By GbaramatuVoice Editorial Board
One of the powers expressly given by the nation’s constitution to both the President of the Federation and the State Governors is the power to create or establish Commissions and Agencies where necessary. These Commissions when created are expected to serve a definite purpose within a specific area and period.
The membership of such Boards also is always by appointment and in some cases, may require rectification by the legislative arm of government.
Very good examples of such boards and commissions that have existed in the time past, or are still in existence may include but not limited to: The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Delta State Oil Producing Development Commission (DESOPADEC) among others.
The wisdom behind the creation of these commissions by the government at different levels comes in double folds; first, it is aimed at reducing the pressure of work on the President or the State Chief Executives. Another reason is that handling some governmental issues requires specialized knowledge and prompt discharge which the Commission can take care of.
Similarly, worthy of note is that the emergence of every commission is heralded by, and their existence backed by enabling laws (Acts).
However, experience has shown that a handful of these commissions upon inauguration goes straight to the action and achieve the goals as mandated, while some will achieve very averagely. Others will end up deviating from the primary role they were given or in most cases politicized, thereby becoming a reality that the people will worry about and a clog in the will of the progress of the state.
This last picture painted above is the situation that Delta State Oil Producing Area Development Commission (DESOPADEC) has very, unfortunately, found itself. The Commission has been roundly perceived by the public as inept in performing the role it was established to handle, riddled with corrupt tendencies and enmeshed in an unholy politicking and meddlesomeness by the state chief executive.
But going through the enabling laws, GbaramatuVoice gathered that the principal law establishing DESOPADEC was passed into law in August 2007, under Chief James Onanefe Ibori administration under section 13(1).
The said Act stated explicitly that the commission will among other functions, secure 50% of the 13% Oil Derivation Fund accruing to Delta State government.
Then, the Commission is to apply the received sum to the rehabilitation and development of oil-producing areas of the state as well as carry out other development projects as may be determined from time to time.
But the above role expected of DESOPADEC has come under serious scrutiny as the Newspaper recently gathered that different groups and concerned individuals have called for the scrapping of the Commission, accusing it of corruption, cluelessness and a Commission that only exist in the name as it is roundly manipulated by the State Governor through incessant amendment of the Acts establishing it.
The State Governor, Senator (Dr.) Ifeanyi Okowa on the other hand, according to a report, while defending his action stated as follows; “We are not repealing the old law, it is not a new bill, the amendment we are proposing is to structure DESOPADEC in line with the NDDC (Niger Delta Development Commission) model, this is democracy and I am not expecting that the amendment bill will come out exactly as we proposed it; there will be public hearing, people will make their contributions; I don’t believe in forcing the hands of the Legislators,” he said.
From the above positions advanced by the concerned groups and the Governor himself, the editorial board observed without prejudice that a visible gap exist as the Newspaper could not establish a nexus between the two positions as advanced.
It is also observed that it is either someone is not coming out with the desired information or the other is over amplifying the situation to score a cheap political point.
We as a reputable media group has noticed some appreciable levels of interference on the activities of the Commission by yet to be identified hands.
But while this accusation and counter-accusations are going on, development is stunted and the people that the commission was established to better their lots suffer.
So, to come out of this impasse, it is GbaramatuVoice objectified views that; in as much as we are not totally supportive of the scrapping as it is being campaigned in some quarters, it is imperative at the same time that the government take the following steps in addressing the issues raised by these concerned groups:
First, the state Government should deal with the amendment in an open and transparent manner. This he can achieve by following the international best practice as well as application of our nation’s domestic laws.
Also related to the above is the need for the State government to enlarge the Board Membership to accommodate the Host Communities of Nigeria Producing Oil & Gas (HOSTCOM) as members of the board if they have not been before.
In the same manner, it is our opinion that the government of the day appraises the performances of the board members in order to remove non-performing members and have them replaced with active people.
We also call on the Delta State Governor to look into and consider the demand as made by the Host Communities that the 13% Oil Derivation Fund be paid directly to the oil producing communities if that will best serve their interest.
Thinking in the same manner, we call on the Governor to investigate the claim as canvassed recently that the Commission has received well over N48.6b between May 2015 and November 2016 without anything to show for it.
If true, the members of the board that misappropriated the said sum, in any form or under any guise, should be handed over to the relevant law enforcement agencies for proper questioning.
The Newspaper is also calling on both the Federal and State lawmakers to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act as passed so that the general public and the media will always have direct access to information such as this when needed instead of picking such from inappropriate sources.
It is the view of the newspaper that the State Government urgently repositions DESOPADEC to enable it to perform its functions creditably.
Finally, we urge the government to take pragmatic steps that will help in figuring out ways of improving the living standard of the people in the coastal area with or without DESOPADEC as they are going through serious environmental challenges and excruciating poverty.
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