Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues.
May I humbly seek your leave to lead the debate on this very important Bill.
The Bill was read for the first time in this Hallowed Chamber on November 19, 2019.
Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, the North Central Zone of Nigeria, in no particular order, comprises the following geopolitical States of the Federation; Kogi, Niger, Benue, Kwara, Plateau, Nasarawa and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
Over the past years, Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, the North Central Zone of Nigeria has been devastated and left in bollix by the noxious antics of terrorists, incidents of flood and erosion, insurgency, herder/farmer clashes, poverty, high rate of illiteracy, to mention but a few.
The Zone is blessed with several mineral resources that can boost the economy of Nigeria if properly harnessed. However, because of the breeding mentioned above, the North Central Zone is handicapped and cannot do much in this regard.
May I mention here, Mr. President, that the North Central Zone of Nigeria hosts two of West Africa’s great rivers;(a) The River Niger and (b) The River Benue, which flows into Nigeria from The Republic of Cameroon. The two rivers meet in North central Nigeria and flow as one river on to the Atlantic Ocean. However, the presence of these two rivers has made flood a perennial challenge in the region with increasing intensity every year, leaving not just the North Central Zone but the entire Country with great losses and trauma.
Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, according to statistics from the Nigerian Meteorological Agency;
*In 2012, devastating flooding forced two million Nigerians from their homes and 363 died in Plateau, Benue, Niger, Nasarawa and Kogi states.
*In 2016, 92,000 people were displaced and 38 died from incidents of flood in Benue, Kogi, Niger and Nasarawa States, and other parts of Nigeria.
In 2017, floods affected 250,000 People in Benue, Kogi, Niger and Plateau states, and other parts of Nigeria.
Annually, Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, hundreds of thousands of acres of farmlands are damaged in the North Central Zone of Nigeria where the people are largely agrarian as a result of flood, and this happens, Mr. President, whenever there is a heavy precipitation upstream on the Benue and Niger Rivers. On the Benue River, the main problem is Lagdo Dam in Cameroon, which usually causes the river to swell when water is released. Flood has caused a lot of damage to the North Central Zone. In Agatu, Benue state, farmers continue to lose their crops and farmland to flood and erosion. This is applicable to states like Niger, Nasarawa and Plateau, which have suffered loses and trauma because of flood and erosion.
Mr. President, His Excellency, President Muhammad Buhari in 2018 pledged $ 8.2m for relief efforts to victims of flood and erosion in Nigeria.
Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, it is no longer news that over the years, herder/farmer clashes in North Central Nigeria, especially in Benue State, have continuously made headlines. Consequently, infrastructure ranging from places of worship, roads, hospitals, schools, houses, recreational centres, etc, have been left tattered, shattered and pierced by bullets. Women, children, pregnant women and in fact the entire population is a victim of the atrocities perpetrated by suspected herders in the North Central Zone of Nigeria. Even animals and the environment are not spared the chaos and conundrum imparted on the Zone by the perpetrators of these unwholesome acts.
Mr President, Distinguished Colleagues, on February 24, 2016, rural dwellers in 45 villages of Agatu LGA were awakened by sound of gunshots and flicks of matchetes as suspected militias swept into the area unleashing an orgy of violence. The unfortunate incident left, in its wake, more than 500 persons dead, among which were children and women, with more than 39,000 persons displaced from their ancestral homes. The displaced communities have been scattered with many seeking refuge in various Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps scattered across Benue and Nasarawa states.
Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, this Bill seeks, therefore, to; establish the North Central Development Commission (NCDC) saddled with the responsibility of; Receiving and managing funds allocated by the Federal Government and Donors (International and Local Donors), for the resettlement, rehabilitation, integration and reconstruction of roads, houses, farmlands and business premises affected by flood, erosion and farmer/herder clashes, construction of large format drainage systems, dredging of rivers Benue and Niger to control flood, erosion and other incidental matters, as well as tackling the menace of poverty, illiteracy and other related environmental and developmental challenges in the North Central Nigeria.
Mr President, Distinguished Colleagues, we all know the bond and attachment a man has with his ancestral home, and the psychological effects of been displaced from same. The funds allocated by the Federal Government and Donors (Local and International) will be used to rehabilitate displaced persons, and to indeminify them to their former economic status.
Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, I humbly urge you all to support this Bill for the Establishment of the North Central Development Commission (NCDC) and pass it appropriately for equity, fairness and development of our country.
Thank you all for your kind audience.