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2014 budget:N/East govs dismiss FG’s N2bn initiative

From Hamza Idris (Maiduguri), Hamisu K. Matazu (Damaturu), Kabir Anwar (Yola), Ahmed Mohammed (Bauchi), Itodo Daniel Sule (Jalingo), Adamu Saleh (Gombe) & Turaki Hassan (Abuja)…

From Hamza Idris (Maiduguri), Hamisu K. Matazu (Damaturu), Kabir Anwar (Yola), Ahmed Mohammed (Bauchi), Itodo Daniel Sule (Jalingo), Adamu Saleh (Gombe) & Turaki Hassan (Abuja)

Leaders in the North East have reacted to the provision of N2 billion for the Federal Government’s intervention initiative in the zone, saying the amount was inadequate to tackle the prevailing problems.
Some of those who spoke to Daily Trust also said budgeting such figure, when more money was being spent on less important matters, indicated lack of seriousness on the part of President Goodluck Jonathan towards issues affecting the region.
Jonathan had announced on December 3 in Gombe that his administration would come up with a special intervention package for the North East, to help stimulate the zone’s economy following devastation caused by years of insurgency.
Daily Trust exclusively reported on Monday that the 2014

Federal budget submitted to the National Assembly last week provided N2 billion under ‘Service-Wide Vote’ as “counterpart funding” for the Federal Initiative for the North East.
The use of the phrase ‘counterpart funding’ suggests that the programme would be jointly funded together with the six states in the zone.
In their separate reactions, Yobe, Adamawa, Borno, Taraba and Gombe state governments said there was need to increase amount. The Bauchi State Government declined comment.
While Yobe and Adamawa governors angrily attacked the Federal Government for providing a “grossly inadequate” amount, the Taraba acting governor said the money was “insignificant” for the problems afflicting the zone, and therefore urged for more funds.
But their Borno and Gombe counterparts sounded conciliatory, saying this provision indicates willingness on the part of the Federal Government to do something special for the North East.
‘Unbelievably inadequate’
In his reaction, Yobe State Governor Ibrahim Gaidam, through his spokesman Abdullahi Bego, told Daily Trust that the N2 billion provided was “unbelievably inadequate” considering the destructions of lives, property and businesses that the six states in the region suffered.
He said given that the Nollywood film industry was given a N3 billion stimulus package, the amount for the North East initiative was “not encouraging or engendering confidence.”
Gaidam said from November 2011 to date, the state government spent around N7 billion on logistics and allowances to support security forces operating in the state.
For his part, Adamawa State Governor Murtala Nyako, through his spokesman Ahmad Sajoh, said the money provided was “grossly inadequate” for the six states ravaged by years of insurgency.
“As far as we are concerned, N2 billion for six states is grossly inadequate. Commerce and agriculture have been seriously affected by the insecurity, so many people have lost their means of livelihood and their shelter,” he said.
“The issue is about development of infrastructure. We have the worst roads, no electricity…. If the Presidency is serious, these issues must be considered and we expect that before the release of any funds, an outline should be given to know the areas of intervention and who are the beneficiaries.”
Nyako objected to the idea of counterpart funding by the state and local governments, who he said already fund security operations that should have been the responsibility of the Federal Government.
‘Positive sign’
In his reaction, through his spokesman Isa Gusau, Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima said, “The allocation of N2 billion for the Northeast as palliative is a positive sign from the Presidency. It also indicates that the Federal Government is having some focused thoughts on the Northeast sub-region which has suffered the worst human-inspired destructions since Nigeria came into being.
“The allocation of two billion by a very rich Federal Government to the country’s poorest region that was taken many years backward, is a good sign but which has not met general expectation.”
He said it was okay for states and local governments to contribute to this initiative.
Shettima, however, urged federal lawmakers and other leaders from the zone to “make fresh, patriotic and polite appeals” to the Federal Government to increase the money.
Also in his reaction, Acting Governor of Taraba State, Alhaji Garba Umar, through his spokesman Kefas Sule, said the budgeted amount was insignificant given the enormity of the developmental challenges facing the region.
“We welcome the development but we expect that they should have done more. If you look at the enormity of the development challenges in the North East sub-region, the amount is insignificant,” he said.
Sule said the North East states are the most backward and N2 billion allocated would not be enough to ameliorate their problems.
In Gombe, Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo’s chief of staff Ahmed Yayari said the N2 billion was not really for investment in the North East, but was to show the commitment of the President towards the zone.
He said when the President came for the North East Economic Summit, he offered to partner with the states to come up with a plan to develop the region.
“So I believe to my mind, the N2 billion that is proposed for the region in the 2014 budget is to be able to assist the states to work out the modalities,” he said.
When asked if N2 billion would be adequate considering the damage caused by the  Boko Haram insurgency, Yayari said, “You can’t say it’s ok because you have not set up a time line and you have not set up a programme of exactly what you want to do. But you need something to start up…. This N2 billion will give an opportunity for the states to come up with a workable action programme for the development of the region.”
‘Disdainful, shocking, unacceptable’
In his reaction, Senator Ahmad Lawan (APC, Yobe) said the amount was inadequate and won’t be accepted to the people.
In statement in Abuja yesterday, Lawan said the proposal of N2 billion “came as a shock and disappointment to many of us from the North East.”
He added that this “could be interpreted to mean the level of disdain with which the Federal authorities have chosen to handle our suffering and circumstance. We deserve more humane and better consideration from the Federal Government. We have qualified and indeed fulfilled all the requisite conditions for a special intervention, to put it mildly.”
Lawan said previous federal intervention programmes, like the amnesty for the Niger Delta militants, got billions and therefore “the North East situation deserves the same serious and focused attention. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.”
He urged President Jonathan to reconsider the proposal. “The government has the funds and the President should muster the political will to give us a better deal. I am sure that the Federal authorities know and are fully aware of the magnitude of the devastation and destruction of lives and properties of our people and the loss of public infrastructure in our states… It is therefore, sad that the Federal Government would propose a paltry and insignificant N2 billion for intervention in the whole of the North East sub-region,” he said.
The Bauchi State Government has not responded yet. When Governor Isa Yuguda’s deputy chief press secretary Danlami Babantakko was contacted, he said he was not in a position to speak on the matter.
But the North East zonal spokesman for the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) Youth Vanguard, Alhaji Nasiru Ibrahim Darazo, said the Federal Government was not fair to the region. He urged the National Assembly to allocate more funds to help reduce problems afflicting the region.
Also, Ibrahim El-Zubair a chieftain of the APC in Borno State, said the president was yet to get to terms with the realities in the North East.
“For goodness sake, what can N2 billion do for Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states? We should be frank with ourselves. In Borno for instance, business have crumbled, schools burnt, public infrastructure destroyed and life is in standstill. Even if you give the whole money to Borno, which problem will it solve?” he asked.
Madam Jummai Sama’ila, a banker in Maiduguri, said the Federal Government must make serious commitment to the region. “How I wish the proposal is N200 billion or at least N20 billion for a start.” Jummai said.

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