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Rebuilding the North-East for sustainable economic growth

By Sampson Ikemitang

For almost a decade now, the North-Eastern part of the country has been trapped in a “vicious cycle’’ of terrorism that has severely paralysed economic activities; thereby leading to a near retardation of growth and development. Indeed, there has been low investors’ confidence in the area leading to sluggish investment, which in turn, has stunted growth.
To exit this logjam, a radical change in policies and perspectives is needed. The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is introducing bold policy initiatives with a view to rebuilding the region. According to National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the Federal Government has, as a matter of urgency, resettled 2,151,979 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) with the quick restoration of damaged infrastructure remaining a priority to the government.
It is against the backdrop of the herculean task of rebuilding the region that the government has emphasised prudent, efficient and transparent management of the funds so far sourced for this purpose. The funds will be managed by independent bodies, devoid of government interference, and will be deployed to meet the needs of the victims both in the immediate and the future. Perhaps, it is in the fear of possible mismanagement that the World Bank has expressed its determination to use International Development Agencies (IDA) to drive its reconstruction programmes in the Northeast.
Following the wake-up call to the military by President Muhammadu Buhari and the consequent marching order to wipe out insurgency in the country and make it a thing of the past, government on its part is making conscious efforts to urgently reconstruct the terror-affected areas of the northeast. New economic activities have to be promoted for the peace dividend to be realized.
In view of the above, government has initiated several programmes aimed at reviving the life of the communities and victims of the insurgency. It has launched the Presidential Initiative on North-East (PINE) with short and medium term goals to cushion the impact of the devastation caused by the Boko Haram Terrorists. The government has also launched the Victims’ Support Fund (VSF) chaired by Lt. Gen. T.Y. Danjuma which has so far raised N58.8 billion.
Although, it seems as if there were no deliberate efforts by the government to rebuild the ruins occasioned by the insurgents, other programmes like the Almajiri Education Programme (AEP) which aimed at building 400 schools in the 19 Northern States and the Safe School Initiatives (SSI) have all been moving at a very slow pace. However, with the new resolve by President Muhammadu Buhari to end insurgency, the rebuilding will definitely take off in earnest, especially when insurgents’ activities are finally brought to a halt.
To this end, the Federal Government has set aside N56 billion for the reconstruction of the Northeast. It has also secured a World Bank Loan of $2.1billion (N393.9 billion) to assist in rebuilding the massive destruction of the infrastructure as well as the resettling of over two million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the region.
At the moment, the IDP camps will continue to receive relief materials that can provide victims with some form of succour. Therefore, the need to rebuild infrastructure like schools, hospitals, markets, roads, bridges and electricity supplies, etc have remained uppermost to the government.
But, most important is the issue of psycho-therapy scheme for rehabilitation and re-orientation of the people of the region. This has become necessary as it will indeed save the victims from the psychological trauma brought about by the terrorists’ attacks, the senseless killings and maiming with a view to repositioning the people to face the future with optimism.
The government is poised to provide shelter, grants, water, sanitation, education and health facilities to the people. This has also become imperative as it is working very hard to reconnect the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) back to their socio-economic and political life. That is why government is creating an enabling environment by facilitating, monitoring and providing regulatory guidelines for long – term development programmes and projects. This is intended to meet the needs for socio-economic recovery in the affected areas.
The Federal and State governments are working assiduously, in order to create sustainable livelihood opportunities for affected families and improve infrastructural facilities. These include: water supply, sanitation, accessible road networks, electricity supply, health centres, rehabilitation of tanks and canals to provide irrigated water for farming, creating opportunities for the youths to develop entrepreneurial and vocational skills and eventual setting up of economic zones.
In order to facilitate the return of civil administration to the liberated areas, there is urgent need for government to deploy members of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF), the Nigerian Security & Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Department of State Service (DSS), and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). This has become necessary to help free up troops for bigger challenges. Besides, there is absolute need to boost synergy between the security agencies and the military, and further ensure unity of efforts in the execution of various operations.
According to the Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase, “Since the emergence of insurgency in the country, no fewer than 56 police stations, formations and facilities have been destroyed by insurgents in the region.” He maintained that a total of N4 billion is required to put those things back to shape.
The Federal Lawmakers are not left out of the North-East rebuilding effort. They have through their resolutions called on the federal government to give priority attention to the rebuilding of schools destroyed by the Boko Haram terrorists as well as facilitate scholarships up to University level, funded and supported by the federal government and its agencies for students, the victims of Terror Trust Fund and other funding initiatives in the North-East.
The Lawmakers have also requested President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently establish a North-East Development Commission through an Executive Bill to take care of the reconstruction, rehabilitation, recovery and development of the insurgency ravaged North-East Zone.
Drawing from the Speaker of the House of Representatives, this agenda must have specific targets, funding and deliverables that are guided by the reconstruction of homes, villages, towns and infrastructure; repatriation of people to their homes and villages and rehabilitation of people, communities, livelihoods and economic and social development.
The Lawmakers have urged the federal government to consider building a North East highway linking the capitals and major cities of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe States. They have also sought to revive agriculture in the zone through completion of the South Chad Irrigation Project which is one of the largest irrigation projects in Africa with about 22 million people depending on it.
In conclusion, a cursory glance at the ultimatum given to the military by the current administration to end insurgency, one will but conclude that indeed Government is determined to halt this disturbing issue.

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