By Henry Umoru
DEPUTY Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriations, Senator Stella Oduah, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Anambra North has given insight into why it has become very imperative for President Muhammadu Buhari to sign into law, the passed bill for the Establishment of the South-East Development Commission, SEDC.
Speaking with Vanguard yesterday, Senator Oduah, a Co-Sponsor of the bill explained that the Commission will be saddled with the responsibilities of managing and administering finds received from the Federation Account for the purpose of reinvigorating and harnessing the commercial potentials ad well as the overall socio-economic development of the geo-political zone of the country.
According to her, when the bill is assented to by the President, the Commission will also act as a catalyst for the development of the commercial potentials of the South-East as well as tackle infrastructural deficit as well as engage youths in productive ventures in the region.
Speaking further, Senator Oduah noted that when it finally comes on board, the Commission will also establish a developmental master plan that will give rise to massive infrastructural development, aimed at reconstructing and rehabilitating roads and bridges as well as address the devastating menace of erosion and other environmental and developmental challenges in the zone.
The Commission will also help in the rehabilitation, reconstruction and reparation for Houses and Lost Businesses of Victims of the Civil war, as well as address any other Environmental or Developmental challenges.
Senator Oduah noted that when passed and signed into law, the bill is expected to provide road-map for development of roads, education, health facilities, industrialisation, agriculture, housing and urban development, water supply, electricity and commerce in the five-member states of Anambra, Imo, Enugu, Ebonyi and Abia.
By the same vein, the Commission will provide policies and guidelines for the development of the South East, a conception of plans for development in accordance with set rule as well as produce regulations, programmes and projects for sustainable development of the region.
Also, it is expected to provide a master plan for the reduction of unemployment while also providing the master plan and schemes to promote the physical development of the southeast.
Other functions of the bill include: tackling ecological and environmental problems that arise from soil erosion problems and other related environmental challenges in the south East and advise the federal government and member states on the prevention and control of the erosion and environmental challenges as well as identifying factors inhibiting the development of the southeast and assist member states on the formulation and implementation of policies to ensure sound and efficient management of the resources of the region.
It would be recalled that the Bill for the establishment of a South-East Development Commission and for other matters, was sponsored by Senator Oduah in the 8th Senate as Chairman, Senate Committee on Cooperation and Integration and Co-Sponsored by the then Chairman, Senate Committee on Senator Samuel Anyanwu, PDP, Imo East, co-sponsored by Stella Oduah, PDP, Anambra North and supported by other Senators from the South East Zone.
It was read the first time on Wednesday, 22nd June 2016 and scaled the second reading in the Senate, 7th June 2017.
Recall that in Oduah lead debate, Oduah had submitted that the bill seeks to address the infrastructural deficit of the southeast and act as a catalyst to develop the commercial potentials of the region.
Oduah had said: “The South East as a region has contributed immensely to the overall development know-how and other areas of endeavour yet the federal government is not doing enough for the region. What the region requires now from the rest of the country are support and understanding and this will help to engender a sense of belonging to the Nigerian project.
“The Senate is in the right position to show maturity in the face of the plethora of problems and challenges facing the geopolitical zone. Nigeria has the abundant capacity to beam a sympathetic focus to begin to address these issues in a more holistic and systematic manner.
“The public works projects to be executed by this commission will engage the youths in a more serious fashion and help to develop needed human capital in both the public and private sectors.
“This will also curb the cases of kidnapping and other criminal activities that create a security situation not conducive for growth and development.
“The peaceful co-existence of the Nigerian state will be enhanced with the establishment of the commission. The enactment of this bill will help to rebuild the southeast and provide the opportunity for the people to display their talent and contribute immensely to the development of the country.” Oduah stated
The Bill was however referred to the Senate Committee on Establishment and Public Matters under Senator Emmanuel Paulker, PDP, Bayelsa Central to report back to the Upper Chamber in four weeks.
Also recall that the 8th Senate on December 12, 2018, passed the bill for the Establishment of the South-East Development Commission.
The approval by the upper chamber followed the consideration of the report of the Committee on Establishment and Public Service as presented by Senator Emmanuel Paulker, PDP, Bayelsa Central.
Also recall that one week to the end of the 8th Assembly, the House of Representatives had on 28th May 2019, passed the South-East Development Commission Bill.
The Commission which shall have its head office in Enugu, Enugu State, would have offices in each state of the Commission which are Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and the Imo States.
To Senate agreed that the Commission shall be funded from the one per cent of monies due to member states from the Ecological Fund.
Another fund of the Commission would be from the Federal Government, the equivalent of 10 per cent of the total monthly statutory allocations due to the member states of the Commission from the Federation Account; this being the contribution of the Federal Government to the Commission.
According to the Senate, the board of the Commission shall prepare and submit to the President of the country, not later than 30th June in each year, a report in such form as the President may direct on the activities of the Commission during the immediately preceding year, and shall include in the report, a copy of the audited accounts of the Commission for that year and the auditor’s report thereon.
In his remarks, the then President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki had said that the unity and development of a nation go sometimes beyond just a Bill, adding, “I want us all to see that we all have responsibilities to bring down the tension in this country and bring about unity.
“By this, we are showing as a Senate that we are ready to listen and look at the pros and cons. We need to unite this country. We must play our role. We only have one country.”