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South West Dev Commission Bill splits Senate

By Ignatius Okorocha

The hallowed chamber of the Upper House yesterday witnessed rowdy session as a bill for an Act to establish the South West Development Commission, divided the Senate as many lawmakers of both political platform spoke in favour and against the passage of the proposed legislation.

In his lead debate, sponsor of the bill, Senator Ibikunle Amosun (APC Ogun Central), had explained that the commission is to act as a catalyst to develop the commercial and industrial potentials of the South West, as well as to receive and manage funds from allocation of the Federation for the agricultural and industrial development of the region.

Amosun added that it would help to tackle any other related educational backwardness as well as security and development challenges and other connected matter.

The bill, which eventually passed second reading, was opposed by some lawmakers who said that the South West does not need such commission, arguing that the region is ahead of others in term of development.

The opposing lawmakers insinuated that by passing the bill, Senate was venturing to dividing the country cautioning, “You should not divide or balkanize the country,”adding that the commissions granted to South South and North East geopolitical zones came into place because of certain circumstances.

Specifically, Senator Adamu Bulkachuwa (APC Bauchi North) said the National Assembly shouldn’t be the chamber to discuss disintegration of the country, explaining that the North East Development Commission and Niger Delta Development Commission were products of circumstances.

He said: “I cannot see any reason why the South West Development Commission should be created because South West is the most developed in the country.

“This bill is a very dangerous bill. They are pointing towards self- government and true federalism.”

Also opposing the bill, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP Delta Central) said, “If we balkanize this country, we will be held responsible. We shouldn’t sit here and divide this country. The foundation we are laying here is a foundation to balkanize the country.”

But Senator Surajudeen Ajibola Basiru (APC Osun Central) said that the bill should not be seen along ethnic thinking, adding that there shouldn’t be unnecessary agitation, as South West has not only sacrificed for Nigeria’s unity, but has contributed immensely to the development of the country.

Also supporting the bill, Senator Adamu Aliero (APC Kebbi Central), pointed out that every region has peculiar problem, adding that every geo-political zones should come up with development programmes.

He, however, noted that the South West is the most developed region in the country, with sea and airports and also the former seat of government.

Earlier in his lead debate, Amosun said, “the push for the establishment of the South West Development Commission is an attempt to address the dwindling fortunes of the region by implementing a regional development plan, taking into consideration the region’s unique endowments, natural advantages and capabilities.”

“This commission if 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 under development by redirecting federal 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, industrialization, 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,” he stressed.

Senate President Ahmad Lawan, after the bill had passed second reading referred it to the Committee on Establishment and Public Services for further legislative works.

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