Amaechi’s Stellar Leadership And The Effect Of Injection Of N170 Billion Into Lgas By Achinike William-Wobodo
Whereas in most States of Nigeria the Chief Executives (Governors) were accused of misappropriating Local Government Councils Funds, the case was different for the former Governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon
Chibuke Rotimi Amaechi. Former Governor Amaechi bequeathed and injected into the local government councils administration over N170 Billion in his eight years in office as the Governor.
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 to run the Councils, 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 the poor performance 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 School in the State. Each of the school has computer studio with not less the 30 computer; 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 have now become the model for neigbouring state 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 tops, 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 its number 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 that was the 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 N2 Billion 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 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 was normalized.
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 reverting 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. Firstly, 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 Legal Practitioner, Development Analysts and Public Commentator and Freelance Writer.