Amaechi’s Stellar Leadership and the Effect of the Injection of N170 Billion Into the LGAs
Written by Achinike William-Wobodo. This Article was written and published in July 2015. Some of the tenses will be in present, and might be awkward in the now. However, the message is an all times recommendation for State grappling with Primary Education, even for the Federation.
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 had shown that this was one of the major factors that had led to the very poor foundation in the Nigeria education system. This was so because most of the Local Government Councils did 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 their operation, 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 and 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 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 Schools in the State. Each of the school had computer studio with not less the 30 computer; 14 classrooms with smart boards; each class had a teacher and a computer to teach with; the school had 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 received commendations both locally and internationally and then 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 that position, until allegedly, Chief Nyesom Wike as Minister of State for Education, in a bid to whittle-down the perceived political achievements of former Governor Amaechi, directed that Rivers State should no longer be 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 rating 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 takeover the administration and management of primary school education in Rivers State, which included payments of primary school teachers’ salaries.
Contrary to expectations of Council Chairmen, Governor Amaechi announced that the N2billion which was the 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. The implication of that was that the LGA council had additional N2billion plus, monthly in their purse. 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 that 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 that decision and policy was that the Government of Rivers State under Rotimi Amarachi made a grant of more than N2Billion monthly to the Local Government Councils in the State. This policy was initiated in the first quarter of 2008 and run consistently till the former Governor left office in May, 2015. A simple arithmetic puts that
amount in seven years at 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 few Local government Chairmen either on grounds of corrupt practices or inability to address security situation in such LGAs. In the 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. The takeover of the payment of primary school teacher pulled some pressure from the wage bill of Local Government Councils and gave them 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 (Chief Nyesom Wike) has not taken any overt steps to reverse this particular gain, but indications from his public speeches about the policies 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 remain 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 that singular policy of the State by former Governor Amaechi to takeover payment of salaries of primary school teachers from the Local Government Councils, two gains emerged for the state. Firstly, was the fact that it had created a sustainable primary education system for Rivers State that was then the envy of all in the Country, and gladly so, it had also become a model for many other states. The second was that, it had put more resources in the coffers of the Local Government Councils, which had then broadened their capacity to attend to the needs of the people. In all of these, Rivers people were the beneficiaries of this singular act of proactive good governance.
In conclusion, transferring primary education from the Local Government Councils to the State Government was a worthwhile policy of the State Government under Rotimi Amaechi’s administration 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.