HUSSAINI HAMMANGABDO dissects the outcome of the recent meeting of North East Governors Forum which held in Yola, Adamawa State.
The inauguration of North-East Governors Forum (NEGF) in August this year came with a lot of promise. Besides the fact that other regions had formed similar forums, the emergence of the North East governors forum as a gathering of one of the most influential political figures in the region would help to streamline developmental plans and address issues facing the North East.
The emergence of Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum, as the pioneer chairman of the forum, for a period of two years was also seen as a step further in addressing the challenges in the region. This was in light of the complicated challenges the region was battling.
For a region whose major challenge in the last decade has been the battle against Insurgency, underdevelopment, youth unemployment and lack of basic infrastructure had been common place in the zone, much like other regions of the country.
Evidently, the insurgency which has since compounded the plight of the people had made the quest for unity, peace and good governance crucial to the setting up NEGF.
As such at the pioneer meeting, the governors urged didn’t hesitate to call on the federal government to deploy more state of the art military hardware in the armed forces to fight Boko Haram in the region.
The forum, at that meeting, while lauding the military in the fighting against insurgency, urged the armed forces to intensify efforts to secure hard-to-reach areas in the region and ensure safe access to farmlands.
While it remains a matter of debate whether or not much changed since the last meeting of the governors, the top political leaders held another meeting last week.
The meeting of the forum which held last week in Yola, Adamawa State, deliberated on broad range of issues.
The six states that make up the region, namely, Adamawa, Borno, Yobe, Gombe, Bauchi and Taraba, have been battling insecurity of some sorts. For a region that occupies slightly less than one-third of Nigeria’s total area the impact of the instability has impacted not just the geopolitical zone but the country at large.
However, many pundits would argue that the poor state of education in the region coupled with high levels of poverty contributed to the level of insecurity in the region as most young persons are easily lured into disruptive tendencies by selfish elements.
However, with the Almajiri issue still needing attention, many pundits aver that if such issues are tackled it would help to addressing some of the underlying concerns in the region.
As such at this meeting in Yola, the NEGF, the state of education in the region which is rated poor, was topical. The forum considered it the best option to end insurgency and foster development of the Northeast region, which is devastated by the terrorism, which led to increased number of out of school children.
They therefore unanimously agreed to form Northeast Council on Education to address deficit in the education sector. The forum also resolved to vigorously pursue the issue of securing admission for its candidates in Nigerian tertiary instituions to fill it’s quota to enhance human development in the region as the best way to remedy the falling standard of education in the region.
According to a resolution after the meeting, “the forum critically examined the challenges of education in the sub region and resolved to adopt a regional approach by being deliberate on transforming education, especially at the basic level. Where they also reaffirms the commitment of member states to enforce the UBEC Law to protect and ensure all children have an opportunity to acquire basic education.”
“The Almajiris issue need to be tackled and it’s associated challenges which having a telling effect on the overall socio economic development of the society.”
However the gathering happened barely days after the gruesome killing of farmers in Borno State, which was also condemned.
“The recent killing of Zabarmari farmers prove the escalating unabated increase of insecurity which remains the daunting issue which has been causing excruciating loss of lives and property, the forum, notes that there is relative improvement in the security situation in the sub-region.”
The chairman of NEGF, Zulum, had during the meeting said gave a broader context to the essence of the meeting as he pointed out other issues that the region was lacking.
He pointed out that the forum deliberated on the need for sub-regional integration on significantly cross-cutting issues that could mutually be beneficial to States within the region and agreed that the State Governors within the region should appoint Special Advisers on Regional Integration.
Dissecting the issues discussed, he said, “It is gratifying to note that security involved in the fight against insurgency in the region have undoubtedly deciminated the power bloc and nerve centre of insurgents in.most part of the region.
“However, the activities of Boko Haram, bandits, cattle rustlers and kidnappers are still constituting a threat to sustainable development, while commends the effort of the security agencies in the sub-region, it agreed to strengthen community policing and action to complement their efforts.
“According to Zulum, the twin scourge of banditry and kidnapping is assuming a worrisome dimension in the region, because of the danger of palpable danger of abduction is making inter state travel impossible for people.
‘Unless the matter is regarded as as matter of urgent priority, the phenomenon may escalate.
“It is becmong absolutely necessary to curb the excesses of our religious preachers by evolving a formidable legislative framework, that could guide not only the contextual standard of the preaching, but also it’s style and form.”
The NEGF urged for more execution of federal government capital projects in 2021 to ensure rapid development of the region.
He pointed out that the sub-region has been unfairly treated in the provision of roads infrastructure by the Federal Ministry of Works & Housing.
He further noted with dismay the slow or outright non existent progress on the pace of the roads already allocated in the sub region and calls for the immediate reactivation and review of the comatose existing road contracts in the sub-region.
He said, “The Forum notes with dismay, the lack of budgetary provision in respect of the Mambilla Hydro Project in the 2021 Budgetary Proposals and calls on the Federal Government to make the project a matter of serious priority, resolve all encumbrances around the project and order action on site
“Forum notes with dismay, that despite the challenges of development especially the infrastructural deficit in the Northeast, the 2021 proposed budget makes provision for only 45.32 Billion Naira for Capital projects in the sub-region. This represents a paltry 0.35% of the proposed N13.02 Trillion Naira. This means that Northeast is highly short changed. Forum demands the National Assembly to review the 2021 budget in the spirit of equity and inclusion. It equally mandates the Northeast caucus of both the Senate and House of Representative to take immediate steps to redress this imbalance.
The North-East state Governors, has been seeking to obtain prosecutorial fiat from the office of Attorney General of the federation, to enable them prosecute those charged with terrorism and terrorists related in their respective states.
Zulum said, at the moment “the prosecution process is a bit cumbersome, as all suspects, charged with terrorism and terrorist related offenses, have to be transferred to Abuja to face prosecution.”
The Forum also discussed Gender- based violence which according to it is still a major nuisance in the sub-region. As such at the meeting they as a forum called “on all the Governors of the zone to domesticate the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act 2015 and ensure the rapid dispensation of justice on gender-based violence.
“’There is need to demosticate federal laws against rape in the respective states based on peculiarities and social circumstances of each state.
“’We must find ways of protecting women and girls from the intolerable and agressive demeanor of rapists.” Zulum said.
The Borno governor revealed that the governors critically examined the status of the post- COVID-19 Economic Stimulus Package of 2.3 Trillion Naira.
He said while they praised the Federal Government for the “noble Initiative”, they solicited for equitable and fair treatment especially in view of the economic and social challenges facing the sub-region.
The forum also touched on the North East Development Commission (NEDC). The commission, mirrored largely after the Niger Delta commission was designed to support developmental processes in the region.
But it would seem like the governors are not outrightly pleased with the state of affairs as they urged NEDC to “expedite action on the development of the Northeast Strategic Master Plan. While working on the plan, it should ensure projects are demand-driven to ensure impact and accountability.”
They frowned “passionately at a situation where projects are imposed on the States without due consultation.”
The host governor, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, in his remarks urged his colleagues to deliberate and facilitate the return of IDPs to their ancestoral home.
He said, “The forum must develop a template and mindset to pull the region out of urgly narrative.
“We must deliberate on the need to empty the IDPs and return our children to school.
“From our previous meeting, am optimistic that the region would be on the part of peace and development”.
He added that there is no better way to set the agenda of the region than a forum like their own, stressing that there is no better time than now.
The governor further noted that all must be done to ensure that “farmers must return to farm without fear of being kidnapped or killed ”
Evidently, with the killing of the farmers still a topic issue, the Archbishop of Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria (LCCN), Most Rev. Musa Panti Filibus while commenting on the outcome of the North East governors meeting, condemned the gruesome killings in Zabarmari, Borno State by Boko Haram.
He called on the federal government to leave no stone unturned in ensuring justice for the victims and many others in the chains of the insurgents to secure freedom.
Filibus who doubled as the President Lutheran world Federal (LWF) said the recent gruesome murders in Zabarmari community areas utterly shocking and saddening.
Panti while consoling the Borno governor and the people of the state, said
“Our prayers and condolences go to the people of Zabarmari, particularly the families of those that were killed, the government and people of Borno state.
“This mass killing of innocent citizens working in their farms to cater for their families should be cause for greatest concern to all well-meaning Nigerians and should move anyone saddled with the responsibility to act.
“While condemning this heinous act, we call on the government to leave no stone unturned in ensuring justice for the victims,” he said.
However an APC chieftain in the state Mohammed Abdullahi, while reacting in the NEGF gathering and resolutions, said the meeting was timely and laudable as it is geared towards adressing the challenges of the region.
He said the “governors are the gate keepers of their respective states and federal government by virtue of the office they are occupying so also they can forge ahead to work in federal present and donor agencies intervention through collective decisions.”
He further said the “forum provide platform to the Governors to share ideas towards on their peculiarities in view of the state of emergency declared in the region for collective efforts to better the people from the region.”
On his part, a political analyst, Abdullahi Sani, said the essence of such meetings are help give weight to the issues concerning the people.
“It is good that they are now meeting at a team and channeling the problems affecting the region as a unit. It helps to make the other stakeholders take them serious unlike the past where every state was scrambling to get attention of the federal government.
“However, while I won’t be quick to expect results from the governors considering the enormity of the challenges, I also will urge them to remain consistent and ensure that they continue to play the role they where elected to play which includes to ensure quality governance for the people,” he said.
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