Thursday, 30 March 2017

Obiano’s quest to rebuild Anambra

Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State has just marked his third anniversary in office. As part of the activities for the anniversary, he organised a two-day media tour of some of the projects executed by his administration. RAYMOND MORDI, who was on the trip, reports.

Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State embodies the quest of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) to remain relevant in Nigerian politics. As the only governor on the platform of the party, following the exit of Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, the November 18 governorship election in the state is crucial not only to secure Obiano’s second-term mandate, but also for the survival of APGA as formidable political platform.
Obiano rode on former Governor Peter Obi’s back to contest the last governorship in 2013 and no one gave the banker-turned politician much of a chance to make any appreciable impact in governance of the state. The governor’s campaign strategy then was his 4Cs promises of continuity, complete, commission and commence; meaning that he would sustain the Obi legacy, by completing existing projects and initiating new ones. The Aguleri-born Obiano was widely regarded as a greenhorn in politics then.
But, three years down the line, Obiano has not done badly. The occasion of his third anniversary recently, when he invited journalists on a two-day tour of the state, has afforded him an opportunity to showcase some of his achievements in the last three years. Projects visited on the first day include: the shoe manufacturing cluster situated along Enugu-Onitsha Expressway, by Nkwelle-Ezunaka junction; the Lynden Integrated Farms Ltd (integrated poultry farm); the Iyiora Anam Bridge, which links the agrarian communities; the Eziagulu Bridge connecting the oil rig; and the Delfarms Ltd, Igbariam.
The shoe-manufacturing cluster, which is scheduled for inauguration next month, is expected to manufacture ‘made-in-Anambra’ shoes for export. It was put together, according to the Chief Executive Officer of the Anambra Small Business Agency (ASBA), Clement Chukwuka, with the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON). The cluster has 1,000 shops. Delfarms covers about 300 hectares of land. It produces sweet corn, green pepper, hot pepper, cucumber among other things.

Indications are that Obiano has acquitted himself well so far, by drawing extensively from his private sector background. He has been trying to encourage investors to partner with his administration to move the state forward. His administration is hinged on the four pillars of agriculture, trade and commerce, oil and gas and industrialisation.
In a statewide broadcast to mark his three years in office, he said what his administration has done in the past three years was to aggressively pursue the vision of transforming all sectors of the economy in line with his economic blueprint. He acknowledged that although the dream was seriously threatened by the sudden fall in the global oil prices, which finally plunged the nation into recession, his administration has crafted a way out with its agricultural revolution agenda.
The governor said through its strategic partnership with the private sector, his administration has transformed agriculture into a viable option for economic prosperity. He thanked the people for giving him their mandate, as well as their support that has provided a solid base for the landmark achievements his government has recorded so far.
Indeed, the administration has transformed the agricultural sector, by pioneering the generation of foreign exchange from the export of local vegetables. For over a year now, the state Ministry of Agriculture has been assisting local farmers export pumpkin leaves (ugu) and bitter leaves (onugbu), among other things, to the United Kingdom.
Agriculture is being transformed by commercialisation of the sector at all levels, by involving the small holder, as well as medium and large-scaled enterprises. In this way, the state ventured into large-scale rice production, through collaboration with private sector investors. Governor Obiano said the state was producing 80,000 metric tonnes of rice when he took over in January 2014 and that it currently produces 245,000 metric tonnes of the commodity. This has made ‘Anambra Rice’ – the name given to the brand of rice produced in the state – one of the most sought after in the market.
On the second day, the group of journalists visited two rice mills in the state: Stine Rice Mill, Nnewi and Josan Ufuma Rice Farm, Ufuma. Most of the equipment used at the Ufuma mill were said to be fabricated locally in the town. The Ufuma rice farm is a $180 million investment, located on a large expanse of land, spanning about 15,000 hectares. The proprietor of Stine Rice Mill, Mr. Akai Egwuonwu, attributed the high cost of local rice to poor electricity supply, high cost of diesel and importation of spare parts, as well as the high cost of fuel used for transportation. He said his operation took off effectively in 2012, after seven years of preparation.
Aside from the Stine and the Josan mills, the Coscharis Farms Ltd is another large-scale operator involved in rice production. It is a $200-million naira project undertaken in partnership with the state government. It is located in Anaku, Ayamelum Local Government. When it comes fully on stream, Coscharis Farms would embark on a three-planting season operation to produce 90,000 metric tonnes of rice annually and thereby make the state self-sufficient.

At the outset, the administration established ASBA, which gives single-digit loans to cooperatives, especially those involving youth and women; with special interest for persons or groups within the agro value chain. It also facilitates agribusinesses by giving free improved seedlings to farmers; 50 per cent subsidy on fertilizer; regular trainings on best practices, et cetera.
Through the one-stop agency set up by the administration – the Anambra State Investment Promotion and Protection Agency (ANSIPPA) – it is said to have attracted investment commitments worth over three billions of dollars.
Evidently, the government is also taking giant strides towards making the state an African Dubai, Taiwan and Silicon Valley put together. One of the ways of achieving the above objective, according to the Commissioner for Education, Prof. Kate Omenugha, is through human capital development. She said the state has gone far in its implementation of its policy of ‘education for development’. She said: “It is a bridge programme, where we try to bridge the gap between education and industry. What we have done in education has transformed into a lot of good dividends for us in Anambra State.”
The policy covets entrepreneurship, technical, as well as vocational education. For instance, under this policy, the state has revamped its technical colleges, where is tuition is provided free of charge to all students. The professor of Mass Communication said: “When we came in, we had 11 technical colleges, but none of them had accreditation with the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE). Now, we have four accredited technical colleges, offering 13 subjects. We have had about 60 per cent increase in the enrolment, because of the free tuition provided by the state government.”
Vocational training in schools is provided through collaboration with key players in the private sector. The idea is to try to produce the middle-level manpower that will drive the four pillars. For instance, the government signed memorandum of understandings (MOUs) with a number of companies in the state, including Innoson Motors, where school pupils go to acquire hands-on-experience. It also signed MOUs with hospitality industries, construction companies.
Thus, there are several clusters around the state, where different trades are being learnt. The commissioner explains: “At Aguleri where the oil wells are located, for example, we have set up plumbing and pipe-fitting workshops at the technical college there. In the Nigerian Technical College, Nnewi, we have a vehicle-body building maintenance workshop. Through our partnership with Innoson Motors, we can now maintain vehicles there. At Government Technical College, Nkpor, we set up the catering craft and an electrical installation workshop, to take care of the Onitsha axis. At Umuchu, we also set up a block moulding and laying centre.”
The overriding vision of the administration is to make Anambra the first choice investment destination and most preferred location to site new industries. To realise this objective, the Obiano administration identified 12 enablers to support the four pillars of development. These include fundamentals such as security, education, healthcare, power generation, the environment, finance, social and civil infrastructure, housing and urban development, hospitality and tourism, transportation, water and sanitation, as well as youth and sports. Against this background, the administration is believed to be laying a solid foundation for future prosperity of the state. For instance, in the period following the return to civil rule in 1999, Anambra used to be notorious for insecurity, all sorts of criminality and bad governance. Over the years, the situation has improved progressively. Under the current administration, the state exudes peace, warmth and an aura of welcome to visitors. The current security situation has impacted on trade, investments, economic growth and prosperity of the state generally, by helping to improve its internally generated revenue.
The transformation of Awka and other cities in the last three years is also remarkable. The state witnessed massive infrastructural developments, including: the Aguleri-Otu Bridge, leading to the oil fields; the Iyiora Anam Bridge in Anambra West, which links the agrarian communities; and the three flyovers in Awka (with suspension lights) at Kwatta, Arroma and Amawbia junction, which have changed the face of the capital city.
There appear to be a concerted effort to transform Awka, which was once described as a glorified village, into a tourist haven; through the efforts of the Awka Capital Territory Development Authority (ACDA) set up by Governor Obiano at the inception of his administration in 2014. Awka is a sight to behold at night; it may well be Nigeria’s new city of lights, with modern street lights twinkling a thousand sparkles at night. The street-lightening project goes beyond Awka, to other major cities like Onitsha, Nnewi and Ekwulobia.
In recognition of his sterling performance in the last three years, Obiano has been honoured at home and abroad. He has so far received the following awards: the Zik Prize for Good Governance 2015; the Sun Newspapers Man of the Year 2015; the Silverbird Man of the Year 2016; and the Vanguard Newspapers Man of the Year 2016. He is also a winner of the Outstanding Performance Award from New Telegraph Newspaper 2016; the Nigerian Integrity and Anti-Corruption Award of the Ethics and Corporate Compliance Institute of Nigeria; the Award of Excellence on Good Governance and Community Development from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka; and a Certificate of Recognition from the Institute of Housing and Urban Development from the Erasmus University, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, for touching lives in many communities.
Former Central Bank Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, who delivered the third anniversary lecture, said Anambra has the potentials to become an industrial/commercial hub and a true 21st century economic miracle. He said the state has a strong economic base and the human and natural resources to accelerate the momentum of transformation.
Soludo said there is no vacancy in the Anambra State Government House for now, because Obiano has demonstrated that he is a business-friendly governor who is walking the talk on job creation. He advised those who intend to contest the November 18 governorship to rather invest the billions they plan to waste in the local Anambra economy.
In the lecture titled, Anambra: An emerging start-Up state and our collective challenge, the flagbearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2010 governorship election said no governor of Anambra State has been so widely recognised in his first three years since 1999 more than Obiano.
He added: “This is what Anambra expects and deserves: that every governor should build upon and probably surpass his/her predecessor.”
He added: “The automation/computerisation/modernisation of processes in government and institutionalisation of change are commendable. I am particularly impressed by the effort to collect and process basic statistics: if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it!”
In a strong endorsement for Obiano’s second term ambition, he said this is a time of crisis and that “you do not change a general in the middle of a war, especially one that has successfully led you through many battles”. He therefore urged the people of Anambra, otherwise known as ndi Anambra, to rally behind their governor, because he has done well in the last three years.
He said the argument of aligning the government at the state level with the government at the centre is a weak one and an elitist argument meant only to serve a few politicians and their few friends and families.

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