Anambra State Commissioner for Information, Communication and Strategy, Ogbuefi Tony Nnachetta, spoke with Jonathan Eze, on how Governor Willie Obiano is revolutionising different sectors especially in Agriculture which is attracting foreign investors and boosting local production.
Governor Obiano has shown special interest in agriculture. Is that the government’s way of diversifying the economy?
The Governor was able to put up his vision and strategy very early in the administration, and part of that was to create a stable environment for investments. In the course of that, he was able to put out the roadmap, to have what we call the enablers and pillars. The pillars are agriculture, industrialisation, trade and commerce, oil and gas. And some of the enablers are security, education, roads, health. The enablers support the pillars.
I also think that he chose a very balanced team, in terms of competence, gender and diversity. So one of the qualities of this team is that there are about six senior bankers, about five chartered accountants; so the team was open to debating issues, ideas and initiatives. That debate helped the team to be able to correct performance, look at deadlines and achieve results. So, in 40 months or thereabout of this administration, we can see some silver lining, some progress, some of them appreciable, some of them still in the infant zone. And it is clear that you cannot build Rome in a day; 40 months is a long time, but there is so much more to do, For instance, for the first time in Nigeria, we have digitised the land area of Anambra; and we have been able to set the agenda. Hopefully, Nigerians and Anambrans have taken note. That is why a second term is imperative to take most of these initiatives to conclusion. We’ve already changed the GDP of the state. Anambra was almost shock-proof against the recession. We have changed the state’s food profile, the security profile and we have secured the environment and energy of our people. In 40 months, there have been 140 hotels built in Anambra. We have street lighting and so on. So we are very proud of the work that has gone on, but we know that so many more work is left to be done.
What is Obiano doing to make agriculture attractive to youths?
What we have done in agriculture is a revolution. We have created a land bank – to know every available piece of land in Anambra and to know what it is best used for, whether for sorghum, corn, tomato. Because we are professionals, we set up a team to do this. So what happens is that you take your project to ANCIMMA, where it is dissected and an investment analysis is carried out. It has made our agricultural program create many beneficiaries. We have many farms now; some of them have gone beyond project evaluation stage and they are now producing; we have Coscharis farms, and quite a number of them producing cassava, rice, maize, yam. By the time they come on stream fully, we will surpass our rice quotation for the year. When this government came up, Anambra had 80,000 metric tonnes of rice and now we are producing 500,000 MT. This increase is not just in rice, but all other cash crops. Many people now see the benefit of going into commercial agriculture.
Government has put up roads and bridges to many parts of Anambra, where for the past 50 years, they just saw their food waste. The longest bridge in the south-east – 298 metres – was built by this administration. It opens up an entire arable land across the Anambra river. It is a revolution, and we are grateful to be not just witnesses to it, but to be sitting at the table.
What are incentives the government is dishing out to attract investors?
The most important security that an investor needs is the security of his life, of his property and of his investment. By law, we have created the Anambra Investment Promotion and Protection Agency. Your investment is protected under Anambra laws and Nigerian laws. We have also ensured that there are no land issues, because the communities become stakeholders in a triumvirate relationship that includes the government, the community and the major investor. The government will guarantee your investment, give you land, give you the enabling environment to work with the community; the community takes about three per cent equity.
We are now moving on to training our young men and women. On a PPP basis, the Chinese are putting up a massive airport. And we have provided scholarships to students in universities who are going to study Mandarin. The idea is that in three years, we should have more than 100 fluent speakers of Mandarin, available at the right level to join the workforce and management of this Chinese corporation.
What is your opinion on the executive bill on Ease of doing business?
That is where to go, because in our experience, we created a simpler way of doing business. When you come to Anambra, you don’t spend six months running around for land and approval. We have a one-stop shop. So, from beginning to start, it can take you a maximum of two working weeks to get your project approved.
If 30 states in Nigeria can operate that way, they will see their GDP change within one year, because investment flows. We applaud that initiative and we will continue to support it.
What are some of the state’s challenges?
The challenge of inadequate inflow of funds; taxation is not the easiest way to go by; IGR has its own hiccups. And the government, in reaction to the recession that hit the country, forfeited some income. We removed taxes for the low-level operators – hawkers, road transport workers – to cushion the effects of the recession.
Another is the fact that we don’t have enough support to deal with our erosion problems. Anambra is the largest erosion site in the world. We have about 900 erosion sites. The World Bank is working with us on about 12 of them, but we wish we had more than that.
Then, until our neighbours are crime free, we still have to deal with criminals.
We have also not been able to get the health sector running at optimum level. We hope that before the end of the year, we will have some massive progress in that area. Already, we have parliament approval for an health insurance scheme.
Also, we don’t have enough work for our young people. We have carried out some initiatives, but we wish we had 90 per cent employment. It would help.
What is government doing to encourage Onitsha and Nnewi businesses since they are the commercial hub of the state?
Government has done so much, but they are a work in progress. We have been able to sanitise the market; helped them to get their governance right, helped to reduce multiple taxation and provided security for their livelihood. This year, government decided to improve infrastructure in the markets. Some opted to do their halls, some tarred their roads, some to improve their warehouses, some to buy generators and improve power supply. The response and enthusiasm has been enormous.
Where do you see Anambra State in four years, in terms of industrialisation and agriculture?
In four years, a lot of project would have gone beyond the definition state. We will have several of the farms in full bloom; we will have many of the facilities and utilities running smoothly, from the motor parks to the trailer parks. We will have the aeropolis, rail lines; Anambra will have changed times three, i.e, GDP will be tripled and we will say goodbye to poverty in this state and people will be happier.
How well do you know Willie Obiano or what are his selling point?
He is a trained manager with strong business skills. He is an accountant, an auditor, a banker. He has 28 years of corporate experience under his belt. He is able to allow debate, to consider views that are contrary to his, because he is used to that. That has helped us to think and innovate. Also, he has a very soft human touch. His approach to the common problems of the common man is striking. He holds values – Christian and professional – that make working with him interesting.