The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed for second reading, a bill seeking to establish a development commission for the South-South geopolitical zone with debate.
The bill sponsored by Rep. Awaji-Inombek Abiante was first to read on the floor of the House for the first time on December 19, 2020.
The bill seeks to establish a South-South Development Commission charged with the responsibility to receive and manage funds from the Federation Account Allocation and other sources, donations, grants, aids for the integration, development, resolution of infrastructural deficit, militancy, communal crisis as well and tackle ecological and environmental problems.
The Sponsor of the motion stated that it was crystal clear now that the NDDC which was supposedly a development commission for the South-South was not created for region, but for all oil-producing states in the country.
According to him, the bill seeks to establish the South-South Development Commission to serve as the springboard for the engagement, integration, and development of the South-South region.
“It is also aimed at resolving issues of infrastructural deficit, militancy, communal crises as well as the ecological problems and (any) other related environmental or developmental challenges in the region.”
The lawmaker stated that the North East Development Commission was in place and functioning, the bill for the establishment of the South West Development Commission had scaled second reading, while the bills for the establishment of other Zonal Development Commissions are also in the works at various stages.
He said the question that may be bothering the minds of some lawmakers may be why the South-South Development Commission is needed at this point in time when there is a Niger Delta Development Commission in place?
According to him, “the answer is not far-fetched. It is instructive to point out that the Niger Delta Development Commission created by President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2000 merely replaced the OMPADEC (Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission).
“It was for the development of oil-producing areas or better still communities, which include areas and communities from States in the South East (Abia & Imo) and South West (Ondo) and most recently Lagos (Where oil was discovered in 2016).
“It is expected that members of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) will expand as oil exploration and commercial finds continue in the country. Presently, States like Lagos (South West) and Anambra (South East) are agitating and rightly too to be included in the Commission on the claims of having become oil-producing.
“There is recently reported find of oil in the North East and when eventual commercial production commences, they are also expected to lay claim to the membership of the NDDC (North East).
“Also, the boundary contention between Kogi (North Central), Anambra and Enugu (South East) when resolved may make one more of the States or even all to be a member(s) of the NDDC due to availability of oil in the disputed area.”
He stressed that it is expedient to conclude that the existing Niger Delta Development Commission was not created for the South-South states, but for all the oil-producing states, irrespective of the region.
“In view of the foregoing and the need for the rapid and equitable development of all the regions in the country, there is a need for the establishment of the South-South Development Commission to ensure the development of the South-South region.”
He said the establishment of a South-South Development Commission may not necessarily add up the financial burden on the Federal Government, adding that the bill will go a long way in ensuring speedy rehabilitation of damaged infrastructure in the South-South region thus enhancing the quality of life in the area in particular and Nigeria in general.
He called for a quick passage of the bill in the spirit of social justice, equity, and national integration.