CEM INSIGHT |The arrival of Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo in the political firmament of Anambra State is fraught with great expectations. It is seen by many people, both within and outside Anambra State, as an elixir that will address all the State’s problems – political, economic, financial and social problems inclusive. The general belief is that he has the knowledge, experience and a strong character that may not give room for political maneuverings and god-fatherism that could derail his vision. Again, he made firm promise during his campaigns that he would use Anambra State resources to develop Anambra State. Interestingly and to his credit anyway, the people believed him. This is indeed a big challenge for which I do not envy him.
Anambra State has about 192 autonomous communities and each community is expecting a feel of an instant impact of Prof Soludo’s Administration come March 17, 2022. A bigger challenge is that Soludo may not meet much money in Anambra State Government coffers, given the efforts of the sitting Government to complete its star legacy projects of the International Cargo and Passenger Airport, the international Conference Centre and the state-of-the-art State Stadium, aside from the obvious profligacy of the outgoing administration. These projects certainly would be gulping a lot of State revenue.
Soludo will also have to contain the culture of impunity in Anambra State where many wealthy individuals enjoy red carpet treatments and favouritism and therefore behave as if they have the state Government in their pockets. Such individuals usually get so infuriated when they receive their tax assessments that they call their top links in government who would invariably instruct the assessment authority to withdraw such assessments. The assessing staff would grudgingly withdraw the assessment with apology to save his job. There are in fact a mirage of other human problems which he must contend with.
On the other hand, the Governor in waiting has some areas that will make him smile. For instance, the oil revenue is recovering as it has currently risen to above 80 dollars per barrel and there is hope that more federal allocation will hit the state government’s purse. Again, in the shortest possible time, the investments made by the current regime of Obiano, especially the International Airport and the Conference Centre will start yielding. Furthermore, Anambra State, rightly or wrongly, is believed to be a state with the highest number of billionaires in the country. With that, Public Private Participation, (PPP) programme can be initiated by the in-coming administration in the areas of infrastructure, agriculture, medical projects and industrialisation.
The ‘igwebuike’ spirit of the average Anambra man can be invoked in this area. Government can also introduce matching grants for various community rural roads that can touch the lives of average rural dwellers to the credit of the administration. By these, Anambra State will be taken to a new level in the shortest possible time. The long propagated ‘akulue uno’ initiative can be made to take firm roots during the new administration.
On fiscal performance, there is no doubt that the State has been underperforming. The in-coming government has what it takes to fully exploit the potentials of Anambra State and therefore ought to greatly surpass the fiscal performance of the outgoing government. There are also numerous leakages to be blocked. Soludo’s recent announcement that he would not spend in his swearing in ceremonies is going to serve as a litmus test of one walking his talks. Apart from blocking leakages and addressing impunity, there are many potentials waiting to be tapped to boost the State revenue.
Anambra State is rich in natural gas, crude oil, bauxite and ceramics with 100% arable land. It also has one of the lowest poverty rates in Nigeria judging from the study published by the National Bureau of Statistics. The State equally has very industrious working population. With the kind of leadership expected from Professor Soludo, nothing will prevent his regime from doubling or even tripling the current internally generated revenue, IGR, of the outgoing governor, Willie Obiano.
In 2020, the IGR of Anambra State was about N28bn, constituting only about 35.49% of the total state’s revenue which stood at N78.93bn. That was lower than the 2019 figure of N80.26bn. In sincerity, given good management of the resources of Anambra State, the economy can, in the shortest possible time be transformed in such a way that the state may no longer need the Federation Account Allocation for recurrent expenditure. The average Anambra citizen will cooperate with Government if he sees transparency. He will pay his tax as and when due.
Leakages must be plugged and government should ensure that all payments due to it should be made directly into government coffers and receipt obtained. Use of middlemen to collect revenues should be done away with. Procurement processes are key areas through which leakages occur in the States and if the incoming Soludo administration can effectively block such areas, that will go a long way in buoying up the state’s revenue.
Another major area which he must develop a strategy for tackling is the area of insecurity. The security personnel posted to Anambra state should be given incentive to encourage them to operate optimally. The state Government can give them stipends and possibly take group insurance policy for them to serve as a fall back, in case anything happens to them within the boundaries of Anambra State. This is necessary because genuine investors can only move into the state if a level of security is assured. With investment, idle youths will be engaged thereby reducing the number of crime-prone individuals in the state. The prevailing community vigilante programme of various towns should be encouraged as they do a lot to protect their respective communities.
In conclusion, if Soludo ensures that basic discipline is restored in Anambra State, the State will be a model in Nigeria and multilateral agencies will take interest. The incoming Governor must be circumspect with the ubiquitous hangers-on and in fact the every-government-in-power group in Anambra state. Many of them from different parties are already competing to pose in photograph with the Governor-elect to show that they are still in control. He should also be weary of the members of the State Assembly who may be busy looking for fault lines. They can be pacified by asking each of them to bring a project to be executed by the state government in his constituency. There is the need to be magnanimous in victory. The government should also support the tax officials to do their work without harassment by the citizens. Anyone who is not satisfied with assessment given to him should pay first and then make an appeal. I believe that with discipline restored, Anambra state should be heading for the moon. Soludo brought far-reaching transformation as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and there is no reason he cannot bring that home.
This article was written by Alex Chidi Anameje
Alex Chidi Anameje is a Partner at Corporate Skills Bridge Ltd. He is an economic researcher of many years standing. A former Deputy Director and Head of Consultancy, Training and Research of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria. Alex holds a B.Sc(Honours) of the University of Nigeria in Statistics and Economics, a Postgraduate Diploma of the University of Ibadan in Economics with emphasis on Operations Research and an M.Sc of the University of Lagos in Economics with emphasis on Econometrics. He was for many years the Editor of The Nigerian Banker, the professional journal of The Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria. He is also a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants of Nigeria, FIMC; Member, Nigerian Economic Society, MNES; Associate, Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators, AICMC; Member, Nigerian Statistical Association and Senior Member, Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, HCIB. Alex is a Paul Harris Fellow, PHF, of Rotary International. He is happily married with children and enjoys reading and writing