Some equate the Federal Government with a certain tribe they hate, claiming the tribe controls the FG and as such wants to control them. However, each measure they themselves undertake makes one wonder if they aren’t the ones to first surrender themselves to the control of the tribe they complain about. For instance, the other day, the South-West governors said they would transmit a memorandum to the National Assembly for the establishment of the South-West Development Commission.
Meanwhile, years ago, the idea for the regional development of the South-West was an initiative of this region, meant to be executed by the people of the region on their own terms, rather than be dictated to by the Federal Government (See, “Development Agenda for Western Nigeria”, Tunji Ajibade, The Guardian, March 22, 2012). With the latest step this initiative will be put on a leash, the idea distorted, the process skewed as the FG will be brought in with all the well-known intrigues that attend the establishment and operations of development commissions where they currently exist. It’s noteworthy that by this action the South-West region wants to give more responsibility to the Federal Government, at a time its ethnic champions and others who enjoy insulting the Fulani for ‘controlling’ their region are at the forefront of the call for restructuring, federalism, or devolution of powers.
I’ve never been in favour of measures that give more responsibility to the FG. This thing contradicts the devolution of powers to the component units. It’s what the set up of Development Commissions does. A look at the contents of the bills that set up Development Commissions for some of the geo-political zones will show them for what they are. The FG is in complete control. One, it’s the National Assembly that legislates the commissions into existence. Two, funds that should go into the treasury and get shared to the state governments of the concerned regions go to these development commissions. The ommissions have their own layer of bureaucracy, separate from those of the states. Funds are expended on this bureaucracy, even as states in the concerned region expend funds on the bloated bureaucracy that each of them maintains.
We know what happens to the funds allocated to these Commissions. Looting is the other of the day. Not long ago, the House of Representatives called for an investigation of the North-East Development Commission over an allegation of misappropriation of N100 billion. NASS alleged that corrupt practices in NEDC included high handedness by the managing director, inflation of contracts, awards of non-existent contracts, massive contract splitting and flagrant disregard for the procurement laws in the award of contracts. The call to investigate NEDC came as the House concluded an investigation into alleged financial recklessness at yet another FG agency, the Niger Delta Development Commission.
The other day, the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, said the NDDC embarked on projects without consulting with his state. One outcome is that there’s neither a grand plan nor strategy for systematic and sustained development of the states in the south-south region that’s jointly shared between the states and the NDDC. State governments execute a project, NDDC awards frivolous contracts for the same project. A state government has one vision, the NDDC has another if it has any. The implication? Funds that could be used in a streamlined manner to make the lives of people better are channelled into sometimes projects that don’t add to the social and economic development of the people. That’s even if the poorly executed projects by the NDDC don’t end up as abandoned projects, many of which deface the Niger Delta region today.
Moreover, as the NASS allocates funds to the Commission, the FG can influence whether or not it gets the funds and what it uses it for. This is possible because the President has a say regarding who’s appointed into the Commission’s Board and who’s not. In any season when states in a geo-political region are in the opposition party different from the party that controls Abuja, the consequences were in time past made clear in how a Development Commission was manipulated to achieve FG’s political goals. These are obvious issues that make the setting up of these Commissions a contradiction of the call being made by states in the southern parts of the country for devolution of power. The structure and power of these Commissions call attention to more contradictions. I call attention to them so that the day when some ethnic champions in the south-west insult the FG and insult the Fulani, I shall refer them to the proposed SWDC Bill in which they and their politicians surrender their independence to the FG that they equate with the Fulani.
I start with the bill setting up the North East Development Commission. This bill states that the NEDC would “receive and manage funds from allocation of the Federal Account, international donors for the settlement, rehabilitation and reconstruction of roads, houses and business premises of victims of insurgency as well as tackling menace of poverty, illiteracy level, ecological problems and any other related environmental or developmental challenges in the North-East states.” Does the reader see anything in these provisions that is different from what the states are meant to be doing for the people? Among other things, the Act establishing the NEDC provides for “one person each to represent the six geo-political zones of Nigeria.” It means when the south-west eventually gets the SWDC established, a Fulani (one tribe that some ethnic champions hate with such passion) is likely to be a member of the SWDC Board that will determine their fate in the south-west region.
Through the composition of the board of the NDDC (which the south-south itself asked for), the FG fully exercises control over this region that stridently calls for state control of resources, restructuring, federalism, devolution. The composition of its Board allows for “three persons to represent non-Oil mineral producing States provided that such membership should be drawn from the remaining geo-political zones which are not represented in the Commission.” It means any south-south person who hates the Fulani and likes to insult them, has most likely invited one Fulani person to determine his fate through his presence on the board of NDDC. The leash in the hands of the FG to control states in the south-south is even longer than that. On the NDDC Board also sits one person that represents the Federal Ministry of Finance; one person that represents Federal Ministry of Environment. Of course, there are the Managing Director of the Commission, two executive Directors, the Chairman and other members-of the Board who are all appointed by the President. In that case, like some south-west ethnic champions and politicians who blame the Fulani for every problem in Nigeria, call for federalism, yet want to surrender more powers to the ‘Fulani-controlled FG’ through the proposed SWDC Bill, the south-south region has done no less.
This isn’t the first time I call attention to the manner we call for one thing in the nation but pursue another. It shouldn’t be a matter I should have to call attention to repeatedly. But in a situation where some ethnic champions and public figures incite people, insult members of tribes other than theirs as they call for restructuring, one cannot but ask us to not forget. We mustn’t forget the contradictory measures we promote such as the establishment of Development Commissions in each of the six geo-political zones which gives more powers to the FG.
This trend cannot continue. Why? Powers handed over to the FG is never so easy to take back. The powers which the military adventurers took from the regions and handed over to FG in 1966 have become difficult to take back. Now, politicians in the south-west are handing over more powers to the same FG through this SWDC bill. After these politicians have willingly put a leash on their own necks, I’m certain a season will come when a different party that’s in control in Abuja will use the same Commission to have its way in the south-west. In those days, ethnic champions will insult the FG and the tribe that supposedly ‘controls’ it. But some of us will remind them how they themselves have encouraged it by giving more powers to the Federal Government through the SWDC.