He is young and vibrant and raring to render service to his state, having garnered experience from the business world which he has conquered. Ij this interview, Emeka Igwe, Awka-born oil and gas mogul, speaks with Jude Atupulazi and Chioma Ndife on ways Anambra can thrive.
Sir, briefly, can we meet you?
Yes, my name is Emeka Igwe. I’m From Anambra State, Awka; Umuogbu Village precisely.
Where are you based?
I’m based in Port-Harcourt and I’m also based in Anambra, Awka. This is my home.
What are you majorly into?
Electrical and Civil engineering, oil and gas, downstream, consultancy.
You are a business man and you are from Anambra State, and comparing Anambra to other places like Port Harcourt, Lagos, Abuja, you know everybody is shifting from here in charge of greener pasture, believing that nothing is here. As a business man, do you think there are any potentials in Anambra State that can make the people to answer the think home call?
Yes, I agree. There are. There is a huge potential in the state. The governor is doing a lot. He has started with operation light up Anambra; he is working on roads, education, agriculture and industry, so there is a lot that is going on.
Do you think there is any way you can contribute your quota to boost the efforts of the governor?
Yes, the governor needs support.
In what Ways?
In manpower. Manpower is the biggest kind of support you can ever wish to get. People need to rally round him. Throw up ideas. Okay, let’s say, there is this thing he is trying to do in Agriculture, to get people to come back because he is giving out free lands and people need to invest. When it comes to tax, most Anambrians have their head offices in Lagos. So what happens is the money that is brought to Anambra State from the Federal purse through IGR doesn’t stay here; it leaves this state to other states. That is why the state is not developed as it should be. And that is what Lagos is feeding on. What happens is this; let’s say the state government gets the money from the federal purse and they pay contractors; the contractors take this money, go to Lagos, build houses; go to Port-Harcourt and build houses and open businesses. So that money is not really here, it goes out. So what you have in circulation is not enough. But if they make their head offices in Anambra, it means that their tax will come here, not in Lagos. In that way, they can still live in Lagos, but their taxes will be coming here. Lagos wouldn’t have any right to say they should pay there, because their head office is in Anambra from CAC. That’s what they need to do, that’s what I did. I went to CAC, changed by head office from Port-Harcourt to Anambra. So I pay my tax here. So if that is done, you will find out that your money comes into the state, it remains in the state. It makes the state liquid.
Another thing I noticed is that most people here don’t pay tax. They avoid it. I don’t know the reason why, but I think the state needs to create awareness. That’s what Lagos State is doing. Rivers State is not doing so much. What is making Rivers State move along is because of the oil companies that they have there. And they have a huge chunk from the federal government. I think they get up to N36 billion a month, or so, from the federation account. But Anambra is still doing about one or two point something. So Anambra needs to work on their IGR; that is the only way they can meet up. I applaud the governor because he is not owing. Imagine a salary of about N2B and you are earning about the same amount and yet you still have money to run the state. You still have money to do roads, pay other bills; he is doing a lot.
I understand that you have actually started playing a part in beefing up the IGR profile of the state, can you briefly tell us how you have been involved in that?
I was involved in that between 2015; I think June, 2015 till early 2016. What I was doing was collecting revenue from tipper drivers in the state. I created the pay direct system where the agents pay directly into the state government account. So money doesn’t come to individuals. What I noticed was that leakages were found everywhere because of the system. You know when someone brings bulk money to you and drops it in your house, there is every tendency that you will be tempted to take some part of the money because you have needs, your wife has needs, your children are sick and all that; and so you take money from it and people are not accountable to that. So I had to cancel it and made sure that payment was done directly to the state accounts. And it increased the IGR greatly from about N900, 000 to N35 million a month.
Alright, one of the problems of the country is youth unemployment and we all know that any country that doesn’t take care of her youth runs the risk of a kind of rebellion and you are also into youth employment. How far have you gone in bringing smiles to the faces of the youth in the state?
Well, I have been here since September last year and I have been interacting with a lot of youths. As a matter of fact, the person with me is the youth leader of Awka South and what I have been trying to do is to find out what their needs are and I found out that there is a lot of skilled youths in the state. People that can make things happen, especially in IT and stuff like that. In 2015, I actually employed over a thousand two hundred youths.
Yes, in this state. They are working for me. There is nothing like youth employment, if that is done, you find out that crime will drop; a lot of things would come down. What we need to do is like what the governor is doing in agriculture. It goes a long way. Once you attract industries to the state, employment would be generated.
In what way, exactly, have you empowered them; in what areas?
What I do personally like, I said, haulage, dredging, civil and engineering works. Directly, I have about 150 people tied to my companies in Anambra State. Indirectly, you spread this. It is huge. And that is why I am talking to fellow Anambrarians. I am trying to get them to key into the governor’s Think Home Philosophy. When they come here, you find out that our people will stop running out of the state to Lagos, Port Harcourt and others, they remain here.
Government has been asking people to come home, it’s not a new song; it has been there since the time of Ezeife. Do you think the government has done enough to provide the enabling environment for those who may wish to come down?
Yes, the government has, especially in terms of security. The security in this state, I must say, is one of the best in the country. Also the governor’s ‘’Operation Light up Anambra State’’ is scaring away criminals at night. Lighting reduces crime at night.
The only thing that I think is lacking is power. That is the only thing. Unfortunately, power is privatized. The private companies, I don’t know what they are doing in that aspect. But if power can be handled, a lot of people are going to come back.
What about the processes involved in acquiring land?
I don’t think the process in Anambra State is stiff, it is not stiff because I know the process in Rivers State. Rivers State has gone digital, Anambra is going digital. And I know sometimes you wait for years to acquire the land C of O, but in Anambra It’s not like that. You apply for C of O within; a month, two months you have it. That’s if you are buying. But if you are talking about acquiring land from government for industrial purposes, I don’t think it’s stiff, it’s not difficult.
How would you rate the unemployment situation in Anambra?
Unemployment is biting everywhere in the country. It’s a general thing. But I think the situation in Anambra is not as bad as in other states.
Okay, the Governor just won an election for second term, and sometime this month, 17th, he will be sworn in for a second term. What areas do you think he needs to improve upon?
For me first it’s power. Power is the key. Second is IGR. He needs to increase the IGR of the state. I was made to understand that the IGR now has gotten up to N1.2 billion a month. He needs to do more. I believe this state is capable of hitting over N10 billion a month in IGR. I strongly believe that. If a state like Enugu can be doing over 500 billion a month, then we can do more. Anambra has markets. They have a lot of industries that can generate money. But when you talk of taxes, there is a lot Anambra can do. Lagos State is N5billion a month.
So what do you think are the snags that are hindering the state from hitting the top in IGR?
I will say the problem is the absence of strong characters. If an area is filled with strong characters, they will be able to block the leakages because the money is already in circulation. The money is there. It’s just people to block those leakages to make sure that money goes to the government and not into individual pockets. That is what the state needs.
Do you think the government lacks the will to go after those people who are draining the state?
I don’t it lacks the will, I think it’s knowledge. We don’t have enabling laws in the state. So the people in state assembly need a lot of work to do. That is what Lagos did and it’s going for them. When they come, the people, the executive works hand in hand with the legislators and they make sure that this is what they want to achieve. That is what Anambra State needs to start doing. The executive needs to start working hand in hand with the legislators so that those laws can be put in place.
If you are asked by your people to serve them in any capacity, are you willing?
Sure, yes I will. Why not?
Is it to say that you are warming up for something very soon?
Well yes, I am thinking about it.
National Assembly, State Assembly?
State Assembly. I want to start with the state. Most people will say, ‘why State Assembly, or why not Federal House?’ But I have a passion for this state. And the legislature is a core focus for me. I need things to be put right in that angle. Because if that place is sorted out, the executive will find it easy to work.
So how do you score the present crop lawmakers in the state?
They are doing well, like they say, nobody has monopoly of knowledge. They are doing what they know. I will say they have done well so far, based on what they know. But it needs some other people that can come in and think outside the box. That have experience in different fields in Nigeria. Most of them don’t stay here in Nigeria, they live abroad, they came from America and the way things work there is not the way they work here.
Alright, Thank You.