By Jeff Ejiofor
It is no longer news that Enugu state is the largest economy in south east and the 5th best in the whole of Nigeria. This rating, and the proclamation of Enugu as one of the six largest economies in Nigeria that can survive without federal allocation according to 2019 States Validity Index by Economic Confidential did not come to many as a surprise considering the sound economic policies of the state government under the able leadership of Gov. Ifeanyi Lawrence Ugwuanyi. Although Enugu has for long carried the toga of conservative civil service state being that it does not host mega industries or belong to the league of oil producing states, the entry of the current administration revolutionized its socio-economic status and took it to the committee of viable economic giants in Nigeria. It has through a stint of hard work and resilent leadership been transformed to a latent economic hub with average annual IGR base of 31 billion naira.The attendant multiple opportunities and potentials inherent in this economic reality will manifest fully with time.
It’s quite obvious that these things don’t happen by chance, but usually as a result of proper economic planning through aggressive rejiging of the entire revenue generation architecture. It involves careful pluging of loopholes and leakages of all sources of revenue generation. As a matter of fact, every state in Nigeria can attain such a height through self search for internal sources of revenue generation but requires a visionary leader versatile in prudent financial management to do that. It definitely requires a highly organized leader of men and resources to harness the economic potentials of a given political entity. This informs the reason I personally get amused when some politically uninformed folks make unnecessay comparisons between Enugu and states that cannot even survive for a month without federal subventions. In short, it suffices to say that the political economy of Ugwuanyi’s policies is undisputable and second to none in Nigeria.The above result which placed Enugu, a state without multinational oil corporations or federal government aided mega industries as the 5th most economically viable state in the whole of Nigeria is a clear evidence. It can only take a prudent and dogged leader like Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to achieve.
Undoubtedly, Enugu state is lucky to have such a pragmatic political leader endowed with immense wisdom at a perilous time like this when Nigeria and the globe are at the threshold of economic emasculation. It’s unarguable also that since 2015, the world economy has been intermittently slipping into recession, leading to sustained glut in crude oil market which accounts for 95 per cent of the Nigeria’s foreign revenue earnings. This development has led to serious socio economic deficit, thereby forcing many states in Nigeria to go bankrupt in an effort to meet their financial commitments. As a matter of fact, Nigeria as a country has been in economic distress since then and has resorted to borrowing in order to sustain and keep the system running.
Consequently as a result of this obvios reality, many states cannot meet their financial obligations as regards payment of workers’ salaries not to talk of project execution. In most cases, their major concern is how to sustain their recurrent budgetary expenditures.
This development once led to federal government bailing out a particular state with 10 billion naira to offset accumulated salary arreas in order to enhance the electoral chances of an incumbent governor who was standing for election.This is a perfect reflection of what obtains in most Nigerian states this period of economic recession.
Surprisingly however, in the midst of all these socio-economic challenges, Enugu state is making remarkable and appreciable progress which is akin only to big economies. Enugu, a non oil producing state achieved the above feat from sound and deft economic policies of of Gov. Ugwuanyi’s administration.This achievement is purely borne out of sheer economic ingenuity and leadership acumen. Many pundits have wondered how the state was able to attain such a robost economic status like Lagos, Rivers, kaduna, Ogun and Kwara states whose sources of economic strength are well known to even the blind.
Expectedly though, cynics and serial critics of government are asking about the benefits of this healthy economy to the citizens of Enugu state. Well, the answer is obvious, just that at times people tend to get biased when it comes to critical evaluation of government achievements especially when their opinions are already formed in the negative. They often allow prejudice to beckloud their sense of judgement and thereby making it difficult for them to adjust their thoughts to the reality on ground. They at times dubiously claim not to feel the impact accruing from such economic feats even when the reverse is the case.
Nonetheless, let me remind such skeptics that even in recession, Enugu state was able to be among the first in the country to implement the national minimum wage with an upward review through collective bargaining between the government and workers’ representatives, the first of its kind in the state.
Also, Enugu has been implementing its developmental programmes irrespective of the seeming economic challenges occasioned by covid 19 lockdown. Whereas other states are grappling to meet their financial obligations, Enugu is busy awarding and executing new capital projects across the state.
Under covid 19 crisis, massive rural road construction, aggressive renovation and reconstruction of health facilities across the state including seven additional type 3 health centres, reconstruction, renovation and refurbishment of educational institutions and implementation of empowernment programmes are ongoing. Also, the hospitality industry in the state is receiving attention in this period. New relaxation park known as Unity Park at Indipendence Layout is under construction, and infrastructures at Nike Lake Resourte are being completely overhauled. All these achievements irrespective of covid 19 challenges and global economic recession simply mean that the economy of Enugu state is healthy.
Although some of them may want to cite one or two states where white elephant projects with little or no immediate economic value are going on, they fail to consider the implications of heavy external and internal debt burden inherent in such jamborees which is at the expense of the poor masses. Such disgruntled pseudo socio- economic analysts do not understand the socio- political implication of economic strangulation of the poor in the name of providing physical infrastructures.The hallmark of good governance is even development that impacts on all sectors of the economy. A society can only be said to be making progress if the citizenry positively feel the impact of governance and not the other way round.
Finally, I want to sincerely commend Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and his economic team for repositioning Enugu state and making it economically great. May the good Lord strengthen and enrich his knowledge to continue steering the ship of the state towards the right direction.