By Hussaina Yakubu
Kaduna, Feb. 25, 2021 The Northern Governors Forum has urged governors and stakeholders in the region to provide solutions to myriad of problems confronting the North.
The Chairman of the forum and Gov. Simon Lalong of Plateau, made the appeal on Thursday in Kaduna at the opening of the forum’s meeting.
“Our region continues to carry perhaps the heaviest burden of development in the country where the indices for quality of life are low within a large percentage of our population.
“Statistics have shown that we have a long way to go in terms of education, healthcare delivery, infrastructural development, food security, industrialisation and human capital development, among others.
“All these are exacerbated by the insecurity that has bedeviled us and the entire nation for many years now.”
He said the forum would receive and review 12 reports bordering on repositioning the region to address its challenges.
“These Committees have done substantial work on the assignments given to them and will thus give us a lot to work with in resolving some of the challenges confronting our region.
“Besides, their recommendations will also help us project a common position on national issues in such a way as to strengthen national unity and galvanise support towards a wholistic approach that will guarantee results.”
Lalong however said that though some of the issues were not peculiar to the North, “but the ways we handle them will to a large extent shape how they are resolved at the national level”.
“For instance, the issue of insecurity has become a clog in the wheel of progress such that farming which is a major preoccupation of our people is being hampered.
“The result is that the economy of the nation is gradually being affected and food security also jeopardised.
“That is why we have remained resolute in supporting and advising the Federal Government, collaborating with relevant security agencies and also using opportunities at our disposal to work for a more secured nation.”
The chairman noted that the abduction of school children and passengers in Niger, was a “reminder of the difficult situation we face and the need for us to redouble our efforts in overcoming them”.
On herder-farmer clashes and the harsh rhetoric from various parts of the country, Lalong said that the North remained firm that “this is a matter that must be carefully addressed with an open mind and without sentiments.
“While we agree that open grazing is no longer sustainable for obvious reasons, the Forum has also keyed into the National Livestock Transformation Programme (NLTP) as a veritable option that will go a long way in ending these clashes through organised ranching.
“We therefore continue to appeal to our colleagues in other parts of the country and indeed all Nigerians particularly opinion leaders to be cautious in their utterances and actions so as not to provide the oxygen for the exploitation of our fault lines to the detriment of our nation.
“At all times, we must identify, isolate and punish crime no matter who commits it rather than resort to labeling and generalisation that shields the criminals and generates tension for the innocent.”
On the region’s economy, the NGF chairman urged the participants to provide concrete steps to take on how best to create opportunities for the teeming youth population in the region.
“We must ensure that we productively engage our people by reviving our moribund industries that once employed thousands, as well as see to it that agriculture is driven by value chain addition.
“We have the manpower and potentials to not only end poverty and hunger, but also drive the economic diversification of the nation in line with the policy direction of the Federal Government.”
He challenged the governors and other stakeholders at the meeting to enunciate new measures to radically change the quality, quantity and character of education in the region.
“The days of paper-qualifications are over as we need to give skills to our graduates to enable them practically apply their skills for national development.
“This is in addition to ensuring that the girl child is given priority in education while the unacceptably high rate of out-of-school children in our region is drastically altered immediately.”
He also spoke on the Almajiri system, and expressed optimism that the issue would be resolved, and efforts made to integrate the system into the regular education system would be consolidated.
“In terms of peaceful coexistence, religious harmony and reorientation, we also have to at this meeting take another look at the role of the traditional institution in governance.”
Lalong also said that the meeting would also discuss issues of COVID-19, legacies of late Premier, Sir Ahmadu Bello, and population.
He therefore urged the participants to be open, frank and honest in their submissions.