Minister of National Planning, Dr Shamsudeen Usman
Segun Awofadeji and John Shiklam
President Goodluck Jonathan has promised that the Federal Government will establish agro-processing industries in the North-east to promote all-year-round farming activities to check the high rate of unemployment in the zone.
This came as former Head of State, General Abubakar Abdulsalami (rtd) yesterday urged northerners to join hands with the government to address the security challenges bedevilling the region.
Jonathan, who gave the charge while declaring open the maiden North Eastern Alliance for Transformation Summit held at the Yankari Resort and Safari in Bauchi, said fast-yielding wheat variety and millet, among others, would be cultivated in the Chad Basin considering the zone’s potential in the cultivation of these crops.
He said the Federal Government was disturbed by the wastage most farmers face as a result of lack of processing industries to convert excess produce.
He stated that these were part of the measures put in place by the government to address the insecurity that has driven investors out of the zone in the past two years.
The president equally asked the six governors in the North-east zone to come up with a frame work to address the insecurity challenge in the zone.
The president who was represented by the Minister of National Planning, Dr Shamsudeen Usman, expressed joy that the governors in the zone are anxious to address the problems in the zone by organising the summit.
“I hope this summit will not be a talk show. Hope you will identify at least four to five ways in tackling these problems in the next one year, that is before the next summit?
“The governors of North-east zone should work collectively to solve this problem in order to have peace in the region because insecurity is a reality in the region.”
In his welcome address, Bauchi State Governor, Malam Isa Yuguda, descibed the summit as historic as it marked the beginning of a turning point in the socio-economic development of the North-east zone.
He said: “For quite a long time, the sub-region has remained one of the least developed, if not the least developed of the six geo-political zones in the country in all spheres of human endeavour.”
The governor lamented that the underdevelopment in the North-east has been compounded by the current security challenges which have adversely affected the socio-economic activities in the region.
In his keynote address, the former Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mike Okiro, noted that insecurity has dampened economic life in the North-east in particular and Nigeria in general.
He called on the stakeholders of the summit to take a critical look at security issues and proffer workable solutions.
In his address, the Chairman of the summit, General TY Danjuma (rtd), represented by Major General Tanko Nuhu Abdulahi, called on the participants to tackle every facet of security including education, health, food, technology and solid industrial base.
The summit was attended by the governors of Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Acting Governor of Taraba, Duputy Governor of Yobe State and a representative of the Adamawa State governor.
Also in attendance were the Deputy Senate Leader, Abdul Ningi, Senator Babayo Gamawa, Senator Adamu Gumba, traditional rulers, among others.
Meanwhile, Abdulsalami who spoke with journalists shortly after chairing a session on, “security, politics and economy of the North” at a two-day conference on the “North and Strategies for Sustainable Development,” Abdulsalami lamented that a lot of socio-economic damage have been done to the North as a result of the security challenges.
He declared that it will take 20 years to revive the economy of the region and urged northerners to join hands to solve security the challenges in the region.
Abdulsalami added that everybody must act as watch dog of the country and his immediate environment.
He had earlier while presiding over the session, expressed regrets about the damage the activities of terrorist have caused the North as well as the lack of unity among the people of the region.
“Certainly if there is unity we wouldn’t be here at this conference, so since there is no unity, that is why the Arewa House is trying to galvanise it at this conference.
“It will take 20 years to revive the North. A lot of socio-economic damage have been done. If you go round the areas that is when you will appreciate the extent of damage done to the region. We have to work together to revive it.”
Also speaking during the occasion, a former Secretary of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said the next two years will test the resilience of the Nigerian state and the capacity of northerners to bounce back.
According to him, “Right now, the Boko Haram insurgency is eating it up like a cancer, and it will require bold initiatives by northerners to find a solution, by influencing both the insurgency and the government.”
Baba-Ahmed maintained that not all Nigerians are comfortable with a united and strong North, saying that the current state of things in the region is therefore, welcome to its detractors and rivals.
“They will not lift a finger to heal its wound. This will have to be done by people in this hall who feel the pain most,” he added.
Also at another session during the conference, the former Benue State governor, Senator George Akume, said the North will not make progress if the current situation of things in the region continue.
He lamented that the North is no longer safe for both its people and visitors.
Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) has offered to support the Nigerian counter-terrorism and efforts and help stop other acts of violence in the country.
This assertion was made yesterday by the delegation from the instrument for stability unit of the European external action service on their visit to the Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro on counter terrorism project for Nigeria.
The leader of the team, Mr. Tim Jones, stated that security issue is a serious matter that should not be neglected as no country can make any meaningful development without security.
According to Jones, the EU has come to work with Nigeria by looking at all aspects of the problem ranging from media content to police injustice and to find a lasting solution to the problem.
Moro who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Mrs Daniel Nwaobia, welcomed the initiative, stating that terrorism is a global issue which no nation can fight alone.
He noted that the activities of these extremist sects have inflicted untold hardships on many Nigerians especially in the North resulting in lost of lives and property and has affected the image of Nigeria abroad.
He further stated that Nigeria has been working to eradicate terrorism and will actively work with the EU using the Immigration service, the prisons and the civil defence corps.
He added that the corps has established a counter-terrorism unit, a crisis management unit, a chemical biological, radioactive and nuclear response unit and a peace and conflict resolution unit.
The minister however solicited that adequate support should be given to the corps members on intelligence gathering, counter-terrorism and modern technology for identifying, tracking and diffusing explosive devices.
“I am very sad that things are happening the way they are happening now. I was in Borno about six months ago when my friend and brother, the Governor, Kashim Ibrahim gave out his sister for marriage. We were about 30 persons that supposed to go to Borno, but only eight of us decided to go. The others gave different reasons for not making it. We must imbibe the values of honour, respect, integrity, hard work and determination because they have direct bearing on the development of the North.”