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Date Published: 05/02/10

Towards A Dynamic Rural Development Policy in Bayelsa States By Ayebanoa Douglas 


The  1999 Nigeria Constitution recognizes the local Government as the third tier system of government . However, Nearly all the local governments in Nigeria are either crippled by the preponderant force of the State or in most cases, willfully not performing to people’s expectation. Local governments in Nigeria exists to provide socio-economic and political services to local people. The expediency for the creation of local government anywhere in the world emanates from the need to facilitate development at the grassroots. However, the significance attached to the third-tier of local government is a function of its ability to generate sense of belongingness, safety and meeting the needs of the rural populace.  

The general perception is that LGAs provide a veritable ground for development, decentralization and serves as a launching-pad for democratization. In furtherance ofFor the past decades, more euphemistic phrases have since been employed to justify people’s participation at the grassroots. They include: “Development from Below”, “Bottom-up Approach to Development”, “Popular Participation”, Bringing Government Closer to the People” and other catch-phrase to argue for people’s involvement the affairs that directly affect them. 

In Nigeria, hard-earned and limited resources accrued to and raised by local government are always mismanaged. Priorities are misplaced; projects are done not according to or as demanded by the people but regrettably in tune with the selfish end and aggrandisement of the political leadership in collaboration with the senior bureaucrats at the local government level of administration. The central tendency is that local governance promotes good governance factors such as: participatory democracy and grassroots or civil society participation in decision making and resource allocation; transparency and anti-corruption mechanisms; human rights and administrative justice; equitable and fair access to services; fair balance between government and private sector; and the separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government. 

In Bayelsa State, Government has therefore identified the need to bridge its existing infrastructure gap as one of the key elements required to jump-start its economic development by enabling the growth of sectors in which it has identified a comparative advantage e.g. tourism and agriculture, and also to position the State as one of the preferred destinations for private sector investment in the country. Consistent with this objective is the obligation of the State to direct its policy towards ensuring the promotion of a planned and balance economic development and that material resources are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good. However, so much is required at the local government and rural level to translate the vision and good intentions to reality. 

The major challenges facing effective provision of infrastructural facilities like education and healthcare at the local level in Nigeria can be summarized as poverty, inadequate equipment, political instability, mismanagement/mal- administration  of available facilities and resources; poor structures of accountability and participation, inadequate capacity building at the local level, lack of incentives for workers posted to rural and difficult areas, low level of literacy particularly that of women greatly affected negatively maternal and infant mortality rates; community apathy, ineffective community participation. 

The assumption of office by the newly elected Local Government Chairmen in the eight LGAs is a step in the right direction. Essentially, their executive offices will enable them achieve more in fostering rural development in line with the administration’s policy drive to promote job creation, economic prosperity, capacity building and infrastructural development. However, deep suspicions remain in civic and development organizations towards local government executives, and these are not likely abate soon. The new Chairmen, Councilors and officials working in the LGAs have so much to do to convince the people that the business as usual scenario has changed for the better.  

The gap can only be filled through capacity building which requires the interaction of experience-by-doing, access to resources, facilitation, mediation, and training. There is a need for state assistance to increase the capacity of rural dwellers and for those structures to employ people skilled in facilitation and mediation to promote organizational skills among rural people. Elected representatives in local government structures and people in community based organizations will need to take advantage of training and capacity building opportunities if they are to maximize their communities' opportunities for development. Over the years, there has been consensus that an oil-dependent economy is easily emasculated. There has been an urgent need to grow the non-oil sector of the economy. The Agricultural policy of Bayelsa State is that at least 50% of the working population should be employed in the agricultural sector. Pursuant to the achievement of this policy, the State has established partnerships to turn Yenagoa into an investment hub through the promotion of tourism and a green economy. 

The coordinating  Ministry has been mandated to ensure LGAs adhere strictly to the State laws governing local government administration; facilitate the formation of community foundations, support rural development initiatives and enhance local government accountability and transparency and produce skilled craftsmen who are employable and self-reliant. The long term goals of the Ministry are the construction of  community infrastructure, establishment of functional craft development centers in each Local Government and to ensure high standards in Local Government strategic planning, accountability, project management, transparency and effective administration.

Further, the Ministry has a responsibility to facilitate the establishment of community development committees and modern fire service in Yenagoa and at least one well equipped modern fire service in each senatorial district headquarters. All Local Government Areas in Bayelsa State will draft a sustainable development plan. The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development will assist in the drafting of LGA sustainable development plans and work cooperatively to ensure appropriate deployment of LGA resources within the plan. The Ministry will work with Local Government Areas to develop publicly accountable local government services and best practice in service delivery.

However, the Ministry of LGA and rural development has the problem of low capacity of the personnel and this has negatively affected the much-needed coordination between the Ministry and other stakeholders. A people-oriented local government system should establish a close relationship and work in synergy with the Local Government Chairmen and other development partners such as the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the United Nations Development Programme and other International Development Partners. This has resulted in the haphazard implementation of rural development policies. It is therefore common knowledge for  

In its Medium Term Sector Strategy document the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development objectives includes the provision of vocational skill training for empowering the people for entrepreneurship and employment, to check rural-urban drift by providing basic essential socio-economic infrastructures among others. Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound objectives were identified as critical to the achievement of the sector’s goals and objectives. In order to ensure maximum impact for State Government spending, the Ministry has not only specified its detailed spending plans, but also the outputs and outcomes of each expenditure item.  

A strategic approach of the Sylva administration towards sustainable development is through the mechanism of public-private partnership (PPP). This is an agreement between a government and/ or its agency and a private sector entity that allows for greater private sector participation in the delivery of public infrastructure projects. PPP models allow transfer of associated project risks to the party best positioned to manage it.  Typically, PPPs cover the gambit from “outsourcing”, to traditional public-private partnerships, to privatization. In each case, it represents a means to apply the resources of the private-sector in meeting the needs of the public. The thrust of these initiatives has primarily been to encourage public-private partnership (PPP) as a vehicle for rapid economic growth.  

The PPP paradigm aligns with the fundamental idea of modern capitalism which supports the idea that the individual possesses the right to enjoy what he has earned and that the exercise of this right redounds to the general good. The application of Public – Private Partnership (PPP) principles has grown significantly in recent years as the advantages of blending private sector resources and skills with those of the public sector have become evident. It has also become clear that PPP models may become increasingly complex, and as such require a detailed understanding of their design and implementation features. There are many PPP structures with varying elements. However, they typically share the following characteristics: Long-term contractual arrangement. 

There are a number of methodological and policy constraints in entrenching of integrated development approach in terms of resource application and management at the grassroots. This made it imperative for systematic approach in policy and programs formulation and implementation. The Bayelsa context therefore interconnects several MDAs, which calls for synergy among the strategic ministries such as Education, Health, Finance, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Transport etc to innovatively achieve the set goals and objectives. 

In pursuance of grassroots development in Bayelsa State, government is making concerted efforts to ensure the completion of the 32 Secretariat complexes to improve governance at the grassroots In order to improve the expeditious completion of projects, government has pledged to provide matching grants for self-help in all rural development projects embarked upon by Community-Based Organizations and other Non-Governmental Organizations. In the 2010 budget, monies have been earmarked for the establishment of the fire-fighting training schools and procurement of modern fire-fighting equipment in the State. Plans have also reached an advanced stage for the construction and furnishing of Women Development Centres in the eight LGAs to create employment for women. This is in addition to the 30 communities earmarked as commercial emporia in the State. This policy is designed to enhance enterprise in the State. There is an on-going  construction of a multiple craft cente at Elebele, which is designed for empowerment of youths.  

Plans are underway to strengthen the industrial base of the State through the establishment of markets in Nembe, Kpansia and Otuoke in addition to a shopping mall in Yenagoa. A modern Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Centre will be established in Yenagoa. Similarly, a ceramic industry has been earmarked for Yenagoa through counterpart funding by the State and Federal Government. The industrial policy also supports the establishment of a Vehicle Assembly plant and the building of modern ware houses in all the three Senatorial Districts of the State.

The objectives of education in the medium and long-term include the promotion of  a friendly early child care and development education in public and private schools in Bayelsa State by 2012;  establishment of model primary/secondary schools across the 8 LGAs of the State and the  recruitment of 3000 teachers and retraining of 4500 teachers by 2012. These objectives are achievable because the State has already embarked on  the upgrade of primary schools as well as  upgrade structures and facilities at BYCAS model nursery/primary school.  Other policies being pursued by government include the strengthening of  facilities in selected schools and colleges with a view to provide all schools with teaching and learning materials and the completion of 3 international model secondary schools-one for each Senatorial District. Efforts are in top gears to relocation of the Bayelsa College of Arts and Science (BYCAS) model secondary school upgrade existing secondary schools between 2010-2012.

The rural development policy of Bayelsa State is dynamic, people-oriented and innovative. Government is determined to entrench good local governance as a panacea for alleviating rural poverty, wealth creation and people empowerment. The Coordinating Ministry must now ensure that each Local Government makes its own budget in line with government priorities. The is an urgent Ministry establish a sustainable partnering framework to harness the efforts of the various stakeholders such as the Ministry of Water Resources and existing partnering agencies such as the UNDP, NDDC to vigorously pursue the rural development policy. If the aforementioned avenues are exploited, the State’s rural development policy would transform the State within the life span of the Timipre Sylva administration.  

Ayebanoa Douglas, wrote from Port Harcourt

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