The member representing Warri South-West Constituency in the Delta State House of Assembly, Emomotimi Guwor was on Tuesday, June 13, 2023, elected as the Speaker of the 8th House of Assembly while Arthur Akpowowo who represents Ethiope-East Constituency, emerged the Deputy Speaker. Guwor and other members of the State’s 8th Assembly were inaugurated after they swore an oath of allegiance.

While congratulations have continued to pour in for the new Speaker following his success at the polls and election into State Assembly leadership, this piece, like other well-meaning Deltans, believes that his commitment to public service and his exemplary track record in the now-rested 7th Assembly more than anything else earned him this well-deserved position and confidence that under his leadership, the Delta State House of Assembly will thrive, and the interests of the people will be represented effectively”.

However, as the celebration festers and the newly inaugurated Honourable members settle down for the task of lawmaking, one urgent imperative by members is self-introspection and interrogation in order to ascertain if they are result-oriented or comfort-centered people or self-focused, internally driven, and most importantly, externally open?

Separate from the awareness that most of the legislation, policies, and decisions by the outgone 7th Assembly were neither beneficial and helpful to the real development in the state nor aimed at improving the life chances of the poor and vulnerable Deltans, experience bears eloquent testimonies to the fact that most of the public office holders in the state in most cases put their personal needs above those of the whole and allow their pursuit of personal interest control their relationship with the people that voted them to power. In fact, Deltans are in agreement that most of the laws made by successive Assemblies in the state were never positively legislated for the poor.

That’s not the only negative signature previously witnessed in the state.

More often than not, most of these lawmakers in the state become more comfort centered. They are not only hypocritical and deceptive but advocate ambitious outcomes while designing works and frequently produce what already exists.

This quest for private gain and high propensity to acquire at the detriment of the poor masses and public good has not only led to a high cost of governance but partially explains why recurrent expenditures budgeted by successive administrations in the state religiously surpassed capital projections/expenditures. This is in sharp contrast and directly opposite to the development Professionals doctrine which preaches that capital expenditure drives infrastructural development and therefore must be given a ‘lion’s share’ by any government desirous of empowering its people.

As an incentive to assist the state change the above narrative in ways that will usher in a Delta state of our dreams where peace and development shall remain supreme, this piece holds the opinion that the first responsibility expected of Rt Honourable Guwor led 8th Assembly is urgently generate legislations to drastically reduces the cost of governance, supports human capital development in state while promoting values, fiscal discipline, robust, and continuous community engagement and development, effective and efficient and excellent public service delivery for the benefit of this generation and the next.

Again, even though things currently look grim in the state, this author considers it very logical, rational, practical, beneficial, and helpful to the real development of the state if the 8th Assembly develops the culture that gives the education sector a pride of place through budgetary allocation and framework to stop perennial underfunding regime in the state that has consequentially visited students in virtually all the state-owned institutions of higher learning with inconsiderate fee hikes.

Indeed, while some may argue that this is not the time to hold the previous administration accountable for a hike in school fees because there are more important matters confronting the state, the truth must be told to the effect that the new administration is bound to face confusion in their minds if the House allows these fee regimes to stand or do nothing to change the narrative.

The reason for the above line of argument is not far-fetched.

Aside from the awareness that the immediate past administration in the state defined leaning in the state too narrowly in a manner devoid of process and outcome fairness by getting preoccupied with revenue generation without recourse to the comfort of students and their parents, there exists in the state shocking phenomenon of declining standards of physical infrastructures and the near-total collapse of basic facilities that ought to be functional in government own tertiary institution, secondary and primary schools in the state.

Without going into a critical analysis of how underfunding of the education sector spread its wings in the state, one point members of the 8th Assembly must not fail to remember, and of course, a very cogent why education must be given favorable attention and allocation by the House is that there are a large number of youths in the state that are knowledge/education hungry and daily project vividly and openly their potential, nature, character, behavior, performance skills and talent that needs to be nurtured in a conducive environment and fairest fees.

As we know, any developmental plan in the state without youth education delivered in a well-structured learning environment and fair fees will amount to a mere waste of time and effort.

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To catalyze the process, it is important that the Guwor-led Assembly in line with the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, of which Nigeria is a signatory, domesticate/recognize the right to education as a human right. This is necessary for enthroning sustainable development in the state, particularly as education is the bedrock of all developments.

Also germane within this period of vulnerability is for the Assembly to come up with legislation that will make former Governor Okowa’s social investments program/empowerment schemes a sustainable exercise while new ones are creatively added.

These projects include but are not limited to; the flagship Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP), Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP), and similar programmes undertaken by the Ministries of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Commerce and Industry, Women Affairs as well as the Delta State Micro Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency and Widows alert initiative.
The Delta State 8th Assembly must commit to mind the fact that the above projects and programs made Delta State Best in Human Capital Development in the 2017 States Peer Review, by the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria, and in 2020 adjudged the Second Least Poor State, coming only after Lagos, by Nigeria’s business hub among others.

Very key, while Deltans celebrate the recent inauguration, the members of the new Delta State Assembly in my view are obliged to creatively devise legislation that is coastal areas-specific to aid the state Governor achieve his ‘expect More mantra’ promised to the good people of the state.

Thankfully, the Speaker is from the coastal axis of the state and familiar with the challenges confronting the people of the area and the need to prioritize the development process of and socio-economic rejuvenation of the area which has taken the state too long a time to accomplish.

For members of the Assembly who are not from that part of the state(coastal areas), a visit to that part of the state will reveal that they have not vanished physically but only exist in the frames. In the riverine communities, many children, particularly the children of fishermen and women, are out of school not because they are not willing to be educated but because the cost of education is beyond the reach of their parents. For the majority of schools, no learning takes place as a greater number of public schools sited in the area are short of teachers and dotted with dilapidated buildings. On the other hand, the private schools where the environment is conducive for learning are not only far from those communities but also capital intensive.

For me, the template for developing the area is available. It is for the Guwor-led Assembly to resuscitate and carefully consider a bill scripted two years ago by the Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice (CEPEJ), submitted but not considered by the now-rested 7th 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 bill is passed into law, it will provide needed protection and save the area from infrastructural backwardness, accelerate the issue of communal rights to a clean environment and access to clean water supplies to the people while providing a broader solution to the challenges created by the Niger Delta Development Commissions (NDDC) and that of the Presidential Amnesty handlers.

But if ignored, it will again elicit the question as to how the state government will 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 the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), as a dangerous fiction created as an excuse to impose an unfair burden upon the wealthy and powerful.

Finally, while this piece waits for the adoption of these or some of the proffered solutions, guidelines, and roadmaps and most importantly legislate for the poor, I will in the interim congratulate the Honourable Members of the Delta State 8th Assembly.