President Muhammadu Buhari last week inaugurated the governing board of the newly established North East Development Commission (NEDC). The Commission is mandated to rehabilitate and rebuild the North-East States of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe.
The new board which is chaired by a retired major-general, Paul Tarfa, has Mohammed Alkali (Managing Director), Musa Yashi (Executive Director Humanitarian Affairs), Muhammed Jawa, (Executive Director Administration and Finance) and Omar Mohammed (Executive Director Operations) as members.
Others are David Kente, member representing North East Zone; Asmau Mohammed, member representing North West Zone; Benjamin Adanyi, member representing North Central Zone, Olawale Oshun, member representing South West Zone; T.E.O. Ekechi member representing South East and Obasuke McDonald, member representing South-South.
The Senate had in October 2016, passed the bill for the establishment of the NEDC to coordinate the rebuilding of the insurgency-ravaged North East region of Nigeria. Following the passage of the bill by the Senate, President Buhari assented to the bill in October, 2017.
The establishment of NEDC by the Federal Government is a step in the right direction considering the humanitarian crisis in the region and the devastation that the 10-year insurgency has had in the social-economic life of the people in the region.
We enjoin members of the commission to brace to the challenge ahead; as they are about to manage one of the toughest humanitarian and social-economic crisis on the face of the earth.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the humanitarian crisis in the three worst hit states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe , is among the most severe humanitarian crises in the world today. “ 7.1 million people in Nigeria are in need of urgent, life-saving humanitarian assistance in 2019 and 6.2 million are targeted to receive aid.
“The crisis, largely triggered by a regionalized armed conflict, is first and foremost a protection crisis. Civilians continue to bear the brunt of a conflict that has led to widespread forced displacement and violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.
“Since the start of the conflict in 2009, more than 27,000 people have been killed and thousands of women and girls abducted. 17. Violence against women, girls and children, including sexual violence, exposure to trafficking, and other forms of gender-based violence, is all too common yet underreported. Women are often forced into survival sex in exchange for food, movement and items to meet their basic needs, while some vulnerable households have resorted to early marriage and child labour. Thousands of children swell in the ranks of armed actors and predominantly women and children are compelled by non-state armed groups to carry person-borne improvised explosive devices-” OCHA says.
At present, in the tenth year of insurgency in the region, the conflict continues to uproot the lives of tens of thousands of children, women and men. As of 2019, it is on record that 1.8 million Nigerians have fled their homes and are internally displaced, the majority of them in Borno State. It is heartbreaking to note that 80 per cent of internally displaced people in the region are women and children, and one in four are under the age of five.
We urge members of the Commission to place premium on the assignment given to them, rather than what they can gain in return. They must ensure that an estimated 823,000 people who remain inaccessible to humanitarian actors are reached by creating enabling environment with the security agencies for the humanitarian actors to work.
More so, attention should be paid to the dilapidated state of infrastructure in the region, as a result of the ongoing Guerilla war in the region. Property worth billions has been destroyed since the insurgency started in 2009. Rebuilding the infrastructure in the region requires urgent attention to restore the economic and social life in the affected states.
Looking at the N10 billion which has been given as a take-off grant to NEDC to oversee the rehabilitation of North Eastern communities that have been destroyed by Boko Haram terrorists, we think that Federal Government is pretending not to be in tune with the current realities. If the Federal Government is really serious about restoring economic and social life in the North East, adequate financial provision should be made for the Commission.
Furthermore, the Commission should partner the United Nations and other humanitarian partners, which in support of the Federal Government , launched the 2019-2021 Humanitarian Response Strategy on 29 January 2019 in Abuja; which aims to alleviate the suffering of 6.2 million people in dire need of lifesaving aid in the three most affected states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States.
The United Nations and its partners appeal for $848 million for 183 projects to be implemented by 69 humanitarian organizations; which is the fifth largest single-country appeal globally, is a welcome development that NEDC should take advantage of. As at 31 January 2019, $10.8 million (1.3 per cent) of the funds have been received, according to the Financial Tracking Service (FTS).
As much as we commend the Federal Government for setting up NEDC, we believe that for fairness, equity and justice, similar commissions should be set up in other geopolitical zones facing humanitarian and economic crises.