Apparently envious of the oil-bearing states of the federation and those of the North-East, some federal legislators in the House of Representatives are making efforts to cut some large chunk of the dwindling national cake to their regions.
To this end, they are pushing to get their own regional development commission. Respectively, four bills to establish South East, South West, North Central and North West Development Commissions have sailed through third reading in the Green Chamber of the bicameral federal Legislature.
But, there is no consideration for the six states – Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, and Rivers – of the South-South geo-political zone. Perhaps, the assumption is that they have the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
That is technically untrue because NDDC is an interventionist agency for recognised oil-bearing states in the country. Besides the six south-south states, Abia, Imo, and Ondo states are member-states of NDDC. Excluding the six states is capable of igniting another wave of unrest in the country. The lawmakers can avoid this.
However, a civic group, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) that broke this news on its website said the four bills passed third reading in the House on Thursday, October 14.
The proposed commissions according to PLAC, are expected to: formulate development policies and guidelines for each of the regions; plan and implement programmes for sustainable development of key infrastructure in the respective regions.
This is relating to education, roads, health, electricity, commerce, etc; identify factors inhibiting development in the regions and assist member states to formulate and implement policies for the management of resources in each of the regions, among others.
The group says each of the interventionist agency shall have a governing board consisting of a Chairman, a representative from each state within the region, representatives from relevant federal ministries, representatives from security agencies, the managing director of the commission and two or three executive directors of the commission.
‘’However, the representatives of security agencies are missing in the composition of the South East Commission’s board. Instead, the bill provides for members from each geo-political zone, in addition to representatives from the South Eastern States and other members of the board already listed.
‘’Funding for the commissions is expected to come from: specified percentages of the total monthly statutory allocations due to the member states within each region from the Federation Account; grants, loans, deposits from the Federal or State Government, local or foreign bodies; specified percentages of the Ecological Fund of the federation due to member states within a region; monies raised for the commissions by way of gifts, grants-in-aid, testamentary disposition and proceeds from assets that accrue to the commission.
‘’Other sources of funds that are specific to some of the regions include; a percentage of the annual budget of any federal port operating in the region; a percentage from the total annual budget of any oil producing company in the region; a percentage of the total annual budget of any solid mineral extracting mining company in the region’’, PLAC said.
While there is North-East Development Commission and the Niger Delta Development Commission for oil-producing states, there might be a need to either amend the NDDC Act or establish a wholly South-South Development Commission.
This is so because NDDC is not exclusively for the six states of the South-South geo-political zone. Since Abia, Imo, and Ondo states are in NDDC, with the hope of Kogi, and perhaps, Anambra states joining soon, not creating a distinct development commission for the peoples of the South-South will amount to injustice.
That kind of exclusion can easily provide the fuel to unsettle oil production activities in the creeks. The option for the federal lawmakers is to introduce a fifth development commission bill or amend the NDDC Act by turning it into South-South Development Commission, and think out an additional menu for the oil-bearing states.
Erroneously, If all four bills are eventually signed into law, not all six geo-political zones in Nigeria will have their respective development commissions.