Art and Culture

Soludo’s Burden of Performance in Anambra

todayJuly 27, 2022

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David-Chyddy Eleke appraises Anambra Governor Chukwuma Soludo’s decision to borrow and concludes that he has no choice but to deliver on promises.

If there is any governor Anambra has ever had, who enjoyed the support of the people across religious, senatorial and political divide, that Governor is Prof Chukwuma Soludo.

Since his victory late last year, it seemed there was an agreement by all to support him to reposition the state and develop it to the safe, secure, prosperous and liveable homeland which he promised during campaigns.

The support even increased upon his swearing in as governor, as all the opposition political parties in the state have gone silent, while many individuals within the parties openly support the decisions, policies and programmes of the Soludo administration.

A letter by the governor to the state assembly asking for permission to borrow N100billion was read to the Lawmakers. The Governor’s letter, dated July 5, 2022, was read at the plenary penultimate Friday by the Speaker, Hon Uche Okafor.

Okafor said: “Mr Governor is seeking approval to secure a N100 billion Global Limit Multiple Term Loan Facility for the construction and refurbishment of key infrastructure in the state.” The letter was later referred to the House Committee on Public Accounts for consideration, and they were mandated to report back to the House

The letter had generated pockets of criticisms, not from the lawmakers, but from individual citizens who had commented on the matter, but even at that, a higher majority of the those who spoke on the matter were of the opinion that whatever will help the governor realise his promise to the people was welcomed.

Soludo has since his coming to the saddle demonstrated the eagerness to deliver on his mandate, but he has severally complained too of paucity of funds. Being an economist himself, the governor is not unaware of avenues by which he can create funds in the state, and has been pursuing such areas with vigour.

Mr Arinze Eze, an indigene of the state reacting to the loan request said: “I have no worries with Soludo borrowing to work for Anambra people. We are sure that he is borrowing not to consume, but to put to work, which will in turn yield enough to take care of the loan, yet leave the state with good infrastructure. We have had cases where people borrowed in the name of the state, and stole the money or use it to fund their bogus lifestyle, but with Soludo, we are sure of what he is borrowing for.”

Also last week, at the sitting of the house of assembly, the lawmakers passed the State 2022 Revised Appropriation Bill of N169.6 billion. The approval came more than 55 days after Governor Soludo presented the bill to the assembly for approval, which was one of his early moves to source for funds to aid his work in the state.

The passage of the revised budget followed the adoption of the report of the House Committee on Finance and Appropriation, led by Hon Obinna Emeneka. While presenting the report, Emeneka in dissecting the budget said that the revised budget was made up of N108 billion capital expenditure and N61.3 billion recurrent expenditure.

“After thorough scrutiny and review, we recommend that the size of the 2022 revised budget be retained except for little adjustments in some ministries, department and agencies’ allocation. That the sum of N169,621,744,131  be approved for the service of the Anambra state government for the year ending, Dec. 31, 2022, and for related purposes. The committee also recommends that subsequently, projects and contractors be specified and funds should be released to MDAs to ensure effective budget performance,” Emeneka said.

Another area Soludo is exploring to make his work in the state easier is charting an entirely different tax regime, away from what used to be.

Recently, there was a protest in the state by tricycle riders, who blocked major roads, grounding economic activities in the state. The protest was triggered by a decision by the Soludo administration to tax tricycle riders and shuttle bus operators for monthly payment, instead of the daily payment obtainable. The state chairman of Internally Generated Revenue Board, Mr Richard Madiebo, had disclosed that all tricycles will make monthly payment of N15,000, while shuttle bus operators would pay N25,000.

The above is against the close to N1,500 daily payment the operators make to illegal sources, mostly touts who harass and extort them, sometimes forcefully too. Soludo had upon his ascension to office abolished touting in the state, and also abolished all forms of taxes for four months, saying that government would think up a more workable plan on how to be collecting taxes once it resumes.

Last week however when he announced the resumption of tax, and also revealed the new mode of payment, it was resisted by operators with vehemence, with a protest erupting.

The Head, Taxpayer Education and Enlightenment Team, Mrs Sylvia Toochukwu Ngige, had explained that the N15,000 for tricycles amounted to N600 daily, for 25 days in a month, while five days were waived as days that the operators may be fixing their machines or taking days off from work. She explained that the monies are payable only in banks to desisgnated government accounts, instead of to revenue touts, who mostly pocket them.

According to her: “The new rate was arrived at after a series of meetings and consultations with the union members at Awka. The aim is to bring lasting solutions to problems encountered by members of this sector from touts (agberos) and illegal revenue collectors in the State.

“The amount they paid on daily basis to ‘agberos’ and illegal tax collectors was double the sum to be paid digitally to the government from now. The era of multiple levies, roadblocks and personal enrichment by several interest parties has ended. The Government does not wish to fold its hands and allow the ‘agberos’ and illegal revenue collectors to take over Anambra State. Any levies and taxes to be collected by the government must be done digitally and an electronic receipt which could be verified issued.”

Also reacting to the matter, the commissioner for information, Mr Paul Nwosu said: “It is deeply troubling when government initiates a policy for the well-being of the people only for it to be sabotaged by greedy touts. The government’s overhaul of the transport sector is actually meant for the drivers and sundry transport owners to pay reduced fees directly to the government instead of paying exorbitant monies to the underhand middlemen who end up cheating the transporters while remitting little or no money to the government.

“Oil revenue has dried up, and government must now depend entirely on Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) that is sourced through taxes, levies, tolls, etc. It would therefore be suicidal for the government to sit idly by, while touts siphon the needed money to work for the people. It is in the light of this that the government has dutifully put in place a more efficient digitized system for paying money directly into its coffers.

 “By removing the touts from the roads, the fee charged by government is even lower on a day-by-day basis. Through the digital process, the government can account for all the money collected and deployed to the service of Anambra State by constructing ultra-modern roads and bridges, improving health care, ensuring that our children get quality education and providing sundry infrastructure.”

Meanwhile, Soludo already seemed to be winning the battle to fully digitize the state, as traders have accepted and have been undergoing biometric capturing for digital payments. Also, the Keke and bus operators union may have seen sense in the explanations of the government, as some of them, days after the protest, led a solidarity march to the Government House to pledge support with Soludo and his plan to take revenue touts who extort them, off the streets, parks and markets of Anambra.

They have also received assurances with dedicated phone lines to call, in cases where they are harassed by by touts, after paying to designated accounts.

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todayJuly 27, 2022

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