Following the devastations caused by terrorists’ activities in the North east zone of the country, the federal government, in May 2019, inaugurated the North East Development Commission (NEDC). It was in response to the urgent need to rehabilitate the geo-political zone which was, and still is, the epicentre of Boko Haram onslaught. Conceived in the mold of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), it didn’t, however, attract its kind of financial support. The intervention commission, upon its establishment, was handed two major mandates which are humanitarian and developmental in nature.
Regardless, a lot was expected of it in the short to medium term even with the paucity of fund it faced on coming into being and the relentless operations of the insurgents. These two factors made it move at a pace that created the wrong impression that not enough was being done to bring succour to the beleaguered zone and its people.
Unfortunately, the House of Representatives was compelled to institute a probe of its activities following allegations of misappropriation of over N100 billion. Also, the commission was alleged to have inflated contracts, awarded some non-existent contracts to ghost individuals as well as the disregard for the procurement laws in the awards of those contracts. Similarly, it was accused of straying from its mandate by failing to bring about any meaningful development and intervention in the North East region of the country. It was also claimed that the people of the region were still suffering and in abject poverty.
This newspaper has no sufficient information regarding the veracity or otherwise of these allegations given that the situation that necessitated the setting up of the commission, in the first place, has not abated. The zone is still a theatre of insurgency which brings in its wake suffering and misery.
But suffice it to add that being a young commission which is mandated to reconstruct and rehabilitate a war-ravaged area, its performance or lack of it would attract more than a passing attention by contractors and, in particular, the lawmakers as part of their oversight functions.
That, in the opinion of this newspaper, though necessary as a way of putting the management on its toes, ought not to be the top priority at this time. What should be of utmost concern is the attainment of the goals set for it by the government which include but not limited to coordinating, harmonising, and overseeing the success of many intervention programmes for the North east states. Achieving this entailed the prioritisation of its core mandate, that is to say, engaging in the resettlement, rehabilitation, integration and reconstruction of infrastructure for victims of terrorism as well as tackling the menace of poverty, illiteracy, ecological challenges in the North east states and other related matters.
If the lawmakers actually want the people of the area to get the relief they deserve, the major thrust of their legislative functions, in our view, would be to canvass for enhanced funding so that the people can begin, in earnest, to feel the impact of governance not minding the pains brought about by criminal activities of terrorists.
To keen observers of its operations in the zone, NEDC by virtue of the fact that its vault is not as studded as should be expected, is assumed to be anchoring its mandate and activities on transparency in the aspect of development and humanitarian operations. Without doubt, there are huge challenges in the states and therefore the judicious use of every allocation given to them becomes imperative.
It is in this context that we welcome such inquiries by anyone including the lawmakers if they are well-intentioned and not influenced by a process of political witch-hunt. It is instructive that at the end, it was proved that the allegations were overtly mis-placed. The North east zone of the country, has seen enough crisis for any other form of diversion to be instigated by any one in an agency put in place to assuage the hurt the people feel by being displaced, losing their homes and means of livelihood. Not counting lives that were lost and the psychological trauma that goes with all those.
From all indications, the perception is that the NEDC and its leadership are doing their utmost to fulfill the mandates handed to them given the challenges they face. What is required, in our view, is the building of synergy, a concerted effort to bring back life as the people knew it, to the zone that has borne the brunt of terrorism. The management of the commission itself realizes that there is need to deploy every available resource towards rehabilitating the zone and the people. They are not unaware of the expectations of the people which only a transparent and accountable leadership can actualise. It is important also, in our considered opinion, that the work to be done must not be left to the commission alone.
It is from this perspective that we urge the lawmakers and other stakeholders to be partners in this onerous duty of making North east breath again.