Since 2017 when President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the North East Development Commission (Establishment) Bill, there have been concerted efforts by politicians from other geo-political zones to ensure the creation of development commissions for their various zones.
While I agree that all the six geo-political zones have peculiar needs, it is difficult to come to terms with thoughts that these zones can only attract the attention of the federal government or achieve the much-needed development just by creating commissions. We are all living witnesses to how much money has accrued to the model commission, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), and the reality of development status in the Niger Delta.
The NDDC was created in the year 2000 by the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo administration to replace the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC). The NDDC raised the hopes of the people of the nine states covered by the interventionist agency for speedy development and freedom from the environmental hazards, arising from the activities of oil and gas companies in the area. The states covered by the commission are Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo, Delta, Ondo, Imo, and Abia.
It is, however, doubtful that these states have success stories to tell about the NDDC. The federal government recently revealed that over 13,777 projects being handled by the NDDC have their execution substantially compromised. Also, keen observers of the Niger Delta development agenda, believe that the NDDC has received and squandered trillions of naira since its establishment. Although figures are hard to come by, BudgIT Nigeria, Nigeria’s civic tech organisation involved in transparency, citizen engagement and accountability activism, said as much in its June 25, 2019, Twitter report.
“Since inception in 2000, NDDC has received at least $40bn (N15 trillion) for projects in oil-rich Niger Delta yet failed to achieve the Niger Delta Regional Development Masterplan to lay the foundation for transforming the region into Nigeria’s Dubai,” BudgIT said.
It is unbelievable therefore that just a few months after several revelations about how the NDDC mismanaged funds running into trillions, the House is proposing the creation of other regional development commissions.
Interestingly, the report of the House of Representatives Committee on NDCC that investigates an alleged N40 billion irregular expenditures in the Niger Delta Commission (NDDC) was submitted in December 2020 but has since been gathering dust under the rug of Speaker Femi Gbajabimila’s office, yet the same House has concluded plans to create the South East, South West North West and even North Central development commissions.
If Nigerians are yet to be convinced that the NDDC which is the pilot development commission has achieved its goal, the action of the House to create other regional development commissions would suggest that greedy politicians from other geopolitical zones just want a big pot of soup like their Niger Delta counterparts. Simply put, ‘Our Niger-Delta friends are eating, we must also eat.”
Permit me to curiously observe that the geopolitical zone demarcation is an administrative division of Nigeria created during the regime of late military Head of State, General Sani Abacha and it is not recognised by the Constitution of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). The confusion is now being entrenched with the needless creation of regional development commissions, particularly as the NDDC is erroneously expected to have taken care of the South-south.
With this new arrangement, the South-south region may also begin agitation for regional development as some states will now belong to the NDDC and southeast Development Commission, South West Development Commission it North East Development commissions as the case may be. For instance, Ondo State will benefit from both the NDDC and SWEC if and when the bill eventually becomes an act. Same with the new entrant into the group of oil-producing states, Kogi State when the North Central commission is established and some states in the south east such as Abia and Imo when the South East commission comes alive. This does not only stand logic in the head but also illustrates the dearth of true leadership.
The move to create a development commission in every corner of Nigeria will most likely not solve the development problems in the regions, rather it will create more opportunities for corrupt individuals to take advantage of the system, let the government channel all these resources to a particular sector per time, be it power supply to road infrastructure, Nigerians are waiting to see results in every part of Nigeria.