By Olayinka Ajayi
Using his experience as a Board member of the defunct Oil Mineral Areas Development Commission, OMPADEC, Second Republic
lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, in this interview, dismisses agitations for new development commissions. He says existing commissions should be given timelines to realise their mandates after which they should be disbanded.
Being a pioneer board member of defunct Oil Mineral Areas Development Commission, OMPADEC, how would you describe the moves for the creation of development commissions for the South east, North central, South west and North west?
There is no reason to create any commission. Even the Niger Delta Development Commission,NDDC, where I worked when it was OMPADEC is not working and will never work.
The reason is that development, especially in areas like Niger-Delta or North east cannot be promoted by people whose only capacity is that they are just from the areas.
Most countries in the world were developed not necessarily by those living there or adversely affected by what is happening there. They were developed by people who have holistic view of development in all levels and all sectors.
When I was appointed in 1992 to be on the board of OMPADEC, I was in Saudi Arabia. They were not sure I was going to accept the appointment. Gen Babangida ,retd, did not inaugurate the board because he was not sure I would take the offer. The announcement had been made. When I came, I told him that the Niger Delta issue should not be a matter of politics. I said it should be about helping those who are weak. You don’t declare a region underdeveloped infinitely. I have articulated the same view when they talked about underdevelopment in the north. The belief in Nigeria is that development is driven by money. I have come to realise that you can give someone trillions of dollars and there would be no evidence of development, especially in key areas of development like health, education and social services.
Are the commissions necessary?
They are not necessary at all. The North East Development Commission must not be a permanent government institution. If we are sincere we would have addressed the issue of Boko Haram. We must create a time when such problems can be addressed. But allowing such a board to live in perpetuity is wrong. I said so some years ago and some people said I don’t like the north. Nobody creates such a board to stay forever. The only way to get such areas developed is to get Nigerians who are experts in different areas to do so. They will see their appointments as an assignment to be completed within a specified time. What has NDDC done with trillions of money it got? I heard they built an airport with billions. Where is the traffic? Is it sustainable? Port Harcourt is in a mess. If you travel to Port Harcourt by road you will almost get killed because of the state of the road. The governor in his wisdom has started building bridges in major parts of Port Harcourt to make the place better. What I am saying is that NDDC has done nothing for the people of Niger Delta.
Politicians see the commission as a place to make money. That is why it is bankrupt and owes over one billion naira. I heard it from the federal government and Akpabio before he was asked to oversee the NDDC.
Scrapping of PTF
When former President Obasanjo wanted to scrap Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF, I confronted him. Then I was his Policy Adviser on Poverty Alleviation. He said that retaining PTF could mean that government has failed. Many PTF projects taken by the federal government were abandoned. There is one in Port Harcourt which was 75 percent completed when PTF was scrapped. Till date it has not been completed. That is not how to run a government. A government should be populated by efficient people who are given targets to perform or get sacked. That is my idea of running a government. I don’t support the creation of North East Development Commission and I don’t also support NDDC. The plan for other commissions amounts to nonsense. It is nothing but duplication for corruption. Why would you create North West Development Commission in a zone with many state governors? Those behind moves for any kind of commission are making a fool of themselves.
East Central State
I am sorry to say, we are very dishonest and dishonourable people. Those who demanded that zones be made regions are the same people who now want to have the same thing through the back door. Everybody knows the plan of the South east people. They want one additional state because they want to have parity with the Yoruba people even though their circumstances are completely different. At the time Kano and East Central states were created, Kano was bigger in land mass and in population. Now we have five states in the old East Central State and Kano has only one additional state called Jigawa. Creating commissions for the zones will not add value to governance.
Do you agree with the argument that the commissions would end up as conduit pipes…
This is what I have been saying. There is no need for it. It will also drain resources and it will not work. There will be no development. Forget about the North East Development Commission and its mission.
If the commissions are eventually created what do you think would happen?
I am opposed to it. Those lobbying or agitating should be in a better position to answer your question.
That is the difference between our corrupt parliament and other parts of the world. If a parliamentarian passes a motion in support of something, a timeline is given to get things done. They should let us know what percentage of funds from the national treasury would be used.
How do you think government at all levels should be repositioned to drive development across the regions?
Development has to do with the kind of people in charge of affairs and what their priorities are. For a government to succeed, it must be a listening government. It is not a government that sits in Abuja and decides what to do and what not to do. I have my idea about what the North East Development Commission would achieve but I insisted there must be a timeline. After achieving its objectives, the commission should be disbanded. That was my idea about OMPADEC, when I came back from Saudi Arabia. Anybody would agree with me that OMPADEC was a fraudulent entity just like its successor, NDDC. A commission should have a timeline for its functions because underdevelopment doesn’t last forever.