Anambra State Head of Service, Harry Udu, in this interview with BLESSING NNABUIFE, dwells on the achievements of Gov. Willie Obiano in the past seven years, particularly as it affects civil servants. Excerpts:
WHAT is your assessment of developments in Anambra State within the last seven years she has been under Governor Willie Obiano’s administration?
Development in the state has been monumental. There have been very major permanent legacy developments in the state. Where do you really start counting? Bridges that have been constructed, the flyovers, airport that is coming on soon, International Conference Center, foreign business partnership that has been attracted to the state, giant strides in the areas of rice production and other agriculture related matters, quite a lot .
The governor started with a four-point agenda when he came – the four pillars of his administration and all these four pillars were given very serious attention. Of course, we know the giant strides that we have made in the area of education in the state, all the prizes we won and will continue to win. There is no way that this administration can be said not have performed at the excellent grading level.
In my area, that is the civil service, I can tell you that salaries and pensions are paid regularly and you know these things are not routine stuffs in Nigeria of today. The fact that the governor pays salaries and pensions is a big deal because some others cannot pay and of course, that has a ripple effect in the economy of the state because the economy is stable and keeps bouncing.
You saw when we did the community choose your project initiative. It was right at the center of depression in Nigeria then. What that thing did was to pump money into the economy of the state, thereby insulating the state from the effects of depression. Many people here didn’t feel the depression because there was money. At least, in every community, you are assured of N20million; all the 181 communities in Anambra State.
What else lubricates the economy other than money? That was an excellent economy move. The rice he normally distributes every Christmas period continues in spite of the difficulties. When he came newly, he increased salary by 15 per cent. Subsequently, the issue of minimum wage came up, he implemented it. Minimum wage here now is N30,000 as approved by law.
Then, you have the consequential adjustment for others. Trainings come according to the finances of the government. We understand the challenges of the government and we appreciate the ones that are being done.
Civil servant have been sent overseas; teachers and others. Some have been sent to very high profile training centres in Nigeria. Some of our staffs are presently in Kuru, National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies. Recently, he upgraded the leadership of the service by appointing 10 new permanent secretaries.
How has this regime made impact on workers’ productivity and what do you consider its greatest achievements?
In my view not just as a worker but as a leader of workers, it is the ability of this government to be consistent in the payment of workers’ salaries, pensions. I can’t stop saying what it means for the average worker to be certain that on the 25th of every month, he will get his alert come rain, come shine. It enables him to plan. Even if he borrows, he knows that he is going to pay. Banks, financial institutions are ready to offer facilities to Anambra workers because they know that their salaries come regularly.
The result is that workers are more comfortable in the sense that they can take loans and enhance the welfare of their families. They can take one or two other steps to enhance the general life of their people and those around them. Our pensioners who get these things are in a position to purchase their drugs, take care of themselves and look fresh.
The average pensioner has put in a lot of time in the service and has reached the stage where it is now the state that takes care of him. Can you imagine the kind of disaster it will be if the state does not live up to this responsibility? So, those welfare areas are very important.
I have been in this state for a long time. I have been in civil service for a long time and I can tell you there was a time in this state when nobody was sure when the next pay will come. Workers were on strike for more than a year, but with the good heart of our governor, he made all these things easy and I cannot take it for granted.
How would you describe the relationship between the state workforce and the government under Governor Obiano?
I describe it as being excellent; because you rarely hear of any labour dispute. If it was not broken, why mend it? If we have issues, we solve it without any fight. Today (day of the interview), the NLC is doing some demonstrations but it’s a national problem. They just had to show solidarity to their national office and they alerted the state government ahead of time so that we know that what they are doing has nothing to do with the state. That is how it should be – excellent relationship.
What areas would you want the governor to improve on in either civil service or generally in the state?
The civil service is the engine of government. It is the implementing arm of the policies of any government of the day. Without a sound, knowledgeable, competent and efficient civil service, it will be difficult to deliver on those promises to the people. If opportunity is there and the resources are available, I prefer that there should be more training of civil servants, particularly because the service is now full of young people who are recently recruited. They have not been mentored. Those who are supposed to have mentored them are retiring, so they really need to be trained to learn. They need to be re-oriented.