The future of Delta State coastal dwellers
Sir: Aside from the recently passed Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) which took the country over 17 years to pass, the Coastal Area Development Agency (CADA) Bill if passed, may help prioritise as extremely important the need to complete a process of socio-economic rejuvenation of the coastal areas of the Niger Delta region particularly in Delta State.
It will also assist the Delta State Government to provide the needed care at the most fundamental level while enhancing the lives of the coastal dwellers in the state.
The CADA Bill, recently scripted by the Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice (CEPEJ), has been sent to the Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, Speaker and members of Delta State House of Assembly.
Provisions in the proposed Bill outlined the communities referred/described as coastal communities to be affected as IJAW: Ogulagha, Egbema, Gbaramatu Kingdoms, Burutu, Bomadi Patani and Okpokunou. ISOKO: Iyede Ane, Onogboko and Ofagbe. ITSEKIRI: Omadino, Ugborodo, Ogidigben, Gbokoda and Bateren. NDOKWA: Ase, Aboh and Ashaka. URHOBO: Assah, Gbaregolo, Okwagbe, Esaba, Otutuama, Ophorigbala and Otor-Ewu.
They are well spread across the three senatorial zones of the state and include the five major ethnic nationalities in the state; (1) Ijaw; (ii) Isoko; (iii) Itsekiri; iv) Ndokwa of Anioma nationality and (v) Urhobos. Under this form of arrangement and inclusiveness, the case of envy or inter-tribal crisis is, without doubt, bound not to arise.
The Agency is expected to formulate policies and guidelines for the development of the Coastal Area; conceive, plan and implement projects and programmes for the sustainable development of the Coastal Area; prepare a master plan to tackle ecological and environmental problems of the Coastal Area; cause the Coastal Area to be surveyed in order to ascertain measures to promote its physical and socio-economic development; undertake such research as may be necessary for the performance of its functions;
If the state government fails to provide needed protection and save the area from infrastructural backwardness, pollution and degradation, via enactment of this Bill, how will the state government expect the people to be treated with equal respect by the vast majority of International Oil Companies (OICs), operating in the locality, who already consider Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), as a dangerous fiction created as an excuse to impose an unfair burden upon the wealthy and powerful.’
Next, Governor Okowa and of course the state House of Assembly must accelerate this process because the communal rights to a clean environment and access to clean water supplies are being violated. The opportunity provided by the Bill can proffer a broader solution to the challenges created by the Niger Delta Development Commissions (NDDC) and that of the Presidential Amnesty handlers.
Jerome-Mario Utomi is the programme coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos.