By Philip Agbese
Since the creation of the North East Development Commission, a lot has happened in North-East Nigeria. So much, so that critical stakeholders have attested to. The North East Development Commission, as we all know, is an interventionist agency. However, the case of the NEDC has somewhat proven different from other interventionist agencies in the country.
There has been a consistent drive towards achieving its core mandate in rebuilding North East Nigeria that had suffered phenomenal destruction since 2009 when the Boko Haram group began its violent campaign against Nigeria.
Consequently, this piece is a critical examination of the activities of the NEDC and its impact on the lives of the people in North-East Nigeria. As a first, the choice of administrators is worthy of mention. I dare say that the managing director hit the ground running with a clear idea of what is needed to be done to bring about normalcy in the region.
In my opinion, he struck gold when he made transparency and accountability his watchword. I dare say that in my many years of research on post-conflict societies, the case of North-East Nigeria stands tall in the sense that the commitment of the government towards addressing the challenges that came about as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency is topnotch.
It would thus be stale news to say that normalcy has returned to North-East Nigeria. It would also be stale news to say that the various interventions of the NEDC have had a profound impact on the lives of people in North-East Nigeria.
The case of the NEDC is indeed a testament that nothing is impossible in Nigeria with exemplary leadership. And this much the leadership of the NEDC led by Mohammed Goni Alkali has displayed since its inception. The NEDC has redefined what an interventionist agency should represent; it has set lofty records, and paramount, it has never ceased to put smiles on the faces of the people of North-East Nigeria.
I must say that the success of the NEDC is not magic or luck but rather a function of strategic planning and implementation of programmes with a direct impact on the people. For instance, the NEDC has executed 224 developmental projects in 112 Local government areas across the six North-East states under the Rapid Response Intervention (RRI), as part of the comprehensive master plan to holistically rebuild the region based on the recommendations and demands of the states in the areas of education, health, social infrastructure, agriculture and WASH.
According to the managing director of the NEDC, the projects were part of the early recovery actions plans by the Commission to return simple infrastructure which included, public and institutional structure, boreholes and culvert that were ravaged by the insurgency to function again. And the impact has been phenomenal.
It is also instructive to state that the NEDC has earmarked N6 billion to replenish the 10 per cent annual grants on scholarship for students in the region. Under this arrangement, the beneficiaries include; 5 000 bachelor’s degree, 336 Masters and 54 Doctorate Degree candidates. The funds would also be used for skills and acquisition training and provision of starter packs to 5 000 Information Communication Technology (ICT) skills, 5000 women and youths on entrepreneurship, and 2000 other vocational skills in each of the 1,028 wards in the Northeast. This is indeed brilliant and an indication that the infrastructural and economic development of North-East Nigeria is well on course.
For some of us that are conversant with the level of destruction in North-East Nigeria, we cannot but be appreciative of the efforts of the leadership drive of the NEDC towards achieving its core mandate. And it is succinct to state that the NEDC has surpassed expectations, and it behoves on stakeholders to extend support to the leadership of the NEDC towards achieving its overall mandate.
Another area that I must not fail to mention is how the NEDC has responded to the needs of the IDPs in the region. For example, the NEDC is reaching out to IDP during Ramadan fasting by ensuring that their needs are met and not being denied the opportunity to participate in this religious exercise.
The NEDC has been proactively involved in the distribution of food items to IDPs during the fasting period. As a fact, the impact of this initiative has been tremendous. It has given the IDPs a sense of belonging to that effect and the best of times in the Ramadan period. This is aside other numerous interventions that have indeed touched lives and given the people hope that certainly there is light at the end of the tunnel.
I must not fail to add that all of these would not have been possible without the display of commitment by President Muhammadu Buhari towards ensuring that normalcy returns to North-East Nigeria. This much he exhibited with the choice of people appointed to lead the drive towards achieving the mandate of the NEDC. And I am glad that the leadership of the NEDC have been alive to their responsibilities.
The Mohammed Goni Alkali led management have put the interest of the people at heart. They have displayed an unalloyed commitment that speaks volume of service to humanity. I dare say that anyone conversant with the operations of the NEDC would readily attest to the fact that the NEDC can be regarded as a gift to the people of North-East Nigeria.
It has been alive to its responsibilities and set standards worthy of emulation by other interventionist agencies in the country. I dare say that should those saddled with the responsibility of implementing government policies imbibe the approach of the NEDC management, Nigeria would experience sustainable growth and development.
At this point, I would like to commend the managing director of the NEDC for this rare display of sound leadership that has translated the hopes and aspirations of the people of North-East Nigeria into tangible realities. His work ethics is infectious. His passion is unrivalled. His commitment to fulfilling the mandate of the NEDC is also noteworthy.
I dare say that should those in leadership positions imbibe such disposition; we would be sure of life been meaningful for all and sundry. However, I must not fail to add that it is not yet Uhuru as there is still work to be done. Consequently, this is my charge to the leadership of the NEDC; do not rest on your oars as the mandate of the NEDC is not a one-off event; instead, it is a continuum.
They must strive for an improvement in their operations, which is necessary given the enormity of the task at hand. In these circumstances, I doff my hat for the management of the NEDC. It is indeed an example of what purposeful leadership entails.
Agbese is a human rights activist and wrote this piece from the United Kingdom.