings, and I made it clear that federal government has disbanded SARS but I will personally visit all SARS offices in Anambra State to ensure that anyone being held is released, immediately”. He equally fulfilled the promises.

As a business oriented place, Anambra cannot boast of an airport and ndi Anambra, who love to travel a lot have go either to Enugu, Delta or Imo States in order to travel by air to wherever their destinations may be. To that effect ,he promised to build a cargo airport in Umueri and today, the project has reached an advanced stage.

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