OrderPaperToday – The House of Representatives has passed through second reading a bill for an act to create south-east development commission.

The same bill was earlier considered and rejected in June 2017 but has now been passed through second reading following passage by the Senate which sought concurrence from the green chamber.

The proposed commission will “serve as a catalyst to develop the commercial potentials of the South-east, receive and manage funds from allocation of the federation for the rehabilitation, reconstruction and reparation for houses and lost business of victims of the civil war and address any other environmental or developmental challenges.”

Like the last time it was considered, the debate on the bill was divisive mostly along ethnic lines as members from the south-east spoke in favour while several from the north canvassed against it.

Speaking in support of the bill, Ujam Chukwuma (PDP, Enugu) urged the members to support the bill and avoid ethnic sentiments.

“The southeast is faced with environment challenges, if other regions want development commission, we have already canvassed for support. Let us not bring ethnic sentiments,” he said

Also speaking along environmental hazard facing the country, the chairman of Committee on Climate Change, Samuel Onuigbo (PDP, Imo) noted that the southeast is bedeviled by environmental challenges.

“The senate has passed this bill. This is not about sentiment but environmental challenges; the south-east has one of the highest number of gully erosions. The other one is that at a time like this, when we should build unity, this is not the time to exclude certain region of the country.”

Several lawmakers from the north also spoke in favour of the bill, including the minority whip, Yakubu Bade (PDP, Kaduna) who argued that the effect of the vivil war is still being felt.

He said: “The war that was done in the southeast, was not conventional but guerrilla warfare, a lot of damage was done to that area. Mr. President gave the Biafran police their pension. There are nomadic intervention for the education of nomads.”

The House became rowdy as most lawmakers in support of the bill did not want Abdulmumuni Jibrin (APC, Kano) to comment on bill even though he spoke in support eventually.

He said: “I am looking at this bill from the historical perspective after the civil war the country agreed on the 3Rs but was in play for some few years but was neglected. There is some chunk of underdevelopment in that region (so) there is a need for us to be make that region to come back. If we kill this bill, it will come back to haunt us. We should us to support this bill.”

Some members who spoke against the bill faulted its comparison with the North East Development Commission (NEDC) and argued that the intervention was because of the insurgency ravaging the region.

Saheed Fijabi (APC, Oyo) noted that the bill ought to address development across the federation not just a particular section of the country.

“We have to be careful; instead of having Southeast Development Commission, why not have a Nigeria Development Commission. Instead of having north, south, east development commissions. I will be presenting a Bill on Nigeria Development commission.”

Sani Abdul (APC, Bauchi) also kicked against the bill and instead, called for restructuring of the country.

“If we are talking about restructuring along 6 geopolitical zones, let all the zones go back and develop their states. Majority of our states are generating less than 10% that’s why we need to restructure.”

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