Ernest Ezeajugh is the chief of staff to Governor Charles Soludo of Anambra State. In this exclusive interview with INIOBONG IWOK, conducted via telephone, he spoke on the one year of Soludo’s administration, steps taken to fulfil his campaign promises, security situation in the state, among several other issues about the administration.
Governor Charles Soludo marked one year in office about three months back, how has he been able to deliver on his campaign promises?
So far, so good. Of course you know Governor Soludo has not relented in his resolve to lead Ndi Anambra to a liveable and prosperous homeland. So far, works have continued on the over 300kms of road flagged off in various parts of the state.
Governor Soludo has also expedited action on the Security situation with more success stories coming in by the day. As at today, there is no part of the state that is under the control of criminals.
Yes, there may be pockets of skirmishes here and there, it is expected as we know these criminals will not go down without a fight. But, we are chasing them out and bringing them to Justice.
For the first time, we are beginning to see foreign development partners setting up physical offices in the state. As we speak, Governor Soludo just in May, commissioned the UNDP office in Awka. This wasn’t the case before.
There has been some form of reforms in the civil service, like you know we have just launched the E-Identification of all workers in the state, and training them to acquire digital skills too.
The one youth two skills program is on-going, mopping up thousands of youth off the street and providing them with various skills. We have also started the Anambra Digital Tribe through the Solution Innovation District.
A programme in collaboration with Microsoft Africa and Wootlab foundations, designed to teach about 20,000 Anambra youth different digital skills. All these were achieved because of his prudence in management of the meager resources at his disposal. This means he is doing more with less.
A whole lot is happening and will be made known as we progress.
A lot of Anambra indigenes are worried about the security situation in the state, although it’s much better now compared to when he assumed office. What strategies are the governor employing to deal with the issue?
Security strategies are not something we discuss in the open. Like you rightly observed, we are not where we used to be, and I’ve highlighted that above. We are consistently pushing against the brick wall of criminality, and like the Governor would say, light will definitely prevail over darkness.
Some people seem to have a negative perception of the Governor, who allege that his one year in office has been a failure. What is your reaction?
I laugh at such assertions, especially when it is weighed against the backdrop of the majority opinion that is everywhere. This Governor has done unprecedented things in less than 24 months in office; this is about our 15 months in office.
We have flagged off over 300kms of roads, with some at final stages of completion, like the Amansea-Ndiukwuenu-Awa-Ufuma road.
We have recruited 5000 Teachers, something previous governments did at the twilight of their administration, we have also recruited 300 health workers, renovated 3 general hospitals; resolved about 93 town union crisis, set off pragmatic youth empowerment programs; embolden our security and entrenched law and order. If this is failure then failure must have acquired a new meaning.
What strategies are the governor adopting to deliver on his 5-pillar Solution Agenda so far?
Our strategy is simple. First is transparency and accountability in the management of public resources. Governor Soludo has assured and ensured every penny of public funds is expended on public good and can be fullly accounted for.
We have developed the Public, Community, Private Partnership (PCPP) model. This is about mobilizing Ndi Anambra to be active players in the development of the homeland.
Governor Soludo has held town hall meeting at home and in diaspora with critical stakeholders urging them to come on board as partners in progress. We recognize that our agenda is with a deadline, so we have committed every day of the week to doing all that is necessary to achieve our goals for the state.
There are complaints of over taxation by traders and other Anambra indigenes by Soludo’s administration. What is your view?
First, the issue of double taxation is no longer an issue as you would recall that Governor Soludo committed to digital collection of all taxes. He openly said too, that any tax that he cannot collect digitally will not be considered.
So, when people complain of over taxation I asked to show proof. Comparatively either with past administrations or other states, Anambra is currently the least in terms of the amount collected in tax. I stand to be corrected.
Of course, there may be some illegal collectors marauding our streets and markets. However, we do not spare them when we catch them.
This government has abrogated any form of touting. Call us and report any Agbero you find anywhere. We are going all out against them and will not let them have any hold in the State.
What are the efforts to open up the rural areas?
We are doing a lot with regards to rural development. Our efforts to re-enact the palm revolution is yielding lots of results.
We have added the coconut economy and in the coming years the outcome will be massive especially with reducing rural poverty and rural-urban migration.
In terms of infrastructure; we are working on a lot of rural roads. Let me mention Nzam for instance, we are building roads there for the first time in the history of their existence. Our solar street lights are sprawling into these areas too and we have set the Anambra vigilante service to complement the efforts of the law enforcement agencies.
The government recently employed 5,000 teachers, while there are interventions in the health sector. What is the progress so far in these sectors?
The progress has been very commendable. We have experienced a marginal increase in enrollment since we employed these teachers, and you know what that means to the overall quality of human capital for the future.
Our focus on health has been the Primary health Centres. With the recruitment of more health workers, most of our PHCs have become effective and efficient. We still doing more and before we clock 24months Ndi Anambra will see the difference. When we say the solution is here, we mean every bit of it.