Tuesday, December 2, 2014 11:59 am
Willie Obiano, Anambra State governor, recently hosted contestants of the just concluded Gulder Ultimate Search at his lodge in Awka. After the reception, Obiano spoke with select journalists on his young administration and how he is set to take the state to another level. FUNSHO AROGUNDADE was there
How has it been since your coming as Anambra State governor?
It has been a great privilege to serve this state and we have been trying to make the difference. What we have been doing is not rocket science as it has been a well thought-out and simple process. And these processes are under economic enablers. There are about four items under these enablers. They are education, health, infrastructure and security. One of these enablers, education, is very critical to whatever we are doing. And my approach to education is very simple. To give myself a pass mark in education, I must have achieved three things: infrastructure, which includes the buildings and furniture; equipment and facilities like libraries and laboratories. Apart from the comfort of our students, teachers’ are also very critical. If I build only infrastructure and there are no teachers then that is not education. If I take care of the teachers and they are in a non-conducive environment, that is not education. We are looking at having adequate number of teachers, caring for them, training and retraining them. We are working at getting more teachers to teach, especially in the rural areas. We are partnering with the United Nations to see that these teachers are paid extra allowance. Health is also part of the enablers. Same as education. We are also tackling the infrastructure in the health sector, especially building and equipping more hospitals in different parts of the state. As we look at the comfort of the patients, the welfare of health workers themselves is also essential. We are to train and retrain health workers and make sure they are well taken care of. We are also focusing on roads. I tell you, any bad roads you see here are Federal roads. And some of them are being worked on. Anambra prides itself as having the largest road network in Nigeria. All our state roads are state-of-the-art. My predecessors did a good work. (Senator Chris) Ngige did well with the roads, while Mr. Peter Obi did over 1,000 kilometres of roads. Most of them I am still working on. What you see here is a government of continuity. All his projects are being worked on and none will be abandoned.
Our administration is looking at agriculture from the perspective of getting the subsistence farmers to come out of their shell and become bigger. Before now, we had 10 agricultural machines. My predecessor ordered 100 more, which are about to arrive. Once they are around, it will enable us to prepare the land for the farmers free of charge. We are also going to give them enhanced seedlings free of charge. But after the first harvest, they can no longer get them for free; they will get them at subsidised rates. This is in order for the scheme to go round. Also, the first thing I did when I became governor was to contract 14 agronomists to chart Anambra and give me an agricultural blueprint. We are forming co-operatives based on the type of crops they grow. The co-operatives are also for administrative purposes. We want to know that we are dealing with real farmers and not business men who will just sell the seedlings. We also have the outgrowers scheme where farmers can get loans to produce crops that are being ordered. We are also working with commercial farmers who are the employers of labour. Coscharis Group has now veered into agriculture in Anambra with their COSAT and we are fully in support of their project. By the time they are in full production, they will be producing 120,000 metric tonnes of rice. Anambra today produces 80,000 metric tonnes as a state but consumes 340,000 metric tonnes so there is a gap. COSAT farms will be producing half of the state’s need. That is just one farmer. We are signing on other farmers as well. In two to three years, we will be self-sufficient in rice production and will be exporting to neighbouring states and even Lagos. Basically, all that will create employment in areas of processing, packaging, manufacturing and that is a lot of jobs.
Anambra has been a notorious place in terms of crime. How have you been tackling the issue of security in the state?
Things are changing. In fact, you wouldn’t have come here for the search if you thought Anambra is still unsafe. We are giving security a very robust attention and we will continue to do so till the end of my tenure. We have successfully driven away kidnappers. This does not mean that they don’t strike once in a while, but we always arrest the culprits any time they strike.
How have you been coping in terms of raising fund to execute all these enablers?
Talking about Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, we met an IGR position of N550 million monthly and that is a far cry from what we need to drive this state. The salary bill of the state is about N2.8 billion. Until my IGR equals or is above salary range, I will not score myself as having done well in terms of IGR. Anambra is the second smallest state by land mass, next to Lagos. It is not a very big state by land mass. Yet we have over seven million people. However, we have been able to increase the IGR from that N550 million to N1 billion a month in just six months. We have the capacity to reach N3.5 billion monthly, so we are trying to block all the loopholes and leakages.