The North East Development Commission, set to commence operations soon, after the Senate passed its establishment bill on Thursday, will not succeed if it evolves a “culture of settlement,” a lawmaker has said.
Abdulazeez Nyako warned that the commission must not be handled the way the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, was; after it was set up to resolve the challenges and agitations in the oil producing region.
“It’s a question that keeps coming,” Mr. Nyako, who represents Adamawa, said when PREMIUM TIMES asked him if the new commission would not go the way of the NDDC which is largely seen as corrupt and inefficient.
“We were asked then by development partners and it was a question that kept on coming during the public hearing.”
He said the North East had learnt from the NDDC.
“From the beginning, we must ensure we come up with the right culture, not culture of what Nigerians call “settlement”.
“If we create a culture where if senior stakeholders agitate, we call them and give them something to keep quiet; if youth agitate, we call them and give them something to keep quiet – without addressing the core grassroots problems – we are not going anywhere.”
NDDC was created with the mandate of accelerating infrastructural and socio-economic development of the oil rich Niger Delta. But years on, and with huge budgetary vote annually, the project execution profile of NDDC is poor; the region remains volatile and the development crises that caused the agitations remain largely unchanged.
In 2013, NDDC got N315.8 billion in allocation; in 2014, it got N322.6 billion; in 2015, it got N300.1 billion; and N241 billion from initial N260 billion proposed in 2016.
Yet, it has “over 7000” uncompleted projects, acting managing director, Ibim Seminitari, told the National Assembly in June.
For the North East, the development commission is canvassed to rebuild and rehabilitate the region devastated by Boko Haram insurgency that has displaced millions of citizens.
“The success of this commission depends on six components: the Act establishing itself which must be sound; lean but effective board management and structure populated by people with the right attitude; programmes after comprehensive need assessment; budget; implementation; and oversight by the National Assembly,” the Adamawa lawmaker who strongly supported the new bill said.
“If any of these is not properly handled, God forbid it many not succeed.”
On funding, three per cent of the Federal Government’s share of the Value Added Tax, royalties from mining operations, and appropriations by the National Assembly will serve as sources for the commission, Mr. Nyako explained.
He, however, said the VAT clause would only be for ten years of the existence of the commission.
He added that there is a clause in the bill that says Federal Government can wind up the commission after ten years once the problems are addressed.
“If we don’t see impact of the commission after 10 years, what are we doing with it? We must do things differently.”
Giving details of the structure proposed for the commission, Mr. Nyako said there would be board members from the six north-east states, and representatives from the other five zones. The representatives of the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Budget and National Planning will also be on the board.
He added that the commission would have three departments, including one on civil-military relations.
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