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PANDEF backs establishment of S’South development commission

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Nkanga

The Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), yesterday, expressed support for ongoing moves at the National Assembly to establish a South-South Development Commission (SSDC).

PANDEF’s National Chairman, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (rtd.) in a presentation during the public hearing organised by the Ogbonnaya Ozirubo-led House of Representatives Committee on Justice considering a Bill aimed at achieving the goal, said the initiative would be immensely beneficial to the South-South Geopolitical Zone.

The group, however, insisted that it was not under any illusion that the establishment of such a commission without devolution of powers to the federating units would facilitate development in the region and entire country.

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“What is most important to us at this point is the restructuring of the country to attain true federalism through devolution of powers and fiscal federalism,” the group stressed.

Explaining why it supported the creation of the commission, it said: “There is no gainsaying the fact that the South-South Zone remains one of the least developed regions of the country. It is the largest wetland and has the third-largest drainage basin in Africa, making its development difficult.

“The commission should serve as a springboard for the engagement, integration and development of the zone, resolve the infrastructure deficit, youth unemployment and restiveness, communal crises, as well as the ecological problems and other related environmental or developmental challenges in the region.”

On why PANDEF was in support of the commission even with the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), he said: “The NDDC, established in 2000 to replace the Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC), was to develop the oil-producing communities in Abia and Imo states in the Southeast, Ondo (Southwest) and the South-South zone.”

He argued that states of the NDDC would increase, as oil exploration and commercial finds increase, noting that presently, Lagos and Anambra were agitating to be included in the NDDC over claims of having become oil-producing states.

“And with the recent discovery of oil in the Northeast, states of that zone are also expected to claim membership of the NDDC when commercial production eventually commences,” he added.

Chairman of the South West caucus in the House, Femi Fakeye, also justified the establishment of the Southwest Development Commission saying it would ensure even development in the country.

Citing the infrastructure deficit in the zone to buttress his point, he said the Southwest region had suffered reversal of fortunes since the military incursion in the country’s politics and canvassed support of the committee to site the commission’s headquarters in Ibadan, Oyo State.

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