Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki has given the Joint Senate Committee on Special Duties, Establishment and Public Service up till May 25, 2016 to complete work on the North East Development Commission (NEDC) Bill and report back to plenary.
Saraki who gave the charge while declaring open a two-day public hearing on a “Bill for an Act to Establish the North East Development Commission” in Abuja, lamented that what had been witnessed in the North East demanded special attention from all well meaning Nigerians and not just from government.
The lead Chairman of the Joint Committee, Senator Abdul-Aziz Murtala Nyako had in his opening address promised that the committee would work assiduously to ensure that the report on the bill is laid before the Senate and read for the third time on May, 25, 2016.
Following Senator Nyako’s remarks, Saraki said though time is running out, but he would hold the committee to its promise to return the report on the Bill to plenary on May 25.
Saraki said it has become imperative to pass the Bill on time to permanently mitigate the precarious situation of those affected by insurgency in the North East.
He said: “We must all rise up and say never again. We have seen families wiped out, children orphaned, incomes plunged below a tenth of what they were a decade ago. Families that have survived this onslaught have largely survived with little to live by and now rely directly on handouts for food rations.
“More than a quarter of the children in this area are either malnourished or in danger of malnourishment. Schools have become deserted and the social fabric of our national unity severely perforated in this area, threatening to create deep set divisions amongst us, fuelling animosities amongst Muslims and Christians, leading to the entire economy of the region bleeding profusely. It is in this unique and dire context that we must appreciate the importance and urgency for us as a legislature and government to act, to restore hope and rebuild the North East”, he said.
Saraki said that for members of the 8th National Assembly, the Bill is a National priority issue because “it reflects our mandate to make laws for the good governance, peace and security of the entire country. The effort of this bill therefore, is aimed at creating the legislative framework to enable government provide basic structures and capacities that will enable it rebuild the North East.
“It will also provide an avenue for external collaborators such as international development agencies to make effective contributions towards the region; further ensuring internal stability, a base for restoration, rehabilitation and conflict resolution. All the aforementioned are crucial not only for the sustained future of the people of the North East but also for the country as a whole. This is a peculiar time in our history,” he said.
Saraki also lauded the efforts of members of the armed forces who through their gallant efforts have largely pushed back the insurgents from territories they hitherto occupied, preserved the territorial integrity of the nation and thus made rebuilding efforts easier.
He said the importance of the bill becomes more germane since the war against insurgency cannot be won by might alone.
“I urge you to make haste in bringing this Bill to pass. Every day we wait to take legislative action, we delay the opportunities that ought to abound within and from the North East,” the Senate President said.
On his part, the Chairman, Joint Senate Committee on the NEDC Bill, Senator Nyako said it is time Nigerians come to terms with the alarming fact that the North East zone is rapidly deteriorating as a result of the insurgency that began in 2009.