Boss Picks

Development Commissions: A Veiled Return to Regionalism?

By Eric Elezuo

In 2000, precisely on June 5, the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo created the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) principally to curb the violent unrest prevalent in the Niger Delta areas. This was associated with the formation of diverse militant groups, disruption of oil production, kidnappings and general insecurity.

The Commission, a federal government agency was given the sole mandate of developing the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria. However, in September 2008, ex-President Umaru Yar’Adua established a Niger Delta Ministry, with the Niger Delta Development Commission to become a parastatal under the ministry. More mandates including to train and educate the youths of the oil rich Niger Delta regions to curb hostilities and militancy, while developing key infrastructure to promote diversification and productivity, were handed the commission.

Though the NDDC has not lived up to expectation as tales of massive financial fraud, internal bickering and abandoned projects litter the nook and crannies of the region, more regions have raised their voices in renewed clamour for regional development commission.

 

In response, on May 8, 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari bowed to the request of the North East region for a development commission as a result of the devastation the region ha become following years of terror unleashed on it by the Boko Haram insurgents. He inaugurated the Board of the North East Development Commission (NEDC).

The North East Development Commission (NEDC) was established in 2017, after the Bill establishing the Commission was passed by the two legislative chambers. Then, on October 25th, 2017 President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the Bill, then signing it into an Act.

The NEDC is charged with the responsibility to, “among other things, receive and manage funds from allocation of the Federal Account international donors for the settlement, rehabilitation and reconstruction of roads, houses and business premises of victims of insurgency as well as tackling menace of poverty, illiteracy level, ecological problems and any other related environmental or developmental challenges in the North-East states”. The region comprises Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, Yobe.

The Act establishing the Commission provides for a Governing Body, comprising of a Chairman; a Managing Director and Chief Executive; three Executive Directors (one from each Member state not being represented by the Chairman of the Board, the Managing Director and the representative of the North-East zone); one person each to represent the six geo-political zones of Nigeria; and one person to represent the Federal Ministry of Finance; and Budget and National Planning.

On January 2019, Buhari nominated candidates to serve as Chairman and members of the Board of the Commission.

On April 9, 2019, the Senate confirmed the appointment of Major-General Paul Tarfa (rtd) as Chairman of the North East Development Commission (NEDC). Others confirmed are:

● Mohammed Goni Alkali — MD/CEO

● Musa Uma Yashi — ED Humanitarian Affairs

● Mohammed Jawa B. — Executive Director, Admin and Finance

● Umar Maiwada Mohammed — Executive Director, Operations

● Hon. David Sabo Kente — Member representing North East zone

● Asamo M. Mohammed — Member representing North West zone

● Benjamin Adeniyi — Member representing Central zone

● Olawale Osun — Member representing South West zone

● Theo Nkechi — Member representing South East

● Bassey Uke — Member representing South South zone

Ever since the inauguration of the NEDC, other regions including the South east, South West and surprisingly the South South have risen stoutly in demand for its share of Commission.

The pressure, which more or less, is coming from the members of the National Assembly, has forced the House of Representatives to establishing development commissions for no fewer than three geopolitical zones including the South-West, South-South and the South-East.

As it stands today, practically all the six geo-political zones of the nation, has submitted Establishment Bills for their various development projects. The House is making the consideration as the Senate is also processing similar bills, except for the North West Development Commission, which couldn’t sustain its tempo, and was dropped.

The proposed commissions, it must be observed are coming on the heels of the Federal Government’s refusal to consider restructuring the country along geographical and political lines. The measure, according to anonymous source, will silently return the country to pre and post independence regional administration, which came to abrupt end with the 1967 Civil War.

Recall that from all the corners, especially the southern part of the country, calls have been made for a devolution of power where power will concentrate more on the regions while the centre will operate weakly. This system, also form the bulk of discussion at the 2014 national Conference convened by former President Goodluck Jonathan. Unfortunately, the fallouts of the gathering are yet to be implemented till date.

History of Recent Bills 

The Punch reported that ‘Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, and 80 other lawmakers suspected to be members from Yoruba-speaking states, introduced a bill seeking to establish a South-West Development Commission.’ The South-West geopolitical zone has six states, namely Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti. The Bill passed the first reading at the plenary on December 11, 2019.

The bill was earlier introduced in November 2019 by former Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun

Senator Sani Musa had also introduced the North Central Development Commission (Establishment) Bill, 2019. The North-Central is made up of Kwara, Benue, Niger, Plateau, Nasarawa and Kogi states.

On December 17, 2019, the lawmaker representing Mbaitoli/Ikeduru Federal Constituency of Imo State, Mr Henry Nwawuba, introduced the South East Development Commission (Establishment) Bill 2019, which passed the first reading. The South-East zone has five states, namely Anambra, Enugu, Imo, Abia and Ebonyi.

In a twist, another member, Mr Uzoma Nkem-Abonta, on December 18, 2019, added to the drama by introducing the Zonal Development Commission (Establishment) Bill, 2019 which the House has also admitted.

On December 20, 2019, the South South Development Commission (Establishment) Bill 2019 emerged in the House in spite of the already existing NDDC. It was sponsored by the lawmaker representing Andoni/Opobo/Nkoro Federal Constituency of River State, Mr Awaji-Inombek Abiante. In the South-South, there are six states, namely Rivers, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Edo and Bayelsa.

While it is believed that the North East and the South East may have a reason to demand development commissions owing to the devastations and marginalisation respectively that have ravaged the regions, other regions may have sought theirs based largely on regional equation and equality.

To boost the back regionalisation agenda of the proposed development commissions, a special move has also been made grant Lagos special status as it was pre and early post independence era. The debate on the bill as sponsored by the lawmaker representing Lagos Central Senatorial District, Oluremi Tinubu, in the 8th Assembly was turned down after the plenary turned into a rowdy session.

Tinubu had pushed for a special status for Lagos, calling for retention of one per cent of Valued Added Tax generated from the state for its development.

Obviously, the regions are seeking opportunity to gradually call the shots in their regions with little or no regards to the Federal Government, especially in terms of controlling mineral resources therein.

From the manner the clamour is gaining momentum and considering the source, it will not be long before the statuses sought will be granted, and then the next step…

 

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