19th May, 2022
AN ADDRESS TO THE ANAMBRA STATE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY ON THE OCCASION OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE 2022 REVISED BUDGET
Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, CFR
Let me thank you deeply for the honour to present to you the revised 2022 budget which we have tagged: “Taking Off from the Blocks”. I regret however that one of you, the member representing the good people of Aguata II Constituency in the House of Assembly (my own representative) – Hon. Okechukwu Okoye, is still in the custody of the kidnappers. The security agencies are working very hard and around the clock to secure his freedom. God is on the throne and Anambra will win. Let me leave it at that.
This is my second meeting with the entire House since my swearing-in two months ago (in addition to a series of meetings with the leadership of the House), and let me use this opportunity to once again commend the cordial relationship and partnership that exist between the three arms of government. Let me particularly thank the House for its patriotic sense of duty in expeditiously screening and approving the list of Commissioners. The Executive branch will never take your partnership for granted. We are also confident that your love and passion for our state as well as your patriotic zeal for a transformed and developed Anambra will continue to propel your cooperation and partnership with the Executive branch. Irrespective of political party affiliations or other differences, we all have only one agenda in government, namely: the development of Anambra state, and together, we shall get it done for our people and for posterity.
Let me also use this opportunity to thank, for the umpteenth time, my predecessor Chief Willie Obiano, all the former governors of Anambra state, as well as the present and former members of the State House of Assembly for their contributions. We pledge to consolidate your achievements, and to work hard every day to stand upon your shoulders to take Anambra State to a much higher pedestal.
As promised, we hit the ground running from day one, putting in 8hours and 45 minutes in office on the first day, reflecting the humongous challenges facing the state as well as our full consciousness that ours is an agenda with a deadline. Our vision is to transform Anambra into a livable and prosperous smart megacity—- to become the preferred destination to live, learn, invest, work, relax/enjoy. The Agenda is predicated on four strong pillars: robust economic transformation for a new industrial-tech- leisure hub; a comprehensive social agenda for a human capital bank that is productive at home and exportable abroad; governance, rule of law and new value system; and a clean, green, planned and sustainable communities, markets, and cities. The State Executive Council was constituted within three weeks, and we have been firing from all cylinders. In some weeks to come, we shall have the opportunity to give a preliminary report on some of the foundational issues we are putting in place to kick-off and propel the journey ahead. Among the challenges we inherited, a red treasury and pervasive insecurity especially with criminals taking the seven local governments of the south senatorial zone hostage were the most acute. We have chosen to confront the foundational issue of security head-on and expected that those profiting from the lucrative criminal enterprise would viciously fight back, and they have. Suffice it to say that so far, so good. They are testing our will and resolve. Let me assure you this: Anambra will win!
Mr. Speaker, Hon members! The purpose of the 2022 Revised budget is to reflect current realities, challenges, and priorities of the new administration and Ndi Anambra. We are undaunted by the state of the treasury. We have seriously started reforming our system of tax administration to significantly ramp up our internally generated revenue over the coming years. In the meantime, the dire needs of Ndi Anambra and our transformation agenda cannot wait. We are working on a mixture of financing options (including debt that is ring-fenced to fund bankable projects and/or infrastructure with impacts on the economy) to guarantee efficient and effective service delivery to our people while ensuring fiscal sustainability over the medium to longer terms. The details of these will be laid out in our 2023 budget.
The revised budget size is about N170 billion versus the existing appropriation of N142 billion (with the capital expenditure accounting for 64% compared to 57% previously). Capital expenditure increased by 33% from N81 billion to N108 billion while Recurrent expenditure increased marginally by 0.79% from N60 billion. We left the budget on security unchanged while we count on off budget resources from donations to augment. As a reflection of our Agenda, about 60% of the Capital Expenditure is targeted at delivering infrastructure that the average citizen can feel, see, use or touch and which have the highest developmental impact within the shortest possible time.
For example, we have declared a state of emergency on rebuilding our road infrastructure and traffic management. About N52 billion or about 31% of the total budget is for the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure and we intend to simultaneously invest in roads in most of the local governments, paying special attention to our urban regeneration agenda. We have requested the Federal Government to kindly intervene on emergency basis on a number of federal roads in the state that have become nightmarish death traps. We confidently expect their urgent responsive action. But in the event that the expected response does not come soon, we may have to implement urgent palliatives in some places especially at Amansea; Ekwulobia- Igboukwu- Nnobi road; Ogidi; etc where the roads are literally cutting off.
We plan to recruit qualified medical doctors and nurses for our general hospitals and upscale the infrastructure in selected ones. We have already received over 26,000 applications in response to our advertisement to recruit and train teachers for our primary and secondary schools. Visitation panels will review the operations of the State University, Polytechnic and College of Education to provide basis for our reforms to ensure that they are fit for purpose. As a precursor to our planned Entertainment and Leisure City (envisaged to be largest in Africa), we have budgeted in the interim to construct an expansive Entertainment and leisure park around the Agulu Lake. Yes, our administration is continuing with the ‘Community Choose Your Project’ initiative of my predecessor, and have raised the value of the community projects to N25 million per community.
Furthermore, to drive our “Everything Technology, and Technology Everywhere” strategy, the budget provides for a modern centralized ICT Data Centre to consolidate the State’s data and ensure business continuity in any and all circumstances. We are commencing the digitization of our land registry. Our agenda to deliberately orchestrate the emergence and empowerment of thousands of youth millionaires and a digital tribe is given its first impetus in this revised budget. We promised to reinvent the Oil Palm and Coconut revolution. We have mobilized communities and the private sector for partnership and with overwhelming demand, we plan to provide 500,000—1,000,000 seedlings this year, and millions in subsequent years. We have also provided for significant seed money to commence pre-feasibility studies and designs for bankable projects, including possible new cities. On August 27 this year, Anambra State will celebrate its 31st anniversary as a State but without a proper Government House and a Governor’s Lodge—possibly the only State with such a record. We have budgeted to correct this, to ensure the efficiency of government operations. We have also budgeted to continue the work-in-progress in our international cargo airport.
Mr. Speaker, Hon Members! In the months and years ahead, we have hard choices to make as we strive to meet the expectations of our people. Fiscal prudence will become a lifestyle as we cannot afford to waste one kobo. Transparent public finance management will be critical. That is why we have also budgeted for the full computerization of the Ministry of Finance and the Office of the Accountant-General. Managing our over N120 billion debt, especially the contractor debt and pension liabilities in the context of the paltry Federation Account receipts and burgeoning needs of our people will task our dexterity and demand hard choices and sacrifice. We just received the preliminary report of the external consultants’ review of our local government finances which confirms that the combined state and local government gratuity liabilities to pensioners over N20 billion. We are determined to clean the books over time and align Anambra’s pension administration with the Pension Act and let our pensioners smile. In the meantime, our administration has signaled a new dawn by insisting that we won’t owe new retirees under my watch, while we have also started (albeit gradually) paying down the backlog.
Our government is very serious in forging new development partnerships with the international development partners, the federal government, as well as the local government. We are reforming our processes and ramping up our active engagements to maximize the benefits of such partnerships. For example, we have budgeted to meet our counterpart funding requirements to access federal and development partner funds. We are also working hard to restructure and reform our local government administration in conformity with the relevant laws. We will actively collaborate with the local governments in the areas of waste management; cleaner, greener and more environmentally sustainable communities; street lighting; fire service; qualitative primary school education; as well as planned modern markets, and security. Community government will be strengthened and mainstreamed. Already, the State is forging new (sustainable) economic partnership with communities not only with the ‘community choose your project’ initiative but now with the new community-based but jointly owned Oil Palm and Coconut plantations that will soon adorn the state.
In weeks to come, we will be coming to you again and again with a set of legislations required as critical building blocks for the next Anambra we all envision, as well as other critical approvals and confirmations required from this Honourable House. By July we shall also start the process for the 2023 budget, and will again come to the House once completed. I sincerely do hope and pray that despite your busy political agenda, you would find sufficient time to devote to the expeditious discharge of these responsibilities required of your offices.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, Hon Members! This Revised Budget 2022 sign-posts some of the key deliverables for this year as we Kick-off from the Blocks. It is also a call to collective action and lifestyle of Value for Money. The foundation of Anambra as a Smart Mega City will be tasking all of us to the limit. But we are Ndi Anambra! The irrepressible Anambra Spirit and the collective action of a people that loves their homeland dearly are what we will continue to call and draw upon to move ahead. This Anambra Spirit and collective action came alive during my visits to Lagos and Abuja last week to meet with our people. The enthusiasm and generous pledges of our people towards our homeland security demonstrated once again that Anambra can be anything we desire and work that it should be. I am emboldened by the massive support and solidarity of the people as we face the threat of common but organized criminals who want to run our people out of town and take our wealth and land by force. But we are Ndi Anambra, and together, we shall overcome! Give us the budget urgently, and by the time our people come home for Christmas, we will all be proud that we are serving the people well.
God bless Anambra State!