The North Central Development Commission Bill has passed Senate second reading

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On Wednesday, the bill that aims to establish the North Central Development Commission (NCDC) was given the green light by the Senate.

The bill was co-sponsored by all North Central senators and was introduced by Senate Minority Leader and Benue South Senatorial District senator, Comrade Abba Moro PhD.

The measure, which was initially introduced by Senator Moro in the 9th Senate and passed First and Second Readings before the term ended, failed to receive presidential approval before the 5th of October, 2023, First Reading.

The Senate Minority Leader, in his opening remarks, stated that the Commission, once formed, would be tasked with overseeing the distribution and management of funds from donors and the federal government.

These funds would then be used for various purposes, including the resettlement of flood victims, rehabilitation of houses and businesses damaged in clashes between farmers and herders, communal conflicts, the building of large-format drainage systems, the dredging of the rivers Niger and Benue to control flooding, and other related environmental and developmental issues in North Central Nigeria.

Here is the lead debate:

“Excuse me, President, Respected coworkers.

I beg your pardon, sir, before I begin debating this crucial bill.

Mr. President, esteemed colleagues, the following geopolitical states of the federal republic of Nigeria make up the North Central Zone: Kogi, Niger, Benue, Kwara, Plateau, Nasarawa, and Abuja. This list is not exhaustive and is presented in no particular order.

“The North Central Zone of Nigeria has been ravaged and left in bollix by noxious terrorist activities, floods and erosion, insurgency, kidnapping, herder/farmer clashes, poverty, and a high rate of illiteracy over the past few years,” the president said, along with his distinguished colleagues and colleagues.

There are a number of mineral resources in the Zone that, if developed, may significantly improve Nigeria’s economy. There isn’t much the North Central Zone can do about this, though, due to the breeding issues described earlier.

Mr. President, I would like to bring to your attention the fact that two of the largest rivers of West Africa are located in Nigeria’s North Central Zone: (a) the Niger River and (b) the Benue River, which originates in Cameroon and flows into Nigeria. Both rivers join in central-north Nigeria and continue their journey to the Atlantic Ocean as a single river. But these two rivers mean that flooding is always a problem in the area, and it becomes worse every year, causing devastating damage across the country and in the North Central Zone in particular.

“Mr. President, esteemed colleagues, shocking floods in 2012 and 2013 displaced two million Nigerians and killed more than 363 in the states of Plateau, Benue, Niger, Nasarawa, and Kogi, according to data from the Nigerian Meteorological Agency.

More than 578 people perished and over 92,000 were displaced due to floods in several states of Nigeria between 2016 and 2023. These states include Nasarawa, Kogi, Niger, and Benue.

“Every time there is a heavy rainfall upstream on the Benue and Niger Rivers, hundreds of thousands of acres of farmlands in the North Central Zone of Nigeria, where the majority of the population is agrarian, are damaged by floods. This happens every year, Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues.

When water is released from the Lagdo Dam in Cameroon, the river swells, which is the biggest concern on the Benue River. Plenty of damage has been done to the North Central Zone by the flood. Crops and fields are being destroyed by floods and erosion in Agatu, a town in Benue state. This is relevant for states that have experienced floods and erosion, such as Plateau, Niger, and Nasarawa.

It is well-known that herder-farmer conflicts in North Central Nigeria, particularly in Benue State, have been in the news frequently throughout the years. This is true, Mr. President and distinguished colleagues. As a result, numerous pieces of infrastructure, including residences, roads, hospitals, schools, houses, leisure centers, and places of worship, have been devastated by violence.

Victims of the crimes committed by alleged herders and bandits in Nigeria’s North Central Zone include women, children, pregnant women, and the entire population. The perpetrators of these harmful deeds have brought disorder and confusion to the Zone, and not only that—the environment and animals are not immune either.

“Mr. President, esteemed colleagues, the inferno of violence unleashed by militias in Agatu LGA roused the sleep of rural residents in 45 communities from February 24, 2016, to January 20, 2024, with the sound of gunfire and the flick of matchets.

More than 59,000 people were forced to leave their ancestral homes, and over 800 people, including children and women, lost their lives as a result of the tragic event. Many members of the displaced communities have sought sanctuary in one of the many IDP camps spread out throughout the states of Nasarawa and Benue.

“Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, this Bill aims to establish the North Central Development Commission (NCDC) to receive and manage funds allocated by the Federal Government and donors (both international and local).

The NCDC will be responsible for resettling and rebuilding roads, houses, farmlands, and business premises that have been affected by floods, erosion, terrorism, and other environmental and developmental issues in the region. It will also construct large format drainage systems, dredge the rivers Benue and Niger to control flooding and erosion, and tackle poverty and illiteracy, among other related issues.

It is well-known, Mr. President and esteemed colleagues, that a man’s emotional and psychological well-being can take a hit when he is forced to leave his ancestral home. Rehabilitation and economic indemnification of displaced people will be the focus of the federal government’s and donors’ (both local and international) budgets.

“Recent advocacy has focused on the need of developing the geopolitical zones of Nigeria as hubs of development, acting as intermediaries between the federal government and the states. Together, the progress made via the Zonal Development Commissions will, we hope, restore Nigeria’s strength and greatness. The development lag in most states and the near-death of Nigeria’s local government councils have made unbundling the federal government an urgent need, Mr. President.

“Mr. President, esteemed colleagues, I would like to bring to your attention the fact that this bill was genuinely introduced by me in the 9th Senate, has successfully completed all required legislative procedures, and has garnered unanimous support from every region of the country. Unfortunately, the Bill did not make it to the president in time for the 9th Senate to take the next crucial step.

Regardless of political affiliation, every senator from the North Central Zone in the 10th Senate is co-sponsoring this bill today, Mr. President and distinguished colleagues.

“Estemed President, Respected Colleagues, I respectfully request that you all vote in favor of the North Central Development Commission (NCDC) Establishment Bill and send it back for a second reading so that our nation can progress toward more equity and justice.

“I appreciate everyone here for being so gracious.”

Senator Godswill Akpabio, who is president of the Senate, expressed his gratitude to Senator Moro and the other bill sponsors for their work on the crucial measure. He emphasized that progress in any region of Nigeria benefited every Nigerian. He concurred with the bill’s backers that North Central needed a development commission to deal with the many problems that plague the area.

The Senate has asked the Special Duties committee to report back on the measure in four weeks.

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