Governor Alex Otti of Abia State has disclosed how his administration has been able to contend with negative effects of the fuel subsidy removal by the federal government on its citizens.
Governor Otti, while delivering the 63rd Founder’s Day Lecture of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, said that the Abia State Government, under his watch, has supported businesses and economically vulnerable persons to weather the harsh effects of subsidy removal from petrol.
The Governor while Speaking on the topic, “Petrol Subsidy Removal: Dealing with the Challenges, Harnessing the Opportunities,” disclosed that his administration met a very difficult situation on ground upon assuming office.
“The day I was sworn in as governor was also the day the removal of subsidy on petrol was announced by President Bola Tinubu. So, we met a very difficult situation that needed to be carefully managed,” the Governor, a first-class economist, said in his 32-page lecture paper.
He added, “We began by offering a message of hope to the people, assuring the civil servants that the era of owing salaries was gone and that by the 28th of every month, every legitimate staff of the state civil service would receive their full entitlements. We soon followed up by paying part of the accumulated arrears from the previous government.
“We are progressively supporting our civil servants by keeping to our commitment to prompt and regular payment of salaries and also clearing up arrears in order to increase the amount of disposable cash available to those in our employ.
“We have also put in mechanisms that will make for smooth and seamless payment of pensions to all retirees as soon as they sign out from the state civil service. So far, appreciable progress has been made and I can tell you that while a few teething problems remain, our pensioners are beginning to see clear signals that in the New Abia we are building, owing senior citizens their entitlements would be an anathema.
“Beyond just paying them, we have also directed the State Ministry of Health to enrol a certain category of pensioners in the state into a health insurance scheme that guarantees steady access to quality healthcare for our retirees. So far, 4,700 pensioners have been enrolled and we shall add to this number in the months ahead.”
Otti told the gathering, comprising mostly of academics (students and lecturers), that his government had stopped the collection of all forms of levies and taxes from micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and given them tax holiday as a way of supporting their businesses.
“We are continuing to streamline the revenue collection process to enable efficiency, cut out double taxation and make the system independent in ways that limit the activities of middle men.
“Through the appropriate agencies and boards, we have also harmonised the revenue collection process, working with LGAs to adopt a single collection framework for ease of tax administration and convenience for all parties,” he said.
According to the Governor, the present government in Abia is very business-friendly and plans to make the state the leading MSME hub in all of Africa.
He urged students who intend to go into entrepreneurship on graduation to look no farther than Abia State, saying, “It is our conviction that when MSMEs are well funded and supported, the problems of unemployment and poverty, critical metrics for measuring economic development, would be curtailed and people can live in dignity.”