Senate Passes South East Development Commission Bill

The Senate on Thursday, February 22, 2024 passed a Bill which seeks to establish the South East Development Commission (SEDC).

The agency according to the Bill is to be charged with the responsibility to receive and manage funds from the allocation of the Federation Account for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of roads, houses, and other infrastructural damages suffered by the region as a result of the effect of the civil war.

The Red Chamber decided a clause-by-clause consideration of the bill by the Committee of the Whole, chaired by the Senate President, Senator Godswill Akpabio.

Recall that the House of Representatives on December 21, 2023, at its Committee of the Whole chaired by the Deputy Speaker, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Kalu, who is also the sponsor of the Bill, unanimously passed it for 3rd reading and sent it to the Senate for concurrence.

The Senate approved the long title of the Bill as recommended, clause 2 as amended, clause 3 to 5 as recommended, clause 6 as amended, clauses 7 to 29 as recommended, interpretation clause 30 as recommended, short title clause 31 as recommended, schedules 1 and explanatory memorandum as recommended.

The Commission, when established, shall among other functions, “Conceive, plan and implement, in accordance with the set rules and regulations, projects and programmes for the sustainable development of the South East States in the field of transportation including roads, health, education, employment, agriculture, industrialization, housing and urban development, water supply, electricity and telecommunications; cause the South East States to be surveyed in order to ascertain measures which are necessary to promote its physical and socio-economic development.

“Implement all the measures approved for the development of the South East States by the Federal Government and the member States of the Commission; identify factors inhibiting the development of the South East States and assist the member States in the formulation and implementation of policies to ensure sound and efficient management of the resources of the South East States; assess and report on any project being funded or carried out in the South East States by mineral extracting and mining companies, oil and gas producing companies, and any other company including non-governmental organisations and ensure that funds released for such projects are properly utilized.

Other functions include, “Tackling ecological and environmental problems that arise from the extraction and mining of solid mineral, exploration of oil mineral in the South East States and advise the Federal Government and the member States on the prevention and control of oil spillages, gas flaring and environmental pollution; liaise with the various solid mineral extraction and mining companies and oil and gas prospecting and producing companies on all matters of pollution prevention and control; and execute such other works and perform such other functions which in the opinion of the Commission are required for the sustainable development of the South East States and its peoples.”

In his remarks after the Bill was passed, Senate President Akpabio, noted that once the Bill becomes law, it would bring development and the region’s fears would be addressed.

Akpabio said: “It’s a very important bill passed by this 10th Senate, this bill addresses all the fears of our brothers and sisters from the South East.

“I want to say congratulations. I pray this commission will bring a lot of development to the South-east and we will assist you to stop any form of agitation and bring peace to your region. When harmonized, it will address the fears of the south-east.”

With the passage at both Chambers, a Conference Committee will be set up to harmonize differences before it is transmitted to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for his assent.