Major players in the security circle and top government functionaries at both the federal and state levels Tuesday gathered in Abuja to brainstorm on arresting the trend of insecurity in the North-east and fashion a way out for a robust future for the region.
At the consultative meeting codenamed North East Stabilization and Development Master Plan (NESDMP), were Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as well as security agencies.
The attendees were Borno state Governor and Chairman North East Governors Forum Professor Babagana Umaru Zulum, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Professor Isa Pantami, Chief of Defence Staff General Lucky Irabor, Inspector General of Police Baba Usman Alkali and National Security Adviser Major-General Babagana Monguno(retd), among several stakeholders.
Speaking at the meeting held at the Congress Hall of Transcorp Hilton, Governor Zulum said the state government had initiated a 25-year master plan to rebuild the North East.
He said: “Let me start by thanking President Muhammadu Buhari and the minister of Humanitarian Affairs for their interventions in ensuring that there is peace in the North East. We all understand the crucial role that consistency can play in bringing back peace, stability and prosperity in the North East in particular and Nigeria in general. This is where this plan becomes cardinally important. Who is not in a hurry for peace? Who is not impatient with poverty? That is why this plan must be ambitious, broad, brave, comprehensive to cover the whole scope of issues in the Northeast.
“The plan will outlive our regimes. It will be a reflection of our doggedness to rise from the ashes of destruction into the bright and welcoming place of peace and development. Our aspirations, as governors and people of the region, therefore, are to be deliberate to build back better everything that we lost and much more. The work may appear to be daunting, but rest assured that the bulk will be made easier than we can imagine through the unflinching support you will receive from the leadership in the northeast as a whole. Given the dreams to build back, the yearning of our people to see practical result within a short period of time, our respective states in the North East will make available plans for the purpose of alignment and synergy that will deliver better quality service to the people of the northeast. “Using Borno state as an example, we will make available our 25-year development plan as starting point on our own side. My colleagues will provide that as well. It is important that we are not starting from ground zero. Building on efforts already on ground, we will ensure that we are not just making plans that don’t talk with one another. We will make plans, we will review plans and integrate plans all targeted towards achieving a common purpose governed by good leadership and commitment to finish whatever we start.
“This is not a political plan. It is a people’s plan. A strategic direction to bring back peace in the North East. I implore everyone involved to help us bring back the lost glory of the north east. The need to have a strong coordination mechanism in the North East cannot be overemphasised. Borno state has already established Agency for Sustainable Development Partnership and Coordination, with the main objective of ensuring coordination of all humanitarian interventions.
“The North East needs all horizontal and vertical coordination to ensure and sustain the coordination mechanism of the region. Without this, we cannot achieve a lot. It is not a bookshelf plan nor an academic paper, but a strategic, trusted master plan for the development of the northeast. The start of this project will not be the end of it, so I charge my fellow governors and leaders to see through the entire process. Good thinking produces great product. Once a plan is good, implementing it becomes a routine that any leader after us can pick up and practise without much stress.”
Also speaking, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development Hajiya Umar Farouq said the meeting was in obedience to the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari for a lasting peace to be found to the issue of insecurity in the North East.
She said: “The North East Development Commission (NEDC) came into existence on 25 October 2017, when President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the NEDC (Establishment) Act, 2017. This was in fulfilment of the pledge of the Buhari Administration to fast track the development of the region, following the devastation suffered as a result of insurgency.
“On 8th May 2019, on the sidelines of the FEC meeting, President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the Governing Board of the NEDC and directed the board to take over the activities and structures of all federal government funded agencies working in the sub-region. Prior to the establishment of the NEDC, various organizations set up by the Nigerian government were involved in the reconstruction, rehabilitation and provision of humanitarian action to the people of the north east.
“With the establishment of the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs Disaster Management and Social Development on the 21st of August 2019, with my humble self as the pioneer Minister, the NEDC was one of agencies placed under the supervision of the ministry.
“The necessity for a North East master plan is stated in SECTION 8 (1C) of the NEDC Act, which lists as one of the functions of the NEDC to ‘develop a Master Plan based on the needs assessment of the zone to be known as the North East Stabilisation and Development Master Plan (NESDMP), which shall contain programmes and schemes that promote and facilitate the physical and socio economic development of the North East Zone and the estimate of the time and costs for implementing such programmes and schemes.
“The convening of this consultative session is in compliance with both Section 8(1c) of the NEDC Act, as well as the presidential directive to the NEDC Board. I wish to therefore commend the NEDC Board for sticking to the plan and following due process in its implementation.
“Despite being in the process of developing the Master Plan, I am pleased to state the NEDC has not been static and continue to leave its footprints across all the North East states with life changing projects and programmes for our citizens. I have personally commissioned several projects that have received positive feedback from Governors of North East States.
“It is important to note that our strategic focus at the Ministry now is the provision of coordinated sustainable humanitarian action centred on the global best principle, the ‘Triple Nexus’ approach. This is anchored in a home-grown National Humanitarian-Development-Peace framework developed through a consultative process aimed at reducing vulnerabilities to support and promote peace and stability in Nigeria.
“We are also pushing for the principles of localisation through institutional strengthening and capacity building of local stakeholders including affected communities, civil societies, non-governmental organisation and of course national government. This is guided by the National localization framework developed and validated, which is focused on making all humanitarian interventions as local as possible.”
On his part, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, who was represented by Commander Defence Headquarters’ Garrison, Major-General Preye Fakrogha, said prosecution of arrested terrorists will go a long way in assuaging the feelings of Nigerians and bringing justice to the grassroots, advocating for judicial reforms.
He said: “I consider it a privilege to be here today to interact with this distinguished audience on the development of the North-East Stabilisation and Development Master Plan (NESDMP)- this owing to my field experience in the North East and coming to terms with the stark reality of the situation.
“As you are aware, the NEDC was established with the responsibility to assess, coordinate, harmonise and report on all intervention programmes, and initiatives by the Federal Government or any of its Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), States; and other Development Partners and for the implementation of all programmes and initiatives for the North East states.
“Accordingly, in 2019, His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the North East Development Commission Board for rebuilding the zones ravaged by Boko Haram insurgency. To this end, it would be recalled that in July 2021, the NEDC initiated a NESDMP to transform the North East region.
“The primary objective of the master plan was to create a thriving region with the capacity to develop and support productive citizens while the main target of the Commission was to empower about 70 per cent of the population to be productively engaged in the economic activities of the region. Similarly, the NEDC Stabilisation Development Master Plan for the region was to be completed and validated by December 2021, while implementation was to commence in January 2022. You will agree with me that this task is herculean, but not impossible, as such, it has necessitated the birthing of this gathering.
“I will like to leverage my first-hand experience in the Theatre of Operations in the North-East to humbly say that at least, I am familiar with the diverse challenges, sufferings and devastations that have accompanied the war against terrorism in the region. To this end, I enjoin that our contributions and inputs be focused on the evolution of a master plan hinged around the development of infrastructure, social amenities and activities to win the hearts and minds of the populace in the North East region.
“The NEDC master plan should inculcate the provision of health care facilities through the development of health care infrastructure and delivery services in the region. Again, of utmost importance is the upgrade and expansion of educational facilities and standards to achieve an educated populace. Furthermore, the development of purposeful and holistic infrastructural upgrades would expand the entrepreneurial base and increase productivity by eliminating trade barriers in the region.
“Therefore, it is my hope that with these critical areas adequately accommodated in the Master Plan, we would be on our way to assuredly guarantee the attainment of stability, development and prosperity for all in the North-East and Nigeria in general towards enhanced national security.
“I believe that the current leadership of the North-East Development Commission is adequately motivated to effectively implement the Master plan when adopted to achieve the desired results. More so, it has been established that for peacebuilding and stabilization plans such as NESDMP to be successful, there is the need for a whole-of-society approach involving local communities.
“Thus, it is envisaged that the Commission would need to diligently carry along the local communities particularly religious and traditional leaders for the reconstruction programmes to be successful.
“Going further, it is my candid belief that the implementation of capacity building programmes is integral to the development and recovery of the North East. It is essential to articulate a policy that integrates donors and other relevant stakeholders to support the government in the design of long-term, multi-sector capacity building programmes. In addition, the necessity for judicial reforms to fast-track the speedy dispensation of justice of arrested terrorists should be considered. This would bring justice to the grassroots and portray Government in positive light.
“I will like to add that all these initiatives proffered for the NEDC are critical towards building trust amongst the populace in the North East. This will ultimately have a multiplier effect on military operations as the populace would be more receptive to the AFN. I would like to state unequivocally, the AFN is ready to support the NEDC recovery efforts as may be encapsulated in the master plan.”
Similarly, Managing Director/CEO North East Development Commission (NEDC) Mohammed G. Alkali said since the inception of the commission, it had executed modest projects necessary for humanitarian assistance, recovery, stabilization, and peace building in the region, but solicited more cooperation to achieve the objectives for its establishment.
He said: “Towards producing a holistic Master Plan that can be implemented diversely and comprehensively in the North East, the Commission has consulted relevant Stakeholders in a bottom-up approach. So far, engagements on the Master Plan were held at Grassroots level in all the 112 LGAs in the Region, as well as with Humanitarian, Development and Peace building (HDP) Actors, representatives of all Member States, CSOs/CBOs, the private sector and federal legislators from the region.
“The event we are witnessing today is one of the high points of such consultations because all the Federal MDAs and Security Agencies execute priceless and impactful interventions in the North-East Region. Both the Localization Framework of the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, DM&SD, and the general mandate of the NEDC as the Federal Coordinating Agency in the North-East Region make it imperative that Federal MDAs are actively involved in evolving a comprehensive Master Plan, which when approved, will serve as a compendium of relevant, demand-driven, viable and sustainable schemes, programmes and projects, which all Stakeholders can key into.
“In today’s interaction, the Commission will present an overview on the current status of the Master Plan Project and seek to harness inputs from the MDAs and Security Agencies for inclusion in the Plan. I am happy to report that so far, Baseline Surveys for needs assessment of the NE Region have been completed. Also, the Draft NEDC and North-East Region Strategy Documents and proposed Pillars of the ten-year Master Plan are ready.
“Since the inception of the Commission, we have been executing modest projects that are necessary for humanitarian assistance, recovery, stabilization, and peace building in the Region under the inspirational guidance and invaluable support of the Honourable Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, DM&SD, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq.
“We have also been enjoying maximum cooperation and support from all the 6 Member State Governments in the Region. On this note, I wish to express our deep appreciation to the Chairman of the North-East Governors’ Forum, His Excellency Professor Babagana Umara Zulum, FNSE, mni, the Executive Governor of Borno State, and all his colleagues for their relentless patronage. We hope that this collaboration and understanding will continue to wax stronger with time.”