…seeks special funding for zone
• S/West bill rejects stunted growth, canvasses
new status for Lagos, other states in region
• N/Central senator fears devastating erosion
• N/West bill cites education disadvantage
By Henry Umoru, Assistant Political Editor
Following the passing into law a Bill for the Establishment of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by the National Assembly in June 2000, the interventionist regional agency came into being during former President Olusegun Obasanjo administration with the mission to facilitate the rapid, even and sustainable development of the Niger Delta into a region that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful.
The mandate of the NDDC include the formulation of policies and guidelines for the development of the Niger Delta area, conception, planning and implementation, in accordance with set rules and regulations, of projects and programs for sustainable development of the Niger Delta area in the field of transportation including roads, jetties and waterways; health; employment; industrialization; agriculture and fisheries; housing and urban development; water supply; electricity and telecommunications.
It was also established with the mandate to survey the Niger Delta in order to ascertain measures necessary to promote its physical and socio-economic development.
Years after the establishment of the NNDC, another similar agency was established, this time to cater for the needs of the North-East and called the North East Development Commission, NEDC.
According to the proponents of the NEDC, it was to restore peace and normalcy in the North-East, make the harrowing experience of the people as a result of insurgency a thing of the past and remedy the long years of underdevelopment suffered by the region.
The recovery and redevelopment of the region after Boko Haram insurgency is expected to last decades.
The bill for the establishment of NEDC was sponsored by a former Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, Borno South, in the Senate and a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, Bauchi.
The NEDC has the mandate to receive and manage funds allocated by the Federal Government and donor agencies for the resettlement, rehabilitation, integration and reconstruction of roads, houses and business premises of victims of insurgency.
It will among, other things, coordinate projects and programmes within the master plan for the rehabilitation, resettlement, reconciliation, reconstruction and sustainable development of the North-East in the fields of infrastructure, human and social services including health and nutrition, education and water supply, agriculture, wealth creation and employment opportunities, urban and rural development and poverty alleviation.
NEDC took off after the bill establishing the Commission was passed by the two legislative chambers and, on October 25, 2017, President Muhammadu Buhari, assented to the bill to become an Act.
The states it caters for expectedly are Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe which had been the hotbed of insurgency.
OPENING OF FLOODGATE
NDDC and NEDC were established in peculiar circumstances but their establishment would appear to have opened the floodgate of demands for the creation of similar agencies in the remaining four geopolitical zones across the country, namely South-West, South-East, North-Central and North-West.
The first to be introduced in the 9th Senate is a Bill Seeking for the Establishment of the South East Development Commission, SEDC.
The bill is sponsored by Senator Stella Oduah, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Anambra North.
Titled, South East Development Commission (Est. etc) Bill, 2019 (SB.161), it seeks the establishment of a governing board for the Commission which shall include one person each from other geopolitical zones across the country.
It is expected to provide a master plan for the reduction of unemployment while also providing the master plan and schemes to promote the physical development of the South-East.
This is not the first time the bill for the establishment of SEDC is coming into the Senate.
In the 8th Senate, it was equally sponsored by then-Chairman, Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, PDP, Imo East, and Oduah.
In that era, it was tabled on June 22, 2016 and later scaled the second reading on June 7, 2017.
The bill was, in fact, passed by the Senate on December 12, 2018, and one week to the end of the 8th National Assembly on May 28, 2019, the South-East Development Commission Bill received the House of Representatives concurrence but failed to receive presidential assent.
The Commission, according to Oduah, will address problems and issues relating to the states in South-East: Anambra; Abia; Ebonyi; Enugu and Imo.
Clause 15 (2a) of the bill which identifies source of funding for the Commission stipulates that the equivalent of 10 percent of the total monthly statutory allocation due to member-states shall be from the Federation Account.
The mandate shall include tackling ecological and environmental problems that arise from soil erosion and other related environmental challenges in the South-East, identifying factors inhibiting the development of the zone and assisting member-states on the formulation and implementation of policies to ensure sound and efficient management of resources.
Speaking on the bill, Oduah noted that the Commission will establish a developmental master plan that will give rise to massive infrastructural development in the zone.
According to her, SEDC will also help in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the houses and lost businesses of victims of the civil war.
The senator said the Commission is expected to provide the road-map for the development of roads, education, health facilities, industrialisation, agriculture, housing and urban development, water supply, electricity and commerce in the five member-states.
For the North-Central, the bill for the establishment of the interventionist agency for the region, called the North Central Development Commission, NCDC, has also been read for the first time on the floor of the Senate.
Sponsored by the Chairman, Senate Services Committee, Senator Mohammed Sani Musa, All Progressives Congress, APC, Niger East, NCDC, if approved, would be saddled with the responsibility of managing and administering funds received from the Federation Account.
The Commission is targeting developmental issues in proposed member-states – Benue, Niger, Nasarawa, Kogi, Kwara, Plateau – and the FCT.
The bill, entitled ‘North Central Development Commission (Est. etc) Bill, 2019 (SB.173) for an Act to Establish the North Central Development Commission’, would act as a catalyst for the development of the agricultural, commercial and industrial potentials of the North-Central.
According to the bill, the NCDC shall formulate policies and guidelines for the development of the North-Central; conceive, plan and implement, in accordance with set rules and regulations, projects and programmes for the sustainable development of the zone in the field of roads, education, health facilities, employment, industrialization, agriculture, housing and urban development, water supply, electricity and commerce.
It shall prepare master plans and schemes designed to promote the physical development of the North-Central and the estimate of the cost of implementing such master plans and schemes; implement all the measures approved for the development of the zone by the Federal Government and member-states.
In addition, it will identify factors inhibiting the development of the North-Central and assist member-states in the formulation and implementation of policies to ensure sound and efficient management of resources.
It will conceive, conceptualize, plan and implement, in accordance with set rules and regulations, project and programmes for the sustainable, development of the North-Central in the field of receiving and management of funds from the Federation Account and donor agencies for the development of educational infrastructure and other developmental challenges.
NCDC will also assess and report on any project being funded or carried out in the North-Central for the purpose of development, tackle ecological and environmental problems that may arise from devastating soil erosion and other related environmental challenges and advise the Federal Government and member-states on the prevention and control.
Barely a week after the presentation of the Bill for the Establishment of North Central Development Commission came the North-West version called The Bill for the Establishment of North West Development Commission, NWDC, with the mandate of managing and administering funds received from the Federation Account for the seven states in the region: Kaduna; Kano; Kebbi; Katsina; Jigawa; Sokoto and Zamfara.
The bill, read for the first time, is sponsored by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriations, Senator Jibrin Barau, All Progressives Congress, APC, Kano North.
According to Barau, money received from the Federation Account for the Commission will be used to reinvigorate the commercial and industrial potentials of the North-West and for the overall development of the “educationally disadvantaged zone”.
The senator explained that NWDC, when established, will have its Head Office in Kano and formulate policies and guidelines for the development of the North-West in accordance with set rules and regulation, projects and programmes for the sustainable development of the zone on roads, education, health facilities, employment, industrialization, agriculture, housing and urban development, water supply, electricity and commerce.
According to him, the Commission will have the mandate to prepare master plans and schemes designed to promote the physical development of the North-West and the estimate of the cost of implementing such master plans and schemes; implement all the measures approved for the development of the zone by the Federal Government and member-states of the Commission; identify factors inhibiting the development and assist member-states in the formulation and implementation of policies to ensure sound and efficient management of resources.
Similar bill for the South-West was also re-introduced in the Senate and read for the first time.
The South West Development Commission (SWDC), like other proposed Commissions, would manage and administer funds received from the Federation Account for the South-West zone.
The bill, sponsored by Senator Ibikunle Amosun, APC, Ogun Central, will create the Commission that will tackle developmental challenges in the five South-West states of Ekiti, Ogun, Ondo, Lagos, Osun and Oyo.
The bill is titled ‘South West Development Commission (Est. etc) Bill, 2019 (SB.167)’ and says the Commission will specifically address educational challenges as well as environmental degradation of the South-West.
A replica of the bill had been sponsored in the 8th Senate by Senator Gbenga Ashafa who represented Lagos East on the platform of APC and read for the first time at plenary presided over by the former President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
The bill at that time came barely eight days after the Senate had passed the South East Development Commission Bill 2018.
Speaking on the reintroduced SWDC Bill, Amosun, who stressed that it was time for the South-West to have its own Commission based on the contributions of the zone in the country, stated that Nigeria cannot be discussed without the zone.
According to him, if every part of the country is developed, we will have a country that we can all be proud of.
His words, “Clearly it is for the development of our people and our area. If a part of a whole is not well, then the whole will not be well. Clearly every part of Nigeria should feel concerned about the need for development.
“And if all of us develop our respective areas, of course we will have a beautiful country that everybody will be proud of.
“So to that extent, this is not just my bill, it is being co-sponsored by all of us (senators) from the South-West.
“If you look at even the population of Nigeria, just look at how many are we from the South-West.
“I am saying this with all sense of responsibility, there is no part of Nigeria that is not important.
“All of us are. Everybody has something that they are bringing on the table but, of course, you will notice that there is no way the nation can be described without some kind of prominent mention of those from the South-West and what we contribute to Nigeria as a nation.
“Look at just the contribution of Lagos to Nigeria. So I think there should be some kind of special status but not just for Lagos now.
“Of course we are saying that whatever happens in Lagos happens in Ogun. And for me, Ogun State is the industrial hub of Nigeria.
“You know the population that we have and what we are contributing to Nigeria. There are some parts of Nigeria that we know – this is not probably by their doing – for example our people from the North-East, everybody, there is no sane person that will not want to support NEDC particularly with the destruction that has happened there. We don’t want any place to be left behind.
“But in doing that we should not be oblivious of the fact that we need to continue to develop too and that is why we are bringing this bill.
“Indeed we had a meeting and everyone agreed that it is a good bill that must quickly be put in place and that is why it was read for the first time.
“I know that we are going to, more or less, incorporate the bill that Senator Gbenga Ashafa brought the other time, and I think it is even being re-presented now.
“But I know that anywhere in the South-West, if it is good in Lagos, Ekiti or Osun, I will be happy and I am sure that there is no way it will be good in those places that it will not be okay for us in Ogun.
“This is not because similar agencies have been created in the North-East or South-South. Everybody should look out for how they can improve the well-being of our people.”
The process of the bills being passed into law is still fairly long: Second reading before being referred to the Senator Opeyemi Bamidele led Committee Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, and then public hearing, reading the third time, clause by clause consideration, passage by the Committee of the Whole House, harmonization by the House of Representatives and presidential assent.