Sir Melie Onyejepu is a former Special Adviser to the Anambra State Governor on Budget, Monitoring and Implementation. He is also the General Manager, Bureau for Public Procurement, Anambra State. In this interview, he talks about the future of Anambra State, and sundry issues.
You were Special Adviser to Anambra State governor on Budget, Monitoring and Implementation, and also the General Manager, Public Procurement; what exactly does your job entail?
In the budget area, my job entails monitoring budget implementation. We also make sure that the state derives value for whatever expense and advise the governor, especially where we feel that the expenses do not match the budgetary provision. This is when it is at variance with what it should be or where the project is not aligning with the provisions of the budget and the focus of the government.
On the procurement side, we ensure the pricing of projects is in line with acceptable norm, that they are not overpriced, and the state derives value from those implemented.
There is controversy about so many states borrowing carelessly, how has your work impacted Anambra State?
In 2015, because of our activities in the area of budget, Anambra came first in the entire South East and second in the country on the implementation of International Public Accounting System. What that means is that Anambra keyed into transparency initiative and that all our accounting and budgeting systems have been patterned to meet international standard. It also means we have adopted the same standard used in the United States and UK. Therefore, if we are using the system by countries that are standard yardsticks for measuring transparency and accountability, that will tell you the type of system we have put in place.
Secondly, in the procurement circle, we are implementing the law guiding public procurement to the letter. It requires the establishment of a bureau and we have done that and are also putting into place electronic means of procurement, which will help eliminate issues of corruption and fraud. What that does is that, in the comfort of your room, you can access the contracts we have awarded, who we awarded them to, the scope and cost. With this e-procurement platform, you can, as a citizen, cross-check what we are doing.
I can hold my head high and say that I am working with this government. One great thing about this administration is that this is the first time the governor of the state has a clearly stated blueprint, mission and vision.
Is the blueprint part of Vision 2070?
The essence of Vision 2070 is to expand this blueprint, incorporate new things and adjust to the dictates of the dynamics of a global economy.
The younger generation is clamoring for an opportunity in the nation’s political leadership positions; as a relatively young person, what is your take?
I believe that the older generation have done their bit. They have ruled us from independence till this moment and, as I said earlier, the running of government is changing and the nature of economies are going to change too. Most developed countries are moving into things like e-governance and it is not for the old generation.
Where do you see Anambra State in the next 20 years?
I see the economy of Anambra growing bigger than that of Lagos. This will be made possible by the coming of Onitsha River Port and the cargo airport. With these on ground, we expect massive economic activities. Another thing that will grow the economy is gas. There is a prediction that oil and gas will fizzle out soon. To me, it won’t be so in most of the third world countries. However, even if oil becomes less relevant, gas will still be a major resource in the economy. Igbariam in Anambra State is sitting on trillions of metric tons of gas reserve that can feed the whole of West Africa, and Ibeto petrochemical is already building a gas handling plant. We are also expanding agricultural activities. At the inception of Governor Willie Obiano’s administration, we met 80,000 metric tons of rice production in this state and in less than four years, we have been able to move it to 338,000 metric tons with a projection that, by the end of the year, we will start getting about 480,000 to 500,000 metric tons. It shows you the speed at which we are moving.
Still in agriculture, we have boosted cassava production and by the time we adopt full mechanization, we will be one of the biggest exporters of cassava and rice in this part of the world.
Another area Anambra is endowed in is that of industries. Nnewi people have a knack for manufacturing products like Taiwan. There was a time Nnewi was the Taiwan of Nigeria but due to power issues, some of those industries closed shop. But that does not mean we cannot repeat that process today. We can use gas to develop an independent power plant that can power factories in Nnewi and Onitsha, so our industrialists can go back to what they know best.
The state is also endowed with the knowledge of trade and commerce and what we need to do is provide enabling environment for our businessmen and women, and you will see them excel. I see an Anambra State where the size of the economy will move from its current GDP of about N4.8 trillion to about N20 trillion.
As a financial expert, what necessary economic steps should Nigeria take to avoid a possible crash of the economy considering the level of inflationary trends and unemployment in the country?
Let me just mention one or two. Once you are able to fix power, every other thing falls in place. Secondly, is agriculture, which is the highest employer of labour. Fixing power, as long as I am concerned, is simple. We have gas deposits all over the place. Use that to generate power. Once this is in place, every other thing falls into place. Nigerians are very hardworking people, so just lay the foundation for them and you will see them grow.
How prepared are you for higher leadership positions?
Leadership is nothing more than your ability to lead by example, and then being able to use others to achieve your goal by ensuring that you delegate assignments, monitor it and have people buy into whatever you want to achieve. My work in the bank positioned me for that. In the private sector, you are given a target and you can’t just achieve your target without the support of other people, and if you don’t treat those people well, you can never achieve your target since you can’t be everywhere at the same time. For you to do this, you must treat the people working with you well, lead by example and understand their feelings at any given time. So for me, leadership is about leading by example.
Power rotation will be a major issue in the coming Anambra governorship election; what is your view especially with regard to the argument that it encourages mediocrity?
The good thing about zoning is that it gives everybody a sense of belonging and opportunity to contribute their best. However, that does not mean that anybody can be presented because of zoning. I am not in support of that.