Cover Story

Salvaging the North-East – All Hands on Deck

In response to the deplorable insecurity situation and loss of infrastructure brought about by years of violence and insurgency in North-Eastern Nigeria, Governors of the Northeastern states have demanded that the Federal Government allocates more capital projects to the region in 2021. This would facilitate rebuilding and rebuilding efforts in the region. The Governors lamented the low provision for capital projects in the region in the Federal Government’s 2021 budget. According to them, the 2021 budget did not reflect fairness in the distribution of federal projects, given the obvious need for redevelopment and reconstruction of infrastructure in the region:

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‘…the Forum notes with dismay, that despite the challenges of development, especially the infrastructural deficit in Northeast, the 2021 proposed budget makes provision of only N45.32 billion for capital projects in the region. This represents a paltry 0.35 percent of the proposed N13.02 trillion, and this means the Northeast is highly short-changed.’

The governors requested the National Assembly to evaluate the 2021 budget and urgently rectify the disparity. In reaction to this, the House of Representatives appealed to the executive arm of government to raise the budgetary allocation for the agricultural sector in the North-East geopolitical zone. According to them, this would help to address some of the challenges of infrastructure in the region.

Hon. Mohammed Tahir Monguno, the chief whip of the House, while speaking during the debate over the 2021 budget, supported the call, stating that the North East region had always been provided with meager budgetary allocations, even before the present administration. Monguno urged the government to give more concentration to the agricultural sector which accounts for 70 percent of the employment rate of Nigeria and the entire African continent.

Not so long ago and well before the rise of violent insurgency and banditry in the region, the North East region was widely considered as an area where commerce and trade thrived, and was well known all over the Sahel region for its well-stabilized trade and booming local enterprises. The people were well known for their agricultural capacity, as about 80% of the population were farmers. This shows their immense contribution to the regional and national GDP of Nigeria and the Sahel. The region also played host to communities of religious scholars and is historically acknowledged as one of the centres for Islamic learning on the African continent. However, over the last two decades, the region has declined under various development indices; education levels, access to health care/basic amenities, and low GDP per capita. Nowadays, the region is infamous for insurgency and its invasion by Boko Haram terrorists, with Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe (BAY) being the most impacted states. All this means that the once prosperous and productive region is now best known for war, suffering and death, with survivors resigning themselves to living under an almost permanent state of emergency and heavy military presence.

One-third of the more than 700 health facilities that existed in Borno State have been destroyed. Of those facilities remaining, one third are not functioning at all. Dr. Wondi Alemu, the WHO Representative in Nigeria, stated that ‘high insecurity, difficult terrain and lack of health workers, medicines, equipment and basic amenities such as safe water are making access to essential, life-saving health care extremely difficult for people in this conflict-affected area.’

The German Ministry for the Economic Cooperation and Development, European Union (EU) recently launched an initiative to assist in strengthening resilience in Borno and Adamawa states. The initiative which centers on the improvement of basic service infrastructure will run till 2022. The objective is to improve the living conditions of internally displaced persons (IDPs), and also includes the rehabilitation of schools, health, water, sanitation, and hygiene, and market-related facilities. The program has already assisted about 113, 000 direct and indirect beneficiaries.. Over 43, 000 people are benefitting from the newly constructed or rehabilitated infrastructure, while 15, 600 children, 580 teachers, and 20 educational managers have benefited from various educational support initiatives as well.

The Buhari administration has also undertaken major projects in the Northeast, especially in the area of infrastructure. Some of these include the reconstruction of the 122km Mayo Belwa-Jade-Ganye-Toungo road which commenced in 2018; reconstruction of Gombe—Nunman-Yola road; about six power transmission infrastructure in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and in other parts of the region. This is coupled with Social Investment Programs which benefit 74, 000 N-Power beneficiaries across the six states of the Northeast, and school feeding in the states.

On his own part, Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State has implemented 326 capital projects and 49 policies and programs since he assumed office. Among the 21 capital projects Zulum is said to be constructing, are 6, 544 sub-urban and low-cost houses in 12 local government areas. This is to help re-settle internally displaced persons and refugees. Usman Jidda Shuwa, Secretary to the Borno State Government, reported that 300 surveillance vehicles were also distributed to security agencies and volunteers. In addition, 76 more projects, which include the establishment of 21 new schools in 13 LGAs and also 37 new primary healthcare centers in 17 LGAs were executed. Governor Zulum has also commenced the rehabilitation of 30 roads, coupled with the ongoing construction of Borno’s very first flyover in Maiduguri.

The most recently launched project in the North-Eastern region, is the World Bank’s Multi-Sectorial Crisis Recovery Project. The project is designed to assist the government in the rehabilitation and improvement of the infrastructure and livelihood of conflict and displacement-affected communities. The project objective is to strengthen social cohesion in the North-Eastern states. The cost of the project is about $176m and the implementation period will be over a period of 5 years.

The economic redevelopment of North-Eastern states deserves to be given utmost priority by both state and federal governments, as states in the region had contributed immensely towards the national GDP, prior to the crises currently bedeviling them. However, all reconstruction efforts must go hand in hand with measures to curbing the possibilities of future insurgencies and terrorism in order to be truly effective.

Peace Omenka

Photo CEDIE; The New Humanitarian

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