Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
Some senators wednesday expressed reservations at the North-east Development Commission, whose establishment Act was recently signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Some of the lawmakers said accelerated development is needed in all parts of the country and harped on the need for the South-east Development Commission and other regional commissions, to be passed, while others said injustice has been done by the non-inclusion of Plateau and Kano States.
The controversy followed a motion sponsored by Senator Danjuma Goje, commending the president for the assent to the bill.
The motion also urged the federal government to make adequate financial provisions in the 2018 budget for the commissionâ€™s appropriate take off.
Senator James Manager (Delta PDP) contributing to the motion, said while the bill received overwhelming support in the National Assembly and was speedily assented to by the president, there is a need to accelerate the establishment of the South-east Development Commission (SEDC).
â€œThe federal roads in the South-east are in a terrible state. I am not from the South-east, but that region needs urgent attention. If for some reasons, the contracts (road) have been awarded, and they are not done, this should be looked into.
â€œThe SEDC bill has passed second reading, if it is ready, please bring it to the floor, let us pass it. From the mood I saw the president few days ago, he will sign it also,â€ Manager said.
Senator Samuel Anyanwu (Abia PDP) implied that with the passage of the bill, other regions would also get development commissions.
â€œIt means restructuring has started, and when it comes to other zones, we will support. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander,â€ Anyanwu said.
Senator Kabiru Marafa (Zamfara APC) who also lauded the assent to the bill, expressed reservation at the permanent status of the commission.
He disclosed that he opposed the bill because of his opinion that the destruction caused by Boko Haram in the region and the resultant challenges, are best addressed by an adhoc body.
Marafa further noted that there is no justice in the bill as it excluded Kano and Plateau States which have also suffered from the actions of Boko Haram.
â€œEvery part of Nigeria needs development,â€ he said and cited the North West Axis of Zamfara, Niger, Kebbi, Sokoto and Katsina where killings occur on a daily basis.
The axis is highly militarised, Marafa said, and said the region is experiencing similar challenges to the North-east.
He therefore appealed to his colleagues for support when a similar regional bill is brought before them.
Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano APC) also lamented that the Kano and Plateau States were removed from the bill by the conference committee (harmonising committee with the House).
He expressed hope that the states would be included when an amendment bill for the commission is brought.
Senator Ben Murray Bruce (Bayelsa PDP) however noted that experience has shown development commissions to be â€œmonumental failures.â€
â€œI am beginning to wonder if I made the right decision in voting for this bill. Maybe the state governments should be given the extra funds to take care of the situation in the North East, instead of the commission,â€ Bruce said.
He therefore called on the president to ensure that persons of integrity, who care about the sufferings of the people in the North-east, are appointed to manage the NEDC.