Soludo: We’ll Get Water Out of Stone, With Anambra People Behind Us

•Reveals state has about N109bn debt, N300m cash 

•Says altercation between Bianca, Obiano’s wife comic relief

Emmanuel Addeh

The new governor of Anambra State, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, yesterday said although the problems confronting the state remained daunting, with the backing of the people, the new government was poised to record huge successes.

The governor, who spoke on ARISE Television, THISDAY’s broadcast arm, stated that he had in possession a blueprint and that with the various documents at his disposal, he fully understands where the state is headed in the coming years.

However, asked about the state of the state’s finances and where the funding for his numerous projects will come from, the former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), noted that although the resources were paltry and “almost zero”, he knew about the problems before applying for the job.

Soludo explained that from the records at his disposal, Anambra had a debt of about N109 billion and between N300 million to N400 million in cash.

He stated, “But we are undaunted, as I said in my inaugural speech. We’ll get water out of the stone, with the people working with us, mobilising with us, we will be able to get water out of stone. Anambra has all the potential, but also equally matched with the challenges.”

Within the context of what he described as Nigeria’s “unitary federalism”, the governor promised to govern creatively and collaborate with the federal government as well as development partners to maximise the limited resources available..

“And given the available resources that we have, we’re going to explore all kinds of creative means of revenues beyond the usual, so to speak, to be able to collect revenues to do these things,” he stressed.

Soludo pledged that with on-going the discussions with all stakeholders, including the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the weekly forced stay-at-home will be a thing of the past soon.

While acknowledging that there will be resistance to the change the state was about to experience, the governor promised to meet those who will try to stop the job of “liberating” the Anambra people “in the streets.”

Soludo said, “We’re prepared to meet them in the streets and liberate the common man in the streets. This government is about the common man. Law and order are going to be the very first essence; it is at the foundation of everything, of every society. We must restore law and order,” he stressed.

Pressured to disclose what he met in terms of the state’s finances, Soludo said there was already an audited account, which he said was a public document at the end of December 1, 2021, but added that a lot of reconciliations will still need to be done.

The former CBN governor said, “But everybody knows that the state finances are not quite robust, to put it mildly. Debt is probably in the range of a hundred and something billion. Then cash a few hundred million. That’s what I saw. That’s the base.

“But we are still going to have reconciliations and have all the accounts from January to the date that we took over. And I think it’s best practise actually, when you ask this question.  We intend to have a very transparent public finance management system where we will publish everything.

“Everybody will know what is there and what is not there, what penny comes in what and what it is used for, and that is the aspiration. That’s part of what we promised in our manifesto. Very transparent public finance management.

“If I remember correctly, the cash in various banks is about N300 million or N400 and then the audited accountants as at December would be debt of about N109 billion. That’s what I saw.

“But we will take it from there. For me, that’s the baseline. When we do the other contingent liabilities, contractor debts and the other issues. It’s not what happened, but it’s where we draw the line and then move on, but that’s the baseline.”

He described his predecessor, Mr Willy Obiano, as a good man and honourable man, adding that he wasn’t envisaging any friction with him and his (Soludo’s) deputy in the future.

Playing down on the altercation between Bianca, the wife of the late Igbo leader, Odimegwu Ojukwu, during his inauguration, Soludo noted that it was some form of comic relief, explaining that to him, it never detracted from the event.

Soludo said, “When you were talking about the cat fight, I was just laughing and because of all the funny videos that have emerged from this, for me it’s just a comic relief.

“It’s the comedy that has emerged from it all that I have enjoyed. There is no distraction whatsoever. I think it was meant to be. Sometime to come, there will even be some movies or comedies and even a song out of that.

 “As you saw, I didn’t even notice much of what happened. I think it happened while I was going to sign the oath of allegiance. It was just like a one-second thing. I turned again and continued signing my thing and I have not had one minute discussing it, other than the comic relief you see posted. We are intensely focused on what we must deliver to our people.”

He promised to hit the ground running, Soludo said that he has roughly four years to make good his plans, noting that there’s no time to waste on frivolities.

“We have four years to do this. And actually, it’s three years and eight months, that’s why we are not going to miss any one minute.

“But for me, I’m just waiting on the list of commissioners which will get to the Assembly and hopefully in the next two days will read the list and then we’ll get to work. And once they give me an approval for the commissioners, we hit the road, but even in-between that, things will happen.”

He promised to give priority to made in Anambra goods and Nigerian made products,” because it is the way the world works.”

On security, Soludo said, “The discussions are on-going. As I announced on my inaugural speech, my first meeting was on security. So I am fully briefed, the conversations are going on and I believe strongly that we’ll get it cracked, probably not going to be done in one day, but we’re going to crack it.

“The sit-at-home thing will definitely end and we are having conversations with all the stakeholders, IPOB and everybody else, trying to engage everybody. It is the people’s power that will prevail at the end of the day.

“And I know that that will definitely stop and we’re working on that. Like I said, we are determined to restore law and order,” he stated.

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