Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
A bill seeking to establish the South East Development Commission (SEDC) to ensure the realisation of the commercial potentials of the region in the Senate passed through second reading wednesday.
The proposed commission is intended to provide a master plan for the reduction of unemployment and schemes to promote the physical development of the region.
The bill had last week suffered defeat in the House of Representatives. Members of the South-east caucus in the House however attended the Senate session in solidarity with their members in the Senate.
Presenting the lead debate, Senator Samuel Anyanwu (Imo East) said the bill would not impose any extra financial burden on the federal government, as its operations would be funded by 15 percent of the federal allocation from member states.
He added that the bill would also not impact negatively on the other geopolitical zones, but would rather support the re-visitation of the need to address the issues raised by the bill.
â€œThe passage of this bill will be critical in addressing the South-east agitation against marginalisation through an integrative development plan that will promote and strengthen the sense of nationalism.
â€œA thriving and strong economy in the Southeast consequent upon the tackling of their problems will definitely lead to improved revenue streams into the Federation Account in terms of taxes and other non-oil revenue sources,â€ Anyanwu added.
The bill, which is divided into six part, seeks the establishment of the development commission to rehabilitate and construct roads to ameliorate the devastating effect of soil erosion and other environmental or developmental challenges in the region made up of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States.
â€œTo identify and promote programmes that will enhance the development of boundless entrepreneurial capacities, technical skills, technological innovativeness and managerial competences for our economic advancement.
â€œTo give necessary attention and support needed to harness the abundant economic and ingenuous entrepreneurial potentials of the region, and to the development of the manufacturing and industrial activities capable of transforming the Nigerian economy and lead the way to a strategic domestic economic growth,â€ Anyanwu said.
The Senate also yesterday resolved to constitute an ad hoc committee to investigate the circumstances of the exorbitant airfare for the Hajj pilgrimage as fixed by National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) with a view to exposing any sharp practices.
The committee would be expected to report its finding in a week.
The resolution followed a motion sponsored by Senator Ibrahim Danbaba (Sokoto South) who lamented that intending pilgrims are being charged N1.55 million each by NAHCON, where private operators charge N1.2 million per pilgrim.
He added that the commission is extorting the pilgrims by making them pay unnecessary charges.
According to him, â€œWe are aware also that NAHCON negotiates and provides accommodation for all pilgrims at Madina, Minna and Arafat on behalf of all states. It also takes responsibility for feeding arrangements at Madina, Minna and Arafat. The cost of feeding the pilgrims which is inbuilt in the fare packages constitutes a burden on the pilgrims since his or her right of feeding is circumscribed.
â€œApart from the imposition of meals which are not standard and served at the right time, the peculiarities of the feeding behaviour of pilgrims are not taken into account. Consideration is not given to pilgrims with specific ailments like Diabetics. It is also expensive. There are also allegations that this centralised system of feeding was introduced in order to favour certain foreign food contractors over their Nigerian counter-parts resident in Saudi Arabia and for self-gain by the Nigerian officials.â€