One week after President Muhammadu Buhari signed the North East Development Commission (NEDC) Bill into law, senators are already calling for the creation of more development commissions in the six geopolitical zones of the country to address issues of perceived under-developments.
NEDC, which was passed into law earlier in the year by both chambers of the National Assembly, has the mandate to receive and manage funds allocated by the Federal Government and international donor agencies for the resettlement, rehabilitation, integration and reconstruction of roads, houses and business premises of victims of insurgency as well as tackling the menace of poverty and environmental challenges of the area.
One per cent from the consolidated revenue account will be used yearly to fund the commission for the next 10 years.
On calls to create more development commissions by senators, trouble started when the Leader of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, read a motion sponsored by senators from the North East.
In the motion, the senators commended President Buhari for assenting to the bill. They also commended Senate President Bukola Saraki and senators from other parts of the country for supporting the passage of the bill.
They also urged the Federal Government to make adequate financial provisions in the 2018 budget for the commission’s appropriate take-off.
As soon as the Senate Leader concluded, James Manager from Delta State, drew the attention of his colleagues to the collapsing infrastructure in the South East.
Sen. Manager urged the Senate to expedite action and pass the pending South East Development Commission Bill into law. He deployed the deplorable condition of federal roads in the geopolitical zones and urged contractors to mobilise to site.
According to Sen. Manager, “On Monday, I was in the South South region of the country for an oversight function. We had to connect with the South East for a function. My colleagues, we could not pass through Port Harcourt-Aba road to connect with another road.
“The roads in the South East have completely collapsed and those roads are not passable. I am not from the South East and I do not speak Igbo. But the condition of federal roads in the South East is worrisome. We need to act quickly. If those contracts have been awarded, the Federal Government needs to mobilise immediately.
“I remember there was a bill brought here to create South East Development Commission. The bill, as I recall, was read for the second time around June. Wherever that bill is located, it needs to be brought here so that we can pass it. South East needs serious and urgent federal presence.”
Kabiru Marafa from Zamfara State, followed suit, when he warned that bandits were gradually building fortresses in some parts of North West and North Central. He said Niger State for instance, activities of Boko Haram have led to destruction of goods and properties.
He said in Zamfara State armed bandits are destroying goods and properties. He said security agents are also being killed by bandits. He said the government, through the setting up of a development commission, can fix the damages in the geopolitical zone.
“People are militarising Niger, Kaduna, Zamfara and North West states. In my state of Zamfara, armed bandits have taken over. Few days ago, they killed about four soldiers. They also kill innocent people. They are destroying places.
“If you go the entire North West, you will see that there is great danger coming. We need to address these issues I have raised. The way to do that is through a commission,” Marafa said.
Rabiu Kwankwaso, a former governor of Kano State, lamented the removal of Kano and Plateau States from the list of beneficiaries in the commission. He said destruction carried out by Boko Haram members in the state, must be fixed.
No lawmaker from the South West made a case for the creation of a development commission in the geopolitical zone.
Attempt by Jibrin Barau from Kano State and Jeremiah Useni from Plateau State to include the two states in the newly-established commission failed.
Lawmakers from other parts of the country opposed an amendment motion moved by Barau and seconded by Useni that subsequent amendments to the Act in the future should include Kano and Plateau states.
Ben Murray Bruce from Bayelsa State was the only lawmaker in the chamber who opposed the continuous existence of development commissions. He also opposed the creation of more in the future.
He said like Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), NEDC will fail to address the reason for which it was set up. He said development commissions spend more on overhead costs, while devoting little to capital projects.
He said: “Commissions set up to monitor the South South, like the NDDC, are monumental failures. In Bayelsa East, only less than 10 of the projects have been completed. When we set up these commissions, we spend so much on overhead costs. I am beginning to wonder if I made a mistake by voting for this NEDC Bill.
Maybe state governments should have had these funds to develop the North East. What I have seen on ground is not good. We should be careful with these multiple commissions we are setting up. When people are appointed, let them care for those who are in need.”