Excerpts From Gov Soludo’s Interactive Session With Ndi Anambra
By Christian ABURIME
Anambra State Governor, Professor Chukwuma Charles Soludo held his quarterly interactive session with ndị Anambra on ABS TV earlier today, Monday, February 13, 2023, where people had the opportunity to call in and ask the Governor questions about the performance of his administration in the past 10 months in office.
The programme was anchored by the Managing Director of Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS), Mr. Chido Obidiegwu.
Governor Soludo stated that insecurity is the state’s greatest challenge, recalling how seven local government area were besieged prior to his assumption in office, mostly in Anambra South Senatorial Zone.
“The state and Federal Government has been working and so far, there has been improvement. We have over 1,000 Anambra Vigilante personnel. There is a significant difference in security between when I took over 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 interest 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 to commit 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 am awaiting confirmation of appointment with the President to hand him the letter officially.
Concerning the government policies and tax exemptions for vulcanizers, traders, and hawkers, the Governor responded that anything involving money always make some people nervous.
Continuing, the Governor said: “developed countries pay taxes!” People in the United Kingdom pay road tax, waste tax, tenant rate, and so on. This was how the government used to function. Nigeria used taxes to build the country many years ago.
The Governor emphasized that there’s no great country where people don’t pay taxes. People pay between 20% to 30% of their income as tax but in our Country, oil money came and we forgot taxes are used to develop the state. Our people want everything free- 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 a paltry 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 alone costs 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 annually.
“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 N 12,000; where is the justice in that? Ndi Anambra who live in other states or abroad should have a way of contributing their 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 and progressive tax system.
“We applied for a loan but we are yet to access it! We are managing our limited resources and accounting for every Kobo spent.
“Yes! We said that 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.
On touting, the Governor stressed that it is not a profession, claiming that majority of the 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 caught nearly 80 of them at Upper Iweka during the Christmas season. We discovered that 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 want touts in the state. They can move to another state to continue their business. Touts have no place in the tax system that we are implementing in Anambra.
“Anambra must be a liveable and prosperous homeland. We are going after them but they won’t disappear overnight,” emphasized the Governor.
Speaking on roads, the Governor stated that he has visited each of the state’s twenty-one local government areas to physically assess all roads under construction.
“I must use my eyes to assess any road we are constructing 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.
“It makes me very happy!” It indicates that citizens are involved, but in any case, 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.
Concerning the Governor’s efforts to end the era of hospitals without health personnel, the Governor reiterated that health is wealth.
“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.
“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 will soon launch a major program on 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.
“I have noted all of the areas where touts prevalently operate, including Awada, Owerri Road, Mgbuka, Oba Junction, Onitsha Library, Uga Junction, and Upper Iweka.
“If you look into it, you’ll find out 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.
Speaking on the complaint about teachers’ recruitment under the education sector, the Governor said, “we will investigate the complaints about teacher recruitment. If you have not received an appointment letter after providing documentation, we will investigate,” the Governor assured
He also stated that he will look into the issue of teachers not receiving their 10% raise because it is a serious matter.
Continuing, he said; “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 first 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, so that 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”.
In response to the disabled rights commission, Governor 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.”
While responding to a caller on the World bank projects, the Governor stressed that loans are not free lunch because World Banks are banks doing business.
“Before I sign on any world bank or foreign loan, I must ensure that the value will generate resources to pay back the loan.
The Governor assured ndi Anambra of his commitment to the quarterly interactive session to note down and act on their concerns, pointing out that such system is called open governance which is practised in the UK.
While emphasizing that elections will be held next week, followed by another, two weeks after, Governor Soludo recalled that he provided a level playing field to all political parties, urged ndi Anambra to come out en masse and vote for APGA candidates.
“As the leader of APGA, I have the 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 come out en masse to vote for APGA. By March 17th, we will be 12 months in office and i shall address ndi Anambra,” he stated.
People who called into the program including Mr Achebe Chris from Ogidi, Emeka Nworah from Nkpor, among others, complained about issues such as operation of touts in various locations in the state and many others which the Governor fully addressed!