A bill seeking to legalise the establishment of the North East Development Commission passed the second reading stage at the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
The envisaged commission is to among other responsibilities “receive and manage funds from allocations from the Federation Account and international donors for the settlement, rehabilitation and reconstruction of roads, houses and business premises of victims of insurgency.”
The Speaker of the House, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, who sponsored the bill, described the condition of people displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East as pitiable, adding that unless urgent steps were taken to assist them, the situation would worsen.
The bill received the support of the House Majority Leader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, and the Minority Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor.
Gbajabiamila said that the situation in the North-East was comparable to the fate of the people of the Niger Delta, which forced the National Assembly years back to establish the Niger Delta Development Commission.
“We have reached a point where we need this commission in the North-East. We have the NDDC in the Niger Delta; let us have this commission for the North-East,” he said.
“It is unfortunate that we hear stories of funds meant to solve the security problem of these people, being diverted. The compensation that these people need is the commission. Let us give it to them.”
Ogor said he was often moved to tears whenever he heard of the hardship being faced by children and women in the North-East.
He said, “Our people have become refugees in their own country. The condition of children and women bleeds my heart; children have been out of school for many years.”
The Deputy Speaker, Mr. Yussuff Lasun, who presided over the House to allow Dogara to lead the debate on the bill, said, “This bill is dealing with a very serious issue and we have to treat it as such.
“We are talking of 700,000 lives lost and as many as 2.2 million people displaced from their homes. It is very serious.”
The Deputy House Whip, Mr. Pally Iriase, also supported the bill.
He argued that Nigeria would hardly know peace if the insurgency in the North-East was not contained.
“We can’t move on as a nation if one part is held down. That is why this bill should enjoy the support of all,” Iriase told the House.
Three other bills sponsored by Dogara also passed the second reading.
They were a bill to establish the Federal Competition Commission; a bill to provide for how individuals should disclose information on crime; and a bill for an Act to provide for corporate manslaughter.
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