(BeingText of a Press Conference held by Chief (Dr.) E. K. Clark, OFR, CON onWednesday, 15th May, 2019.)
I watched the telecastof the inauguration of members of the North East Development Commission byPresident Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, 8th May, 2019. It was a very laudableevent, because the development of the region has been of great concern to someof us. I recall that this issue of developing the North East Region wasextensively deliberated upon during the 2014 National Conference and it wasagreed and resolved that a development Commission should be set up.
In inaugurating themembers of the North East Development Commission, President Muhammadu Buhariadduced two reasons. The first is that “The establishment of the Commission wasin fulfillment of the pledge of his administration to fast track development inthe region.”
I emphatically wish tostate that the decision for establishing the NEDC was not the original idea ofPresident Buhari; it did not originate as an Executive Memo from him to theNational Assembly. The historic National Conference of 2014 which Mr. PresidentMuhammadu Buhari had no regard for was indeed the originator of the idea forsetting up of the NEDC. The credit should go to the 2014 National Conference,for its patriotic thoughtfulness, and to the National Assembly, NASS, forinitiating the bill for the establishment of the Commission.
I also recall that whenthe Speaker of the House of Representatives Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara and Sen.Alli Ndume presented the Bill for the setting up of the Commission I wrote apaper to him titled “The Unity and greatness of Nigeria depend on theconquering of Boko Haram, and love and true of all Nigerians irrespective ofreligion and ethnicity”. I reproduce here an excerpt of that paper:
“Recently, you were hailed forcoming out of your speaker’s box to present a Bill on the development of theNorth-East which had been destroyed by the Boko Haram since 2009 titled. “Abill for the establishmentof North East Development Commission” passed second reading at the House ofRepresentatives on Monday.
Thebill seeks to charge the proposed Commission with the responsibility to“receive and manage funds allocated to it from the federation account andinternational donors for the settlement, rehabilitation and reconstruction ofroads, houses, and business premises of victims of insurgency; and for othermatters connected therewith”
Itis very worrisome and equally devastating to note that thousands of citizenshad been killed, while over 2.2 million people were displaced by the Boko Haraminsurgency ravaging the North East.
Itis therefore necessary for us who were members of the historic National Conferencewhich was held between February and June 2014 which provided over 600decisions, resolutions and recommendations including the very subject you aretackling leading to the establishment of the NEDC. The National Conference wasfully involved in discussing the atrocities committed by the Boko Haraminsurgency against Nigerians particularly in the North East. The assembly cameto a stand still when the news of the kidnap of the Chibok school girls wasbroken to us by a female delegate Miss Bilikisu Magoro, while earlier in themorning, the assembly was rattled by the news of Nyanyan bombing. I moved themotion in the Assembly to express our deep regret and condolences to theFederal Government, victims and families of those affected by the bombing.
Iremember the whole assembly devoted a whole day, if not two, to discussing theBoko Haram insurgency and how some of our Traditional rulers were eitherkidnapped or killed. It was based on these that, a preposition was made duringthe consideration of the 13% derivation popularly referred to as Resourcecontrol that the recommendation that 5% of the federation account should be setaside to develop the North-East and thereafter, any part of Nigeria affected bythe insurgence. This is to take a cue from what was done immediately after thesecond world War of the US Government and her European allies, otherwisereferred to as the Marshal Plan, for the reconstruction of war-torn areas inEurope.
Thisproposition, particularly on the establishment of the special intervention Fundfor the Northeast was surprisingly, vehemently opposed by some prominentnorthern delegates led by my good friend, late Ibrahim Coomassie, formerinspector General of Police, who incidentally, was the leader of the northerndelegates, and Prof Auwalu Yadudu, hinging their argument on the need for theinclusion of Kano and Kaduna States in the Special Intervention Fund. But thiswas stoutly opposed by the other Delegates.
Therefore,a Special Committee of 50 members, including myself, was set up by the whole House to look intothis matter and the issue of 18% Derivation and the 5% of the FederationAccount.
Someof the members of the Special Committee were:
AdamMaina Waziri, OFR;
ChiefEdwin Clark, OFR, CON:
Hon.Mohammed Umara Kumalia;
IGPIbrahim Coomasie, rtd, GCON;
ChiefOlu Falae, CFR;
Gen.Alani Akinrinade, CFR, GCON;
Gen.Ike Nwachukwu, GCMG, CFR, mni;
Prof.Anya O. Anya, OFR;
H,EChief Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, CON;
H.EDr. Peter Odili;
AirCommodore Idongesit Nkanga, rtd, OFR;
HighChief Dr. Aleogho Raymond Dokpesi, OFR;
Prof.Amb. Lawrence Ekpebu;
Barr.Femi Falana, SAN;
RamatuBala Usman, mni;
ChiefMrs. Bisi Olateru-Olagbegi;
ComradeBobboi Bala Kaigama;
Dr.Mrs. Hanatu Ladi Ibrahim, MFR;
ChiefMrs. Hanatu Lohor;
Ms.Ekaette Judith Umoh;
Engr.Ebele O. Okeke;
Prof.Mrs. Nnenna N. Oti
TheTerm of Reference of the Committee were:
- Thatthe 13% of the total derivation from the Derivation Fund accruable to a mineralbearing state shall be increased to 18%;
- Thatthere shall be established a Minerals Development Fund. It is currently 3% ofFederal Government Account referred to by the committee on page 40 of itsreport. However, it shall be 5% of the Federation Account and will be appliedto Minerals Development in the States;
- Thatthere shall be a National Intervention Fund which shall be 5% of the annualrevenue accruing to the account of the Federal Government for the stabilizationand reconstruction of areas affected by conflicts and disasters, and for the rehabilitationof internally displaced people, starting first with the North East of Nigeria,and later in any other part of the Country that may be affected by suchoccurrence”
The Committee could nottake a decision on all 3 items, it was decided that the matter be referred tothe Federal Government.
The second reason whichMr. President gave for the setting up of the Commission is that it is “inappreciation for the massive electoral support the zone gave him in 2015 and2019 General elections. This reason to my mind, is outrageous and reminds oneof a similar statement Mr. President made on 2nd July, 2015 at theUnited States Institute of Peace when Dr. Pauline Baker, the President Emeritusof the Fund for Peace, United States in posing a question to him said “Myquestion relates to another area of Nigeria that hasn’t gotten a lot ofattention during this trip and that is the Niger Delta. It’s a challenge thatyou are going to face. I wonder if you would tell us how you intend to approachit with particular reference to the amnesty, bunkering, and inclusivedevelopment?” President Muhammadu Buhari’s response to her was “I hope you havea copy of the election results. The constituents, for example, gave me 97% (ofvote) cannot in all honesty be treated on same issues with constituencies thatgave me 5%. I think these are political reality.”
These statementscredited to Mr. President (in 2015 and presently in 2019) is politics taken tothe mundane and absurdity, and very unpatriotic.
Chapter VI, Section 130of the 1999 Constitution states that:
- There shall be for the Federation aPresident
- The President shall be the Head ofState, the Chief Executive of the Federation and Commander-in-Chief of theArmed Forces of the Federation
Section 132 (4) of the1999 Constitution states that “For the purpose of an election to the office ofPresident, the whole of the Federation shall be regarded as one constituency”.
Therefore for Mr.President to base development of the country on political patronage, is mostunfair and unacceptable.
If the Presidentpronounce that the signing and inauguration of the North East DevelopmentCommission is a reward for the massive votes he got in the North East, let ittherefore be likely concluded that negligence of his Government to thedevelopment of Niger Delta region is as a result of the people of the regionchoosing to vote in accordance with their conscience. For instance, thenon-commencement of the Ogoni cleanup and other equally damaged Oil and Gasproducing areas, the non-completion of the East West Road, and other longdeprived economic activities of the region, is a punishment for the people of theNiger-Delta for choosing to vote according to their conscience. This also canbe attributed to Mr. President’s refusal to dialogue or execute the South-SouthLeaders 16 point programme.
We strongly thereforeadvise Mr. President not to abandon the goose that lays the golden egg,because, it is a case Mr. President telling Nigerians that if the people of theNorth East had not voted for him massively he would not have signed the Billfor the setting up of the NEDC and inaugurated the Commission.
Mr. President cannotclaim to be unaware of the level of devastation, killings and poverty that hasbecome the lot of the North East Region, which is indeed a problem of theentire Country; hence it was discussed at the 2014 National Conference.Needless to mention the trauma of innocent children kidnapped at Chibok andother places, not forgetting to mention Leah Sharibu who turned 16 years only yesterday,14th May, 2019, and is marking a second Birthday in captivity, and countlessothers still painfully held hostage in Boko Haram captivity, assuredly undertraumatizing condition. Today, security is a major issue in the North East. Thecase of killings in Zamfara, Yobe, Adamawa and countless other States in thecountry is an issue that has become dominant source of worry to all Nigerians.
If President MuhammaduBuhari had not wanted the Report of the 2014 National Conference “… to go intothe so-called archives,” as stated by him during his first year anniversary asPresident and Commander-in-Chief, but read and implemented it, he would haveappreciated the usefulness of the enormous work done by the 492 delegates drawnfrom all the segments and strata of our great country, Nigeria. Today, nobodytalks about the increase in the 13% Derivation and 5% allocation for mineralresources development in states. It is not enough to talk about diversificationof our economy, as if it is only agriculture that is a viable sector in thecountry.
Presently, Nigeriaoperates a multi-party system. This system is recognized by the laws of theland, and it means that people can vote in accordance with their conscience.But the law states that once someone is declared the winner, for instance forthe office of Presidency, he becomes the President of all, those who voted forhim, those who did not vote for him and even those who did not vote at all.
Therefore, PresidentMuhammadu Buhari should be reminded that he is the President of the FederalRepublic of Nigeria, and as such, President of the entire Country, includingpolitical opponents and supporters, all religions, atheists, etc. And as such,he should not discriminate against perceived or imagined opponents in thedispensation of social amenities and lawful patronages, including developmentprojects, appointments, privileges, social welfare and otherwise. The entireCountry is his Constituency as stated in Section 132 (4) of the 1999Constitution.
Chief (Dr.) E. K. CLARK, OFR, CON