Enugu: Task before the Economic Advisory Team
By Louis Amoke
There is no doubt that the recent constitution of a 15-man Economic Advisory Committee by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State to assist him generate ideas on how best to tackle the adverse effects of the dwindling revenue from the Federation Account due to the drastic decline in the prices of crude oil in the global market was a right step in a right direction.
To many, this brave step taken by the governor was indeed timely and a well-thought-out strategy that will help the state to navigate through the tough economic conditions in the country. The governor's action became pertinent following the inability of our leaders to heed to the earlier warnings and advice from world leaders and foresighted Nigerians to look in other directions of revenue generation through the diversification of its economy.
Although most economic indicators have been relatively stable in the past two years till early this year due to viable economic growth, accommodating interest and exchange rates' policies, benign inflation and stable oil price index, some of these variables have been unstable in the past few months due to persistent decline in oil prices.
It was on the premise of the above, that Governor Ugwuanyi, in a bid to achieve his action plans, carefully assembled a cream of notable think-tanks from all walks of life to assist him surmount the current economic crunch in the state and the nation at large.
These eminent people include the Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu, Monsignor Prof. Obiora Ike, who serves as Chairman of the Committee; the Deputy Senate President, Sen. Ike Ekweremadu; former Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji; foremost industrialist and Chairman of Innoson Group of Companies, Chief Innocent Chukwuma; and the former Economic Adviser to the President and current Director of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Nigeria, Prof. Osita Ogbu.
Others on the advisory list are the Pro-Chancellor of Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT), Dr. Chilo Offiah; former Aviation Minister, Amb. Fidelia Njeze; Chief Loretta Aniagolu; Dr. Chikelu Mba; Mr. Emeka Odo; Princess Ngozi Nnadozie; Mr. John Okoye; Mr. Kelvin Emeka Onah and Mr. Ikechukwu Chioke.
Even though the task before the committee seems to be a daunting, if not an arduous one, one is compelled to make projections on what the public expects from the members with a view to pointing out possible viable areas they need to exploit to succeed.
On the need to restructure the state's internally generated revenue , the committee is also expected to lay emphasis on investment promotion, agricultural revolution, and prudent management of government resources. This is in view of the fact the state has the economic potentials to harness and create new viable opportunities aimed at generating resources for rapid development.
For instance, Enugu, being a natural resources-endowed state has played early roles as the capital of Eastern Region of Nigeria with avalanche of mining opportunities such as coal, lime stone, clay, iron ore, and other mineral resources. It is on record that coal mining which commenced in the state in 1916 was used for National Power Supply at Oji River and Cement Production at Nkalagu, among others.
The Oji River power plant which uses coal to generate power has the capacity to supply electricity to all the eastern states of the country, if revitalized. It is therefore, strongly believed that if coal mining in the state is given adequate attention through the revamping of the sector in partnership with the private sectors, the state stands a better chance of boosting its revenue for sustainable development.
Agriculture is another sector the advisory committee is expected to give the priority attention it deserves. This is achievable through massive investment in the sector to be able to produce and export foodstuffs such as palm oil, rice, cassava, pepper, pineapples etc and agro-based raw materials derived from forestry, among others.
Good enough, the governor during his campaign promised to 'encourage more joint venture projects with reputable private companies for commercial large scale agriculture and agro-processing businesses, including the revamping of Adarice farm complex for massive rice production and milling'.
This will also entail total commitment to the revitalization of other state ailing agricultural establishments and farm settlements in partnership with private investors under the supervision of the Enugu Agriculture Development Programme (ENADEP).
For instance, the said Adarice farm settlement at Adani in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of the state has about 5,000 hectares of land with the capacity to produce over 10, 000 tons of rice in a season, when functional. There is also Adapalm farm plantation at Uzo-Uwani L.G.A which also has the capacity to produce a large volume of palm oil for revenue generation for the state, when revamped.
Ugwuanyi had also promised to create massive employment and enhance the income of farmers in the state through the provision of farm extension services to small and medium scale farmers and long term concessional credit facilities in partnership with the relevant federal government agencies. The committee is expected to find out how these will work.
Under taxation, it is also on record that Enugu being one of the fastest growing commercial cities in the country due to its peaceful, convivial and secure environment, has witnessed visible proliferation of economic activities/outfits.
In this regard, the economic committee is expected to look inward and come up with a friendly tax policy that would ensure prompt and appropriate payment of taxes by commercial outfits, and equally make sure that the monies realized from the proceeds go into the coffers of the government for utmost utilization.
Another task before the Monsignor Obiora Ike led-committee is for it to encourage the governor's stance on limiting government expenditures on vital issues that will impact positively on the lives of the citizenry and also cut down the cost of governance to be able to save money for capital projects and actualize his laudable vision for the state.
In conclusion, one is convinced that the present economic scenario, which requires the critical need for government at all levels in the country to develop the non-oil sectors, strengthen their tax base as well as internally generated revenue, could be surmounted through these options enumerated above and the expected cherished recommendations of the 15-man Economic Advisory Committee.
It is gladdening that the governor of the State, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who has dedicated himself to the service of the state has started fulfilling his promises to continue on the pathway of vision in the advancement of good governance through the provision of the basic needs of our people, wealth creation and prosecution of programmes that will guarantee the future of our children in an atmosphere of peace, love and security. He is 'ready to work' and the sky remains his limit.
- Amoke, the Senior Special Assistant to the Enugu State Governor on Media, writes from Enugu.