The commission should make judicious use of the resources at its disposal

With 541 government parastatals, commissions and agencies (statutory and non-statutory) in the country, many of them with parallel functions, the consensus is that we do not need to create another bureaucracy to solve a problem. Yet, the North East Development Commission (NEDC) was added to the list of quangos last week when President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated its board. The harder part now is for the commission to justify the reason for its existence by making judicious use of resources in such a manner that the distressed and the displaced people in the northeast can benefit. Members of the NEDC must also see their assignment as a sacred trust and should avoid the pitfalls of similar interventionist agencies.

In signing into law the establishment of the NEDC in October 2017, President Muhammadu Buhari said the mission of the commission is to spearhead the reconstruction and development of the northeast, which has been ravaged by a decade-long insurgency. But it is important to remember that there had been other initiatives saddled with the same assignment of alleviating the problems of the people of the northeast which have borne the brunt of the Boko Haram insurgency for more than a decade. They include the Victims Support Fund (VSF), Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE) and Presidential Committee on the North East Initiative (PCNI).

Sadly, the operations of many of these initiatives have been mired in scandals, corruption and mind-boggling abuses to the detriment of the long-suffering people of the region they are meant to serve. We therefore hope that the coming of NEDC will bring succour to the region and its people through a rebuilding process anchored on well-planned infrastructure development and empowerment initiatives. By its instrument, the NEDC is to be funded from various sources, including the federal government, international bilateral donors, the African Development Bank, the World Bank, the United Nations, European Union, USAID, UKAID/DFID, as well as local donors, among others.

We have confidence in the integrity of the NEDC Chairman, General Paul Tarfa. But given how such bodies operate, the real work will be done by bureaucrats. Therefore, for it to succeed, the NEDC should learn from the mistakes of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). The board will do well to avoid turning the commission into another slush fund for a privileged few, and it must not be one of those usual government agencies driven by political patronage to provide “jobs for the boys”. With global attention on the terror-weary region and its people, the NEDC authorities will be compelled by factors beyond their design to deliver results. We urge them to be work towards actualising their specific objectives by developing a broad master plan and template with timelines for delivery.

Fortunately, there are hundreds of local and international NGOs currently responding to the humanitarian crisis in the region. More than ever before, the NEDC should rally these institutions and ensure that Nigerians affected by these crises feel their presence and relevance. Coordinating these various actors, each with diverse objectives, will require some set skills so as to avoid duplicating projects and programmes. Besides, leveraging on the activities of these NGOs in close consultation and partnership with states and local governments in the region is a critical success factor. The NEDC should also reinvigorate all other public institutions that offer humanitarian support, protection and assistance to Nigerians affected by the Boko Haram insurgency and other conflicts in the region, such as the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the National Refugee Commission.

The NEDC should turn the tide and represent progress.