Deputy Speaker’s Address: Homecoming and Unveiling of Peace In South East Project.
It is with great honor and pride that I stand before you today as the Pioneer of Peace in the South East Project. As the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, I have had the privilege of serving the people of this great nation. But today, I return to my roots, to Bende, to celebrate a momentous occasion with all of you.
When I embarked on the South East Project, my vision was clear — to foster peace, unity, and development in our region through a non-kinetic approach. The South East has long been known for its rich cultural heritage, vibrant communities, and enterprising people. Yet, we have faced our fair share of challenges, including socioeconomic disparities, insecurities, political tensions, and occasional conflicts.
It is crucial to understand the impact of recent events on our region. The transport sector, with approximately 1,083,000 commercial vehicles in the region, faces substantial financial setbacks due to sit-at-home protests, losing between N10 billion to N13 billion on each sit-at-home day. The business environment reflects alarming statistics, with trading businesses incurring losses ranging from N655 billion to N3.8 trillion in the last 24 months. Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) face daily losses estimated between N5.4 billion to N31 billion.
These repercussions extend to employment and income across various segments. Nearly 75% of respondents to the SBM Intelligence survey on insecurity in the South East acknowledge adverse effects on businesses or careers, with 71% reporting a drop in income and significant job losses. The transport and business sectors are the hardest hit, with 80% of transporters and 40% of businessmen/women bearing the brunt.
The violence enforcing sit-at-home protests has led to a loss of working days, reduced working hours, and increased unemployment. Customer exodus and increased costs burden businesses, particularly small enterprises. Challenges faced by students, including disruptions to exams and learning experiences, further emphasize the far-reaching consequences of the sit-at-home Mondays.
But today, I stand here to tell you that peace is not an illusion. It is not an unattainable dream. Peace is a choice we make, a commitment we must uphold, and a journey we must embark on together. And it is through the South East Project that we have taken the first steps towards a brighter and more harmonious future.
Our goals in the South East Project are clear. We aim to promote reconciliation among communities and individuals affected by past conflicts. We recognize the need to address the root causes of conflict, including socio-economic disparities and political tensions. Empowering communities is another crucial goal of the project, providing them with the necessary resources, skills, and opportunities for sustainable development.
We also believe in the power of engaging youth in the peace-building process. By empowering young people with education, training, and leadership opportunities, we are investing in the region’s future. Inclusivity and social justice are core values we aim to foster, ensuring that all individuals, regardless of their background or circumstances, have equal access to opportunities and resources.
Cultivating a culture of peace is essential in our journey. We must promote dialogue, tolerance, and non-violence as core values within our communities. By working towards these goals, we aim to create a more peaceful, prosperous, and inclusive region for all its residents.
Today, I am pleased to announce the launch of the Peace in the South East initiative. This initiative represents a significant milestone in our journey toward lasting peace and development. It is a comprehensive framework that encompasses various strategies, programs, and projects aimed at addressing the root causes of conflict, promoting reconciliation, and empowering communities.
But let us remember that the journey towards peace is not a destination. It is an ongoing process, one that requires our unflinching commitment and dedication. We must continue to foster inclusivity, promote social justice, and empower our youth. We must invest in education, healthcare, and infrastructure. We must create opportunities for economic growth and sustainable development. And above all, we must cultivate a culture of peace, respect, and understanding.
As the Pioneer of Peace in the South East Project, I am deeply grateful for the support and collaboration of each one of you. Together, we have shown the world the power of unity, the strength of diversity, and the beauty of our shared humanity. Let us continue to build upon the foundation we have laid, to strive for a South East that is prosperous, peaceful, and inclusive.
In conclusion, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the good people of Bende Federal Constituency and the State Government of Abia State for their warm welcome and consistent support. It is an honor to have the opportunity to serve you and to be a part of this historic moment. Together, let us continue to be the pioneers of peace, not just in the South East but in our beloved nation as a whole.
Thank you, and may God bless you all