regional development commissions

WE view with mixed feelings efforts being made to establish federally-funded development commissions for the geo-political zones in the country by the National Assembly.

The House of Representatives, through its Committee on Justice headed by Hon. Ogbonnaya Ozuruigbo, has been processing several bills seeking to establish development commissions for the South East, South West, North Central and North West.

Lawmakers from these geopolitical zones started agitating for their development commissions after the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC; and the North East Development Commission, NEDC, were set up to tackle the special needs of those regions.

These agitations confirm the reality that every section of the country has its own peculiar environmental and infrastructural challenges requiring the special attention of the Federal Government. From our experience, annual budgetary allocations and the special grace of sitting presidents alone cannot adequately discharge the Federal Government’s obligations for the even and rapid development of the country.

Ideologically, our stand is that massive devolution of powers to the regions will empower their people to mobilise their resources for their development at their respective paces. That was what drove rapid development in Nigeria in the First Republic.

During that era, no region was left far behind as Nigeria was already being projected as a promising medium industrial power. Anything short of that template is just a cosmetic measure that will not take us far.

Pending the time when it will please our political leaders to accept the imperative of devolution, the creation of six separate regional development commissions will be an improvement on the current developmental template. But, the way the House of Representatives is going about it is a bit shoddy.

The Senate and House of Representatives should, in agreement with the President, establish six regional interventional development commissions to specifically tackle environmental and infrastructural deficits.

The piecemeal method the Ozuruigbo Committee of the House is going about it will not do. For instance, the Committee appears to assume that the NDDC already serves the needs of the South-South zone. This is erroneous. The NDDC covers nine oil producing states. When Anambra and Lagos status as oil producing states is confirmed, they will join the NDDC.

Any new oil producing state will join the NDDC. A time may come when the core Niger Delta might become a numerical minority in the NDDC. Besides, Cross River State in the South-South is no longer classified as oil producing.

Therefore, the South-South also needs its own development commission as a geopolitical zone

We recommend that, at least, three per cent of the annual federal budget should be dedicated to the regional development commissions with full accountability to the National Assembly and the President. They should be able to routinely fix federal roads/bridges and tackle environmental/man made disasters. It will take the Federal Government closer to the people.

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