The Boko Haram crisis and everything about it is evil, there is no question about this, but if there is one thing the Boko Haram crisis has forced us to do as a region is that for the very first time since 1999, leaders in the northeast have set aside political and ethno-religious differences to fuse into one entity for the purpose of pursuing a course that is purely developmental with absolutely nothing to do with politics.
Our right Honourble members here, if along with our Distinguished Senators, you are able to have the Bill passed for the establishment of the NORTH-EAST DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION, you would have achieved more than 50 percent of what our people have elected all of you to do at the National Assembly as far we in the northeast are concerned. I am very certain that His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari will accent to the Bill because he shares our pains in this region more than some of our so called indigenes of the northeast. The President was here as Governor of the northeast, he lived here at this Government House, he knows the region, he knows our problems and I strongly hold that he will be very committed to leading the Federal Executive arm to work with the National Assembly on this.
Our region has suffered destructions worth nine billion dollars which is almost three trillion naira based on parallel market exchange rate.
The Northeast Development Commission is an idea whose time has come and whose time is now. Nothing stops an idea whose time it is.
I am aware that when the Bill was brought for second reading at the Senate some months ago, it had a unanimous and very free passage as one of the most populous Bills before parliament.
If the Senate had shown that level of interest in the passage of that Bill, I think you in the House of Representatives have shown even more by your visit today which is a starting point of a tour across the region to garner support for the Bill.
For us in Borno State, we are already on the ground, we are trying to crawl and eventually be on our feet. Ordinarily, your visit should afford me the opportunity to reel out statistics on the extent of destructions suffered by us in Borno State but we are talking about the northeast so I will not be selfish to talk about Borno alone.
Even in the most ordinary of times which was before the Boko Haram insurgency, the northeast geo-political zone was already the most backward in all indices of development.
According to a 2014 World Bank report, two-thirds of the world’s poorest people live in India, China, Nigeria, Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of Congo where there are citizens that live on less than one dollar per day. In Nigeria, which is one of the five countries, the Human development index report of 2013 identifies the northeast as the poorest in the country where between 67% and 69% of the population live in abject poverty. Series of maternal mortality index reports on Nigeria, places the North East Zone as having the highest mortality rate of 1,549 deaths per 100,000 live births which is in very sharp contrast with what obtains in the South West Zone that has the lowest mortality rate of 165 deaths per 100,000 live births.
We can conveniently ask one fundamental question which is, what have successive State Government in the northeast been doing to address the situation. However, while that question is relevant, we must take copious note of the fact that the poor development of the northeast geo-political zone, is partly, if not substantially traceable to the fundamental neglect suffered by the northeast from previous Federal administrations in this country.
Like I have cited at previous times, on March 4, 2010, then President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan inaugurated a 20-man Presidential Projects Assessment Committee, under the chairmanship of a former Minister of FCT, Engineer Ibrahim Bunu with a mandate of taking inventory and assessing all Federal projects which were ongoing across Nigeria and to assess the level of funding, so as to ascertain whether levels of works were commensurate with the amount paid to contractors. The committee assessed over 200 sites and took inventory of 11,886 on-going Federal projects across the 36 States and the FCT.
Now, while submitting its report on 2nd of June, 2011, the committee estimated the value of all the Federal projects put together at 7.7 trillion naira. In volume one of the report, the committee listed amounts the Federal Government had invested in each of the six geo-political zones and from the figures released by the committee, the Federal Government had 1,755 projects in the South-South to the tune of N2.1 trillion which had the highest, followed by the North Central zone with 1,844 federal projects to the tune of N630 billion and other regions had fare number of projects but of all the six geo-political zones, the North East zone was recorded by the committee to have the least number of federal projects which was 466 projects at a very low amount of N98 billion and that included funding for the Kano-Maiduguri dual carriage way which is not exclusive to the northeast as it cuts across our brotherly States of Kano and Jigawa in the north-west.
Mind you, the report of that Presidential Projects Assessment Committee covered only projects that were yet to be completed as at that time; the report didn’t include hundreds of projects that were executed in other geo-political zones which mostly didn’t have fair inclusion of the northeast.
Four years after that very report, the president and chairman of the governing council of the Chartered Institute of Project Management of Nigeria (CIPMN), Dr Victoria Okoronkwo recently estimated ongoing projects in Nigeria at 12 trillion naira with the South-east having 15,000 projects which takes substantial part of the 12 trillion naira; the South-west has 10,000; South-south, 11,000; North-west, 6,000; North-central having 7,000 and North-east having the least which is about 5,000 projects.
All of these have compounded in making the northeast to remain the poorest even without Boko Haram insurgency.
Local and international security experts including world powers like the United States Government have attributed the harsh economic misfortunes of the northeast geo-political zone as one of the key elements that gave rise to Boko Haram insurgency.
Some of the major factors identified for their ability to regroup is that they take advantage of two things in the northeast, first, they take advantage of extreme poverty to recruit teenagers for as little as N5, 000 to set schools ablaze and spy on soldiers, they pay women as low as N10, 000 to smuggle or keep arms for them and they identify poor persons and give them start up capitals to.
Secondly, the Boko Haram also takes advantage of our peculiar geography that is ordinarily an advantage but then has become the most attractive to insurgents. The northeast covers 275,677 square kilometers which represents 30 percent of the entire size of Nigeria. The northeast is almost two times the size of the southwest, southeast and south-south fused into one and it is 40 percent the size of the northwest and north central put together.
The huge land mass in the northeast has not been utilized by the Federal Government for massive Agriculture that should have fed this nation, provide alternative revenue source and enrich citizens of the northeast. To make matters worse, the River Basins that are suitable for agriculture belong to the Federal Government unless if States go into partnership like we did with the Chad Bsasin Development Authority when we cultivated 7,000 hectares of land for wheat in New Marte. That farm activity was designed to create about 30,000 direct jobs but Boko Haram chased out all the farmers and set the farms ablaze.
Honourable Members, if the northeast was already the poorest and most underdeveloped in Nigeria before the Boko Haram, we can then imagine what six years of daily killings of thousands of innocent citizens, bombings in the morning, afternoon and midnight attacks on communities, must have inflicted on the northeast geo-political zone.
We are not unaware that the Federal Government has announced various interventions. There are committees like the Presidential Initiative on North East, PINE, the Victim Support Fund, the Save School Initiative and the harmonized committee, I know those if at all we have nay sayers against the Northeast Development Commission Bill, they will cite all these interventions as basis why we shouldn’t have the NEDC but for me, the existence of these interventions is even the more reason why the 8th National Assembly should support and pass the bill because with the quantum of resources being set aside we need to have an institution of Government that is backed by an act of parliament to get involved and coordinate things in a sustained manner for immediate and long term even though we appreciate all those so far involved in handling the various interventions. By the time we have the NEDC in place, I am sure the Bill would regulate expenditures and ensure justice and fairness to all the six States with the parliament also there to oversight what is being done.
Honourable members, we are on this Bill together, we have no option but to work together to the finishing line. We have an obligation to fix in the ruins in the northeast and the time is now.
I want to thank you once again for this memorable visit and to wish you safe and successful trips to our sister States of Yobe, Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe and Taraba States.
Thank you so much
Source; Yusuf Usman Shettima SA to the Borno state Governor on social media