By Paul Nwosu
For the records and in the interest of naysayers, it’s very important to clarify that Governor Charles Chukwuma Soludo (CFR) has since put in place a comprehensive set of palliatives that are in excess of N5 billion to mitigate the hardship brought about by the removal of the fuel subsidy regime.
It is also crucial to clarify that out of the initial N5 billion announced by President Bola Tinubu (GCFR) to be given to states, which some media commentators have continued to misrepresent, it’s only N2 billion that has been released, partly as loan, of which the States are expected to pay back 48 percent while the Federal Government will pay the remaining 52 percent.
Governor Soludo as a strategic manager of resources believes that palliatives should go beyond just doling out bags of rice to the people. His focus and determination to deliver a more diverse package that would be of better impact to the living conditions of the very low income earners cannot be countermanded. A well-thought-through programme for maximum impact will significantly alleviate the economic hardship of the poor and downtrodden over a sustainable period of time.
It is not in the Soludo style to settle for distributing palliatives only to the urban areas and some rural villages. Soludo ensures that he gets to uncharted areas and erstwhile unreachable zones of Anambra State. Remarkably, Governor Soludo on November 25 undertook an unprecedented journey of discovery to the remote island called Olumbanasa in Anambra State, a place that no former Governor of Anambra State had ever travelled to.
In reaching out to the people living in Olumbanasa, Soludo has proven that nobody can ever be left out in the distribution of palliatives and sundry dividends of democracy. Mr. Governor had to board a boat, a keke and an okada to get to the remote regions of Olumbanasa off the tributaries of the River Niger. He dared all the dangers to get into the seven diverse Igbo and Igala-speaking communities that make up Olumbanasa, namely, Alla, Onugwa, Igbedor, Igbokenyi, Odemagu, Ode, and Odekpe.
With Soludo in charge, no community no matter how remote can ever be cut off from getting all the amenities of government.
Given the example of Governor Soludo’s penetration of the hitherto unreachable Olumbanasa, there is no way that all the nooks and crannies of Anambra State cannot get their shares of the well over N5 billion palliatives that the popular leader now addressed as “Governor Umu-Ogbenye” would offer.
As things stand, the 36 states were mandated by the Federal Government to mainly use N2 billion to procure bags of rice, maize and similar food items to be distributed among the people. Mr. Governor believes rightly that our people shall not live by N2 billion rice and corn alone. Beyond these food items which would be consumed and passed out as waste over time, there are other departments of living that could be rejigged to support the low income earners to wade through the current economic challenges.
On the matter of the sharing of rice, Governor Soludo has mapped out a transparent plan to distribute rice to 300,000 households across 326 wards in Anambra State, thus ensuring that it gets to the “Umunnas” at the grassroots.
Well before the President’s initiative on palliative measures, Governor Soludo had undertaken without being prodded to increase the salaries of public servants in the employment of Anambra State Government and the Local Governments by 10 percent from January 2023. The Governor did this as his own internal measure to respond to the rising inflation in the country.
With the President’s formal proclamation of the palliatives’ regime, Governor Soludo in his typical approach to such economic issues has dug deeper to come up with more fundamental solutions beyond rice and maize to better shield Anambra people from the turbulent whirlwind that is exerting unusual pressure on the families and the system.
Governor Soludo has since placed pensioners and public servants on non-taxable cash award of N12,000 monthly from September to December 2023. The game-changer is of course the tax exemption to vulnerable groups which include hawkers, Okada drivers, wheelbarrow and cart pushers, vulcanizers, artisans and petty traders with less than N100,000 capital. Another welfare measure taken by Professor Soludo is the declaration of complete free education in public Nursery, Primary and Junior Secondary schools. The fees for public Senior Secondary schools were slashed down to N5,000 per session. Mr. Governor also made antenatal care and child delivery services free in all the government’s General Hospitals and Primary Healthcare Centres in Anambra State. To ensure that quality services are rendered to these women, special telephone lines have been set up for these women to call in case they are not satisfied with the standard of services or care they received.
The Anambra State Palliative drive has a touch of Mr. Solution. The palliatives are in excess of N5 billion. The essence is to make it sustainable over a long period of time.
SIR PAUL NWOSU
Commissioner for Information