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South-South Seeks Its Own Development Commission

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The House of Representatives, on 17th November 2021, passed a bill for the establishment of a South-South Development Commission. It will be recalled that the House passed four bills in October 2021, for the establishment of the South East, South West, North Central and North West Development Commissions, respectively. Now, a bill has been passed for a similar establishment for the South-South region. The bill seeks to establish a South-South Development Commission with the purpose of formulating policies and guidelines for States in the region, as well as to plan and implement programmes for the sustainable development of the region. The bill also provides for a governing board for this Commission comprising a Chairman, a representative from each State of the region, representatives from relevant federal ministries, representatives from security agencies, the Managing Director and two executive directors of the Commission.

Similar to the sources of funding for other counterpart regional development commission bills, the South-South Commission is to be funded by 15% of the monthly statutory allocations due to its members States from the Federation Account, 3% of the total annual budget of any oil producing company and solid mineral extracting company operating in the region and 50% of the monies due to member States from the Ecological Fund. Other sources include grants, loans, deposits from the Federal or State Governments, local or foreign bodies; monies raised for the commissions by way of gifts, grants-in-aid, testamentary disposition and proceeds from assets that accrue to the Commission.

Observers wonder if a South-South Development Commission in addition to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, will be one too many for the region. Interestingly, one of the arguments canvassed by Senators in opposition to the amendment of the NDDC Act to include more States, was that the NDDC is a regional development Commission. In light of this, it is unclear what the purpose of a South-South Commission would be. Except the NDDC is transformed into an all-encompassing Commission for oil producing States regardless of geographical location, the creation of a South-South Development Commission may merely be joining or duplicating already existing institutions and their functions.