By Chinweike Anaegbu
I laughed after reading the article published in The Nation on Monday September 7 titled “Is Enugu really in the hands of God” written by one Obute Ifeanyi Titus who claimed to be national secretary of Eyes on Democracy of Nigeria The article tried to interrogate the suitability, intent and genuineness of the slogan in relation to the achievements of the Ugwuanyi administration in Enugu State, especially in the area of security and welfare of the people.
For the mere fact that the writer failed to appreciate the divine import and denotative meaning of the slogan raises a lot of questions on his motive. How would a sincere person living in Enugu and who has witnessed what has been happening in the state since Ugwuanyi assumed office question God’s presence and intervention in the state?
The governor as a devout Christian appreciates God’s interventions and presence in his life and that of the state. He had on assumption of office in 2015 given God preeminence in the affairs of the state, knowing that just like every other mortal, that unless the Lord builds the city, the builder does in vain. It is on this spiritual plank that he placed God in charge knowing that he and the people of the state cannot do much without God’s presence, guidance and protection. Only those who are not indigenes of Enugu or not residing in the state, or have not been following the government’s policies and programmes since 2015 can say that God’s name is being dragged into deliberate deception with the slogan.
On assumption of office in 2015, Governor Ugwuanyi met an economy in recession, with a huge backlog of workers’ salaries and pension arrears, especially in the council arrears as indeed other daunting challenges that would have daunted or derailed the morale and visions of any leader particularly an unprepared one. He took up the gauntlet with equanimity and charted a new path for the state in line with his administration’s four points agenda, which include infrastructural development, peace, security, social justice and social services, good governance and employment generation.
Despite the dire need for more revenue, Ugwuanyi surprisingly waived payment of Personal Income Tax as well as market tax for all traders in the major markets in the state. Till date, the waiver is still place and the traders have remained very grateful for it.
At the peak of COVID-19 pandemic, the governor granted another tax relief and incentives to taxpayers in the state to cushion the effect of Covid-19 pandemic. The relief ranged from a waiver of penalty and interest charged for non- remittance of Pay As You Earn (PAYE) deductions, to a 50 per cent discount of all the assessed land use charge payment for year 2020. Ugwuanyi personally led the battle against Covid-19 pandemic at the peak of its spread in the state. His government provided all the logistics and financial support to the health workers who are the front-liners in the battle. He also provided various forms of palliatives to the people to alleviate the hardship occasioned by the pandemic.
Since 2015, the government has ensured adequate security of lives and property, peace in Enugu State to the extent that many organisations, individuals and the leadership of security agencies had at one time or the other, adjudged the state to be one of the safest and secured state with low crime rate in the country.
To ensure adequate policing of the state, Ugwuanyi had after 2019 elections, procured and donated 100 units of patrol vans with communication gadgets to the security agencies to aid their operations. Not resting on his oars, he repositioned the vigilante/ Neighbourhood Watch and purchased 260 security vehicles for their use in various communities. In the same vein, the government employed 1700 Forest Guards, the first of its kind in the country. Just recently, the governor signed the law that established the Forest Guards, thereby giving them the legal footing to operate to secure and safeguard the forests across the state.
If truly Ugwuanyi’s administration has abandoned and neglected the security and welfare of the people as claimed by the writer, how come that four prominent national dailies – The Sun, Vanguard, Daily Independent and Leadership found Ugwuanyi worthy of being conferred with various awards in 2019 for his giant strides in the area of security, peace, development and welfare of the people of his state? It is a measure of how much the Ugwuanyi administration has placed premium on the welfare and wellbeing of the people.
Enugu is more of civil servants state. Apart from clearing the backlog of salaries and some arrears of pensions his administration inherited, Ugwuanyi has consistently and promptly paid workers salaries every 23rd of the month and 13 month in December as Christmas bonus since 2015 till date. This is despite the astronomical increase in the state’s wage bill without corresponding increase in the monthly federal allocation and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). He was among the first to approve and implement the N30,000 minimum wage for workers which some state governments, including some oil producing states are yet to implement till date.
On account of his administration’s many feats, the governor was conferred with the award of the Most Worker’ Friendly Governor by the state leadership of the labour union.
His administration has equitably distributed political appointments and developmental projects across the zones, local governments, communities and wards to the admiration and accolades of the people. Testimonies abound of Ugwuanyi’s people-oriented policies and programmes that have alleviated people’s penury and put smiles on their faces. Needless to state that his inclusive and eclectic style of governance and politics has helped in uniting the state rather than dividing it. Intra and inter-parties’ conflicts that often set political gladiators apart and the state in chaos have become a thing of the past. This is because Ugwuanyi has carried everybody along irrespective of status, religion or tribe.
His open-door policy and participatory governance has made it even difficult for the so-called opposition to find their bearings in the state politics.
It is interesting that the writer acknowledged that Ugwuanyi’s administration has significantly improved the IGR of the state, although he failed to applaud him or explain how such was achieved in the face of the dwindling government revenue globally. Yet, this is one area Ugwuanyi has shown exceptional ingenuity and financial wizardry. He didn’t improve the IGR by over-taxation or multiple taxation as alleged by the writer but by putting a square peg in a square hole with the appointment and reappointment of a financial expert and seasoned banker, Emeka Odo as chairman of the State Board of Internal Revenue.
The loopholes which before now were conduit pipes for politicians and their cohorts to siphon government revenue were plugged; prudence, accountability, fiscal discipline and transparency were introduced in government and made constant practice in government revenue generation. Initially, this didn’t go down well with the beneficiaries of the old practice, but the administration maintained its position on this. That is why the state’s IGR has kept improving since Ugwuanyi assumed office.
The improved and well-managed IGR is what has sustained the state and kept the government running, especially at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic when many state governments were slashing salaries of workers.
With these achievements made possible under Divine guidance, what other proof does one need to believe that Enugu State is indeed in the hands of God?
- Anaegbu writes from Abakpa-Nike, Enugu State.