DURING the presentation of the 2018 annual budget on the floor of the House of Assembly in December 2018, the Governor of Anambra State, Dr. Willie Obiano extolled the benefits of his numerous grassroots policies, programmes and projects to local folks.
One of the populist programmes that has gained momentum and popularity is called: “Communities Choose Your Projects”. This is a situation where all the communities in the state will put heads together and identify projects that have been giving them headaches to complete. There are projects that have critical bearings on the collective will and welfare of the rural dwellers and execution depends on the collection of levies and compulsory donations from community based organizations and well-to-do individuals.
The governor’s expression of satisfaction to the novelty in community infrastructures might have stemmed from the encouraging feedbacks he was receiving from the opinion leaders in communities as the largely poor folks have gotten a breathing space from constant levies and compulsory donations for the construction of basic community infrastructures like large halls for holding town union meetings, civic centres for social activities like hosting august visitors, sundry public engagements.
Other critical infrastructure are culverts that connect villages, farm lands, and digging catchment pits to control flood waters during the rainy seasons, which has been a known agents for ravaging erosion and landslide.
The governor said: “Madam Speaker and Honourable Members of this great citadel of democracy, the outgoing year has been a phenomenal year for NdiAnambra for so many reasons. It is a year in which our great state took its rightful place as Light of the Nation by establishing itself as the shining light of Nigeria’s nascent democracy. We set new records in enthroning popular democracy and yet another enviable record in managing the grievances and rancour that often lead to costly legal battles after each election in Nigeria.
“Madam Speaker, and Honorable Lawmakers, I am also delighted to report here that the first round of our highly acclaimed N20, million Community Choose-Your-Project Initiative has almost been concluded with various communities already putting their chosen projects to use.
“Consequently, the second round of the initiative has commenced in earnest bringing it to N40m per community. The beauty of this idea remains its capacity to touch each community in a way that is special to it and deliver the democratic promise of my administration. In all, the implementation of the first round of the projects has created over 2,000 jobs.
I think we should all be proud of this initiative too… I have no doubt whatsoever that this budget will serve as an important instrument, guiding the activities of the government and steering conversations in the areas”.
The governor has made it a deliberate budgetary policy to be setting aside sufficient funds that could go round the entire communities on N20 million per phase for each community and another same amount possibly in the same year if any community could complete the first phase with the money.
There are conditions for the release of the funds and one of them is that the community will choose the contractor which they deem capable and subject to supervision and monitoring by the community’s selected and trusted men and women to ensure quality control and value for money.
“Community Choose Your Projects” initiative has ignited unimaginable enthusiasm in communities and as at today, some communities have applied for the release of the third tranche of the funds. This has attested to the altruistic and populist policies and programmes of the governor ostensibly designed to uplift the living standard of the people and change the landscape of communities.
National Light spoke to some presidents general [PG] of town development unions on the “Community Choose Your Project” development paradigm and they were effusive in commending Governor Obiano, generally saying that the projects which would have taken many years to complete were done within six months.
The PG of Oraeri Town Development Union [ODU] ,Okey Atueyi said: “Governor Willie Obiano’s Community Choose Your Project” is one of the development models that needs to be copied by other state governments in Nigeria. This is a scheme that impacts directly on the lives of the people. ODU is proudly saying that we completed our town hall project in record time due to the transparency in the execution.
“We applied for the second tranche and got it and we have used the fund to build skill acquisition centre. We have applied for the third tranche and on the verge of commencing the project. Oraeri salutes Governor Obiano for our share of democracy dividends, including the tarring of the major road in the community. We passionately appeal for the tarring of the remaining portion of the road which might cause havoc when the rainy season sets in”.
On the first year of the governor’s second tenure, Atueyi commended him for touching all the communities with basic facilities and especially roads that traverse all the local government council areas to uplift the socio-economic living standard of the people”.
On his part, the PG Umunze, John Akanyeonu said that with the first and second tranches, the Umunze Progressive Union has completed civic centre, now being used as Orumba South Judicial Division Headquarter, and administrative block of High Court, Umunze. He said: “The Community choose your project initiative has made it possible for all the 179 communities in Anambra State to directly benefit from government funds and see the execution of the projects within a record time. I will like to see other state governments within the south-east geo-political zone come to Anambra state to borrow the wonderful idea”.
However, like every other novel government initiative in projects and programmes, it is not astonishing to hear barrage of criticisms and objections to the “communities choose your projects”. The critics believe that the initiative was misconceived as it flew off the tangent of due process in the expenditure of public funds.