By Christian Aburime
There is no better time to see a genuine leader’s heart of compassion shine through than in hard times.
As Nigerians grapple with the tough realities of survival in this time of national economic reordering for which the Federal Government tries to offer some cushioning, Governor Chukwuma Charles Soludo’s compassionate leadership is also shining through in Anambra State in a very profound way.
Ndi Anambra could not have asked for a more responsive leader at this difficult time. Indeed, in matters of governance, where policies are woven to shape the destiny of society and the lives of its people, the hand that guides the thread holds the power to transform mere fabric into a masterpiece of compassion, responsiveness and wellbeing.
And so it happened that, having carefully contemplated the biting economic pains the people, especially the most vulnerable, are going through with the removal of fuel subsidy and other tough economic policies, Governor Soludo has responded with his government’s interim comprehensive package of palliatives designed to make life bearable for Ndi Anambra.
Announcing the relief package on Tuesday, August 22 in Awka, the governor’s detailed, wide-ranging palliatives clearly demonstrate an exemplary vision of governance with humanity, illuminating the path forward in times of adversity.
The unprecedented empathetic package, anchored on APGA’s motto of “Be your brother’s and sister’s keeper”, also serves as a proof of the transformative impact a leader can have when empathy and determination converge to soothe the pains of a struggling populace.
In a matter of giving everyone a sense of belonging and care, the Anambra State government’s generous cushioning offer really has something for everybody. Governor Soludo’s approach is not merely an allocation of resources, but a symphony of strategic foresight and genuine concern for the well-being of every citizen.
From food security to healthcare, education to business support, transportation and more, Soludo’s helping hand touches every facet of life affected by the current dire socio-economic straits.
While the governor has promised more palliatives for Ndi Anambra in next year’s budget, he is determined to make the remaining four months of the year (September – December 2023) comfortable for all, most especially the millions of the unemployed and underemployed youths and vulnerable segments of our society.
Henceforth, workers in Anambra State will enjoy palliatives salary increase and cash award. Already, in proactive response to spike in costs of living, the government had increased the salaries of all public servants by 10% since January this year.
Now, in addition to the initial salary increase, every pensioner and public servant in the State and across the 21 LGAs (approx. 59,000 persons) will be paid a monthly flat non-taxable cash award of N12,000 from September 2023 to December 2023.
In the same vein, the backlog of gratuity and pension of the State pensioners will continue to be cleared. Not only that, Anambra State Government will be distributing rice to over 300,000 households in the coming weeks across the 326 wards in the State.
In order to lessen the burden of survival on the highly vulnerable people in Anambra, the Soludo government has exempted hawkers, wheel barrow and truck pushers, artisans, okada drivers and petty traders with capital of less than N100,000 from all forms of taxation/levies.
Also, the IGR payments by all transporters will be reduced by 20% with effect from September 01, 2023. As our children are resuming school from September this year, primary school to JSS3 students in all state public schools will continue to enjoy free tuition, while the governor has also promised to review many other levies, fees, and charges in schools to reduce burden on parents and sponsors.
In the area of healthcare, our expecting mothers will from now be enjoying free antenatal services and free delivery services in State primary health centres and general hospitals. Yet, a more comprehensive medical package for all residents, especially the senior citizens and children, is coming in the 2024 budget.
At times like these, Governor Soludo understands that house rents and transportation costs become burdensome for many. Therefore, he has enjoined Anambra landlords to be considerate towards tenants.
The governor has also approved the repair/renovation of all serviceable Public Servants Staff Buses, while there are plans to purchase many of the CNG-fueled buses to be provided by the Federal Government to ease intra-state transportation for Ndi Anambra in general. The state government will also undertake the repair of existing and purchase of new water boats to ease transportation for our riverside citizens.
As the state government has recently distributed a total of 1.1 million oil palm and coconut high yielding seedlings to over 100,000 households in Anambra, the initiative will be sustained to guarantee 500,000 – 1,000,000 households in the future earning between N1.5m to N3m per annum, thereby lifting them out of poverty.
Besides, in the next few weeks, about 4,500 Anambra youths in the “One Youth Two Skills” programme will be empowered with both grant and soft loan schemes. And also over 100,000 micro businesses micro-enterprises will access a revolving loan scheme at near zero interest rate.
Anambra farmers are not left out, they will also be assisted for the next planting season in 2024 to boost food and animal production.
In all, all other critical issues that concern the wellbeing of Ndi Anambra such as security, good roads, potable water supply, flood control and ease of business will be frontally addressed by the Soludo government with a sense of urgency and compassion.
These challenging times deserve no less. The state government will also pursue a fruitful collaboration with the Federal Government to ensure that Anambra residents get their fair share of the federal cash transfer and other supportive palliatives packages.
With even more welfare plans in the Anambra State government’s 2024 budget, it is the ultimate heartbeat of Governor Soludo that everyone living, working and schooling in Anambra State will survive and thrive through these temporary challenging times to experience a better life in our emerging livable and prosperous homeland.