Development is a process that creates growth, progress, positive change or the addition of physical, economic, environmental, social and demographic components. In Economics, the subject matter refers to an improvement in the quality of life and wellbeing of the people of the economy.
Narrowing development to the improvement or upgrade of the environment, environmental development involves all positive changes brought about in a particular geographical area through people centred political, economic, social, cultural and even diplomatic efforts for a better place for all live.
Development, it must be said, should be sustainable, viz a viz economic, environmental and social development aspect that meets the demands of the contemporary context and does not prevent future generations from fulfilling their requirements.
Following the above, research shows that business play an imperative role, as studies however further reveals that the progress towards sustainable development has been slow, indicating the need for more concrete guidance that would allow businesses to act strategically and successfully in a sustainable way.
Also, there are three distinct but complementary dimensions of strategic management as viewed from the perspective of sustainability in order to encourage the integration of sustainability issues into corporate activities and strategies.
This said development, be it economic or social must respect the environment, so much so that the objective of sustainable development is to define viable projects and reconcile the ECONOMIC, SOCIAL and ENVIRONMENTAL aspects of human activities, which is about making progress in those areas without having to destroy the environment.
Now, a Development Authority means a person or body appointed for such roles as enumerated earlier as contemplated by and in accordance with the Municipal Government Act.
Note that cities, towns and counties may form Public Development Authorities, sometimes known as Public Corporations to assist in administering grants or local programmes, ENHANCE GOVERNMENT EFFICIENCY and SERVICE PROVISION, and/or improve municipality’s general living condition.
Now, to the kernel of the discourse.
The Abia State House of Assembly recently enacted the Abia State of Nigeria Greater Aba Development Authority Law, Law no 4 of 2023 and this calls for genuine appraisal.
According to Part 2 of the said Law;
“There is hereby established the Greater Aba Development Authority (hereinafter referred to as the “Authority”)
” The Authority shall be a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal and may sue and be sued in it’s corporate name.”
“The Authority may acquire, hold or dispose of any property, movable or immovable for the purpose of performing it’s functions and shall be an independent body in the discharge of it’s functions.”
“The Authority may be structured into Departments as the Governing Board may seem appropriate for the effective performance of the functions of the Authority under this Law.”
It is not an understatement that Aba and it’s environs is the commercial nerve centre of Abia and indeed the melting pot of all ethnic nationalities in Nigeria and even foreign nationalities and following it’s unique configuration, capable of generating stupendous amounts, which can make Abia State rely less and less on federal allocation. Aba is at par with Onitsha, also in South East Nigeria and these two cities can drive the economic revolution of the South East at large, when the said Law is fully implemented.
The Law further specified that “There is hereby designated in Abia State a new development area to be known as the Greater Aba City, (hereinafter referred to as the “City”) which shall cover the Local Government Areas or portion(s) thereof set out in the Schedule of this Law.”
It need be clarified that the area designated “City” according to the Law are areas covering Aba North, Aba South, Obingwa, Osisioma and Ugwunagbo Local Government Areas and also going by the dynamics of the areas mentioned, the need is overdue for a kind of economic synergy targeted at harnessing and enhancing the potentials therein which can catapult the economic fortunes of the State to heights unimagined.
Among the functions of the Authority include to
“implement policies and guidelines formulated for the development of the City, taking into consideration environmental, social and governance concerns”;
“conceive, plan and implement, with the approval of the Board, in accordance with set rules and regulations, projects and programmes for the sustainable development of the City in the field of transportation networks, health, education, employment, industralization, agriculture and fisheries, housing and urban development, Industrial parks, commerce, water supply, electricity, telecommunications, market development and management and high speed internet connectivity”;
“collaborate and seek partnerships with private sector partners to finance and implement the above infrastructure projects and other initiatives”, “cause the City to be surveyed in order to ascertain measures which are necessary to promote it’s physical and socio-economic development”;
“create Industrial Clusters, estates, business zones and other similar development initiatives in accordance with the Master Plan$;
“may, in conjunction with the relevant Federal and State authorities, designate specific areas within the City as Special Economic Zones(SEZs) or Free Trade Zones (FTZs) aimed at attracting targeted industries and promoting export oriented activities, and advise the Governor on offering incentives such as tax breaks, relief and subsidies”;
“plan, construct, re-design, regulate and control all markets, motor-parks, private parks in the City”;
“responsible for co-ordinating and overseeing the Environmental Impact Assessment process by the relevant State agency, including the review and approval of assessment reports to prevent or minimize adverse environmental impacts, protect natural resources, and promote sustainable development within the City”;
“interface with and seek humanitarian, human, material, technical and financial support from development partners (local or international) and non governmental organizations for the development of the City”;
“execute such other works and perform such other functions which in the opinion of the Board, are required for the sustainable development of the City”;
“The Authority shall in all situations, protect private investments (local and foreign) and shall facilitate and conclude, on behalf of the State, franchises, concessions, management contracts, licenses or other private public sector partnerships with any competent investor and shall, in pursuance thereof, use its best endeavor to procure from the State Government, guarantees, letters of comfort, indemnities or undertaking as may be reasonably required for projects executed under the Law”, among others.
In the light of the above it is obvious that the new administration in Abia State is thinking out of the box, coming up with actionable innovations which can glaringly change positively, the fortunes of the State and even making it more attractive to development partners, foreign or local.
As to whether there will not be areas of conflict between the Authority and other agencies of the State, the Law explicitly states that “where there is a conflict between the provisions of this Law and the Abia State Urban and Regional Planning Board and Planning Authority Law or any other State Laws, this Law shall supercede or take precedence over such laws.
The Greater Aba Development Authority Law in all intents and purposes is a very welcome development and should as a matter of necessity be given every impetus to function effectively.
Public Affairs Analyst.