The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has been making calls for the convening of an international donors conference that would holistically tackle the economic and infrastructural needs of the North East part of Nigeria which has borne the brunt of the six-year violent uprising from adherents of the Jama’atu Ahlus-Sunnah Lidda’Awati Wal Jihad, known commonly as Boko Haram.
Dogara first made the call in a motion he personally sponsored in August last year, on the urgent need for rehabilitation, recovery, reconstruction and resettlement of the violence ravaged region.
Since then, at every fora, the Speaker has continued to champion the plight of the North East while arguing that the region deserves global attention as a member of the international community.
His call is in line with what has been happening since the end of the World War II where international conferences like that were held for Western Europe and Japan which were rebuilt following adoption of the American Marshall Plan, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine, Gaza and recently for Syria. There is therefore, no reason why it can’t be held for the North-East of Nigeria. This is the kind of patriotic zeal that comes when true leaders that are visionary-inclined are allowed to lead.
It should be noted that the scale of devastation, destruction and damage in the region far supersedes what happened in some of the countries and regions listed above but the international community didn’t hesitate to come to their aid.
The region, even before the violence erupted years ago, has been one of the poorest in the world. A recent report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said Borno state alone has lost trillions of Naira economy-wise, while no fewer than 20,000 people have been killed, though most of us who come from the North-East strongly believe that the number of casualties far outweighs the official figure of 20,000 with some putting it at over 100,000.
All one needs to be convinced about a call for such donor conference is to take a trip to some of the villages recently liberated in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. Communities were not only totally razed to the ground but one is left with no option than to conclude that the insurgents were all out to annihilate every living and non-living being in the affected areas. These fundamentalists succeeded in leaving to waste large swaths of territories in those states, especially Borno state, which happened to be the epicenter of the violence.
Right now, officially, over 2.2 million Nigerians are living as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in several states of the country including the Federal Capital Territory, while thousands of others are refugees in Cameroon, Chad and Niger Republic. Again, the number of IDPs is far more than 2.2 million as it ranges from 5 million to 5.5 million because majority of those displaced are not living in camps but are being housed by relations both within and outside the affected areas.
To buttress Dogara’s call for an international donor conference, UNHCR Representative in Nigeria, Ms Angele Dikongue- Atangana, during the UNHCR 2015 stakeholders’ briefing of the commission’s representation in Nigeria, urged donors and partners to take a trip to the ‘field’ to be aware of the level of destruction for a better understanding of the situation.
This is because there are dozens of villages in the North East that have been totally destroyed. The case of the attack on Dalori is still fresh in our minds where reports said that the entire houses in the village were torched. The enormity of the task ahead in rebuilding the area, especially the cost is something that even the federal government might not be able to totally shoulder hence the call for the donor conference.
This much was also agreed by the Chairman, Presidential Committee on North East Initiative, retired Lt.-Gen. Theophilus Danjuma recently, when he said that conservatively, over two trillion Naira (N2 trillion) will be required in the short-term to rebuild areas devastated by the Boko Haram insurgency. This is just for the short term measure!
He added that the rebuilding of the region would require the cooperation of all, considering that the magnitude of destruction was beyond the means of the federal or state governments. He further noted that rebuilding the Northeast would demand maximum cooperation and resources.
“Rebuilding the North East is one of the biggest and most complex challenges that Nigeria is facing today. To hold government or any one agency alone responsible for this task is to underestimate the enormity of the problem. The task would involve massive reconstruction of physical infrastructure, much of which have been totally destroyed and, of course, the more challenging one, which is the rebuilding of peace and social cohesion,’’ he said during the opening of a two-day security seminar, organised by the Alumni Association of the National Defence College.
The rebuilding effort being done by some of the governors of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa are mere drops in a vast ocean of need that wouldn’t make much difference. For example, Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima has been building some houses in Bama and other local governments. But without help from outside to address the destruction in over 20 local governments that were initially intermittently occupied and destroyed by the insurgents, it would not go far.
Moreso, the destruction in Gwoza and Bama, two of the worst-hit local governments in Borno and their current needs goes beyond even the complete federal allocations that accrue to Borno state for now. Same for other local governments in the state and other North East states where their needs stand beyond rebuilding houses.
But issues of topmost importance for the North East revolves around not only housing but health care, women and youth empowerment, education and agriculture. Sufficiently meeting these needs would require the involvement of the international community. As with these areas targeted, the people of the North East and the region in general stand the chance of having positive multiplier effect roll back on them.
This is why the call by the Speaker for an international donor conference is apt, timely and holds the solution to addressing the destruction in the North East, because other places have held such international conferences with success. The recent one was the International Donors conference for reconstruction and development in Dafur, held in Doha, Qatar from 7-8 April 2013. This donor conference brought together representatives of the Government of Sudan, the international donor community, the development banking sectors, international and national Non-Governmental Organizations and international funds and foundations and provided a forum for the Darfur Regional Authority and the Government of Sudan to discuss with its development partners the needs for economic recovery, development and poverty eradication in the aftermath of the conflict in Darfur.
Likewise the Syrian donor conference held in London where over $10 billion was pledged so much that the United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hailed the conference as a “great success,” saying, “never has the international community raised so much money on a single day for a single crisis.”
Just like the speaker noted, the world now is a global village in which the effect of a massive population shift within the North East could have spiraling effect on the world. Europe is battling to halt the massive influx of refugees from Syria, Iraq and the middle east; it is therefore in the collective interest of the international community that funds are raised to resettle the IDPs and refugees from Nigeria so as to avoid another surge to the Mediterranean sea where thousands of migrants are dying every year in their desperate effort to cross to Europe.
Already the impact or the effect of the insurgents is felt in our neighboring countries and the need for such conference now can’t be overemphasized. Consequently, just like the Speaker has done, the leaders of this country should start persuading world leaders and working towards having something like that, even if it’s in Africa.
And Dogara, deserves not only to be supported but also commended by all for his consistency in pushing for the convocation of the confab. The responsibility of doing that now rests with the Federal Government or the Executive arm of government as the parliament or legislature cannot delve into that since it is not within its powers to do so.
Hassan, is Special Adviser (Media & Public Affairs) to Rt. Hon. Speaker, House of Representatives.