Reading Mallam Nasir el-Rufai’s column of last Friday(Anambra's budget of misplaced priorities), it became clear that the only way to react to his ‘expert’ analysis of Anambra State is to dispel some of his incorrect assertions about the state; but without recourse to technical data that is now confirmed to be largely incorrect. An expert making categorical pronouncements on any state in Nigeria ought to first ensure that his data on the state is gathered from ‘experiencing’ the state, preferably first-hand, rather than from second-hand information; much of which may be flawed by ignorance or outright malice. We note the comparative data on indices of development, but their value is marred.
EL-RUFAI’S ANAMBRA STATE:
As seen through el-Rufai’s prisms, Anambra is adjudged to be witnessing increasing crime rate, infrastructure deficits, a number of strikes over minimum wage, higher tax burdens, exodus of the elite, lack of solid industrial base, etc.
THE ANAMBRA STATE WE KNOW:
Without pretending that all is perfect in any state of the federation, Anambra State can be said to be the opposite of practically everything suggesting by the indices marshalled in last week’s write-up. This government adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as its vision, and because the MDGs are multi-sectoral, the state adopted a multi-sectoral approach towards achieving it. This gave birth to the Anambra Integrated Development Strategy (ANIDS) as the vehicle for driving the vision simultaneously in every sphere.
An overview of the efforts to achieve some of the specific MDGs referred to in el-Rufai’s analysis will help the reading public on our work in Anambra State. It may also show the writer how much damage many people believe he has done to himself as an ‘expert’ columnist who staked his reputation with such flawed categorical pronouncements.
MDG 1: EXTREME POVERTY AND HUNGER:
Anambra State began with a poverty mapping of the state (the first ever in Nigeria); supported by one of our international development partners – The European Union (EU), via its Support to Reforming Institutions Programme (SRIP). The poverty profile led to the design of poverty reduction strategies, to specifically target the poorest local governments; without neglecting the other. We began work on a new network of roads, particularly in rural areas, giving roads and bridges to remote communities, where no previous administration had shown any government presence.
In this regard,, the following can be verified: The 45-kilometre Anaku-Omasi-Ifite Ogwari-Igbakwu Road in Ayamelum LGA ; the 43-kilometre Amansea-Ebenebe-Awba Ofemili Road in Awka North, with a bridge (N5 billion); the 67-kilometre Onitsha-Atani-Ossomalla-Ogwuikpele Road in Ogbaru LGA, with three bridges (N17.8 billion); the Umueze Anam-Mmiata Road in Anambra West LGA, with a bridge; the Nibo-Umuawulu-Awgbu-Amaokpala-Umunze Road, with the famous Odor bridge etc. Incidentally, most of these communities are food producing. Understandably, therefore, the effect of this intervention on poverty reduction, food security, and overall economic growth has been remarkable. This is more elaborately treated in the inside pages.
MDG 2: EDUCATION:
This year’s budget is only another brick on our continued reconstruction of education in Anambra State. We began with short-term interventions, by equipping and refurbishing science laboratories in secondary schools, constructing primary school classrooms in all 177 communities of the state, and providing water boreholes, toilet/sanitation facilities, computers, electricity generating sets, buses etc.
Currently, our medium to long-term measures revolve around our acceptance that government has no business managing schools, and that the rot in the education sector stemmed largely from mismanagement and poor supervision of schools. Our landmark return of primary and secondary schools to their original missionary owners signalled the beginning of a partnership with the church, in which the state government will continue to pay the salaries of teachers and non-teaching staff, in addition to providing strong financial support for the running of the schools. The government will provide as much as N10 billion for this purpose.
At the tertiary level, the state university and college of education have undergone remarkable transformation in infrastructure, accreditation of programmes and general welfare. Details of this can be seen in the inside pages of today’s papers.
MDG 3: EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN:
Government’s multifaceted efforts to empower women have been largely through the state Poverty Eradication Programme, Women in ANIDS Micro Finance Scheme and in collaboration with National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) and development partners like UNICEF. In this regard, numerous pro-poor programmes have been implemented, targeting mostly vulnerable women such as widows, poor women, and female care-givers of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) etc. We have Anambra State Poverty Eradication Programme (ASEPEP); women in ANIDS Micro Finance Scheme; and Women Fund for Economic Empowerment (WFEE), among others.
The women empowerment programme in Anambra State has benefited immensely from the activities of my wife, Mrs Margaret Peter Obi, who goes round the state meeting with women, the needy and the vulnerable. She has visited each of the 177 communities in the state, at least three times. Apart from the financial/economic benefits, the psychological benefits of this personal attention cannot be quantified. Anambra is gender-friendly and many women have worked with me as commissioners, permanent secretaries, judges, special advisers etc. Women also now have a strong political voice in communal affairs, through the establishment of women wings of town unions for grassroots political participation.
MDGs 4, 5, 6: HEALTH:
From the establishment of the state University Teaching Hospital at Awka, which with Onitsha General Hospital has gained accreditation, the state is constructing new primary and secondary health facilities and renovating existing ones. El-Rufai’s pronouncements on our health sector is erroneous, because the government has done a lot here, along with support from its development partners, which is not usually captured in the state’s budget.
We have the UNICEF intervention in maternal health, immunisation and infant health generally; World Bank support for combating malaria, construction and equipping of health facilities etc; DFID support for the Roll Back Malaria programme; MDGs funding for the construction, renovation and equipping of health facilities at primary and secondary levels, capacity building for various categories of health personnel, provision of boreholes and toilet/sanitation facilities in health centres, and construction of hostels in Schools of Nursing and Midwifery. The state has budgeted as much as N5 billion for her 2011/2012 MDGs programme; with much of this going into the health sector.
Like the education sector, our health sector is reaping the benefits of the state’s partnership with the church whose health facilities and training institutions have acquired state-of-the-art equipment and achieved accreditation with the strong financial support of the government. It is common knowledge that the construction of 10 hostel blocks in church-owned Schools of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Technology by the government is ongoing at N60 million per hostel.
MDG 7: THE ENVIRONMENT:
The government is achieving verifiable results in its effort to ensure environmental sustainability. Work on many erosion sites is either completed or ongoing and proper designing of roads with good drainages to minimise the appearance of new erosion sites is now a condition for all road works. The dredging of the Sakamori and Nwangene creeks to prevent flooding in Onitsha is progressing; the opening up of the Iyiagu flood channel in Awka saved the state capital from the imminent danger that faced it when this administration took off in 2006 etc.
Part of the MDG on the environment has to do with access to safe water and basic sanitation. In 2006, all public taps in the state were dry. As an interim measure, the government quickly began to provide boreholes in schools, health facilities and other public places in communities; with support from its development partners. Current government is scaled up from boreholes to small town and medium water schemes in various parts of the state.
The huge expenditures made by the government and its development partners have not been captured in the state’s budget. For instance, UNICEF has spent hundreds of millions of naira to give water to schools and communities, especially in the five UNICEF Focus LGAs of Aguata, Anambra East, Idemili South, Nnewi North and Ogbaru. So has the EU on water projects like the Obizi Water Scheme in Uga, the Udoka and Arroma Water Schemes in Awka, the Amawbia Water Scheme in Amawbia, as well as water projects in Nnewi and other parts of the state.
MDG 8: GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP FOR DEVELOPMENT:
Given the meagre resources of Anambra State, collaboration with development partners (global, national & local) is of utmost importance. We have attracted, and are sustaining several strategic partnerships and we have left no stone unturned to create an enabling environment for their operation. Our efforts in this regard include being among the first to provide Government Counterpart Cash Contribution (GCCC) for development partnership activities. We passed the test of accountability and transparency in the management of funds from development partners, by using the money for the intended purpose and by undertaking the necessary reforms to engender confidence in our partners etc.
We are not perfect, but whatever indices are used today to measure the progress of states in Nigeria, we shall come out in shining colours, once knowledge is the basis of our assessment.
•Mr. Obi is the Governor of Anambra State.