Niger Delta

Agitations For Other Regional Commisissions – Wake Up Call To Niger Deltans!

By Substance Nature-Udo



Perhaps for the politics involved or the growing envy over the billions of money that has been pumped into the NDDC by successive administrations, but which is believed to have been wantonly mismanaged by the privileged few with no landmarks to show to the contrary, other geo-political zones in the country are mulling and nursing the idea of having peculiar developmental frameworks for their respective areas.

On record, apart from the Niger Delta Development Commission established in 2000 by the Obasanjo administration, the only other commission acknowledged by law is the North East Development Commission (NEDC). This body was established in 2017, following passages of the bill by the two legislative chambers on October 25th, 2017. But it was not until May 8, 2019 that President Buhari inaugurated the board of the NEDC. That was preceded by earlier nominations by the President in January 2019 and confirmation by the Senate on April 9, 2019, and appointment of Major General Paul Tarfa Rtd, as Chairman of the board.

Apart from the alleged politics of imitation to create channels for funds flow and distribution by political strategists, the NEDC was charged with the responsibility to, amongst other things, receive and manage funds from allocation of the federal account and international donors for the settlement, rehabilitation and reconstruction or roads, houses, and biasness premises of victims of insurgency as well as tackling the menace of poverty, illiteracy, ecological issues and related matters affecting the region comprising Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.

However, in view of recent developments, or Nigeria being what it is in terms of suspicion of motives, other regions in the country are agitating for the establishment of similar development framework to cater for the peculiar needs of their people. It may all have begun with the antics in the eight Assembly that saw some senators presented a bill seeking for the establishment of the North West Development Commission (NWDC).

Incensed by illogical politicking, senators from other zones have followed suit. Presently there are four bills in the Senate each for the establishment of South East Development Commission (SEDC); South West Development Commission (SWDC); North Central Development Commission (NCDC), and North West Development Commission (NWDC).

Some quick questions to be asked are: on what basis are these demands? From what source(s) will these commissions be funded? To get the North East Development Commission started, a region that has nothing comparatively tangible to contribute to the national coffers, President Buhari allocated N10billion to it in the 2019 budget.

Back in 2016, the Federal Government also secured S575million World Bank facility for the project. Extended to the North East Safe Schools Project, which former British Prime Minister, Godon Brown, acting in the capacity of United Nations Ambassador had launched a few years ago, the NEDC has also received – or stands to receive -international donations from various bodies.

In as much as agitations like these are to be expected and welcome in a given democratic set up, economists and experts have sounded some notes of warning on the possible dangers and implications for such imitation or duplication of models, beyond the undercurrent of politics and ethnic sentiments involved. First is that the Niger Delta should not be used as a cash cow.

These dreams and proposals however should send some signals to stakeholders in the Niger Delta region, especially about judicious management of funds therein for developmental purposes. Records do not favour the NDDC when it comes to prudence and development of the area since the body was set up 19 years ago. The Niger Delta is rather the mockery of other regions and textbook example of failure to utilize what you have to get what you want.

Beyond this, the matter should not be casual duplication of regional developmental models that will depend solely on the Niger Delta for survival, but patriotic scrutiny of why others before them do not work at optimum and proffering the best solutions that would raise no sarcastic questions about the past and present. Otherwise, it will be putting new wine in old wine skins.

Yet, the warning is repeatedly being sounded: It may not always be as rosy as it is in the moment. Remember the booming eras of groundnut pyramids, cocoa and coal that today have tall evidence in their respective areas of dominance. That was because leaders like Chief Obafemi Awolowo saw ahead of time!

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