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NEDC: Setting the standard for regional intervention, by Dahiru Hassan Kera

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NEDC: Setting the standard for regional intervention, by Dahiru Hassan Kera

The recent passage of the bill seeking to establish a regional interventionist agency for the Southeast; the Southeast Development Commission (SEDC) has rekindled the debate of waste and reduplication of responsibilities that has always trailed the creation of regional intervention agencies purportedly to accelerate development in regions that have either suffered from years of environmental degradation, war, insurgency banditry or even a combination of all. One of the most pronounced worries by Nigerians when the 8th Assembly passed the bill for the establishment of the Northeast Development Commission (NEDC) was that it may encourage other regions to put forward similar requests.

However, despite all above reservations and fears, erstwhile president Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the NEDC in 2019 with a very clear and simple mandate – undo damages brought upon the region by the dastard activities of Boko Haram insurgency and put it back on the path to economic, social, cultural, ecological, and educational recovery. The NEDC was to coordinate all humanitarian interventions by government and agencies (MDA’s) using the Northeast Stabilization Masterplan, a 10-years guidebook.

The masterplan is in phases, with the first being Recovery and Stabilization and was expected to run between 2020 – 2022. The Renewal phase will run between 2022 – 2024. The third phase christened Expansion will cover 2024 – 2026 and the last phase which will be mainstreamed between 2026 – 2030 has been tagged Sustainable Growth. Intervention will be focused on 11 pillars which are: peaceful society, leadership in agriculture, healthy citizens, educated populace, flourishing trade, productive entrepreneurs, purposeful infrastructure, and industrialization.

An integral part of the first phase therefore involved the accelerated development of critical infrastructure like roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, housing etc. which is geared towards quickly recovering lost ground. By implication, the first phase is long wrapped, and the second phase is nearing full maturity. But how far has the NEDC fared in the implementation of this masterplan?

The answer is in the over 700 projects that NEDC has either commenced or fully completed. Let’s start with roads, for instance where NEDC has constructed many critical roads and bridges in all states of the region. These include the 54km Mutai-Ngalda Road in Yobe State, Alkaleri-Futuk Road, 53km Gombe Abba-Kirfi Road in Bauchi and Gombe. Also, 22.5km Zabarmari-Ngowom Road in Borno State, 32km Dabna-Garkida Road in Adamawa State, 2.5km Road at Adamawa State College of Education, Hong, and the Jabbi Lamba-Belel Transborder Road, also in Adamawa State gulped as well as the 22.5 km Mafa-Jere Road have all benefitted from the regional intervention body. Also, bridges at Kudzum, Dilechim and Wuro-Ngayandi in Adamawa State and the Mayo Ndaga Bridge in Taraba State have been constructed. These roads and bridges have been carefully selected to drive the region’s commitment towards reclaiming its pride of place as a leader in agriculture which is one of the pillars of its intervention. On the ecological front, NEDC has engaged and sensitised 300 youths and women in waste recycling, efficient stove production and use to become self-reliant.

The NEDC has also seen to the construction of over 3000 houses for low-income earners in the region with homes springing up in Bauchi, Yobe, Borno, Adamawa, and Taraba state. Over 1000 units of resettlement homes were constructed for Internally Displaced Persons in the Ngowom community of Borno State. Another critical plank of the Recovery phase which has received attention is investment in education which has seen the construction of many technical and vocational training schools/centers as well as 8 strategically located mega basic schools across member states are well on track with 16 classrooms, six laboratories, and 480-capacity hostels in every location in states of the region. There is also the multi-million Naira edifice constructed at the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) that to be deployed as the Centre for the Study of Violence and Extremism (CSVE).

This deliberate attention follows a general agreement in the region that Youth restiveness is the direct product of idleness brought about by illiteracy and the dearth of self-employable skills. This is why the vocational training institute in Wuyo of Kwaya Kusar LGA of Borno state and many others dotting the entire region has been described as a game changer. Such facilities and many others have been utilized to train and empower young people on ICT, power, digital vehicular inspection as well as other vocational skills.

In Gombe, the NEDC has also constructed a fully equipped Molecular Laboratory for Corona Virus. It is instructive to note that this facility was instrumental to regions response to the outbreak of Covid – 19 in 2020. NEDC is actively collaborating with the Borno State specialist hospital, the federal neuropsychiatric hospital, the 7-division military hospital Maimalari Cantonment and the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH), and others to address the challenges in the health sector.

In addition to taking over the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA’s) responsibilities of routine food distribution to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) living in designated camps, host and liberated communities in Borno and Adamawa States under which arrangement nearly 25,000 households of IDPs in Borno alone are said to benefitted from routine food rations by NEDC, the agency has also collaborated with the World Bank-funded Multi-Sectoral Crisis Recovery Project (MCRP) to rehabilitate and upgrade water supply in towns affected by insurgency.

A bold component of NEDC’s masterplan is the building of a railroad to connect states in the region with Nigeria’s south. The idea behind this design is not farfetched. The economy of the Northeast is agrarian. Farmers have had to contend with the problem of transporting goods to markets in the south using open vehicles. Aside from the high cost of this mode of transportation, the burden of which eventually impacts the prices the farm produces, transporting goods by roads is highly inefficient in that it leads to waste. It is estimated that over 30% of farm produce transported via roads get spoilt. That percentage is higher when dealing with perishable goods.

Work is already ongoing in the Maiduguri – Calabar standard gauge rail line, a 1,657km rail network, cutting across 13 States: Rivers, Abia, Enugu, Benue, Nasarawa, Plateau, Bauchi, Gombe, Borno, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Ebonyi, and Adamawa. This rail line when completed would facilitate the quick and cost-effective movement of goods and people, fostering social integration, economic growth, and the much-needed post-insurgency reconstruction in the Northeast region.

NEDC under the current stewardship of Goni Alkali and his passionate and resilient team is poised to move the region out of its woods by proposing projects that will guarantee not only safety but economic prosperity of the zone. Projects like the introduction of electric mobility to significantly reduce cost of transportation within the region, decrease carbon emission and to guarantee clean energy is an idea only perceived by Goni’s team armed with wisdom and technical acumen.
Also, in the pipeline are the proposed Northeast Airline that will cater for not only the North East, but the entire country, proposed specialised health and hospital intervention to provide for the regions health needs.

Other well and thoroughly thought projects encapsulated in the blueprint of the NEDC management team are; agricultural interventions to guarantee food security in line with the renewed hope agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, various interventions and empowerment in numerous sectors to ensure job and wealth creation while to reduce travelling time, revive the economy of the region, road and housing infrastructure have also been graciously receiving attention.

It must be said that NEDC has been able to execute over 700 critical projects thanks to the prudent and visionary leadership of its MD/CEO, Alhaji Mohammed Goni Alkali, but this is not all. NEDC under the leadership of Alh Goni Alkali has also ensured that the very vulnerable in the region are not abandoned and this it has done by creating a balance between critical infrastructure and stomach infrastructure. As NEDC makes a plea for better funding, it helps to be assured that the monies will follow the already laid precedence of judicious use and impact under Alhaji Goni Alkali’s able leadership. Perhaps, the unintended consequences of Goni Alkali’s excellent showing as MD/CEO of NEDC is the increased calls by all regions of Nigeria for interventionist commissions. I reckon that if NEDC becomes the standard for regional interventions, then other regions must pursue it with the vigour it deserves.

Dahiru Hassan Kera is the Publisher of Daylight Reporters Newspaper.

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