Former Governor of Anambra State, Mr Peter Obi, has explained that one of the most potent ways of getting governance right in Nigeria is by, those in authority, pruning the cost of governance, which he described as outrageous and not sustainable.
Obi was speaking yesterday to Senior Security Officers and other participants – Generals and their equivalence, in other security agencies – at the on-going Strategic Management and Policy Studies Course (SMPSC, 3) of the Nigerian Army Resource Centre, Abuja.
Sharing his personal experiences with the participants on management of resources, Obi explained how he was able to reduce the budget of Governor’s Office from 30% of the total budget to 4%, thereby saving more funds that led to increase in budgets for education, health and other critical sectors.
In his words: “Governance is driven by careful planning. When I became governor, we planned carefully, budgeted properly and looked inwards to bridge budgetary gaps, by weeding out things that were not necessary. One of the things we did was to close down numerous guest houses and lodges we had here and there.”
“Planning is nothing if, for public servants, it does not translate into the ultimate benefit of the masses. As Governor, for example, I closed our Abuja Lodge and gave it to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for their use. Because of that, though they were of tremendous assistance to us, they tripled what they were doing and commended Anambra State to other international organisations. At the end, what I lost in the luxury of use of the Lodge rebounded back to the good of the entire state,” Obi said.
Obi also recalled how he was able to reduce the cost of trips to Abuja by over 80%, by travelling with only those that were necessary, seeking security at the destinations, getting generous discount from Anambra people that own hotels in Abuja and by staying only for days that are necessary as such trips for me were not substitute for holidays.” Obi said he also stopped out-of-station allowances on trips within the South-East.
Obi further advised those in authority to embark on projects based on necessities and not for the mere pleasure of being counted as having done signature projects, that usually plunge states into debt. Again citing a personal experience, he said: “As Governor, when President Olusegun Obasanjo was to pay a visit to Anambra State, which demanded that he slept over. Rather than build over half a billion Naira Presidential Guest House, I had to vacate my lodge and stayed in a hotel that cost the state only N120,000.”
Obi also noted that one of the causes of wastages in governance is allowing transaction to define the leaders’ activities. “I saw this in action in government, which made me to allocate resources directly to the end users, thereby cutting off many toll gates in going through the established channels. It may sound unorthodox, but it worked and helped us in saving over 70% of the money we would have wasted. A good example was where government agency brought a bill of over N80 million to check erosion that the management of Queens’ College, Onitsha was eventually done directly with less than N30 million Naira.”
Obi advised those in positions of authority to imbibe the culture of savings. He said it was a private addiction which knowing the benefit, he carried into Government and was able to save over 150 million dollars for Anambra State and billions of Naira by saving 5-10 percent of the monthly allocation and income of the state.
Linking prudent management of resources to right investment, Obi said that he was able to invest for Anambra State to ensure future stability. He gave example with over N20 billion Naira Anambra invested in International Breweries at that time.
Obi also emphasised on right spending, saying the massive turnaround of hospitals in the state was because he spent through a credible organisation – the Church
Speaking, Dr. Okey Ikechukwu, the Consultant to the Centre, who also introduced Mr. Peter Obi, described him as a “compendium of experiential pedigree”, whose wealth of knowledge is a practical lesson in management.
In his vote of thanks, the Director General of the Centre, Major General Garba Ayodeji Wahab (retd), thanked Mr. Peter Obi for accepting to share his inspirational experiences with the Centre. He urged him to continue to share the principles of management with diverse organisations for the good of the country.
Participants at the course are made up of over 30 Generals in the army and their equivalence from other security agencies.