THE jumbled and slapdash pattern of providing free social services to the people by some States and regions over the years in Nigeria has consistently failed to produce desired results.
Such programmes and policies are easily abandoned, especially as soon as a fresh administration takes over. To forestall this kind of ugly scenario Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, the Governor of Rivers State and a true leader who has the welfare and well being of his people as his primary focus and key priority came up with the Rivers State Social Services Levy bill.
This bill passed into law by the Rivers State House of Assembly and renamed “Rivers State Social Services Contributory Levy Law 2010” introduces a social service contributory levy that will be payable by all employed and self-employed indigenes and residents of Rivers State.
And the funds accruable from this levy is to be added to the State government’s funding of its free education programme in primary and secondary schools; and provide quality health care and improve on the medical facilities in the Government Health Centres and Hospitals in the State among other essential Social Services approved by the State Executive Council.
The amendment by the State Assembly which saw a slight change of name for the law is appropriate and aligns with Governor Amaechi’s explanation on the importance of the bill.
Amaechi has since urged members of the public not to see the law as a form of double taxation, but as their contribution to sustaining the much appreciated change in the education and health sectors of the State even after the expiration of his tenure as Governor.
The transformation in the education and health sectors in the State has been phenomenonal since Governor Amaechi took over the mantle of leadership in Rivers State.
In education, after a careful study and analysis of the abysmal state of what he met on ground, the Governor declared a state of emergency in that sector and began to rebuild the system from the very beginning. Governor Amaechi started what many referred to as the over- ambitious project of building 750 new model primary schools scattered all over the State, 24 model secondary schools, at least one in each of the 23 local government areas.
These schools are to be equipped with modern learning and recreational facilities, and well-trained and skilled staff that would meet or even surpass acceptable international standards. All those who have seen the schools completed so far, agree that they are indeed the pride of our nation.
In the health sector, he commenced the building of 160 primary health centres in communities around the State, the building of new hospitals and the renovation and refurbishing of old existing ones that barely function as health facilities.
This, we should all see as a welcome development because we cannot be drawn back to those sad days when children were taught in dilapidated classroom buildings without desks or even skilled teachers; those days when people died because they had little or no access to quality or even no healthcare.
Let us say tomorrow, if a government that has no interest in the education or health sector comes on board, the standards we already have and still building on, would be maintained and sustained because of the legal framework supporting it.
We should be proud of what Governor Amaechi is doing in Rivers State today. If for nothing else, the fact that children from poor homes can access quality education and in standard learning environment is laudable.
We have a Governor that is passionate about the people, their education and health care. And soliciting for our little contribution to sustain these vital services is certainly not out of place neither can it be said to be contrary to the laws of our land.
A closer look at the new Social Services Contributory Levy Law will show that it is not all about levying the public, but it is aimed at stamping, continuing and sustaining the reforms made by the Amaechi administration in standardising education, making it accessible to all and bringing quality healthcare closer to the people.
Mr. David Iyofor is Senior Media Adviser to Governor Amaechi of Rivers State.