THE bill to establish the South East Development Commission (SEDC) has passed second reading at the House of Representatives on Thursday.
The bill which had been passed by the Senate in 2018, had been struck out by lower legislative chamber in May 2017, after it had also passed the first and second reading.
However, the bill was reintroduced at the House and came up again for consideration on Thursday.
Contributing to the debate, Chukwuma Ujam, from Enugu state called on his colleagues not to “ethnic sentiments” into the deliberation.
“The south-east is faced with environmental challenges,” Ujam said. “Other regions want development commissions (and) we have already canvassed for support.”
Another lawmaker from the South East region, Samuel Onuigbo, said asides the environmental challenges being faced in the region, the establishment of the South East Development Commission would bring about more unity in the country.
“At a time like this, we should build unity, this is not the time to exclude a certain region of the country,” Onuigbo said.
Also contributing to the discourse, Yakubu Bade and Abdulmumin Jibrin, from Kaduna and Kano States respectively, all spoke in support of the bill, saying that the SEDC, when established, will cushion the effects of the civil war in the South East.
“The war in the southeast was not conventional but guerrilla warfare; a lot of damage has been done to that area,” Bade said.
Jibrin agreed. “This is time to show this part of the country that they are part of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. If you kill this bill, it will come back to hunt you sooner or later. I call on our colleagues that we should rise now and show the south-eastern part of Nigeria that they are part of us.”
If the SEDC bill is eventually passed by the House of Representatives, a joint committee of the National Assembly would still need to harmonise the two versions of the bill passed by both chambers before presenting it to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent into law.
Following the creation of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to cater for the Niger Delta region that has suffered devastation as a result of oil exploration activities in the area, other regions of the country have been clamouring to have a similar commission established in their areas.
Only recently, President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law a bill for the establishment of the North East Development Commission (NEDC) to oversee the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the region heavily affected by terrorist activities. The board of the NEDC has already been inaugurated.
Also, there is a bill currently before the Senate for the creation of a North West Development Commission. The bill was sponsored by Jibrin Barau, a Kano State Senator, and was read for the first time on the floor of the Senate on December 13, 2018.