ONE of the resounding landmark achievements and legacy that would be bequeathed by the present administration of Abia State, under Governor Theodore Ahamefule Orji, is the establishment of the Abia State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, ASOPADEC, which has become a stronghold of superstructural development in the state.
Abia, one of the states under the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, was the last to establish its commission due to the political intrigues that beclouded the hegemony that strangulated the state between 1999 and 2007.
But the enabling Law No. 9 of 2009 enacted by the Abia State House of Assembly came into force on July 8, 2009 and was assented into by the State Governor Chief T.A. Orji on December 17, 2009, while the pioneer members of the commission were inaugurated in March 2010.
It has Chief Sam Nnogu as Chairman and Permanent Secretary Government House, Umuahia, Mr Nkwachukwu Agomuo as Secretary, while other members include Emeka Stanley, Dr. Chike Nwanunu, George Nnanna Kalu, Peter Aguwomba, Francis Mpama, Eze, Ambassador Luke Uche, Mr. C.C. Onuoha, Mr. F.C. Udensi and Mr. Theo Ukagwu.
Some of the functions of ASOPADEC as contained in the law include “to receive and administer exclusively 30 percent of the 13 percent oil derivation fund accruing to the state for the purposes of rehabilitation and development of oil producing areas and communities in the state including manpower and carrying out other developmental projects as may be determined by the commission from time to time”.
ASOPADEC is also to liaise with the relevant federal and state government authorities and oil prospecting and producing companies on the control and effective methods of tackling problems of erosion, oil pollution and spillage including other ecological or environmental problems which result in the degradation of oil producing areas of the state.
The commission is also to ensure the judicious utilization of funds accruing or appropriated to the commission as well as to enlighten oil Producing Areas and communities of the state on the functions, policies and activities of the commission.
Another function of the commission shall be to execute such other works and projects and perform such other function which in the opinion of the commission are necessary or incidental to the realization of it’s functions under the law or for the sustainable development of oil producing areas and communities of the state.
The significant aspect of the entire functions is that ASOPADEC is enforced to manage and supervise the affairs of the commission to ensure the realisation of government’s objectives as it affects oil producing areas of the state.
The establishment of ASOPADEC and the outlined functions brought a ray of hope to oil-producing areas which hitherto have suffered under development and ecological problems arising from the exploration and exploitation of minerals in these communities of Abia State.
Within 20 months of its existence, the commission has demonstrated its determination to partner with agencies and communities in the actualization of the developmental objectives of the state government.
The commission has within these period renovated over 80 dilapidated primary and secondary schools cutting across the 17 local government areas of the state with a direct involvement of a five man supervisory committee set-up by the commission within the benefiting communities.
The involvement of members of the communities in the direct labour renovation of the schools gave a sense of belonging to the oil producing communities instead of hitherto alien contractors who usually execute projects in these communities.
Still in the education sector, ASOPADEC last year paid WAEC and NECO fees for over 1000 candidates, while the commission has also organised schools quiz competition in which the winners, Government College Umuahia, went home with an 18-seater Hummer Bus, while the second and third runners-up received laboratory equipment and cash prices valued at millions of naira.
The commission’s genuine commitment in the education sector, surely complements the state government’s policy of free and compulsory primary and secondary education system in the state as well as encourages and lifts the standard of education in the producing communities.
ASOPADEC has also within this period embarked on youths empowerment programmes in which over 1000 youths of the state have benefitted and are now either engaged in various skills or trade, a situation which has to a large extent reduced unemployment and restiveness among youths especially those from the core oil producing communities.
However, there is also need for ASOPADEC to monitor and evaluate the impact of this programme to ensure that the youths who have benefitted from these lofty programmes in the past one year do not abuse it while the scope should also be expanded to accommodate more youths.
Mr. ERIC UGBOR a journalist, wrote from Abia State.