The Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, on Monday, called for the formulation of an urgent framework to facilitate the reconstruction and development of the North East region ravaged by the activities of the Boko Haram sect.
Dogara, who said this at a public hearing organised by the House on the North East Development Commission Bill, added that something concrete must be urgently done to harness the potentials of the North East as the region was presently at a crossroads.
He said that the bill was being proposed to provide a legal framework that would address the overall development challenges facing the North-East, including issues relating to the status of refugees, emergency management and boundary disputes resolution.
“Our aspirations for the establishment of the commission are not far-fetched. Even though there is poverty across Nigeria, in comparative terms, the North East suffers an exceptional poverty amidst little opportunities to push itself out of the problem.
“Our industries have almost collapsed, schools are dilapidated, destroyed or non-existent in most communities, roads are death traps and largely inaccessible and farming virtually comatose due to insurgency.
“Besides, the region groans under the pangs of desertification, ethno-religious crisis, climatic factors, predatory diseases among others,” he added.
The Speaker further said that the North East region lagged behind in all major indices of human development and had the highest illiteracy rate in Nigeria.
“Data from the National Bureau of Statistics, as at 2008, show that more than 65 per cent of the people living in the North East are absolutely poor with less than one dollar income per day.
“It is important to note that these statistics predate the consequences of insurgency in the last eight years and current economic down turn,” he stated.
Dogara said that out of the estimated 2.2 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in various parts of the country, the North East accounts for close to 2 million of the Internally Displaced Persons, declaring “while about eight per cent are spread across 21 camps, 68 per cent are children, with 60,000 births so far recorded in the various camps.
“The implication of this data is that households in the North East are over-stretched with the burden of the IDPs, leading to depletion of the little resources in the hands of our people.
“This is compounded by the fact that farming, which is the main stay of the North East economy, can no longer sustain our people due to insecurity leading to more hardship on the region”.
Chairman of the House Committee on IDPs, Refugees and North East Initiatives, Rep. Sani Zoro, speaking also at the hearing, described the bill as timely and important.
He called on all stakeholders to join hands to bring life back to the North East region.
Present at the public hearing were the wife of the President, Hajiya Aisha Buhari, who was accompanied by wives of some state governors from the North East region, among other dignitaries.