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*Nigeria: South-South Summit As Tonic For NDDC
By Ifeatu Agbu
The Second South-South Economic Summit organised by the BRACED Commission on the broad theme: “Integrating the South-South for Sustainable Development”, has come and gone, leaving the oil-rich region with a challenge to audaciously march into an economically viable zone. BRACED, an acronym for the six states; Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, Cross River, Edo and Delta states, has set the ball rolling.
The broad outline of the economic programme could pass for the summary of a regional development plan. Thus, the highlights of the communiqué issued by the governors were anchored on the re-arrangement of the Nigerian federation. The document declared: “The federation should be restructured and unbundled, including the review of the current revenue allocation formula, to give more powers, responsibilities and funding to states and local governments as centres of growth”.
The focus on regional integration was very well received at the summit and the governors of the Niger Delta region were quick to leverage on this by re-activating the necessary structures that would facilitate the effective implementation of development projects that would benefit the entire oil-producing region.
Apparently, the Asaba summit re-awakened the interest of the governors of the Niger Delta states on the need to key into the regional development Master Plan facilitated by the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC. It came as a pleasant surprise when the governors gathered in Port Harcourt shortly after, for a meeting of the Advisory Committee of the NDDC, which had hitherto been in comatose. ( Continues below….. )
Photo Above: Map of Nigeria's South-South Region
The Act establishing the NDDC states in Part III, section 11 that “a Niger Delta Development Advisory Committee [in this Act referred to as “the Advisory Committee”] which shall consist of [a] the governors of the member states of the commission and [b] two other persons as may be determined from time to time, by the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces”. It states further that “the Advisory Committee shall be charged with the responsibility of advising the Board and monitoring the activities of the commission, with a view to achieving the objective of the commission”.
Although the Act also requires that “the Advisory Committee may make rules regulating its own proceedings”, it was rather unfortunate that it had more or less been in limbo since the inception of the NDDC twelve years ago. In fact, the committee has met only on three occasions all these while.
Against this backdrop, therefore, it is heart-warming that the governors are beginning to rediscover their roles in making the NDDC to work optimally for the overall development of the Niger Delta region. By breathing life into the dormant Advisory Committee of the interventionist agency, which comprises the governors and the principal officers of the commission, the governors appear to be sending a message that they are ready for action.
At the Port Harcourt meeting, the governors mandated the new management of the NDDC to ensure that all on-going projects initiated by it were completed. They urged the commission to focus on projects that would promote regional integration and commerce. Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State, who has just finished his tenure as the chairman of the Advisory Committee, said it was imperative to turn attention to the completion of already awarded contracts and projects that would promote interaction among states of the region. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Map of Nigeria's Niger Delta Region showing Port Harcourt
Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State, who emerged as the new chairman of the Advisory Committee after the Port Harcourt meeting, also stated that his tenure would focus on ensuring that all projects that have been embarked upon by the commission, especially those with regional flavour, were completed.
For the NDDC Managing Director, Dr. Christian Oboh, it was his first opportunity of sharing ideas with the other members of the Advisory Committee. He underscored the fact that Nigeria’s Vision 20:2020 encouraged regional development as a faster and more cohesive way of building the country. The NDDC boss said that the commission and the BRACED states must collaborate in the development of the south-south region.
“Regional integration is very crucial in development, hence the Federal Government established the Niger Delta Development Commission to address the unfortunate paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty and to complement the efforts of federal, states and local governments”, he said. Dr Oboh described the Asaba Summit as strategic to the overall development of the Niger Delta region. “For us this is a new dawn, we are excited; because a new tone has been set for the NDDC”, he declared. He said that as an interventionist agency, the commission does not operate in isolation, but works in synergy with other stakeholders, especially, member states to deliver on its mandate to the people.
It is expected that there would now be a more coordinated and aggressive approach to the implementation of the Master Plan which is being driven by the NDDC. Nothing could be better than having the governors on the same page with the NDDC in the arduous task of bringing rapid development to the long-neglected people of the Niger Delta. They should also work in synergy with the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. Such cooperation of all main stakeholders is imperative for the rapid socio-economic transformation of the region.
Obviously, all hands must be on deck to realise the lofty objectives of achieving a truly regional economic integration. Of course, it would help a lot if the rediscovered Advisory Committee of the NDDC remains active by meeting regularly, say once every quarter. That way, the key stakeholders in the region would be able to harmonise their development programmes in the overall interest of the people. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Map of Nigeria's Niger Delta Region showing its composite 8 states.
Niger Deltans have every reason to set their sights on big ticket projects. This is understandable, given the enormous sacrifice the people are making for the economic well-being of the country. The BRACED Commission has offered the governors a more formidable platform to put pressure on the Federal Government to expedite action on projects that would hasten the development of the Niger Delta. Some of the mega projects that the region is eagerly awaiting are the East-West road, the coastal road and the East-West railway.
Last year, Arch Sambo told the South-South governors and leaders of the region that extensive work (designs) had already been done on both the coastal road and the East-West railway. The Vice President responded to the concerns of the south-south governors as stakeholders in the region appeared to be running out of patience with the central government on its seeming unwillingness to take concrete actions to fast-track the development of the Niger Delta.
The South-South governors took steps that would hopefully ensure that the Asaba Summit was a worthwhile event. They directed the BRACED Commission to translate the recommendations at the summit into a measurable and achievable plan of action and engage the appropriate stakeholders on post-summit issues as elaborated in the presentations and discussions.
One such issue that needs to be urgently addressed is the apparent inconsistency in the nation’s policies regarding electricity. The South-South leaders had said in their communiqué that there was need to “review the current policies and regulations on power and gas to enable the states generate, transmit and distribute power to complement the efforts of the Federal Government and facilitate the utilisation of moribund capacity in the region.” In pursuit of this, the summit accepted the development of a Niger Delta Energy Corridor, a project with potential for connecting the people, industry and natural resources as well as creating jobs.
The proposed development of an energy corridor does not contravene any federal law and should, therefore, be implemented without further delay or pandering to the authorities in Abuja. Good enough, the powers that be in Aso Rock have agreed to cooperate with states that are looking for how to evacuate the power they generate. Arch. Sambo, assured that licences would soon be issued to states for the generation and distribution of electricity in their respective areas of administration.
Mr. Ifeatu Agbu ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) writes from Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
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