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Amaechi\'s stellar leadership and the injection of N170bn into LGAs
Jul 25, 2015
By: Achinike William-Wobodo

Nigeria: ABUJA -

Where most state governors were accused of misappropriating Local Government councils funds, the case was different for the former Governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon Rotimi Amaechi. Amaechi bequeathed and injected over N170 Billion, in his eight years in office as governor into the local government councils administration.

Under the present constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, primary school administration and management is placed under the authority of the local government councils. Reports have shown that

this is one of the major factors that have led to the very poor foundation in the Nigeria education system. This is so because most of the local government councils do not have the financial capacity to handle the number of primary schools within their area.

For some local government councils, once salaries of primary school teachers were deducted, the councils were left with nothing talk less of embarking on infrastructural development. For some others, they were not even able to pay teachers’ salaries. This was the situation popularly referred to as \"Zero Allocation\".

This was the situation in Rivers State prior to the emergence of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi as the Governor of Rivers State. Teachers across the state were not motivated; they were not paid as at when due and the work environment were obviously not conducive. The most outstanding consequence of these was that the primary schools bequeathed to the secondary schools system students that were inadequately prepared; this accounted for their poor performances then.

For former Governor Amaechi, that was not good enough for his people, so, he immediately declared a State of Emergency in the education sector. He commenced with the rebuilding of over 750 primary schools in the state. Each of the school has computer studio with not less than 30 computers; 14 classrooms with smart boards; each class has a teacher and a computer to teach with; the school has 16 toilets; a sickbay; a 700-capacity auditorium; internet wifi; headmaster\'s office; a standby generator; open play area; a football field; a demonstration farm etc.

The Rivers school structure and policy have received commendations both locally and internationally and has now become the model for neigbouring states like Akwa Ibom, Delta, Bayelsa and Edo. On account of the Governor\'s policies on education, Rivers State Government, for four consecutive years, was adjudged the best state in education by the Federal Ministry of Education and was rewarded with huge sums of money. Rivers State remained undisputed in this position, until Chief Nyesom Wike as Minister of State for Education allegedly, in a bid to whittle-down the perceived political achievements of former Governor Amaechi, directed that Rivers State should no longer top, albeit, it could not be dropped below second.  The same proactive policy on education took Rivers State from nowhere and made Port Harcourt City the UNESCO WORLD BOOK CAPITAL 2014; a feat that only a few cities in the world have enjoyed. The state of emergency also saw to the upward spring of the State University of Science and Technology from 76th in 2007 to 12th 2014 in the rankings of universities in the country.

Well, this is not the focus of this article. The focus here is the complete takeover of the Primary School System from the Local Government Councils. Prior to the takeover, the salaries of primary school teachers were paid by the Local Government Councils and the monthly wage bill for primary school teachers was a little in excess of N2Billion. Former Governor Amaechi pursuant to the State of Emergency convened a meeting of the stakeholders in the primary school sector and announced the policy of the State Government to take over the administration and management of primary school education in Rivers State, which included payments of primary school teachers’ salaries.

Contrary to expectations, Governor Amaechi, announced that the N2billion monthly wage bill for primary school teachers, as at then and which would have been the contribution of, or cost to, the Local Government Councils should be reverted and re-injected into the Local Government Council System. Subsequently, that wage bill increased following the employment of additional primary school teachers during the popular Rivers State engagement of 13,200 teachers in one single employment process.

The consequence of this policy was enormous, as it put more resources in the coffers of the LGAs, which enabled them to reach out to the local needs of the people better. The implication of this decision and policy is that the government of Rivers State makes a grant of more than N2Billion monthly to the Local Government Councils in the state. This policy was initially in the first quarter of 2008 and has run consistently till the former governor left office in May, 2015. A simple arithmetic puts that amount in seven years as N168 Billion.

As a separate and independent tier of government, the councils were allowed to function independently; they generated their needs and created their own policies based on their peculiar needs and realities. Monthly allocations of the councils went to the various Local Government Councils without any interference from the State Government. The Governor never had need to interfere with Local Government management, whether in terms of day-to-day administration of financial administration, except for two or three cases, where the governor had, on the approval of the House of Assembly to suspend some Local government Chairmen, either on grounds of corruption or inability to address security situation in such LGAs.

In those six Local Government Councils, where the chairmen were suspended for inability to maintain law and order, they were restored as soon as security situation in their respective council areas were normalised. In fact, some Local Government Councils were rewarded for exemplary administration and management of resources; for instance, Gokana, Abua/Odual, etc.

Today, the Local Government Councils in Rivers State present a formidable tier to take over the payment of primary school teacher has put additional pressure on the wage bill of government and with a very robust capacity to address basic and local needs of the people. This is to the credit of former Governor Amaechi. Although the new Governor of the State, has not taken any overt steps to reverse this particular gain, but indications from his public speeches, to the effect that the decisions of the former governor of the state; his present attitude and policy of \"operation reverse Amaechi legacies\", tend to suggest that he might do so. Some schools of thought hold the view that for Governor Wike to revert the primary school teachers\' salaries to the Local government Councils was an option and a matter of time, that is, if the Local Government Councils structure remained with the All Progressives Congress. However, now that the structure is seemingly within his control, he might drop the idea.

It is interesting to observe that from this singular policy of the State Governor to takeover payment of salaries of primary school teachers from the Local Government Councils, two gains emerged for the

State;  first, is the fact that it has created a sustainable primary education system for Rivers State that is now the envy of all in the Country, and gladly so, it has also become a model for many other states. The second is that, it has put more resources in the coffers of the Local Government Councils, which has now broadened their capacity to attend to the needs of the people. In all of these, Rivers people are the beneficiaries of this singular act of proactive good governance. In conclusion, transferring primary education from the Local Government Councils to the State Government is a worthwhile policy and a way to go, if we must revamp our comatose public primary school system in the country and I am proud to recommend the Amaechi Example.

Achinike William-Wobodo is a Legal Practitioner, development analysts and public commentator and Freelance Writer.



Benilce said:
Gơ ơ Ԃ day LIB readers and also LINDA, I hav read all ur comenmts as regards my purchasing a jet 4 security reasons. I noticed most of U were hinting on construction of roads and health care. Plz note dat all those roads U were talking abt like Iwofe, Ada George, Eleme, Trans-amadi, uniport roads were awarded to various constructed companies and there is a deadline 4 completion and if these companies dnt complete it, there will be serious effects. I only want U 2 knw dat its not easy 2 be a governor and I can\'t be evrywhere in rivers state dats y I hav commisioners, special assistants e.t.c. There was a time I spoke 2 wazobia FM as regards some issues in d state and I told them dat corruption is not meant 4 govt 2 fight alone but every stakeholder. Instead of criticising d govt, let\'s all join hands and make Rivers state a great state. Thanks. Gov. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi.

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