By Musa Abdullahi Krishi
Since their inauguration on June 9, members of the 8th House of Representatives seem to have given special attention to the issue of insurgency ravaging the Northeastern part of the country.
So far, it appears that one of the top priorities of the 8th House, which is headed by a man from the Northeast, Speaker Yakubu Dogara of Bauchi State, is salvaging the region that had witnessed devastating activities of Boko Haram insurgents in the past six years.
In their 14 sittings before embarking on their annual recess on August 13, the lawmakers came up with not less than three motions on how to tackle the myriads of challenges facing the Northeastern states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe, occasioned by killings and destruction of property in the region by the terrorists.
There are thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in various camps in and outside the affected states. The situation has led many children of school age to be out of school.
Thus, on July 30, the House in its first motion that sought to address certain problems in the region urged the federal government to assist the various North-east state governments, especially those that face the challenges of insurgency, to urgently construct temporary camps for the IDPs so that they could evacuate and open schools where it was safe.
In the motion, the lower chamber called on the federal government to ensure that temporary schools were established in the IPDs camps so that children of the victims could safely continue their studies during their stay at such camps.
It said every assistant to be given to the Northeast should also be extended to neighbouring states like Plateau where there are IDPs. On that day, the lawmakers also commended the governors of Borno, Adamawa, Yobe and Gombe states for their efforts so far.
Sponsor of the motion, Asabe Vilita Bashir (APC, Borno) had noted that the insurgency ravaging the region had forced the Borno State government to resettle IDPs to schools, hajj and NYSC orientation camps, which led to the closure of schools for over one year.
This situation made many pupils to be idling away and exposed to social vices, she had noted, adding that there was an urgent need to assist the government of Borno State in rebuilding and rehabilitating the destroyed schools to enable them reopen.
Although the motion was subjected to serious debate as many members sought to amend Vilita’s prayers, in the end, amendments sought by Aminu Shehu Shagari, Abdulsamad Dasuki, Aliyu Isa, and Timothy Golu among others, were considered after deliberations for more than one hour.
Members had expressed reservation on the prayer that sought the government to reopen schools in the affected areas, which prompted Speaker Dogara to call on lawmakers from the affected states to brief the House on the state of things there.
Mohammed Tahir Monguno, who spoke first, said the prayer sought for only schools in Maiduguri metropolis to be reopened and not all over the state.
The next time the House came up with another motion on the state of affairs in the Northeast was on August 6 when the lawmakers urged the General Officer Commanding (GOC), 7th Division of the Nigeria Army to deploy more troops to Dusman and Zabarmari towns of Borno State in view of recent insurgents’ attacks in the areas.
They further urged the federal government to provide support to the affected people to enable them recover economically and called on the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to provide relief materials to the affected communities.
Mover of the motion on the matter Ayuba Mohammed Bello (APC, Borno), had told the House that series of attacks by Boko Haram insurgents on July 3 on Zabarmari, Bale, Dusman and Muna communities claimed over 90 lives with many injured, while property worth millions of naira were destroyed.
He said the attacks on the said communities, which are about 20 kilometers from Maiduguri; rendered them helpless in terms of their engagement in fishing, rice cultivation and irrigation activities.
Perhaps, the biggest and most important motion moved on the Northeast on the floor of the House was on August 12 when Dogara himself along with 87 others sponsored a motion titled: ‘Rehabilitation, reconstruction, recovery and development of the Northeast Zone of Nigeria.’
The speaker, who stepped down from his presiding position to take the motion, noted that the activities of insurgents have devastated most parts of the region and resulted in the death of thousands of people, including boys, girls and children generally, women, men and other vulnerable people.
He regretted that the terrorists have destroyed houses, homes, settlements, communities, villages, towns, cities, markets, schools and other educational facilities, hospitals and health institutions, factories, government buildings and facilities, roads, bridges, water facilities, electricity networks and power facilities, police and military bases, vehicles and other security and telecommunications infrastructure.
Dogara said about five million people were displaced by the insurgents’ activities, while many have taken refuge in neighbouring countries of Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Burkina-Faso.
The situation, he said, had devastated the economy of the region as investors, businessmen, managers and employees have fled the zone in droves.
“This destruction has had a major impact on the economy of the region as it has led to severe food shortages, unemployment in a region that has traditionally produced cash and food crops across the Sahel,” he noted.
“Agriculture and other economic activities have suffered and poverty has worsened. Boko Haram has disrupted schools and livelihood activities and markets and reduced trade flows,” said Dogara.
He stated that despite the fact that the Nigerian military in collaboration with Cameroun, Niger and Chad have recovered virtually all the territories lost to the Boko Haram terrorists, there was an urgent need for rehabilitation and reconstruction of destroyed areas.
However, IDPs whose property have been damaged or destroyed were generally unable to afford the cost of reconstruction, and those whose livelihoods are closely linked to the land, such as, farmers or people running small businesses, were particularly affected, said the speaker.
“The IDPs who are often overwhelming women and children have only minimal access to health services. Global acute malnutrition rates in Yobe and Borno states were 15.5 per cent and 13.6 per cent respectively as of August 2014,” he said.
Because there is no law or policy framework setting out responsibilities in terms of IDPs’ protection and assistance, the failure to define roles and responsibilities continues to hamper the humanitarian and development response, requiring a holistic approach towards durable solutions and efforts to prevent and prepare for future displacement, he said.
With all the devastation going on, Dogara noted with concern, the international community’s response to donor assistance has been slow until recently when the World Bank pledged a funding facility of about $2.1 billion, following the recent visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to the United States of America.
In the end, Dogara prayed that the federal government should map out a development agenda for the North-east and that the agenda must have, specific targets, funding and deliverables that are guided by reconstruction of homes, villages, towns and infrastructure; repatriation of people to their homes and villages and rehabilitation of people, communities and livelihoods and economic and social development.
He also requested President Buhari to set up machinery for the establishment of a North-east Development Commission, through an executive bill as soon as possible to take care of the reconstruction, rehabilitation, recovery and development of the region.
In addition, he requested the federal government to give priority attention to the rebuilding of all the schools destroyed by Boko Haram insurgents and facilitate scholarships up to university level for children of the victims, and appealed that hospitals, markets, border posts, bridges and other infrastructure destroyed by the insurgents should be rebuilt and new ones constructed.
Dogara equally urged the federal government to consider building a North-east highway, linking the capitals and major cities of all the six states and reviving agriculture in the zone through the completion of the South Chad Irrigation Project, which is one of the largest irrigation projects in Africa with 22 million people depending on it, and other agricultural projects, in order to open up the economies and fast-track the socio-economic development of the zone.
Additionally, Dogara requested President Buhari to facilitate the convening of an international donor conference or summit as soon as possible for the reconstruction, rehabilitation, recovery and development of the North-east.
This summit, said the speaker, would be to mobilise additional financial resources through international donor funding from the United Nations agencies, multilateral and bilateral partners among others.
He commended all stakeholders, especially the security agencies and others, who have in one way or the other contained terrorist attacks in the North-east and have contributed to the welfare of the internally displaced people and other victims of the Boko Haram insurgency.
The lawmakers took turns to contribute on the importance of the motion, and in the end, it was unanimously adopted.
Thus, as the 8th House is now on its six-week recess, it remains to be seen if it will continue with its campaign for the North-east that appears to be in dire need of salvation, when the lawmakers reconvene on September 9.
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