Written by Tony Osborg
Lets look at Anambra state and see why it is more sustainable than most oil producing states.
There are three major cities that drive the economic prosperity of Anambra state; Nnewi, Onitsha and Awka.
Nnewi is the industrial city of Anambra State. Nnewi is home to several indigenous industrial manufacturing companies. Nigeria’s first car manufacturing plant is located at Nnewi. Nigeria’s auto part manufacturing factories are located at Nnewi, the first Nigerian made motorcycle was and is still been produced at Nnewi. There are several number of indigenous industrial products been produced at Nnewi. Technically, Nnewi is referred to as the ‘Japan of Africa’.
One fascinating thing about Nnewi is that most (if not all) of the industrial estates and manufacturing factories located there were built by indigenous efforts and by Nnewi people. Ibeto Group of Companies, Cutix and ADswitch, Uru Industries Ltd, Omata Holdings Ltd, Cento Group of Companies, Coscharis of Companies Group, Innoson Group of Companies, Ebunso Nig. Ltd, John White Industries, Ejiamatu Group of Companies, Chicason Group, Louis Carter Group, etc are all manufacturing companies established by Nnewi people at Nnewi. These indigenous industrialists simply transformed Nnewi into what it has become. Nnewi alone accounts for over 70% of the auto parts manufacturing business in Nigeria. Nnewi has a private sector driven economy.
The indigenous industrial efforts at Nnewi means thousands of jobs for residents and millions in revenue for the state government.
Onitsha is the commercial city of Anambra State, it is gradually also becoming an industrial city too. A number of new manufacturing companies have recently sprang up within the city, making it not only a trade center but also a production center. The Onitsha main market is one of West Africa’s biggest markets and provides opportunities for thousands of entrepreneurs and revenue for the state government. Onitsha is a private sector driven economy.
Awka is the state capital of Anambra state. As expected, it is a city mostly funded by state government activities. Awka hosts the government structures, universities, and a pocket of small commercial activities.
Anambra state govt seem to have an efficient civil service that has helped it survive through this period of low federal allocations. Anambra internally generates between N2-3billion Naira monthly. After Ogun State, Anambra recorded the highest improvement in IGR within the past two years.
Anambra has an impressive road network system that makes almost all of its rural communities connected by road. The same applies to electricity distribution. The state also has an impressive system of funding and managing of its basic schools. Secondary school education is subsidized, students pay between N2- 4,000 per term. Public basic education is therefore not free like it is in the Delta. This is a sustainable approach.
Every public secondary school has a made-in-Anambra-Innoson school bus. The waste disposal trucks in the state are made-in-Anambra- Innoson trucks. Some local security vehicles are made-in-Anambra-Innoson vehicles.
Anambra has a ‘community police’ system which it calls ‘vigilante’. This security system is decentralized in such a way that every community has its own team of indigenous security men, managing the security of the community. They are armed and have patrol vans. The vigilante system is more effective than the Nigerian Police system. These security officers are not paid by the communities but by the state government. These set of security officers are more visible than the Nigerian Police officers.
In the government school where I worked, we have a brand new sound proof generator which Peter Obi delivered to the school years back. I am sure the school has never used that generator since it was delivered. We also have two other generators, we only use one of them. The school has also replaced its black boards with white boards and have therefore replaced chalks with markers. The school is a beneficiary of an NCC initiative and therefore has internet access, tens of laptops and desktop computers which it uses to teach its students. Our library has good books and the overall management of the school is commendable. Supervisors show up from state ministry once in a while to assess teachers performance. Its a state owned school.
The youth corpers who passed out of service last month in Anambra state received between 80-140k backlog payment for their service to the state. Surprisingly, while oil rich states like Rivers, Delta, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom have either slashed state youth corpers allowances by half or even stopped payment, Anambra state early this year increased corpers allowances and paid them all sometime last month before their passing out.
Anambra has an impressive number of indigenous billionaires who are driving their local economy. It is rumored that Anambra state alone has the highest number of billionaires in Nigeria as at today. I do not mean resident billionaires, I mean billionaires by state of origin. You can research this yourself.
On agriculture; there is a group of people called Anam in Anambra state. These people are driving the agricultural revolution in the state. They are as hardworking as the Hausa/Fulani manual workers. Those who know the Hausa/Fulani manual workers in the South will attest to their productive ability to deliver on difficult projects at cheap rates. And they provide cheap labor. In Bayelsa for example, the local Ijaw unskilled workers are complaining about how the Hausa/Fulani manual workers are taking over their manual jobs. These set of people can deliver on any kind of labor work and their prices are unbelievable. Anambra has these kind of people too and they are from the Anam area. The Anam people of Anambra state are predominantly farmers. In terms of agriculture, they are as productive as Northern Nigeria. Farming is their religion and their location along the Niger River gives them an edge over other farming groups in the state. They grow yam, tomato, plantain, rice, cassava, melon, potatoe, and many others. It is rumored that Anambra is now getting close to been self-sufficient in tomato production; thanks to the Anam people. I also hear that Anambra now exports vegetable.
One interesting thing I like about Anambra people is their hustling spirit and the drive to develop their hometowns even without government support. You will be amazed at what individuals and diaspora town unions are doing to develop their communities in Anambra state. A man named Ichue Mike Ezenduka built a 4.2 kilometer road for his community from his personal pocket. Another man named Dr. Godwin Maduka is building a 15 storey specialist Orthopaedic hospital in his hometown, this is outside the number of other projects he has constructed there. An Anambra business man named Authur Eze pays every youth corper serving in his hometown an additional ten thousand Naira monthly from his personal pocket. There are several other interesting efforts by Anambra people that I do not want to mention here. The point is, the rich people of Anambra consider themselves as part of govt and also take social responsibilities, especially as it affects their immediate hometowns.
Anambra state is a sustainable state because, just like Lagos, the economy is not funded by politics of allocation alone which boils down to the civil service. The industrial and commercial activities are what drives the economy and even the politics.
In oil states like Delta and Bayelsa, the bulk of the economy is funded by politics. Asaba for example is a city sustained by government patronage. Yenegoa depends heavily on federal allocations. If civil servants are not paid, the economy (down to the market women) becomes grounded as it has recently become. After churches, the next biggest industry in Yenegoa is hotel. These hotels are patronized by mostly oil contractors and govt officials, with the grounding of the oil sector which by extension also grounds the govt, the hotel industry has nearly collapsed due to low patronage. In the past, due to free oil money, the govt of Bayelsa employed ‘everybody’ to work in its civil service as a way of empowerment and wealth creation. Today, the action is no longer sustainable and the decision is difficult to reverse. Today, the civil servants cannot be paid nor sacked. The state is almost grounded.
Despite the free oil money that has accrued to the Niger Delta states over the years, the region still suffers from been seen as a sustainable region. Its civil service is fraudulently bogus, its development contracts are ridiculously inflated, its businessmen are administrative based, they rise with an administration and fall when the administration leaves office. Their sources of wealth cannot be sustained because it is based on govt patronage. Akwa Ibom has fantastic public infrastructures but there are no serious internal economic activities to sustain the system. Port Harcourt city of Rivers State is gradually feeling the heat of the oil sector crisis. Port Harcourt industrial economy is oil servicing based. The other economy is funded by politics. With the oil sector in crisis, Port Harcourt is becoming a stagnant city in terms of economic prosperity. IOCs are unable to pay contractors. Contractors are forced to lay off staff to remain afloat. The Onne Port which would have created an alternative economic prosperity for the state is greatly and wrongly tied to the oil & gas sector and is badly affected by federal politics.
While Anambra state is producing and selling indigenous products to the rest of Nigeria and earning exchange to sustain its people and state, most Niger Delta states are still at the level of consumption. This is the big difference.
Recently, a development commission in the Niger Delta needed a client to purchase some plastic products worth over two hundred million Naira. I was directed to find a manufacturer that meets the specification. I could not find any in Port Harcourt or any other Niger Delta state. I ended up recommending Innoson factory at Enugu and another at Lagos. The deal has already been struck. Enugu and Lagos will be patronized for the contract. This is what we are talking about. Enugu, Anambra and Lagos have products to offer Nigeria just like the North is offering in agriculture. What are the Niger Delta states offering the rest of Nigeria to earn more money for its govt?
The future of Nigeria lies not even in agriculture but in manufacturing. This is why I am impressed at what indigenous people are doing at Nnewi and Lagos.
The Niger Delta might have lost its golden opportunity just like other regions of the country due to the resource curse syndrome which comes with free oil money. Anambra is successful because indigenous Anambra people have a natural inclination to succeed by whatever means necessary. Alot still has to be done by the state govt though.
Anambra could have been better if the federal politics was right. Anambra could have been better if the constitution made room for community based govt which they already do practice in some sense. I have seen community unions donate transformers, build public schools, manage hospitals and do many more things in that Igbo land. It all shows that there is a sense of responsibility towards home. With a community based govt system in a place like Anambra, development will reach the grassroot. I see a place like Anambra becoming an ideal destination for economic opportunities.
I hope the Niger Delta people will learn a thing or two from the Anambra people soon. Its time to think home in a sustainable manner.
It is time for state govts to pick up the list of imported products into Nigeria and say to themselves, what and what on this list can we replace between now and three years time from our states? What is our comparative advantage?
The Igbos are already trying to overcome the Forex crisis by expanding their local manufacturing base by finding local substitutes. The Igbos are both traders and industrialists. They don’t only sell, they also produce. Onitsha and Nnewi is a perfect example of this illustration and Anambra state is simply reaping the benefits from its peoples effort. Everyday you see trucks moving finished goods from Anambra to other parts of Nigeria just like it is done from Lagos state. You hardly see same from most Niger Delta states.
The unitary system that we practice has hampered competition among states for too long. It is becoming clearer now that there will likely be no more free oil money soon. Those like Anambra who have laid the foundation for industrial revolution have nothing to fear. The industrial companies will provide the taxes through which the govt will survive. That is how it should be.
I feel worried for Bayelsa state. I worry for Delta state too. And I pray that the oil sector collapse as soon as possible. That might be the only opportunity for us to start thinking. Not just here in the Delta but in the whole of Nigeria.
IzuTony Osborg is from the Niger Delta