Henry Omunu, Abuja
The House of Representatives on Thursday concurred with the Senate by passing for second reading the bill to establish the South East Development Commission (SEDC) to address the environmental and infrastructural challenges facing the South East region.
The bill seeks the creation of a commission that would serve as catalyst to develop the economic potentials of the South East, receive and manage funds from the federation for the rehabilitation, reconstruction and reparation for houses and business of victims of the civil war and other environmental or developmental challenges and for related matters.
The bill which scaled through during plenary presided over by Deputy Speaker, Yusuff Lasun was characterized by heated debate from proponents and opponents of the new legislation with emotions running wild during the consideration of the bill.
Leading debate on the bill, the Chairman, House Committee on Agricultural Services, Rep. Tahir Monguno, who stood for House Leader, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila said the bill would go a long way in addressing the developmental challenges plaguing the South East.
He stated that although, the bill was rejected by the House two years ago, there is the need to approve a development commission for the South East to address the challenges facing the zone as was done recently for the North East.
“I am urging my colleagues without any dissent to support the bill, so that this bill will see the light of the day, so that our brothers and sisters in the South East part of the country will enjoy what is extended to the North East,” Rep. Monguno said.
Rep. Eucharia Anazodo (PDP/Anambra), a supporter of the bill said the South East region needs the bill to reconstruct and rehabilitate the zone from the destructive effects of the civil war.
However, the reference to the civil war by lawmakers disposed to the passage of the bill resulted in Rep. Sanni Abdul (APC/Bauchi) raising a point of order requesting that speakers should stick to the subject matter of the bill.
He was ruled out of order by the deputy speaker, who pointed out that the bill entails addressing environment problems and under -development of the South East zone.
According to House members like Rep. Nkiruika Onyejeocha and Rep. Linda Ukeje, there is no point in members being sentimental about the bill, instead the House should look at what is capable of uniting the country.
Their position was supported by Rep. Umar Badeh (PDP/Kaduna) and Rep. Abdulmumin Jibrin (APC/Kano), who both explained how the civil war negatively impacted the South East zone in terms of development.
“There is a chunk of under development in the South East. The passage of this bill will help unite this country. Let’s show them that they are part of this country. We should rise above ethnic sentiments and pass this bill,” Rep. Jibrin said.
But, opposition the bill, Rep. Shekarau said there was no justification for the bill in the first instance and urged the House to reject it for the second time, saying that the National Assembly cannot keep creating commissions to cater for environmental devastation in every part of the country.
“If we continue to do this very soon, we will have North West
Development Commission and South West Development Commission because as we are going, every region of this country will be demanding for a commission of their own,” he added.
When eventually, the deputy speaker called for a voice vote for the second reading of the bill, it was unanimously voted for to the joy of lawmakers from the South East.
The bill was therefore, referred to the Committee of the Whole for further action.