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Nnewi indigenes decry extortion by Governor Willie Obiano

The people of Edoji in Uruagu Nnewi of Anambra Sate, Nigeria, were told, through the public address system to gather for some important announcements. The main gist of the announcement is the introduction of a payment of one thousand Naira rate by the Willie Obiano [above]-led government of Anambra State.

Payment of rate has long been a feature of Nigerian government. The rate is payment made apart from the tax. A ticket bearing the amount paid, used to be written on the ticket, is issued to the payer. Around the 1990’s, it used to be ten Naira. In 1997 it was twenty Naira but in 2002 it was fifty Naira. Since then economic situation has changed much. The purchasing power of the Nigerian currency, the Naira, has declined and continues to decline. 

Payments made to the government, such as tax and the rate are not attractive features. People find it hard event to repay borrowed money that was made when the person is in need. It is true that ‘the lips used to borrow money are not the same ones used to make the repayment.’ 

Added to this, the local people of Anambra State do not find enough reasons to make payments to the government. They cite issues of lack of electricity, pipe-borne water, good roads and quality education among other things as reasons for refraining from making payments to the government.

Hence, it will not be hard to know that the introduction of one thousand Naira as Sanitation rate is not an attractive feature to the people. It is said that the one thousand Naira represents payment for at least two years, five hundred Naira a year. It was said that the government wanted to make it two thousand Naira, representing payment for four years, but the people’s representatives refused to accept that. They said they at first did not accept to make the people make any payment at all, but after the government representatives insisted, they finally acquiesced to a negotiation of the payment of one thousand Naira.

It is a fact that introduction of the new Environmental and Rate payment is coming after the going out of the previous government. The previous government of former governor Peter Obi, did not see it fit to introduce a compulsory payment. Even the tax payment is made binding, and so it continues to be under the present administration, when one wants some services from the government. If former governor Peter Obi did not find it necessary to demand a compulsory rate payment, up to one thousand Naira, why will the present government demand it?

Obviously Willie Obiano did not tell the people during his campaign that he would make the people make such payments. Campaign promises used to be flowing with smoothness of lips, like honey dripping from the honeycomb. But once voted into power, such promises are forgotten.

Let it be known that the people of Anambra State of Nigeria are not immune to economic hardships. Governments come and go, with different polices. Around 1984, during the reign of Major Generals Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.) and Tunde Idiagbon, many people died of malnutrition because they could not find money to be used to buy essential commodities. Not too long after, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd.) sought I.M.F. loan but could not get it because one of the conditions for granting the loan was a devaluation of the Nigerian currency, the Naira. 

However, the purchasing power of Naira later declined so rapidly that people began suspecting whether the government turned around and secretly accepted the I.M.F. loan. It is believed that people in government used to divert public fund to their private use, storing such in banks overseas. Both rumours and published figures support this notion. 

It is also known that many governments in Africa that used to owe heavy amounts to international institutions had people in government living affluent life and having international bank accounts nearly equal to what their country would be owing.

Whatever would be the case with the Anambra State government, let it be known that the mandatory payment of rate of one thousand Naira is not well gobbled by the people. The people believe that the State government has more than enough money received as its allocation to cater for essential needs. 

The people are still looking up to the government to alleviate their problems, not to add to existing ones. They believe they need electricity, which is even now being enjoyed by some States in Nigeria, good roads, payment of teachers’ salaries etc. 

They also believe that the government officials need money that they can use to solve their own problems, but they believe that even a corrupt government can get these things from allocated funds without adding to the burden borne by the people.     

From Ephraim Elombah

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