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Senate confirms chairman, board members of North East Development Commission
By: Kingsley OBIEJESI and Rebecca AKINREMI
THE North East Development Commission is expected to take off in full gear with the confirmation of Paul Tarfa, a retired General in the Nigerian Army, as its pioneer chairman by the Senate on Tuesday.
President Muhammadu Buhari nominated the members of the NEDC board on January 19 and forwarded their names to the Senate for confirmation.
The NEDC was created to cater for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the North East region which has been devastated by the Boko Haram insurgency.
At the Senate plenary on Tuesday, Mohammed Alkali was also confirmed as the NEDC Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, while nine others were confirmed as members of the commission’s board.
They include: Musa Yashi, ED (Executive Director) Humanitarian Affairs; Mohammed Jawa, ED Administration and Finance; Umar Mohammed, ED Operations; David Kente, member representing North East zone, Asmau Mohammed, member representing North West zone; Benjamin Adanyi, Member representing North Central zone; Olawale Oshun, member representing South West zone; T.E.O Ekechi, member representing South-East and Obasuke McDonald, member representing South-South zone.
Just before the nominees were confirmed, chairman of the Senate Committee on Special Duties, Abdulaziz Nyako, informed the lawmakers that the candidates were found qualified for the post to which they had been appointed.
However, Binta Garba, representing Adamawa North Senatorial District, said Alkali should not be made Managing Director of the NEDC. She argued that since the headquarters of the commission will be located in Borno State, it was not proper for the MD to from the same state.
“The commission is domiciled in Borno State and the CEO is also from Borno State. Is it in consonance with the ideals of the commission within and outside Nigeria?”
Garba cited an example with the United Nations whose headquarters is located in New York, United States of America, but whose head is not from America.
“We need to get some clarifications,” she said, recalling that the late Senator Ali Wakili had suggested that the headquarters of the NEDC should be located in Bauchi State.
In his response, Nyako clarified that when the Senate passed the NEDC bill, they left the issue of zoning open, but that the version passed by the House of Representatives stated that the MD of the commission should come from Borno.
“In our bill, we left it open. During the public hearings, we agreed if the headquarters is in Borno then someone else should be the MD; but in concurrence with the House of Representatives, more inclined to the MD from Borno. It was the House bill that went with zoning and their votes were overwhelming than ours,” Nyako explained.
Also speaking after the nominees had been confirmed, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, called for proper oversight functions on the activities of the NEDC when it eventually commences operation.
He said this would prevent some of the hiccups being experienced with the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) which the NEDC was modelled after.
“The NDDC is steeped in a lot of protocol and bureaucracy. So this commission should learn from that. The parliament should start an oversight of this agency,” Ekweremadu advised.
The NEDC establishment bill was sponsored by the Speaker of the House of Reps, Yakubu Dogara and 32 other legislators. It was passed by the National Assembly in October 2016 and was signed into law by the President a year later.
Since the creation of the NEDC, there have been agitations by other geopolitical zones in the country for the establishment of a similar commission in their regions, hence bills were raised at the floor of the Senate for the creation of the South East Development Commission (SEDC) as well as the North West Development Commission (NWDC). Both bills were sponsored by Samuel Anyanwu, from Imo State, and Jibrin Barau from Kano State, respectively.
However, while the SEDC bill has been passed by the Senate in December 2018, and is now awaiting passage by the lower legislative chamber before it would go to the President for assent, same cannot be said of the NWDC bill which was read for the first time on the floor of the Senate in the same December 2018.