Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti
As part of efforts to strengthen the economic relations in the South-west of the country, governors in the region monday adopted a resolution to pursue a common educational, security and agricultural policy for the zone.
In a communiqué issued after the meeting held in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital monday, the governors agreed to make it a matter of compulsion to monitor federal government’s budgetary allocations to agriculture to the zone, to boost farming and make i a common interest in the region.
The communique read by the host Governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, said it was expedient for the zone to exchange notes in the area of security through convergence of security chiefs and other intelligence institutions to manage the aerial, land and waterway security architecture of the zone.
Governors at the meeting were: the host, Fayose, Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Senator Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Dr Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo), Mr. Akinwumi Ambode (Lagos ) and Senator Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State, who was represented by his deputy, Mrs. Yetunde Onanuga.
The governors agreed to build a multi-modal transportation systems, including highways, water and air, energy and power, leisure and entertainments as well as in infrastructure to expand the economic frontiers of the region.
“The governors were unanimous in addressing the declining moral standards and put in place structures to manage the loss of values and virtues in the society. A first step is a quality assurance and morality framework as a critical part of regional education.
“One centre each is to be donated by the governments of the states in the South-west regional centre of excellence,” he said.
Governor Ambode of Lagos State also showed commitment towards making his state a critical stakeholder and critical part of Odua Investment Group. Fayose said the governors also adopted the South-west Regional Integrated Commercial Agriculture Development Programme (RICARD), with Lagos to champion a structured regional food exchange programme.
“We also approve the report of the sports development strategic plan of action for South-west. Lagos was carefully chosen to host of DAWN inter-collegiate games to strengthen the bonds and competitiveness among the youth in the region.
“States were also mandated to design modalities to key into the proposed rail project as a primary driver of inter-modal transportation system for the whole region.”
The governors agreed to host the next meeting in Ogun State in April, 2017.
Speaking at the opening session of the programme, Fayose said the federal government’s allocation in the N7 trillion 2017 budgetary provision to the South-west was inadequate and meagre to drive development in the zone.
He also canvassed for a concerted effort to tackle the menace of rampaging herdsmen in the zone, to boost commercial agriculture and to spur the youths to embracing commercial agriculture.
The governor pointed out that to move the South-west zone forward, there must be respect for the political beliefs and opinions of others and urged the governors to refrain from doing anything that will undermine one another.
“For instance, in the 2017 federal government budget, the South-west is one of the least beneficiaries. The federal government’s 2017 budget is sabout N7 trillion and the only capital project allocated to Ekiti State is the Akure-Ado Ekiti road to which N250 million was earmarked.
“What can N250 million do on Akure-Ado road that is begging for reconstruction? There is even no guarantee that the N250 million budgetary provision will be made available at the end of the day. I am sure this is applicable to other states too compared to other zones.
“We must therefore ask pertinent questions. How much did the federal government allocate to irrigation, construction of dams and storage facilities to boast agriculture in the South-west? “We must equally take collective interest in the annual national budget to ensure that states in the South-west are adequately catered for. This we must do by using our technical people to study the budget and make inputs on our behalf,” he said.
Harping on the need for Yoruba race to stand united regardless of diverse political interests, Fayose said: “Americans go about fighting their political battles without undermining the collective interests of their country, and that is the kind of spirit with which we mustoperate if the Yoruba nation must regain its pride of place in the Nigeria nation.”
Fayose appealed to the governors to always take proactive actions to convert their deliberations into physical development, saying this remains the only way the regional integration programme can be respected by the people.
“With the present economic realities, it has become pertinent that the necessary political will is put behind agriculture, education, security and physical infrastructures on the long run.
“For instance, in the area of education, it is time for us to have a common curriculum. Also, we must ensure cooperation among our security chiefs, such that if a car is stolen anywhere in the region, it will be found before being taken out of the region. This task may appear enormous, but if we are determined and speak with one voice, as a people, it is achievable.”
Stressing further the menace of herdsmen and destruction they are doing to farmlands and causing colossal damage to food production in the zone, Fayose said: “In promoting agriculture, we must take into consideration the menace of herdsmen, which has become major impediment. The question is, how do we continue to encourage our people to embrace farming when their investments are being lost daily?
He added that one other germane issue I will want us to look into is the federal government $1 billion Eurobond, re-payment of which is to be made from source (before accruing to the federation account) and expected to last till 2032.
“As representatives of the people of the South-west, whose future will
be affected by this $1 billion Eurobond, I expect that we look beyond party politics and ask questions as to the beneficiaries of the bond, its repayment and what the South-west will benefit from it.”
The governor said there is need for zonal leaders to constantly engage the representatives in the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and the National Assembly and impress it upon them that they must use their positions positively for the zone.