Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
Lawmakers yesterday solicited the support of governors and other stakeholders in the North-east region for the establishment of North-east Development Commission (NEDCOM).
This is to enable for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Boko Haram ravaged sub-region, and to assist in the return of 2.8 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the area to their communities this year.
The call for the support was followed by Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima’s declaration that the troubled sub-region had suffered destruction estimated at N1.782 trillion ($9 billion).
Leading some members of the House of Representatives to Maiduguri on a courtesy call on Governor Shettima, Hon. Mohammed Monguno, representing Monguno/Marte/Nganzai federal constituency said the region needs a development commission to address the damage caused by insurgency.
He lamented that the region was nearly brought to its knees as a result of Boko Haram insurgency that has lasted for over six years now.
Mongumo said: “All these antecedent problems both social and economic and otherwise that have been brought to this sub-region, can only be overcome by establishing a commission like the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
“As a result of the insurgency, we are all aware that our economy now is in a state of comatose. Our infrastructural facilities have been completely destroyed. Our social strata have also been completely destroyed. There is no way we are going to commence the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the North-east in a haphazard manner.”
Monguno said the commission would be statutorily charged with the responsibilities of handling the developmental challenges of the Northeast occasioned by the Boko Haram insurgency.
He reiterated that: “There is the need for a masterplan for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the North-east. And the only way; we can achieve that objective is by establishing the North-east Development Commission along the modem of NNDC.
“Funds are going to be specifically earmarked for the purpose of the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the North-east.”
The lawmaker said it was against this background that the Speaker of the House of Representatives sponsored the bill which brought unanimous support in the House.
He explained that the bill had passed the first and second reading, adding that it has now got to the representative committees of the two chambers awaiting public hearing.
“As a result of that, we decided to come out and solicit for the support and understanding of our leaders so that they can extend their hands of fellowship to establish the commission,” said Monguno.
He said as Shettima is the chairman of 19 Northern Governors’ Forum, urging him to talk to his colleagues in the country to support the objectives of NEDCOM, as Borno State in the epicenter of Boko Haram insurgency.
Responding, Shettima said if the legislators could pass the NEDCOM bill, they would have achieved more than 50 percent of what the people have elected them to do at the National Assembly; as far those in the Northeast are concerned.
He noted that Boko Haram had brought the political leadership of the North-east together for the first time in a long time, saying: “If there is one thing the Boko Haram has forced us to do as a region is that for the very first time since 1999, leaders in the North-east have set aside political and ethno-religious differences to fuse into one entity for the purpose of pursuing a course that is purely developmental with absolutely nothing to do with politics.”
He lamented that the sub-region has suffered destructions worth $9 billion; which is about N3 trillion based on parallel market exchange rate.
Shettima said: “The North-east Development Commission is an idea whose time has come and whose time is now. Nothing stops an idea whose time it is.”
“We are already on the ground; we are trying to crawl and eventually be on our feet. Ordinarily, your visit should afford me the opportunity to reel out statistics on the extent of destructions suffered by us in Borno State but we are talking about the North-east; so I will not be selfish to talk about Borno State alone.”
He said even in the most ordinary of times which was before the Boko Haram insurgency, the North-east geo-political zone was already the most backward in all indices of development.
On federal government deprivation of North-east with infrastructural and health facilities, Shettima said: “According to a 2014 World Bank report, two-thirds of the world’s poorest people live in India, China,
Nigeria, Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of Congo where there are citizens that live on less than one dollar per day.
“In Nigeria, which is one of the five countries, the Human Development Index report of 2013 identifies the Northeast as the poorest in the country where between 67% and 69% of the population live in abject poverty. Series of maternal mortality index reports on Nigeria, places the North East Zone as having the highest mortality rate of 1,549
deaths per 100,000 live births which is in very sharp contrast with what obtains in the South West Zone that has the lowest mortality rate of 165 deaths per 100,000 live births.”