SEDC Bill To Be Transmitted To President Tinubu For Assent Soon – Kalu

By Gloria Essien, Abuja

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The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Benjamin Okezie Kalu has revealed that the South East Development Commission (SEDC) Bill that recently passed through third reading respectively in the Green Chambers and the Senate will soon be ready for onward transmission to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for his assent.

Mr Okezie said that the bill is presently at the Conference Committee stage for the concurrence of both chambers of national assembly on its sections and provisions.

The Deputy Speaker made the revelation when he received in audience the Directors of the Institute for Peace, Security and Development Studies (IPSDS) of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka led by their Co-Chairman, Mr Chikwe Udensi on a courtesy visit to his office in Abuja.

Mr. Kalu said that the bill was an advocacy of Peace In South East Project (PISE-P), to help in solving the infrastructural challenges in the region 53 years after the civil war.

He appreciated the Institute for opting to synergize with PISE-P, (an initiative birthed by him and other members of the National Assembly from the South East) that calls for a non kinetic way of handling the insecurity in the region.

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The deputy speaker decried the rate of fatalities arising from incidences of insecurity in the zone, saying that the bill aims at creating jobs and healing the wounds of the past.

In my private studies and others conducted by the team around me, we discovered that the kinetic approach in isolation of non kinetic mechanisms was not delivering the expected deliverables of this engagement. Call it operation Egwueke or Lion or whatever you call it, it wasn’t delivering. Yet, Nigeria was spending so much money making those operations alive to the detriment of the blood of our citizens on the streets.

“And we said no. It was about time we considered alternative approach to the resolution of this conflict. That was why we birthed the Peace in South East Project; fortunately advancing, advocating, highlighting, showcasing the possibilities of achieving peace without the barrel of guns.

The region was tired of hearing the sounds of guns that they heard over 50 years ago. A new sound reminded those who were around what they passed through. And that stimulated a new conversation about the war – not about reconciliation, about the pain, not about the progress towards peace. So, the more sounds of guns, the more history is told about how it re-echoes in the minds of those who lost their dear ones.

“And we wanted to stop that. We said, for the price of guns, give us other tools that are non kinetic. Give us good roads, give us good hospital. For the price of the budget for the military interventions, give us good hospitals. Give us grants, fulfill that promise of reconciliation, of reconstruction, of reintegration.

“That was what pushed us through the advocacy of Peace In South East Project. To look for the lowest hanging fruits that catch-up the desires and the dreams of the region in one bloc, and that’s what we saw in the South East Development Commission Bill.

In the lines of that legislation, lie the dreams of our people. In the sections of that legislation lie the desires from the South Eastern man. The fulfillment of that enactment, when the President assents to it, is a fulfillment of the dreams of our ancestors who long for peace, who long for integration, who long for development – all captured in one document, summarized, using the federal government allocation for the reconstruction of the dilapidated region as a result of the five decades of post war experience. We didn’t hide anything about it.

And the lawmakers from the North, from the South, from the Southwest, from all over the country supported me and it passed through the House and we went to the Senate. It passed through the Senate.

“As we speak, as we are having this meeting now, the Senate and the House of Representatives Conference Committee is meeting to give it the final touch for it to go to Mr. President for assent.

“Your visit is significant. If we get that across, it will be one of the achievements of Peace In South East Project. But we need you and what you stand for as an institution” he said.

Kalu further charged the Institute to evolve practical ways of working to find lasting solutions to the problem of insecurity while also de-radicalizing those carrying weapons in the region.

As leaders, we must acknowledge that conflict and insecurity are complete complex issues that require multifaceted approaches. Research institutions like yours are crucial in providing valuable insight and evidence based solution to address these challenges.

“So you have a work to do. Your work is vital in helping us understand the root causes of conflict. There are consequences and effective management strategies. I can assure you there are so many clients out there, so many organizations willing to partner us for peace, and institutions like you who play a significant role in making sure that the height of their confidence in the way we are doing things will be increased.

“Your institution will partner with us to provide solutions like they did with the Desmond Tutu committee in South Africa. Reconciliation. Truth and Reconciliation committee in South Africa. Things like that must be put in place as reconciliation platforms to enable people to heal their wound.

So while we handle the minds of the people, we also put something visible for the southeastern region to know that they are not alienated. We also put instruments in place for the radicalized members of the southeastern region so that they will become de-radicalized.

And then after de-radicalizing them, we have to put a platform in place for them to become resourceful by engaging them positively, giving them options that will engage them, rather than having them go back to the agitations and carrying of arms.

We must put platforms in place to take over weapons that they are holding to hand over to government. But in place of the weapons they are holding, we place in their hands jobs, we place in their hands skills. We remove the weapons in the hands of the radicalized and replace it with jobs and skills that will give them alternative to livelihood.

“If we fail in doing that, then our work is not sustainable. But I know if we can partner, we can achieve this”, the Deputy speaker said.

Earlier in his presentation, the Co-Chairman of the Institute, Mr Udesi said their mission to the House was essentially to collaborate with the deputy speaker in his unwavering commitment towards achieving peace in the south east.

This board can bring value to the project you’ve initiated which is primarily aimed at ensuring that peace is returned to a large extent in the south east

Peace has no value without progress. And you can’t achieve progress in any form without peace.

“Security is very important, developmental activities revolve around it. Without security, not much can be achieved in humans sphere.

“We are here to collaborate with you to ensure that your project is a successful one”, Udesi said.

 

 

 

 

Emmanuel Ukoh

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