Why North-east Development Commission Must Succeed

By Ayodele Adio


It is either the NEDC lives up to expectation by addressing the issues of poverty and climate change in the North-East of Nigeria or watch the region and soon the entire country consumed by terrorism.

A few days ago, President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the North East Development Commission bill, a commission with the mandate to receive and manage funds allocated by the federal government and international donor agencies for the resettlement, rehabilitation, integration and reconstruction of roads, houses and business premises of the victims of insurgency. It also seeks to deal with the rising poverty in the region and environmental challenges. If the North East had made any progress since the return to democracy in 1999, the terror unleashed by Boko Haram in the last few years has reversed it by several decades. Schools, hospitals, farms, public infrastructures, have been utterly destroyed in their thousands, leaving millions of innocent women and children at the brink of starvation.

It is therefore of utmost importance, that this commission is driven by men and women of impeccable integrity, who are not only sympathetic to the plight of these victims but have a strong grasp of the broad and fundamental issues feeding the vicious cycle of insurgency in the region and are capable of formulating a short, medium and long-term strategy that will ensure peace and prosperity. The President and leadership of the national assembly must look beyond an opportunity to reward party faithful or creating another 'job for the boys' in the composition of the board of the NEDC, knowing that the failure of this commission will have far reaching implications for the peace and stability of the entire country.

Here is why:

On the 4th of October, four American soldiers, alongside four Nigerien soldiers, were ambushed and killed in Tongo-Tongo, a village near the Niger–Mali border by a terrorist group believed to be commanded by Abu Adnan Al-Sahraoui, a former member of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) who joined ISIS. Worse is, since the dislodgement of ISIS from Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, where they once controlled territories, ISIL fighters have been embraced by terrorist groups in Mali, Libya, Chad and Niger. Little wonder the United states now has about 6000 troops stationed in Africa and president Donald Trump plans to increase this number. We must realize that hundreds of ISIS fighters are only a few hundred kilometers away from the north-eastern borders of our country, and with the sudden surge of attacks by Boko Haram—where about 400 people have been killed in the last 6 months—we must begin to assume the worst.

I have always argued that the war against terrorism in the North cannot, in itself, be defeated by tanks and boots but by broader strategic measures that addresses the hostile climatic condition and consequently the prevalent poverty in the region. This is why I have a keen and genuine interest in the North-East Development Commission.

The truth is persistent droughts in the Sahel region (Senegal, Mali, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso and to a great extent the North East), instigated by extreme weather conditions has placed close to 18 million of these people in a potential food crisis (about 5 million in Nigeria). Over 80% of the region's land is degraded, frustrating farmers and providing little land, if any, for cattle to graze whereas there is a huge population growth. In other words, while population increases, the availability of food crops grossly diminishes. This also explains why we have herdsmen from Mali in Nigeria seeking for grazing land.

These factors: over population, land degradation, reduced rainfall and a lack of coherent environmental policies have left the people miserably poor making them very easy and willing recruits for terrorists who give them a few dollars to enlist them in their organizations. Of the 187 countries ranked globally in terms of human development index, Burkina Faso ranks 181, Chad 183, Mali 175 and Niger 186 making them the poorest region in sub-Saharan Africa and the world at large. Mind you, if the North East was a country on its own it will be ranked 180 0ut of 187. It is this level of extreme poverty and porous borders that has given rise to the proliferation of terrorist organizations like Boko Haram, Defenders of Islam group linked to Iyad Ag Ghali in Northern Mali, The Movement for the Liberation of Macina led by Hamadoun Koufa in central Mali. Ansarul Islam in northern Burkinafaso and Al Mourabitoun group led by Moktar Belmokhtar operating in the vast Sahel region.

It is either the NEDC lives up to expectation by addressing the issues of poverty and climate change in the North-East of Nigeria or watch the region and soon the entire country consumed by terrorism.


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