The Senate has called on the 21 border states to dedicate 1.5 per cent of consolidated revenue fund and 30 per cent of ecological fund for the development of border communities in the country.
The upper chamber also urged the Federal Government to increase the funding of the Border Community Development Agency (BCDA), while mandating its Committee on States and Local Governments to carry out a holistic investigation on the level of compliance with the Act establishing the BCDA.
According to a statement signed on Wednesday by the Special Assistant (Press) to the President of the Senate, Ezrel Tabiowo, the resolutions were reached after the consideration of a motion on “the need to pay attention to the plight of border communities in Nigeria” during plenary.
Sponsor of the motion, Senator Sadiq Suleiman Umar (APC, Kwara North) explained that when the BCDA was established, the agency had a detailed counterpart funding mechanism under the Border Communities Development Agency Act 2003 to ensure development of border communities.
According to him, the funding mechanisms included 7.5 per cent of the total allocation due to the Federal Government deductible at source; 15 per cent of monthly statutory allocation due to member states of the agency deductible at source; 55 per cent of the monies due to members states of the Agency from the ecological fund, and 10 percent of the monthly statutory allocation due to the border local governments deducted at source.
He added that the deductions made from these accounts at source even before the commencement of the commission had no significant impact on member states, local governments and border communities.
This, according to Umar, necessitated the subsequent amendment of Section 9 of the BCDA Act by the National Assembly in 2006 after a protest by Governors of Border States.
“Border communities are in dire need of development in the area of infrastructure, health, education, water and access roads, but the BCDA has not been able to cater for the needs of these communities because of insufficient funding,” Senator Umar said.
The lawmaker recalled that in 2009, about 84 school children were drowned in a river from Bukoro, a border community in Baruten Local Government in Kwara North, while going to school in a neighbouring border community in Benin Republic.
According to Umar, “authorities from Benin Republic responded to that incidence and constructed a bridge across the river, but Nigeria did nothing in respect of same, resulting in Bukuro community threatening to secede from Nigeria.”
While noting that neighbouring border communities of other countries such as Cameroon and Niger enjoy world-class facilities, the lawmaker lamented that indigenes of border communities in Nigeria are at the mercy of other countries for their medical and educational needs, a situation with attendant security risk to the country.
He, therefore, called for the Federal Government’s intervention in providing infrastructure and social amenities for border communities so as to create a sense of belonging among residents.
While lending his voice in support of the motion, another lawmaker, Senator Jibrin Isah Echocho (APC, Kogi East), emphasised the need for the Federal Government to create a separate intervention fund to address the problems of border communities in Nigeria.
According to Echocho, such alternative presents a better opportunity to permanently take care of the multifarious challenges faced by residents of border communities.