ANAMBRA State, “Light of the Nation'' in the South East geo-political zone of Nigeria is committed to attaining the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The State Governor, Mr. Willie Obiano affirmed his government's commitment to ensuring the attainment of the goals in his state shortly after the United Nations General Assembly's adoption of the programme in September 2015.
He said that his government's strategy for the success of the goals is inclusive growth that would embrace all the capacities and qualities that enable the state to take pride in its identity as the Light of the Nation.
Transition from MDGs to SDGs
In Anambra State, the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) started in 2007 under the administration of Peter Obi, immediate past governor of the state. The administration implemented the MDGs with uncommon commitment through the adoption of the Anambra Integrated Development Strategy (ANIDS).
Through the MDGs Conditional Grant Scheme, there was massive construction and equipping of skills acquisition centres, rehabilitation of primary health centres, and renovation of school infrastructure.
Under the 2011 MDGs Conditional Grants Scheme (CGS), the sum of N600 million was disbursed to three local government areas, while 304 projects were delivered across water, health and education sectors. In 2012, 2,250 persons from 25 communities of Anaocha, Anambra West, Ihiala, Ogbaru and Orumba South Local Government Areas benefitted from the MDGs Conditional Cash Transfer. In 2013, government embarked on the construction and renovation of classroom blocks, provision of school black boards, instructional materials, and financial grants to co-operative societies.
In a bid to meet the MDGs, the Obi administration had in February 2014, released N10 billion to continue the rehabilitation of public and mission schools and for accelerated execution of various projects.
Other poverty reduction interventions were carried out. For instance, the Obi administration implemented the safety net under which indigent persons aged 75 and above were paid N5, 000 every month including women of child bearing age, who had young children in school but couldn't afford to maintain those children. The government also trained women especially the poorest among them, in variety of handicrafts and gave out sewing machines, hair dressing and bakery equipment.
In the area of education, the biggest step taken by the Obi administration was the return of schools to the missions despite glaring opposition from different quarters. The churches came into a unique partnership with the government and there was massive renovation of schools and construction of new classroom blocks in every community through direct labour. The morale of the teachers was boosted because secondary schools in the state public, mission and private sectors received computers, library, laboratory equipment and buses.
There were also multi-billion naira investments in secondary and tertiary healthcare, which facilitated the accreditation of the state university, now known as Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital, Amaku, Awka.
The implementation of SDGs
Following the endorsement of the SDGs by President Muhammadu Buhari along with other world leaders, Governor Obiano of Anambra State promised to surpass the modest achievements recorded by his predecessor in the implementation of the MDGs.
The Obiano administration seemed to have learnt some valuable lessons from the experiences of MDGs and therefore adopted a more proactive strategy to implement the SDGs. He pledged that his administration would implement all the 17 SDGs beginning with SDG-1, which is to eradicate all forms of poverty by 2030 and move the world to a sustainable development path while ensuring that no one is left behind. With particular reference to Anambra State, Obiano vowed to lift the people of the state out of poverty through massive social interventions.
Poverty reduction strategy
In a strategic drive to alleviate poverty, Governor Obiano had in June 2015 inaugurated the Anambra State Small Business Agency (ASBA) to serve as the catalyst for growth in the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector in the state. This was to ensure that Anambra State achieves sustainable development of MSMEs and becomes the hub for MSME empowerment in the country. He announced that the state had secured the sum of N2 billion from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for on-lending through ASBA to eligible beneficiaries in partnership with participating financing institutions that meet specific selection criteria in the state.
According to Obiano, “MSMEs are globally recognized as the critical engine of economic growth due to their potential to create jobs, food production, generate income and reduce poverty.” He noted that Anambra State is a significant hub for MSMEs in the country, since it is the nucleus for both the Automotive Spare Parts Industry in Nnewi and General Merchandise in Onitsha.
Elaborating on the operations of ASBA, Mr. Clement Chukwuka, its Managing Director/CEO, described the agency as the state's special purpose platform for assessing the MSMEs fund. He promised that the agency is committed to not just disbursing and monitoring the MSMEs who accessed the funds, but also to seeking other funding sources for the financial and capacity empowerment of small and medium scale businesses in Anambra State. He added that the loan scheme was meant to ameliorate the suffering of the people, especially the poor.
Mr. Chukwuka further observed that part of the efforts to have a robust implementation framework informed the creation of two separate funding programmes, namely: the SME Retail Lending Programme with Fidelity Bank as the Participating Financial Institution (PFI) with Maximum Application window of N50 million, and the Wholesale Microenterprise Lending Programme with select microfinance banks in Anambra State as the PFIs with Maximum Application window of N500, 000.
He said that the fund is not free, hence provision has been made in such a way that an instrument known as the Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (ISPO) has been put in place at the CBN and the beneficiaries to this fund are expected to show the same commitment the state has made by providing suitable collaterals to support the loans requested. According to him, these funds are being provided to beneficiaries at a flat rate of 9%, with no hidden charges.
Chukwuka also explained that the vision of ASBA is to facilitate easier access to resources required by entrepreneurs and investors of MSMEs in Anambra State to achieve sustainable economic development with multiplier effects in the areas of food production and employment generation. So far, the loans have been disbursed to traders, cottage industrialists, artisans and famers.
Governor Obiano, had also in 2015 inaugurated the state's Skill Acquisition and Empowerment Scheme for youth empowerment and poverty alleviation in the state. The event, which took place at the Technology Incubation Centre (TIC), Nnewi, had 500 youths selected from the 21 Local Government Areas of the state as trainees. The trainees received training on Information and Communication Technology (ICT), spare parts fabrication, fishery, production of beverages, cosmetics and various types of detergents.
To further enhance the capacity of the rural poor, Governor Obiano had flagged off the 2016 Farming Season in Anambra State, with the disbursement of N1 billion under the ASBA/CBN Micro-Credit Scheme for Micro Enterprises to thousands of beneficiaries. This was in addition to 25 Super Water Pumping Machines distributed to cooperatives to assist in all-year farming in the riverine communities of the state. Under the Micro-Credit Scheme, an individual receives a maximum of N500,000 while each cooperative of 10 members get N5,000,000.
Mrs Ebelechukwu Obiano, wife of the governor has also been contributing to the poverty alleviation efforts of the Anambra State government through the Caring Family Enhancement Initiative (CAFÉ), a non-governmental organization (NGO) she established. In November 2016, CAFÉ empowered 100 less privileged persons from the various parts of the state. The empowerment programme was done by CAFÉ in conjunction with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The beneficiaries, who were trained in various fields, received equipment, which enabled them start up vocations. Many of them have become self-employed and employers of labour in their various communities. The 100 trained persons included 40 physically challenged men and women, who were trained in computer literacy, tailoring, shoe making and hair dressing, while the remaining 60 were youths, women and widows, trained in soap making and confectionery.
Mrs Nneka Onwudiwe, Senior Special Assistant to Governor Obiano on UNDP and Donor Agencies said during the empowerment ceremony in Awka that since its inception, CAFÉ has worked hard to achieve its objective of improving the lives of the most vulnerable in the state with support from well-meaning individuals and corporate organizations. “From prison inmates to the mentally challenged; to widows and physically challenged persons, children and youths; to entire rural communities, no one is left out of the warm embracing arms of CAFÉ as it continues to strive to give others the opportunity to make the best lives they possibly can through its various programmes,” Onwudiwe said.
Governor The deputy country director of UNDP, Ms Mandisa Mashalogu said the fact that some of the beneficiaries were physically challenged persons and youths reinforced a cardinal principle of the SDGs that no one should be left behind.
In furtherance of its poverty alleviation initiatives, the Obiano administration recently disbursed N500 million as a Special Intervention Fund to farmers in the state. Since recent findings indicate that 24 percent of the 106,565 farmers in Anambra State are youths, a substantial part of the fund was disbursed to them in order to keep them off the street and crime.
Anambra is also the first state in the South East geo-political zone to kick-start the programme the Cash Transfer Scheme initiative under the Federal Government's Social Investment Programme targeted at the poorest and vulnerable households. Through the scheme, about 13,000 households in Anambra State have been receiving the N5, 000 monthly stipends.
Chinwe Iwuchukwu, deputy focal person, Social Investment Programme, Anambra State said that Obiano is keen about alleviating poverty in the state through the Cash Transfer scheme because it is a safety net that several advanced nations had put in place a long time in their history, especially at times of economic challenges.
Enhancing quality education
It is remarkable that Sustainable Development Goal four (SDG-4) specifically encourages all-UN-member countries and sub-national governments to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” by 2030.
The administration of Governor Obiano is making significant progress in pursuit of quality education in Anambra State. Professor Kate Omenugha, Commissioner of Education in Anambra State said that state is desirous of achieving the quality education goal through a three-point thrust in education. She identified the three points as provision of infrastructure, improving the wellbeing of teachers and students and giving priority to education.
In terms of infrastructure, she said that government has through the Anambra State Universal Basic Education Board (ASUDEB), renovated schools, both at the primary and junior secondary levels. Over a thousand classroom blocks have been provided across the 21 local government areas in the state. She further stated that government has revamped the 11 technical colleges in Anambra State, which were hitherto near moribund. Omenugha explained the import of the revamping of the technical colleges, saying that it will enable the students acquire the technical know-how that make them self-reliant.
On teachers' welfare, Professor Omenugha said that “this is one area Governor Obiano has done exceptionally well”. She highlighted teachers' welfare packages from the Obiano administration which include; increase in their salary, paying of 20% of basic salary to teachers who are posted and retained in some difficult-to-access areas of the state and also giving of stipends as incentives to teachers who teach core subjects. According to Professor Omenugha, a lot of capacity building has been done for the teachers. For example, government had organised the Singapore trip where 23 teachers were selected to learn the Singaporean model of education.
To enhance capacity building in the education sector, Governor Obiano had in May 2016 presented a cheque for the sum of N150 million to the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, for the upgrading, renovation, maintenance and equipping of schools earlier handed back to the mission by the state government. He also presented another cheque for the sum of N217 million to the Catholic Church for the upgrading of all the schools handed back to the church by the Anambra State government.
Obiano also disbursed N1.5 billion to other schools, including public and select private schools across the state for the same purpose.
Professor Omenugha, Commissioner of Education believes that a major driver of the progress recorded by the Obiano administration in the education sector is its conscious efforts towards keeping faith with its vision of ensuring that no child is denied access to quality education. According to her, some of its recent achievements include the retooling of science laboratories of secondary schools, adoption of some key schools for the inclusive learning and the education-for-employment initiative. Other initiatives of the administration in the education sector are the setting up of Computer Training Centres as well as approval of yearly grant for the smooth functioning of the schools.
There are indications that the efforts of the Anambra State government towards enhancing quality education are yielding positive results. The 2016 state-by-state results of the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations (SSCE) shows that Anambra came second. Furthermore, the data on literacy index recently published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed that Anambra is one of the states in Nigeria with high literacy rate. According to the data, Imo State has the highest literacy level (96.43 per cent), followed by Lagos (96.30 per cent); Ekiti (95.79 per cent); Rivers (95.76 per cent); Abia (94.24 per cent); Anambra (92.11 per cent); Osun (90.57); Edo (90.53 per cent); Enugu (89.46 per cent); and Cross River (89 per cent).
To guarantee inclusive education, the Obiano administration had in March 2015 commissioned the Okochi Migrant Farmers Basic School, Okpuno in Awka South Local Government Area of the state and promised to build 50 new migrant farmers' schools across the state. According to him, the schools would be located in specific farming communities. He said it was a deliberate strategy of his administration to bring education closer to the people, especially those in agriculture producing areas.
It is noteworthy that Anambra is one of the states in Nigeria which had benefitted from National Home-grown School Feeding Programme, a Social Investment Programmes (SIP) of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. According to the Presidency, Anambra State received a total of N693,013,300, while a total of 103,742 children have been fed thus far, with 1,009 cooks paid.
The Anambra State government has equally invested in tertiary education. The Obiano administration has shown its dedication to improving the quality of education offered in the state-owned Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University by increasing its subvention.
Enhancing gender equality
The quest for gender equality (SDG-5) has occupied a prominent position in global agenda in recent decades, with colossal implications on states, organizations, communities and individuals.
To actualise SDG-5, Governor Obiano's administration has made conscious efforts to give women a sense of belonging. His administration has so far given women a fair representation in the highest decision making body in the state with the appointment of six female commissioners into the state executive council. Obiano claimed throughout his first term in office, his administration had to a large extent met the 35 percent affirmative action on women's participation in government. He commended the women who served in his cabinet during his first term for their contribution to the development of the state, noting that they were not just favoured with the various positions, but truly merited to be appointed to such offices.
The legislative arm of government in Anambra State is also headed by a woman. Rita Mmaduagwu is the Speaker of the Anambra State House of Assembly. She agrees with the governor that women were adequately represented in his administration.
The Anambra State government also empowered female entrepreneurs in the state as they received 60 percent of the N2.5 billion disbursed by ASBA.
The administration has equally made heavy investments in girl-child education awareness campaign in 56 communities across the state in addition to empowering 1,200 women with 500 fish ponds and 700 chicken enclosures in a bid to provide income sources for rural women.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has become a major source of concern to many people in Anambra State. The Ministry of Social Welfare, Children and Women Affairs in Anambra State has been working round the clock to eradicate FMG and other harmful cultural practices like early child marriage and forced marriage. Dr. (Mrs) Victoria Chikwelu, Commissioner for Social Welfare, Children and Women Affairs said that the ministry has carried out sensitisation programmes in some communities to end the FMG nightmare and other social ills against women and children.
Obiano's decent work record
The Anambra State government has given desired attention to the protection of labour rights and promotion of secure environment for its workers. It is on record that Governor Obiano's administration did not owe workers throughout his first tenure. Shortly after assuming office for his first tenure on March 17, 2014, Obiano slowly worked his way into the deep affection of civil servants in the state. He showed good faith when he ignored all the warning signs of the ailing economy and increased workers' salaries by 16% in January 2015. It was a very audacious move that endeared him to workers in the employ of the state.
He also eased the transportation burden of workers with the donation of commuter buses which are designated to special routes. These buses brought instant relief to hordes of workers who suddenly realized that it was possible for a governor to look at their welfare beyond the usual payment of salaries.
For eight years, workers of the Anambra State Water Corporation as well as the staff of Anambra State Environmental Protection Agency (ANSEPA) were owed salaries. But barely four months after he took over, Governor Obiano paid their N1.9 billion salary arrears.
Similarly, local government workers in the state were groaning under the weight of pensions and gratuity that the state owed them which amounted to N940million. But Obiano swiftly cleared the huge debt and put smiles back on their faces.
In order to develop a strategy for youth employment, the Anambra State government recently directed all the unemployed youths in the state to go to their various local government headquarters for their data capturing and registration. The database is being created to enable government create various job opportunities for the youths.
In recent times, many communities in Anambra State have been ravaged by huge erosion gullies. In all, there are over 960 active erosion sites in Anambra State, and these have submerged houses in many communities, making residents lose their places of abode. Some of the communities that are worst hit include Oko and Nanka in Orumba North Local Government of Anambra State.
Governor Obiano has repeatedly lamented about the menace of erosion in the state, saying that Anambra has virtually been reduced to the smallest state in the country, following the loss of a huge landmass to gullies. “So many farmlands have been washed away, residential houses pulled down. We can't sit back and watch erosion destroy our environment,” he said.
On July 19, 2017, Obiano called on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on erosion menace in the state. He made the call when he visited the erosion site along MINAJ Road, Obosi layout in Idemili North Local Government Area of the state.
Recently, as part of efforts to stop erosion encroachment in Anambra State, the World Bank Group approved eight erosion sites in Anambra State for construction and remedial measures through the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP).
Dr. Romanus Ejikeme, Anambra State Commissioner for Environment thanked the World Bank for consistently coming to the aid of the state in terms of construction of erosion sites. He noted that ecological problems like erosion are too capital intensive for state government to manage and called for the support of the Federal Government and other international organisations.
Peace, justice, strong institutions
About four years ago, Governor Obiano had in an effort to ensure peace, justice and strong institutions in Anambra State convened a security summit, in which he flew in an Israeli security expert, Moshe Kennan. The summit had members of all the security agencies in the state and their helmsmen in attendance, and the agenda was to device a valid means of flushing out all criminals in the state and ensuring safety for residents of the state.
Today, security has become one of the biggest achievements of the Anambra State government. The security summit had given birth to the formation of Operation Kpochapu, (Igbo word which in English means; stamp out criminality). It is geared toward stamping out criminality in the state. The Operation Kpochapu team comprises all security agencies in the state, including the Police, Army, Navy, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), the Nigeria Customs Service (NSC), and the vigilante groups. To effectively arm the security agencies, the Anambra State government procured over 100 security cars fitted with speed detector, speed gun and alcohol detector and other security gadgets for the police.
The efforts of the State government in this direction have paid off as the state is now relatively safe and devoid of the brazen robberies witnessed previously. The kind of daylight kidnappings which were rampant in the state in the past have also been stamped out.
To build a strong judicial system that will promote the cause of justice, Governor Obiano had in April 2016 instituted an endowment fund for the Anambra State Judiciary.
UNDP's Encomiums on Anambra
The giant strides of Governor Obiano in the implementation of the SDGs have not gone unnoticed. In July, 2017, Edward Kallon, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Nigeria, decorated Governor Obiano as a leading Champion on SDGs. It was during the 2017 Annual Development Partners Retreat. Kallon, who led a delegation of the United Nations, said the choice of Anambra for the retreat was anchored on the safe and peaceful atmosphere noticeable in the state.
The state government leveraged on the unique opportunity provided by the summit to discuss strategies towards attaining SDGs; the role of sub-national governments and other strategies of development that would help achieve inclusive growth and sustainable development in Anambra State.
In August, 2017, the Government of Anambra State solicited technical and cost sharing support from the UN on effective implementation of the SDGs.
It noteworthy that the First Anambra-Development Partners Summit held in Awka focused on 'Strengthening partnerships to attain SDGs before 2030.' It served as a platform for key actors in development planning to deepen their partnerships towards the implementation of Anambra State's strategic plan. After extensive deliberations, delegates recommended that the Anambra State government, the Federal Ministry of Budget and National Planning, the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs, the UN System, the Organised Private Sector and the civil society organisations should work together towards the implementation of SDGs in Anambra State.
The summit noted that in spite of the difficult economic circumstances in the country, Anambra State has been resilient and has recorded significant progress in areas such as security, economic diversification, resource mobilisation, investment promotion, social protection and job creation.