I’ve written about this in the past, specifically when I read the story titled ‘Hopes run high as North-East commission is set to rebuild’ on the pages of Daily Trust Saturday of May 11. Admittedly, then I honestly was not prepared to feel any emotion, because it discussed the cold aspects of the whole thing, the ‘officialspeak’, if you will. As I read on, it clarified things for me in a way which many other articles in recent times have not. I agree, indeed, that the coming of the North East Development Commission (NEDC), a child of necessity meant to give a new lease of life to the people in the region, is indeed timely.
There are many things the NEDC will take care of, which is why it was very important that President Buhari was unambiguous in his speech while inaugurating the Board. As someone from the affected region, I can assure you that many of us were abuzz, with echoes from Adamawa, Borno, Bauchi, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe states. I appreciate the emphasis when Buhari directed the commission to take over the activities and structures of all government-funded agencies working in the sub-region. Now that the commission has officially taken off, we can thankfully get down to the work at hand.
While I had been following the progress of all the agencies providing succour to my people in our region, I was pleased to see a recap that the Senate had earlier passed the bill for the establishment of the commission in October 2016, and though there had been several interventions both from within and outside Nigeria in respect of rebuilding the region so as to give its people sense of belonging and hope for the future, there was no common front in respect of gauging who is doing what, where, at which cost and whether the intervention is the actual thing that people in that community needed. More justification, and proof that the NEDC is, indeed, timely.
The NEDC (Establishment) Act, 2017, assented to by President Buhari on October 25, 2017 and since then, has indeed heightened expectations, for the commission to start work fully, so as to alleviate the suffering of millions of people out of their homes and children out of school. With its take-off some days ago, Chairman of Major-General Paul Tarfa (rtd), CEO/MD Mohammed G. Alkali can begin the no doubt tough task before them.
Though it has been called for elsewhere, I am beseeching the NEDC to give priority attention to the developmental and infrastructural projects such as reconstruction of roads, houses, and business premises destroyed by Boko Haram. Also, of note, is the fact that though Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states undoubtedly suffered more, Bauchi, Gombe and Taraba states equally share the sad story of mass influx of IDPs, and should be duly considered. There is a monumental amount of good that can be achieved by the NEDC, therefore the Federal Government should continue to support it in all ways that are needed. I mean, so atrocious are the activities of Boko Haram, that from 2009, they have claimed over 100,000, and displaced over 2.6 million people.
The Daily Trust Saturday story which edged me on to write recalled, in great detail, a two-day Humanitarian Multi Stakeholder Engagement themed ‘Coordination, Communication and Cooperation,’ held in Maiduguri few years ago, where the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, expressed the commitment of the Federal Government to restore normalcy to the region. He also called on the development partners to coordinate their activities for better performance. Also reiterated, is the World Bank’s unveiling during a meeting with President Buhari, in Washington, a plan to spend $2.1 billion on rebuilding infrastructure in the North East. The funds will be spent through the World Bank’s International Development Agency in the form of low-interest loans, which will be interest-free for the first ten years and then accrue at a below market rate thereafter.
The joy of the people is simple: The days of multiple interventions from different groups, committees and task force(s) whose activities yielded little verifiable results with direct impact on the victims would soon be over. With the exceptions of interventions by the World Bank, UNDP, few other developed countries, and the Borno State government, there are a lot of questions as to how other interventions are being implemented. With a take-off grant of N10 billion already been captured in the 2019 budget, it means all systems are a go! It goes without saying that if the NEDC receives the desired funding and support, millions of people in the North East will soon be living better lives, and President Buhari would have fulfilled one of his promises.
Yunus wrote in from Garki II, Abuja.