O-UNEDITED | The Quest for Accountability in the North-East – By Adesina Tosin Nathaniel

By Adesina Tosin Nathaniel

Thisday newspaper of 11th January, 2017 had on its front page the headline “FG Seeks 400million dollars bank loan to rebuild the North East”.

The statement was made by the Chairman of the Presidential Initiative for North East, Lt. Gen Theophilus Danjuma, represented by the Deputy Chairman of the committee Alhaji Tijani Tusmah, while paying a visit to the Nigerian Air Force. He stated that the loan was needed to kick start the robust rebuilding of the ruins of the Northeastern Region of the country.

The North East (NE) Geopolitical Zone of Nigeria covers 280, 419km2, close to a third of Nigeria’s land mass. It comprises 6 states: Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe. According to projections for 2011 by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), these States have 13.5% (i.e. 23, 558, 674) of Nigeria’s population which is put at 173, 905, 439. In the past, the North East was renowned for its commerce and trade with prominent local enterprises and well established trade routes across the Sahara. It was known for its large agricultural potential, with 80% of its population engaged in farming and contributing significantly to the regional and national GDP, making the Zone a major contributor to national net food production.

The National Bureau of statistics in its 2010 reports shows that the North East of Nigeria has the worst socioeconomic conditions in the Country. Its average absolute poverty rate — at 69.0% — is above the national average (60.9%). This characterizes the Zone as having the highest rate of poverty in Nigeria. This condition has been made worse by the activities of the dreaded Boko Haram sect which has unleashed terror on the Zone. As a result, any step aimed at restoring the lost glory of the zone is a welcome development.

However, Nigeria is not known for financial accountability in its dealings and this malaise is already evident, threatening to scuttle developmental efforts in the region. To start with, in the month of October 2016, The Nigerian Senate approved the allocation of 3% of Value Added Tax (VAT) collected over the next ten years for the proposed North East Development Commission which is to be sited in Borno state. This step, however well intended, ought to be executed in complete transparency and probity, in order not to create another drain pipe as witnessed with the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), which can’t boast of 500 Completed Projects since its inception

The Proposed 400m dollars fund is good on paper but its actualization and expenditure must be monitored, as no amount of money is too big to be stolen in Nigeria. Already, the same Presidential Initiative for North East for which the funds are meant, is alleged to have spent billions with nothing to show for it.

The President, in his October 26, 2016 letter of intent to the senate regarding the plan of the Federal Government to take a loan of 30 Billion Dollars, stated that of the 12 Billion Naira provided for this Initiative, less than 1.5 Billion was left as at October. The exact manner in which this money was expended remains unclear, as all we see are pictures of malnourished children in the IDP Camps, cases of diversion of food and drugs among others. Moreover, details of the Grass Cutting scandal involving the Secretary General of the Federation Babachir David Lawal are still fresh in our memory, so what was this money used for?

The freed Chibok girls will now be trained by an American businessman while billions of naira have been released to the north east by the Federal Government, State Government and private donors. So what exactly is the government’s approach and strategy to the question of region’s development? Should Nigerians be content with the idea of an American training less than 50 girls while numerous Government owned scholarship boards exist all over the North East?

What checks are in place to ensure that the 3% VAT proposed will be spent judiciously, to ensure 10 years don’t become 30 Years as we’ve seen in the non actualization of the Amnesty Program for the Niger Delta due to mismanagement of funds.

The situation of the North East is precarious and needs urgent attention; however in our bid to salvage the situation, accountability must come to the fore. The result of every naira spent on the region must be visible for us to see. The failure of NDDC has come to show that the development Process of the North East may end up being a job for the Boys. However this can be prevented through effective monitoring and compliance.

Adesina Tosin Nathaniel is a Forward Looking Nigerian Youth. For more of his writings visit www.donteewrites.blogspot.com. He tweets @Donteewrites | Facebook Page – @Donteewrites



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