Governors of the six North-east states tactically took a jab at the leaders of the South-south zone yesterday, pledging to ensure that the proposed North East Development Commission (NEDC) does not suffer the fate of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), which they alleged had failed to add value to the zone as a result of mismanagement.
Leading his colleagues on a thank you visit to Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, for passing the NEDC Bill in the National Assembly, Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kassim Shetima, said allegations were rife that NDDC Act, which was enacted 16 years ago to improve the living standards in the oil-rich region, had failed to live up to its billing.
The delegation, which comprised important personalities from the North-east, said it had opted to visit the National Assembly’s presiding officers to thank them for identifying with the plight of the region by promptly legislating on the passage of the NEDC Bill.
Highlighting the imperatives of establishing the commission, Shetima recalled how thousands of schools, health centres, police stations and local government secretariats were overrun by Boko Haram insurgents, and hence the need to put in place an agency to handle the massive reconstruction of the zone.
Speaking on behalf of his colleagues, Shetima stated that the alleged failure of NDDC arose from “inappropriate leadership”, adding that the leadership of the North-east would ensure that people of integrity are chosen to lead the NEDC.
He said the creation of the agency had become imperative in view of statistical information that the region had received the least attention among the six geopolitical zones of the country.
“To make matters worse, statistics on federal institutions and infrastructure in this country have all proved that of the six geopolitical zones, the North-east had suffered the most neglect.
“Whether we look at the Presidential Projects Assessment Committee established by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2010 or other reports like the one authored by the Chartered Institute of Project Management of Nigeria, they all came to the conclusion that the North-east suffered the least attention from successive federal administrations in Nigeria.
“Now, this is not the time to lament. This is a time to celebrate a supreme compassion extended to the North-east by the Eighth National Assembly. Notwithstanding our mood for celebration, my colleagues, the governors in the North-east, have asked me to say something we all consider fundamental which has to do with the ultimate objective of the NEDC.
“Mr. Senate President, Mr. Speaker, Distinguished Senators and Honourable Members, one of the arguments some persons raised against the NDDC was the popular allegation that since it was established 16 years ago, the Niger Delta Development Commission has not done enough interventions in social livelihoods, human capacity development and on infrastructure.
“In other words, a lot of Nigerians within and outside the Niger Delta do not give a good score to the NDDC.
“While this can be debated by those in a position to know better, we the governors of the North-east are of the strong opinion that together with the National Assembly and the federal government, we must learn from the experience of the NDDC, so that we take preventive measures that should ensure persons of impeccable character are entrusted to manage the NEDC.
“This is with a view to ensuring that the NEDC prudently deploys ways in not only the rebuilding of the North-east, but also in repositioning the economies of the six states for the benefit of citizens in critical need.
“The NEDC is a lifeline that we must not allow anyone to toy with. We must protect, promote, preserve and defend the objectives for which the bill was passed for the NEDC to be established.
“We have thousands of orphans, thousands of widows, millions of uneducated children whose future needs must be secured. We have women in need of maternal health to save their lives and those of their unborn children, we have the poorest region whose fortunes must be repositioned,” Shetima said.
In his remarks, Dogara said passing the bill had become imperative in view of the necessity to put in place a legal entity that can champion the reconstruction of the North-east.