Senators from the six states of the North East, yesterday, sharply disagreed on where the headquarters of the proposed North East Development Commission should be located, forcing the Senate to suspend passage of the bill seeking its establishment.
Also, the inability of the senators to reach a clear-cut agreement on the source of the commission’s funding was another issue that led to non-passage of the bill, which aims at rehabilitating the North-East’s ravaged by Boko Haram.
Senator Ali Wakili, APC, Bauchi South, who stirred the controversy in his contribution to the debate, and suggested the need to site the commission in Bauchi, his home state, against the recommendation of the Senate Committee on Special Duties, which proposed that the commission’s headquarters be located in Abuja.
But Wakil’s position that the commission’s headquarters be sited in Bauchi prompted another suggestion by Senator Baba Garbai, APC, Borno Central, that the commission be sited in Maiduguri, capital of his home state.
But this, again, was punctured by Senator Usman Nafada, APC, Gombe North, who suggested that the headquarters be located in Gombe, his state.
But Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, who represents Borno South in Borno State, bemoaned the disagreement among his kinsmen over the location of the commission’s headquarters, saying it was untidy to bring such a matter to the floor when they ought to have resolved it at the caucus level.
Speaking to newsmen after plenary, Senator Nafada insisted that the location of the commission should be in Gombe.
According to him, Gombe is the centre of the North East region and the most suitable place to locate the commission’s headquarters.
He also argued that Gombe has the same status as Maiduguri, being also a state capital, and hence, there was no reason to consider Maiduguri as a more suitable place to site the commission.
In the same vein, the senators could not agree on the commission’s source of funding as an initial proposal that 15 per cent of federal allocation to every state of the region should be deducted at source for its funding was dropped.
Also, another proposal that 50 per cent of ecological fund meant for each of the six North East states should be deducted at source for the funding of the commission was also rejected by the committee.
Following continued disagreement over the funding and location of the commission, the clause by clause consideration of the bill could not be concluded.
With this development, the Senate stood down the planned passage of the bill and consequently referred it back to its Committee on Special Duties to resolve the controversy and come up with acceptable proposals on the two issues.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki said in a remark that the Senate had reached a consensus on 24 of the 26 clauses of the bill, observing that its passage was only stalled by the inability to reach a consensus on two clauses