This is the second time in the life of the Buhari administration this issue of policy/programme ownership has cropped up. The first was the issue of who really originated the Abuja – Kaduna rail project. It makes a case for running the full text of Chief Edwin Clark’s contentious press conference Wednesday, May 15th, 2019 in Abuja because of the moral, political and policy weight of his claims. Full text is what Intervention has done here.
I watched the telecast of the inauguration of members of the North East Development Commission by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, 8th May, 2019. It was a very laudable event because the development of the region has been of great concern to some of us. I recall that this issue of developing the North East Region was extensively deliberated upon during the 2014 National Conference and it was agreed and resolved that a development Commission should be set up.
In inaugurating the members of the North East Development Commission, President Muhammadu Buhari adduced two reasons. The first is that “The establishment of the Commission was in fulfillment of the pledge of his administration to fast track development in the region”.
I emphatically wish to state that the decision for establishing the NEDC was not the original idea of President Buhari; it did not originate as an Executive Memo from him to the National Assembly. The historic National Conference of 2014 which Mr. President Muhammadu Buhari had no regard for was indeed the originator of the idea for setting up of the NEDC. The credit should go to the 2014 National Conference, for its patriotic thoughtfulness, and to the National Assembly, NASS, for initiating the bill for the establishment of the Commission.
I also recall that when the Speaker of the House of Representatives Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara and Sen. Alli Ndume presented the Bill for the setting up of the Commission, I wrote a paper to him titled “The Unity and greatness of Nigeria depend on the conquering of Boko Haram, and love and true of all Nigerians irrespective of religion and ethnicity”. I reproduce here an excerpt of that paper:
“Recently, you were hailed for coming out of your speaker’s box to present a Bill on the development of the North-East which had been destroyed by the Boko Haram since 2009 titled. “A bill for the establishment of North East Development Commission” passed second reading at the House of Representatives on Monday.
The bill seeks to charge the proposed Commission with the responsibility to “receive and manage funds allocated to it from the federation account and international donors for the settlement, rehabilitation and reconstruction of roads, houses, and business premises of victims of insurgency; and for other matters connected therewith”
It is very worrisome and equally devastating to note that thousands of citizens had been killed, while over 2.2 million people were displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency ravaging the North East.
It is therefore necessary for us who were members of the historic National Conference which was held between February and June 2014 which provided over 600 decisions, resolutions and recommendations including the very subject you are tackling leading to the establishment of the NEDC. The National Conference was fully involved in discussing the atrocities committed by the Boko Haram insurgency against Nigerians particularly in the North East. The assembly came to a standstill when the news of the kidnap of the Chibok school girls was broken to us by a female delegate, Miss Bilikisu Magoro, while earlier in the morning, the assembly was rattled by the news of Nyanya bombing. I moved the motion in the Assembly to express our deep regret and condolences to the Federal Government, victims and families of those affected by the bombing.
I remember the whole assembly devoted a whole day, if not two, to discussing the Boko Haram insurgency and how some of our traditional rulers were either kidnapped or killed. It was based on these that a preposition was made during the consideration of the 13% derivation popularly referred to as Resource Control that the recommendation that 5% of the federation account should be set aside to develop the North-East and thereafter, any part of Nigeria affected by the insurgence. This is to take a cue from what was done immediately after the second world War of the US Government and her European allies, otherwise referred to as the Marshal Plan, for the reconstruction of war-torn areas in Europe.
This proposition, particularly on the establishment of the special intervention Fund for the Northeast was surprisingly, vehemently opposed by some prominent northern delegates led by my good friend, late Ibrahim Coomassie, former Inspector General of Police, who incidentally, was the leader of the northern delegates, and Prof Auwalu Yadudu, hinging their argument on the need for the inclusion of Kano and Kaduna states in the Special Intervention Fund. But this was stoutly opposed by the other delegates.
Therefore, a Special Committee of 50 members, including myself, was set up by the whole House to look into this matter and the issue of 18% Derivation and the 5% of the Federation Account.
Some of the members of the Special Committee were: Adam Maina Waziri, OFR; Chief Edwin Clark, OFR, CON: Hon. Mohammed Umara Kumalia; Prof. Andrew Haruna; IGP Ibrahim Coomasie, rtd, GCON; Barr. Bashir Dalhatu; Sen. Ibrahim Ida; Prof. Jerry Gana; Prof. Ibrahim Gambari; Dr. Iyorchia Ayu; Chief Olu Falae, CFR; Gen. Alani Akinrinade, CFR, GCON; Dr. Amos Akingba; Dr. Kunle Olajide; Sen. Femi Okunrounmu; Gen. Ike Nwachukwu, GCMG, CFR, mni; Prof. Anya O. Anya, OFR; H,E Chief Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, CON; H.E Dr. Peter Odili; Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, rtd, OFR; High Chief Dr. Aleogho Raymond Dokpesi, OFR; Prof. Amb. Lawrence Ekpebu; Sen. Anietie Okon; Barr. Femi Falana, SAN; Iyom Josephine Anenih; Ramatu Bala Usman, mni; Chief Mrs. Bisi Olateru-Olagbegi; Comrade Bobboi Bala Kaigama; Dr. Mrs. Hanatu Ladi Ibrahim, MFR; Chief Mrs. Hanatu Lohor; Ms. Ekaette Judith Umoh; Chinonso Obasi; Chief R.U Uche; Engr. Ebele O. Okeke; John Dara; Prof. Mrs. Nnenna N. Oti & Dr. F. Adan.
The Term of Reference of the Committee were:
- That the 13% of the total derivation from the Derivation Fund accruable to a mineral bearing state shall be increased to 18%;
- That there shall be established a Minerals Development Fund. It is currently 3% of Federal Government Account referred to by the committee on page 40 of its report. However, it shall be 5% of the Federation Account and will be applied to Minerals Development in the states;
- That there shall be a National Intervention Fund which shall be 5% of the annual revenue accruing to the account of the Federal Government for the stabilization and reconstruction of areas affected by conflicts and disasters, and for the rehabilitation of internally displaced people, starting first with the North East of Nigeria, and later in any other part of the Country that may be affected by such occurrence”
The Committee could not take a decision on all 3 items, it was decided that the matter be referred to the Federal Government.
The second reason which Mr. President gave for the setting up of the Commission is that it is “in appreciation for the massive electoral support the zone gave him in 2015 and 2019 General elections. This reason to my mind, is outrageous and reminds one of a similar statement Mr. President made on 2nd July, 2015 at the United States Institute of Peace when Dr. Pauline Baker, the President Emeritus of the Fund for Peace, United States in posing a question to him said “My question relates to another area of Nigeria that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention during this trip and that is the Niger Delta. It’s a challenge that you are going to face. I wonder if you would tell us how you intend to approach it with particular reference to the amnesty, bunkering, and inclusive development?” President Muhammadu Buhari’s response to her was “I hope you have a copy of the election results. The constituents, for example, gave me 97% (of vote) cannot in all honesty be treated on same issues with constituencies that gave me 5%. I think these are political reality.”
These statements credited to Mr. President (in 2015 and presently in 2019) is politics taken to the mundane and absurdity, and very unpatriotic. Chapter VI, Section 130 of the 1999 Constitution states that: (1) There shall be for the Federation a President; (2) The President shall be the Head of State, the Chief Executive of the Federation and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation. Section 132 (4) of the 1999 Constitution states that “For the purpose of an election to the office of President, the whole of the Federation shall be regarded as one constituency”. Therefore, for Mr. President to base development of the country on political patronage, is most unfair and unacceptable.
If the President pronounces that the signing and inauguration of the North East Development Commission is a reward for the massive votes he got in the North East, let it therefore be likely concluded that negligence of his Government to the development of Niger Delta region is as a result of the people of the region choosing to vote in accordance with their conscience. For instance, the non-commencement of the Ogoni cleanup and other equally damaged Oil and Gas producing areas, the non-completion of the East West Road, and other long deprived economic activities of the region, is a punishment for the people of the Niger-Delta for choosing to vote according to their conscience. This also can be attributed to Mr. President’s refusal to dialogue or execute the South-South Leaders 16 point programme.
We strongly therefore advise Mr. President not to abandon the goose that lays the golden egg, because, it is a case Mr. President telling Nigerians that if the people of the North East had not voted for him massively he would not have signed the Bill for the setting up of the NEDC and inaugurated the Commission.
Mr. President cannot claim to be unaware of the level of devastation, killings and poverty that has become the lot of the North East Region, which is indeed a problem of the entire Country; hence it was discussed at the 2014 National Conference. Needless to mention the trauma of innocent children kidnapped at Chibok and other places, not forgetting to mention Leah Sharibu who turned 16 years only yesterday, 14th May, 2019, and is marking a second Birthday in captivity, and countless others still painfully held hostage in Boko Haram captivity, assuredly under traumatizing condition. Today, security is a major issue in the North East. The case of killings in Zamfara, Yobe, Adamawa and countless other States in the country is an issue that has become dominant source of worry to all Nigerians.
If President Muhammadu Buhari had not wanted the Report of the 2014 National Conference “… to go into the so-called archives,” as stated by him during his first year anniversary as President and Commander-in-Chief, but read and implemented it, he would have appreciated the usefulness of the enormous work done by the 492 delegates drawn from all the segments and strata of our great country, Nigeria. Today, nobody talks about the increase in the 13% Derivation and 5% allocation for mineral resources development in states. It is not enough to talk about diversification of our economy, as if it is only agriculture that is a viable sector in the country.
Presently, Nigeria operates a multi-party system. This system is recognized by the laws of the land, and it means that people can vote in accordance with their conscience. But the law states that once someone is declared the winner, for instance for the office of Presidency, he becomes the President of all, those who voted for him, those who did not vote for him and even those who did not vote at all.
Therefore, President Muhammadu Buhari should be reminded that he is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and as such, President of the entire Country, including political opponents and supporters, all religions, atheists, etc. And as such, he should not discriminate against perceived or imagined opponents in the dispensation of social amenities and lawful patronages, including development projects, appointments, privileges, social welfare and otherwise. The entire Country is his Constituency as stated in Section 132 (4) of the 1999 Constitution.