CADA and Possibility of a Sustainably Developed Delta State Coastal Area

delta state coastal area

By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

Throughout the early decades, the world paid little attention to what constitutes sustainable development. Such conversation, however, gained global prominence via the United Nations’ introduction, adoption and pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which lasted between the years 2000 and 2015. And was among other intentions aimed at eradicating extreme poverty and hunger as well as achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, improve maternal health among others.

Likewise/comparatively, in the early years of Delta as a state, the coastal region of the state was visibly plagued with similar development challenges such as widespread poverty, insecurity, gross injustice and ethnic politics and was in dire need of attention from interventionist organizations (private and civil society organization).

Such narrative appreciably changed with the advent of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s administration in the state. That was from the year 2015 till date. Indeed, the administration has without doubt brought to the region some economic growth and structural change, with some measures of distributive equity, modernization in social attitudes, a degree of political transformation and stability, and improvement in health and education.

However, there are some painful signs that except more reforms are made and more effective policies are put in place to sustainably save and serve the people of the coastal region of the state, the honesty, efficiency and development Governor Okowa has brought to the coastal region are likely going to end with him at the expiration of his tenure.

There are many reasons why this present fear cannot be described as unfounded.

Among many, the most ‘profound’ is the continued inability of the state House of Assembly to pass into law the Coastal Area Development Agency (CADA) Bill, scripted by the Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice (CEPEJ), in February 2018, long before other sister development agencies were created by Governor Okowa and forwarded to; the Delta State Governor, Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Sheriff Oborevwori as well as other members of the House.

A peep into the proposed but now abandoned Bill shows that if passed, it will not be mistaken for, categorized as, or run in conflict with the already ascribed responsibilities of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and that of the Delta State Development Commission (DESOPADEC) as it is coastal dwellers-specific

SCHEDULE II, Section 4(5) of the Bill clarifies this argument as it painstakingly outlined the communities referred to/described as coastal communities. These communities in question include; 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.

Again, separate from the Bill being capped with capacity for strengthening the state government’s focus on developing the area and serving the interest of the coastal dwellers, if passed, it will unite the three senatorial zones of the state. The reason for this assertion is not farfetched. A glance at the names of the communities to be included or captured by the bill shows that 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.

Another area of interest provided by the Bill that makes it welcoming is signposted in the agency function/responsibilities captured in PART II. . (1).

It says: The agency shall 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;

Others are develop and operate infrastructure services and facilities within the coastal area; liaise and collaborate with relevant government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs); attract and promote investments for the development of the coastal area; enter into contracts or partnerships with any person or body (whether corporate or unincorporated) which in the opinion of the agency will facilitate the discharge of its functions under this bill; and execute such other works and perform such other functions which in the opinion of the Agency, are required for the sustainable development of the coastal area and its people.

Indeed, while this piece notes with pleasure that the Okowa-led administration has achieved a lot in the state, particularly in the Niger Delta region, it will be necessary for the House to consider this Bill.

Principally, if they fail to provide this 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 currently consider Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), ‘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.

Very instructive, another compelling reason why the state must act in favour of the Bill is that the coastal dweller/Oil bearing host communities, who initially hoped that the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), will take care of their needs and offer the needed environmental protection have since realized that such may not be an insight, particularly with the paltry 3% allocation the Act allocated to the host communities. So having the CADA propositions come alive, will act as consolation to the people for the inadequacies of the Petroleum Industry Act.

The House needs to keep this fact in mind as 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.

To explain this point, while the coastal dwellers have in recent times perceived and referred to NDDC as ‘a city boy’ that has nothing to do with coastal regions, the pronounced threat created by the Presidential Amnesty office’s inability to create jobs for the large army of professionally trained ex-militants have characterized the entire programme as a horse shaking off flies with its tail oblivious of the fact that as soon as it stops to flail its tail, the flies will come back more determined to snipe.

Most importantly, it is evident that this agitation for a better life and healthy environment in the coastal region of the state did not start today. This particular fact makes it more compelling for the members of the house and the Governor to respond to this bill.

Standing as a telling proof of neglect is an open letter dated May 20th, 2019 by the Riverine communities in Delta State forwarded to Okowa, where the group bemoaned the non-presence of government projects in the coastal areas, lamenting the NDDC’s choice of cities and towns for their projects, and advocated the creation of CADA as a way of ensuring a sustained development of the area.

There are equally signs that the people of the area are not relenting in their call on the state government to intensify efforts to sustainably develop the area.

Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He can be reached via [email protected]/08032725374

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