By Donald Okpeh The North East Development Commission (NEDC) has slightly clocked two years of its existence. Absolutely, in the last two years, NEDC has been on a progressive odyssey in the execution of its mandate in Nigeria’s Northeast region. It is a region hitherto, severely ravaged and devastated by multilayered, bloody jihadists campaigns of insurgency for over a decade. Established by an Act of the National Assembly (NASS), and signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari in May 2017, the NEDC’s Governing Board was inaugurated in May 2018 by Mr. President. Thereafter, it commenced full-scale operations under the leadership of the Managing Director, Alhaji Mohammed Goni Alkali. Sequel to the Buhari Presidency, Boko Haram insurgency totally paralyzed or crumbled economic activities and infrastructural facilities in the Northeast region. Many Nigerians never imagined that insurgency would be blighted to the point of mandating the NEDC or any other agency with the arduous task of succor to the displaced, traumatized and distraught populations in the Northeast region, comprising Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, and Yobe states. Information on the NEDC website, disclosed its main mandate as; “among other things, is to receive and manage funds from allocation of the Federal Account and international donors for the settlement, rehabilitation and reconstruction of roads, houses and business premises of victims of insurgency as well as tackling menace of poverty, illiteracy level, ecological problems and any other related environmental or developmental challenges in the North-East states”. The statistics of devastations in the region were quite scary. Multiple media reports corroborated that between 2009 and 2015 insurgents’ atrocities in the region destroyed more than 900 schools and forced at least, another 1,500 to abrupt closures. And by early 2016, close to 1 million school-aged children fled the violence -prone areas of the region and the UN estimated a frightening figure of IDPs in excess of 2.4 million people, housed in various camps across the region, with its connected humanitarian crisis. Therefore, NEDC’s immediate actions were directed at the reconstruction of the damaged physical infrastructures, reducing the humanitarian crisis faced by IDPs, evolving a solid peace-building, reconciliation, and de-radicalization framework. The NEDC management understood that issues such as illiteracy, poverty and unemployment were the bane of unending insecurity in the Northeast region. In spite of the enormous responsibilities of the commission, the management has so far, glaringly proved its mettle, with meagre funds in the kitty, to the applause of Nigerians, especially, people of the Northeast region on execution of its official mandate. The Board has in the last two years, met so many popular expectations, remedied many infrastructural deficits across board, recording many success stories in projects execution and humanitarian services. To its credibility today, there have been unprecedented achievements in the reconstruction of housing units, hospitals, roads, bridges, portable water supply, schools, scholarship grants to indigent students, empowerment and skills acquisition programmes, among others. In Borno state for instance, the NEDC has completed the construction of 1,000 housing units and equipped numerous Technical and Vocational/Skills Centres around the state based on the approvals it obtained from the FGN in 2019 to construct 10,000 houses, as well as establish Technical and Vocational Skills Acquisition Centres for the IDPs across all the six states in the region. Ngowom Village, Mafa LGA of Borno state now bore the bold the imprimatur of NEDC’s first 1,000 housing units in the region. The completed housing units have since been handed over to the Government of Borno state, led by Professor Babagana Zulum. This is aside other resettlement programmes, infrastructural as well as scholarship programmes granted indigenes of the state, in tertiary institutions by the commission, a direct attack on the sermonized ideology of Boko Haramists. The NEDC has also constructed and commissioned a world class Burn Centre at the University of Maiduguri Teaching hospital (UMTH) to treat burns from bomb explosions or fire incidents. It has since been put to use to address incidences of burn injuries and other related matters in the state. Similarly, in Yobe State, the NEDC identified the magnitude of destroyed infrastructures in the educational sector orchestrated by insurgency. The commission discovered that from the primary schools to the tertiary institutions, the scale of destruction as a result of the Boko Haram crisis was mindboggling. School buildings, furniture, and other equipments were destroyed by the insurgents. But with the Rapid Response Intervention (RRI) programme of the NEDC in Yobe state, the last two years, has experienced massive renovations and constructions of new classrooms, offices, stores and supply of furniture across the 17 local government areas of the state. Yobe state has also benefited from the commission’s initiative to provide affordable housing units for the people of the Northeast region. So far, 500 housing units have been completed in Yobe state. Out of this number, 250 units are located in Damaturu the state capital; 50 units in Buni Yadi; 50 units in Geidam; 50 units in Potiskum; 50 units in Gashua, and another 50 in Nguru. The commission has also repaired and converted over 28 boreholes to solar hybrid and subsequent drilling and installation of 34 hybrid solar boreholes across Yobe, in order to meet the water and sanitation needs of the rural folks in the state. This is aside from the state-of-the-art molecular laboratory the commission has established at the Yobe State University Teaching Hospital (YSUTH), for easy testing of Lassa fever, COVID-19, Yellow fever as well as other diseases and outbreaks in the state. The agricultural sector in Yobe state too has enjoyed the commission’s intervention, as many dry season farmers in the state have benefited from the 1,500 participants in the Agricultural Support Scheme of NEDC in the state and the region. The state has also enjoyed the ICT and other trainings sponsored across all the states in the region by the commission’s management. Also, in Bauchi State, the NEDC commenced the infrastructural rebuilding process after it had in September 2021, flagged off the construction of 500 housing units in the state. The distribution of food and non-food items to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the state also took place the same day as the commission targeted tackling the issue of imminent food insecurity in the region. Furthermore, the NEDC has commenced the construction of two major roads in Bauchi, which previously resisted the attention of successive administrations in the state. The roads are Alkaleri – Futuk road in Alkaleri LGA and Alkaleri -Kirfi- to Gombe Abba road in Kirfi LGA of Bauchi State. Construction work is also ongoing at the Soro cattle market in Ganjuwa LGA as well as at Fistula Hospital in Ningi LGA. The NEDC is determined to complete these projects in the next fiscal year. In Adamawa, the NEDC has also taken over the reconstruction of three critical bridges in Kudzum, Dilechim and Wurro Ngayandi, all destroyed by the Boko Haram insurgents in Michika and Madagali LGAs of the Northeast region since 2014. These bridges serve as links between Adamawa and Borno state and its destruction grounded socio-economic and commercial activities between the two states. NEDC established another Burn Centre at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC ) Yola as well as infectious laboratory for testing Covid 19 at the state Specialist Hospital Yola, among many other life- saving or uplifting projects in Adamawa state have been completed by the commission, fully equipped and are ready to be put to public use. Notably, the NEDC boss, Mohammed Alkali led other top management members of the commission, the Governing Board, the minister of works, NASS members and other stakeholders to Adamawa state on a two-day official working visit, where the completed projects were commissioned and handed over to the Borno State Government while new ones were equally flagged off for execution on same day. At the time of the visit too, the commission also flagged off the construction of 500 housing units for IDPs in the state; distributed various food and non-food items to victims of insurgency, handed over the well-equipped Burn Centre built at FMC Yola as well as the infectious diseases laboratory to the Adamawa State Government. The NEDC has initiated similar projects in Gombe and Taraba states respectively. The construction of MEGA Schools, the reconstruction and rehabilitation of education sector’s infrastructures to address the high deficit in classroom blocks in both primary and secondary schools throughout the Northeast region is a commendable initiative by the Commission. These and many more have been achieved within just two years of the NEDC under its pioneer management. Therefore, it is not surprising that the North East Youths and Elders Peoples Forum, (NEYEF)recently expressed satisfaction with the leadership of the NEDC under Alkali, commending the commission for making giant strides in its mandate of rebuilding and redeveloping the Northeast zone. NEDC has accomplished more than can be captured in a single piece. But with these stated exploits, the NEDC has made within a short span of two years, the process of rebuilding the Northeast region is on course under the Buhari Presidency. And cynics are shamed that indeed, it is possible, the devastated region can regain its lost status, despite the afflictions of years of insurgency under focused leaders. Okpeh is a public affairs ansyst and wrote this piece from Abuja.
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