A bill that seeks to establish South West Development Commission (SWDC) has scaled second reading at the Senate.
The bill is sponsored by Ogun senator, Ibikunle Amosun. It was introduced in the Senate in November, 2019.
Leading the debate, Amosun said the issues that necessitated the enactment of this Bill are prevalent in all the other geopolitical zones in the country.
He said with increasing population in the Southwest region, social amenities, are increasingly stretched, just as living standards continue to plummet.
“Majority of roads are calling for urgent attention. Many state-owned hospitals have inadequate medical personnel and equipment that can properly manage the health needs of patients. Educational institutions are not what they used to be. Industrial estates have become desolate, while a few which are still functional are struggling to remain in business,” he said.
“The massive growth and activity of the agricultural sector evidenced with endless rubber and cocoa plantations have since given way while growth of local industries has been stalled. Also, no effective bureaucracy exists, and with the least premium placed on capacity development human resources development has ceased being a culture,” he explained.
The push for the establishment, he said, is an attempt to address the dwindling fortunes of the South West region by implementing a regional development plan, taking into consideration the region’s unique endowments, natural advantages and capabilities.
“This Commission it passed into law will enhance regional integration which is capable of delivering the benefits of large economies of scale. It is my firm belief that this Bill will act as a catalyst to develop the geo political zone by providing legislative backing to address some of these challenges in the South West, just as it has been done for other geo political zones in this hallowed chambers.”
“The Bill seeks to resolve issues of underdevelopment by redirecting federal government’s attention to the development challenges of the South West region which comprises Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo States. Issues which include, but are not limited to, agriculture, transportation, health, infrastructural decay, education, environment, housing, industrialisation, water supply, electricity, commerce etc, which when addressed will have a multiplier effect of great proportions not only for the South West region but Nigeria as a whole.”
Prior to the passage of the bill, many lawmakers made their contributions with a few rejecting it.
Adamu Bulkachuwa (Bauchi) said there was no reason to establish the SWDC, saying the South West region is the most developed in the country.
“There was first Amotekun. Now there is South West Development Commission Bill. All the other commission that were passed by this Senate, NDDC, North East, were actually created because of circumstances.
“North East was devastated by Boko Haram and all the wars and needed rehabilitation. The same things with NDDC. Because of the oil and exploitation activities, the livelihood of the people there was almost rendered useless. They could neither farm nor fish. They needed all these activities so the NDDC was created.
“I cannot see a reason why South West commission or South West Development Commission should be created because South West is the most developed region of the country,” he said.
He recalled that before the civil war, shipping activities were in Port Harcourt and Calabar but after the civil war, all shipping activities were diverted to Lagos.
“And up till now, shipping has not reverted to Calabar and Port Harcourt,” he said.
He said the bill is a “dangerous one” and does not reflect true federalism.
“We say we are creating true federalism. I don’t think this is true federalism. I don’t support it and I urge my senators to please not support it.”
In his response, the deputy senate leader, Ajayi Boroffice, said creation of commissions in the zones will only generate competition that will compel progress and growth and will unlock resources and potentials of the South West.
The deputy minority leader, Emmanuel Bwacha, further warned that the bill is not a controversial one but straight forward.
“This bill is advocating for development. Nobody will move against a developmental legislation. When you oppose this bill, it is simply moving against the tide.
“We are here to ensure that we carry development to all parts of Nigeria. North Central and North West are bringing their own so why are we getting agitated for nothing? In fact, refusal to pass this bill will rather divide us the more. Let us apply wisdom. As parliamentarians, we should be seen to be agents of unity.”
In a bid to calm the situation, Adamu Aliero, who was neither for or against the bill, urged lawmakers of other regions to bring their own bills.
“Every region has its peculiar developmental problems. What I would suggest in order not to divide this chamber, is for every geopolitical zone to come up with their own development agenda. If this is done, it will satisfy virtually everybody.
“There is no need to continue with this debate. Every zone should bring its bill for the senate to pass into law and the president to assent,” he said.
After the deliberations, the bill was read the second time after a voice vote. It was thereafter, referred to the Senate Committee on Establishment and Public Service matters.
Already in existence is the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the North East Development Commission (NEDC), whose establishment bill received presidential assent in October, 2017.
And introduced to the Senate are bills to establish South East, North Central and North West development commissions. The second reading of the bills is expected on another legislative day.