BusinessDay

The duplication of regional development commissions

The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was created in the year 2000 to cater to the demands of the South-South population who were faced with extensive environmental degradation and pollution from oil activities in the region since the late 1950s.

Before then, the Niger-Delta populace mostly the Ijaws had been mounting agitations for greater autonomy and control of petroleum resources to help develop the area. And in fairness, their agitations were in order judging by the levels of environmental degradation suffered by the people as a result of oil spillages.

In 2008, the NDDC was converted to a ministry, ‘Niger Delta ministry’ by the then-president Umaru Yar’Adua led government making it a parastatal under the ministry.

But in a way that borders on sheer imitation, the National Assembly is making efforts to establish other federally-funded development commissions for the other geo-political zones in the country. Specifically, the Ogbonnaya Ozuruigbo led committee has been navigating the passage of bills to establish development commissions for four of the six geo-political regions (South East, South West, North Central, and North West).

Read Also: NDDC and emerging concerns

This time the agitation is coming from the lawmakers representing the various regions. The nucleus of their agitation is the belief that what is good for one region is also good for another. Put in another way, the belief that their regions should also benefit from the federal purse in the manner the South-South, and North–East are being funded.

Whereas the NDDC and NEDC were established to address the special needs of those regions. These legislatures by their actions have shown that of a fact every geopolitical region of Nigeria has its own peculiar environmental and infrastructural challenges requiring the special attention of the federal government.

Be that as it may, we believe strongly that instead of agitating for the duplications of the development commissions, the various regions and their constituent states should look inward first to find how to source revenues. Because of the oil money, many of our leaders are mentally non-active, always waiting for funds from Abuja. This smacks of a rentier mentality.

Of a fact, every geopolitical region of Nigeria has its own peculiar environmental and infrastructural challenges requiring the special attention of the federal government

One of the quick avenues for income generation is by having good motorable roads. If the various states can fix their respective roads and ensure that all commercial vehicles plying their states are registered, this will go a long way to improve their internally generated revenue (IGR). Even states can as well invest in transportation on the platform of the Public-Private Partnership.

The old Anambra State had TRACAS, Enugu State has ENTRACO a rebranded version of TRACAS, and Lagos State has BRT, and has even introduced a smaller buses system. And the state is raking in money from it, besides providing employment for its citizens.

The states can also meaningfully invest in agriculture and/or partner with farmers for the mass production of food and raw materials. This will go a long way in creating employment and increasing the internally generated revenue of the states. Some states can even come together and invest in modern agriculture to raise income. Lagos State under Ambode had a partnership with Kebbi State in rice production, and it was a lucrative venture.

The eastern region was known for palm produce in the 1960s, the governors from this region can reinvest and promote the production of palm oil which is a sought-after product in the global market.

The western region was known for cocoa production, and the governors can do well by reinvesting in it. Kudos to the Ondo State government for retooling the path of promoting cocoa production. Numerous industries are in need of cocoa in Nigeria and beyond.

The north was known for the production of groundnuts. It is time to bring back the pyramids in Kano, instead of waiting for the national allocation of a development commission.

The extraction of bitumen in some parts of the South West can be reactivated, and the natural resources maximised. A lot of money is spent in importing bitumen every year. Bitumen is needed in constructing industries as augmenting products for paving and roofing.

About 85% of bitumen is used as a binder in asphalt for roads, runways, parking lots, and footpaths. As governments continue to invest in road developments across countries, the market size for bitumen is estimated to be more than $110bn (N51,700 bn) by 2024.

States such as Ogun, Ondo, Rivers, and Balyesa are blessed with these natural resources in abundance. According to dataphyte.com more than ₦300bn is spent annually on importing bitumen, bitumen is argued to be on top of Nigeria’s import bill.

A state like Abia can cash on the commercial viability of its people and create a good revenue-generating environment that will benefit the state and its citizens. We have cobblers and fashion gurus in Aba that can be encouraged to produce quality products for export. And this will in turn generate foreign exchange for the state.

Nigerians import fewer quality T-shirts, footwear, bags, etc; from China, Dubai, and other Asian Tiger countries, why not upgrade the products from Aba and export them?

We encourage the federal government to address the needs of the various regions just like it is paying attention to South-South and North East. However, we believe that if the states in these other four regions should take time to look inward, they might find the solutions to their problems before the federal aid comes.

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