By CHARLES KUMOLU, Deputy Editor
By the time President Muhammadu Buhari would be concluding his second term on May 29, 2023, Nigeria may have added four more development commissions to the existing two. That is if Senator Ahmed Lawan’s Ninth National Assembly goes ahead to pass the bills seeking to create South East Development Commission, South West Development Commission, North Central Development Commission and North West Development Commission.
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When added to the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, and North East Development Commission, NEDC, that could bring the total number to six.
It simply means that each of the nation’s six geopolitical zones may now have bodies for development in addition to state governments.
The prospects of such could have easily inspired hope in the face of general despair. But only the uninformed revel in the superficial benefits that may be derivable.
Those with a clear understanding of the likely implications are already alarmed.
If you are interested in knowing their reason, cast your mind back to Decree 23 of July 1992.
It was the law that created the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission, OMPADEC, by the regime of Gen Ibrahim Babangida, retd.
Of its objectives, two implied that the commission shall be “for the rehabilitation and development of oil mineral producing areas, and for tackling ecological problems that have arisen from the exploration of oil minerals.”
Act No 6 of 2000
Fast forward to NDDC Act 6 of 2000.Part 11 of the Act with the title: Functions and Powers of the Commission, reads: “The commission shall formulate policies and guidelines for the development of the Niger- Delta area; Conceive, plan and implement, in accordance with set rules and regulations, projects and programmes for the sustainable development of tie Niger-Delta area in the field of transportation including roads, jetties and waterways, health, education, employment, industrialisation, agriculture and fisheries, housing and urban development, water supply, electricity, and telecommunications; Cause the Niger-Delta area to be surveyed to ascertain measures which are necessary to promote its physical and socio- economic development; Prepare master plans and schemes designed to promote the physical development of the Niger-Delta area and the estimates of the costs of implementing such master plans and schemes.
Management of resources
“Implement all the measures approved for the development of the Niger Delta area by the Federal Government and the member states of the Commission; Identify factors inhibiting the development of the Niger Delta area and assist the member states in the formulation and implementation of policies to ensure sound and efficient management of the resources of the Niger Delta area; Assess and report on any project being funded or carried out in the Niger Delta area by oil and gas producing companies and any other company including non-governmental organisations and ensure that funds released for such projects are properly utilised; Tackle ecological and environmental problems that arise from the exploration of oil mineral in the Niger Delta area and advise the Federal Government and the member states on the prevention and control of oil spillages gas flaring and environmental pollution.”
Now, quit the flashbacks. Reconcile the objectives of NDDC and its predecessor with what you probably have seen in the Niger Delta or heard about the level of development in the area.
Does the result justify reasons for creating the commission?
The question is certainly rhetorical but also key to understanding concerns about moves to create more development commissions.
Since the commission, instead of being a model is a paradox failure, the rationale for attempting to replicate same across other zones is what this special report seeks to identify.
Note that the NDDC and NEDC are necessary spin-offs.
Like the latter, the former is charged with the responsibility to, “among other things, receive and manage funds from allocation of the Federal Account international donors for the settlement, rehabilitation and reconstruction of roads, houses and business premises of victims of insurgency as well as tackling menace of poverty, illiteracy level, ecological problems and any other related environmental or developmental challenges in the North-East states. Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, and Yobe.”
The commission was established in 2017 after the bill establishing it was passed by the Senate and House of Representatives.
Place of ethnicity
However, with the place of ethnicity in Nigeria, it is easy for majority to believe the bills seeking the creation of more commissions are targeting equity.
But those in tune with the real politics of the agitations have contrary arguments in this report.
To have unprejudiced assertions, Sunday Vanguard, spoke with academics, politicians, heads of regional and ethnic bodies.
The result from the geopolitical zones is compelling as interviewees surprisingly found common ground on some aspects of the conversation.
From the perspectives of Prof Ladipo Adamolekun, Prof Elochukwu Amucheazi Junaid Mohammed, Dr.Kunle Olajide, and Pereotubo Oweilaemi among others, it is clear that proliferation of development commissions holds no promise.
For instance, Adamolekun examined the clamours for South East, North Central, South West, and North West commissions, identifying the desire to have access to excess money at the centre as the major reason for the demands.
“There are too many resources at the centre. That is why some people are clamouring for commissions. The clamour is simply to benefit from the excess funds available at the centre. There is an urgent need for a review of the revenue allocation formula,” the Public Administration scholar submitted.
Another academic, Prof Amucheazi, who was the Director-General, Mass Mobilisation for Self Reliance, Social Justice and Economic Recovery, MAMSER described the agitation as diversionary.
“The North East Development Commission is diversionary. Let us see what it is going to achieve because Boko Haram is still there. The money they are getting from donor agencies for the rebuilding of the place, what are they doing with it?” he asked.
However, Olajide, who is Secretary of Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE, cautioned that new commissions would concentrate more powers at the centre.
In his unapologetic style, Junaid dismissed the agitations as nonsensical.
Having worked at OMPADEC as a pioneer board member, his knowledge of the workings of the commission is in-depth. Hence the suggestion that development commissions should cease being permanent institutions.
Oweilaemi, National President, Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, gave this caveat: “We will not appreciate it if they are still going to be funded proceeds from the black gold. That will be a slap on our face.”
His reason reveals how deep-seated the grievances of some ethnic groups in Nigeria are.
Whether you agree with them or not, the submissions won’t be said to be lacking rationality and captivation.
The tribal sentiments, which unarguably, formed the basis for demanding the commissions, are better understood as you study the bills in successive pages.