EXCERPTS FROM THE INTERACTION AND SOLUDO’S SYSTEM OF OPEN GOVERNANCE
Anambra State Governor, Prof Chukwuma Charles Soludo, held an interactive session with ABS TV earlier today, Monday February 13th 2023, where ndi Anambra had the opportunity to call in and ask the Governor questions about everything he has done in his 10 months in office.
Mr Chido Obidiegwu, the MD of Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS), who anchored the program in his introduction, said that the Governor will meet with ndi Anambra every three months to account for how he has served the people thus far.
The distinguishing feature of this interactive session includes other media outlets, such as Wazobia FM, Odenigbo FM, and Sapientia FM, were also invited.
Joy Odinye of Channels, Ekene Ofoma of Wazobia FM, and Chief Chuks Illozue of Independent Newspapers were also on the show.
The MD of ABS stated that the Governor grabbed the bull by the tail and horns and pursued all the criminal elements who took control of the state, and that during the APGA National Campaign Flagoff, he called for Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s release.
In his response, Soludo stated that insecurity is the state’s greatest challenge, recalling how seven local governments were besieged prior to his assumption of office, mostly in Anambra South Senatorial Zone.
According to the Governor, Anambra is the light of the nation, so light and darkness cannot coexist, and we decided to address it in order to attract investors to the state.
“The state and Federal Government has been working and so far, there have been improvement. We have over 1,000 Anambra Vigilante Services. There is a significant difference in security between when I took office and now.
“We are determined that the state will be completely secure. Over 5000 youths have been empowered, and 5000 teachers have been hired.
“On the issue of Nnamdi Kanu, his release does not mean that insecurity will be completely eliminated. The call is in the best interests of the South East as a whole. He was saddened by the level of crime associated with the agitation when I visited him in prison. He called it an abomination.
“Everyone has now become freedom fighters, using it as an avenue from crime. The truth is that if he is released, he will be able to distinguish between genuine freedom fighters and criminals.
“What is still holding him back is a political issue!” I have an appointment with the President to inform him officially.
“Since I made the plea, those running for post of presidency have also pledged to fight for Mazi Kanu’s release,” he said.
Mrs Joy Odinye of Channels inquired about Soludo’s policies and tax exemptions for Vulcanizers, traders, and hawkers. She asked if the revenue drive has increased since the tax’s implementation, and how is the tax waiver being monitored?
The Governor responded that anything involving money always makes Anambra nervous.
He went on to say, “Developed countries pay taxes!” People in the United Kingdom pay road tax, waste tax, tenant rate, and so on. This is how the government used to function. Nigeria used taxes to build the country many years ago. In 1929, it will be 100 years since the Aba women protested against taxation.
“There’s no great country that don’t pay tax. People pay between 20% to 30% of their income as tax but in our state, oil money came and they forget taxes are what is used to develop the state. Our people want everything free for electricity, infrastructure, water, etc.
“Oil money is running out. Take a look at Lagos; they used taxation to get to where they are now. They made N65 billion last year and plan to make N100 billion this year. We made N20 billion in Anambra last year. In our income, the percentage income is 0.2%, not up to 1%, implying that 99.8% is in the hands of private individuals.
“The road we are constructing in Amansea, Awka North will cost more than what we made last year, and all communities require road infrastructure. If everyone pays just 5% of their income, we’ll be close to earning N300 billion.
“We stated that we would have a tax system. Keke, minibus, and okada drivers must pay their fair share, but it is unfair for the poor to pay more than the rich, which is why we called a meeting with Keke riders, who proposed paying N10,000 per month but prefer to pay weekly with insurance attached.
“But the rich man who drives a jeep or owns a large shop pays the same as the poor; where is the justice in that? Ndi Anambra who live in other states or abroad are required to pay taxes.
“If you pay N100,000 in Lagos, you should pay N50,000 in Anambra. Our people who live in Lagos and other states want good roads, but how much tax do they pay? Ndi Anambra are expected to pay their taxes both those living at home and abroad because we want a very fair progressive tax system.
“We applied for a loan but have yet to receive it! We are managing our limited resources and accounting for every Kobo spent.
“We said vulcanizers, hawkers, and traders should not pay taxes, and that is how it should be.
“We projected N4 billion per month, but we only made N2 billion in January this year, so we haven’t made much progress,” the Governor stressed.
According to Ekene Ofoma of Wazobia FM, taxation is what brought touting to the country. He complained that the problem of touting persisted.
“I recall you telling these touts they needed to register and be empowered. How far have you progressed?” he asked.
The Governor responded that touting is not a profession. He claims that the majority of these touts do nothing else for a living.
“We want a tax system where there won’t be touts but it can’t be accomplished in a day.
“If you’ve been listening to the news, you’ll know that we have caught nearly 80 of them at Upper Iweka during the Christmas season. We discovered that the majority of them do not have addresses when they were charged in court. We’re catching them one by one.
“If there were 1000 of them before, they are now drastically fewer. It has almost become a culture in the state, but I can tell you that most of our prisons are now overcrowded with touts, including those awaiting trials.
“I must use this occasion to plead that ndi Anambra no longer wants touts in the state. They can move to another state to continue their business. Touts have no place in the tax system that we have implemented in Anambra.
“Anambra must be a liveable and prosperous homeland. We are going after them but they won’t disappear overnight,” says Soludo.
According to Chief Chuks of Independent Newspapers, Anambra’s roads were in critical condition when the Governor arrived. He stated that the Governor has awarded over 265 kilometers as of today, which is incredible, but he asked how the Governor will monitor to ensure that the roads are built to the standards he requires.
The Governor stated that he has visited each of the state’s twenty-one local governments to physically assess all roads under construction.
“I must use my eyes to assess any road we are building or intend to build. I’ve toured the worst roads in the state, and we’re working to improve them.
“Anyone we build will be standard, guaranteed to last at least 20 years, and we have technical engineers, bureau of public procurement, special implementation team, ministry of works, and resident engineers who inspect the roads. Even Anambra residents monitor and send me videos of the road thickness, for example.
“A bishop used two days to drive round the road from Amansea to ufuma to Awba Ofemmili writing down the kilometres, thickness of the road etc. When I asked if he went with any Engineer, he said no.
“That made me very happy!” That indicates that citizens are involved, but we have a formal structure in charge of that.
“The peculiar thing about all of the roads we’re building is that after they’re finished, contractors, relevant engineers, supervising consultants, the project monitoring department, and the ministry of works must sign off and certify them.
“This means they risk their professional standing if something goes wrong on the roads, and they may be called up even after they have resigned.
The MD ABS recalled the Governor saying he wants to put an end to hospitals without doctors and nurses, and since then, he has hired over 300 health professionals and established a telemedicine center. He asked what is the Governor’s vision for healthcare in the state?
The Governor stated that health is wealth, and he who is hospitalized has nothing but prayers for his health.
“Life expectancy in Nigeria is extremely low. Our air is highly polluted. Onitsha is said to be the state’s most polluted city.
“There are no health facilities, especially in the public center. Over 75% of health-care services are provided by the private sector. The government is expected to play a significant role in the health sector.
“We are collaborating with various communities. We are attempting to mainstream health through technology so that anyone who requires medical attention will be able to obtain it. Health care will be accessible, affordable, and of high quality.
“We are renovating our general hospitals, recruiting professionals, and bringing in technology to the point where ndi Anambra in the health sector abroad will be able to communicate with doctors in Nigeria on screen via technology; e-medicine.
“It is said that cleanliness is second only to godliness. Cleanliness and health go hand in hand. When our people clog drainages with trash and dirt, it causes erosion and ruins the roads we are constructing.
“We are launching a major program to create a clean, green, and sustainable Anambra. Anambra will be the cleanest state in Nigeria, emitting fresh oxygen as part of our vision. That’s life! This should be a livable state. Health is extremely important! “said the Governor.
Mr Achebe Chris calling from Ogidi asked the Governor about intervention on Inland door roads. He said total rehabilitation is needed on the road.
Mr Joseph calling from Awada complained in the area, there are still a large number of Toutts terrorizing the area.
Mr Ifeanyi from Onitsha said in Owerri road and Oba, Touts are constantly harassing them.
Rita calling from Ora-Eri asked about the situation about teachers recruitment and those documented but not yet offered appointment letters.
Stanley calling from Onitsha complained about the prevalence of Touts and criminals at Head bridge and Uga Junction.
Emeka Nwora from Nkpor, a shuttle driver asked the Governor to intervene on those collecting revenue. He said those collecting money don’t stay at one point. He said drivers want to ensure they are paying to Anambra State Government and at where they load, Touts extort money from them.
Felix, a transporter calling from Onitsha complained of extortion from touts at Library Onitsha.
Mr Anthony calling from Zamfara State thanked the Governor for what he is doing. He remarked he has not been in office for up to one year but has started working aggressively compared to other governors.
He reminded the Governor about the local government election he promised and asked him to implement it.
Onowu Ugbene calling from Awka North thanked the Governor for the road he is building in the area.
Ezenwata calling from Lagos asked the Touts apprehended where are they from.
Maduka calling from Umunze asked about the disabled rights commission in the state.
Olisa calling from Awka applauded the Governor for being a man of his words. He complained Teachers haven’t received the 10% increment on salaries.
Okoye calling from Neni complained about Touts at Nwagu.
Shedrack calling from Onitsha complained touts at Asaba park are not remitting revenue to government.
The Governor responded by thanking everyone who called. He stated that he took note of everything everyone said. He said there was a lot of complaints about traffic at Inland doors road, so he drove there and discovered it was true. He stated he drove through inland doors road on December 29th, and the caller is complaining that the drainages are clogged with solid waste. He assured the Anambra Road Maintainance Agency will look into it.
“I have noted all of the areas where touts are still prevalent, including Awada, Owerri Road, Mbuka, Oba Junction, Onitsha Library, Uga Junction, and Upper Iweka.
“If you look into it, you’ll find that nearly 90% of these touts are not from Anambra. When you keep evacuating them, others will come in to hustle, which is known as touting.
“We will not give up, we will not give in. I will dispatch our enforcement teams to those areas.
“We will investigate the complaints about teacher recruitment. If you have not received an appointment letter after providing documentation, we will investigate,” Soludo stated.
“We will keep our promise on the issue of local government elections. There will be elections for local government. We’re attempting to put the framework in place. A lot of things are at stake. Many pensioners will not be paid if the LGA election is held today; there will be salary arrears. We want to address a wide range of issues.
“I want communities and local governments to function properly so that the state can function effectively. That is something I am very eager to accomplish.
“In our reforms, we want to decide if the local government will recruit their own staff, having their own autonomy, to pay bills, their state of finances so when we have local government Chairmen they will be able to do their jobs.
“After we finish restructuring the governance process, we will hold local government elections,” Soludo says.
The Governor also stated that the vast majority of touts apprehended are not Igbo. He claims they are from other states and are causing mayhem and harassing ndi Anambra because they see it as a lucrative business.
In response to the disabled rights commission, Soludo said: “our cooperative movement will be in every ward in the state, addressing people with disabilities in a methodical and systematic manner that will touch thousands of lives.”
He also stated that he will look into the issue of teachers not receiving their 10% raise because it is a serious matter.
The Governor responding to another caller said that World bank projects are loans not free lunch because World Banks are banks doing business.
Before I sign on any world bank or foreign loan, I must sure the value will generate resources to pay back the loan.
In conclusion, the Governor told ndi Anambra he has committed to the interactive session every three months with Anambra to note down their concerns. He said this type of system is called open governance which is practised in the UK.
He pleaded with Touts to align with Government so they can train and empower them because touting is not a job.
Soludo stated that his government will eventually eliminate Touting.
He also said that elections will be held next week, followed by another two weeks later.
The Governor pointed out that he has provided a level playing field to all political parties.
He confirmed that the election would take place and that it would be free and fair. He asked what do any individuals or groups stand to gain if elections are not held?
He urged ndi Anambra to come out en masse and vote for their preferred candidates.
“As the leader of APGA, I have a primary responsibility to protect and promote all APGA candidates because I need a team to work with.
“As Governor of Anambra, I implore ndi Anambra to troop out en masse to vote for APGA. By March 17th, we will be 12 months in office and i shall be addressing ndi Anambra,” he said.