From Noah Ebije, Kaduna
President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday charged northern governors as well as security chiefs to deal decisively with criminals arising from banditry without resorting to ethnic profiling of such criminals.
President Buhari who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, spoke while declaring open Northern Governors’ Forum meeting in Kaduna.
He said the federal government would continue to deal with bandits, kidnappers, insurgents and other criminals across the country until they are wiped out.
This was even as the governor, Plateau State and Chairman, Northern’ Governors’ Forum, Simon Lalong, regretted that insecurity has moved the region backward ever than before in terms of infrastructural and educational development.
Federal government delegations to the meeting included the Minister for Information and culture, Lai Mohammed, Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, and Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Ahmed Wase, who represented the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan.
Emirs and traditional rulers from the region led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Mohammed Sa’ad Abubakar, also attended the meeting.
However, according to Buhari, ‘at the same time, we are confronting the various dimensions of security challenges that continue to slow down the emancipation of our people from poverty and economic deprivation. The Government shall continue to deal with insurgents bandits, kidnappers and other criminals who constitute a threat to innocent citizens across the country.
‘Criminals are criminals and should be dealt with accordingly as such, without resorting to ethnic profiling.
‘ have already tasked the new Service Chiefs to devise new strategies that will end this ugly situation where the lives of our people continue to be threatened by hoodlums and criminals. I expect that at this meeting, your Forum will also discuss of building stronger collaboration with the security architecture and devise ways and the people in defeating criminality across the region and the nation at large.
‘It is pertinent to note that the increased realization of our security, democracy and inextricably development linked. Democracy and rule of law promote stability and in turn reinforces the power to assert freedom and economic progress of are our people.
‘This thread of interconnection needs support of the Northern States Governors Forum and entire citizenry of the country as any amount of positive sacrifice would be beneficial in bringing about National
development and security of our nation.’
According to Lalong: ‘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, industrialization 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.
‘This is why at several periods, we set up various Committees to look into specific issues and advise us on what kind of measures to adopt in changing the narrative. I am glad that at this meeting, we shall be receiving and considering several reports from those committees with a view to charting a new way forward.
‘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.
‘May I therefore remind us all that some of the issues are not peculiar to our region, 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 is 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.
‘Just last week, we met here in Kaduna to engage the heads of security agencies on the way forward just as we did during the tenure of the former Service Chiefs. We shall continue to engage other stakeholders as we seek solutions to the cases of insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, and other criminal activities.
‘The recent ugly incidences of kidnap school children in Government Science Secondary School Kagara, Niger State as well as travelling passengers further reminds us of the difficult situation we face and the need for us to redouble our efforts in overcoming them. This meeting provides us the opportunity to do so.
‘On the issue of herder-farmer clashes which has in recent weeks generated serious concerns because of the harsh rhetoric from various parts of the country, we remain 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.’
However, Lalong cautioned opinion leaders in the country to guide against their utterances, saying, ‘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 generalization that shields the criminals and generates tension for the innocent.
‘As for enhancing the economy of the North, we should be able to rise from this meeting with concrete steps to take on how best to create opportunities for our teeming youth population. 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.’
The Northern Governors’ Chairman also spoke about education in the region: ‘Because education plays a pivotal role in the development of any nation, this meeting should draw our attention to new measures we need to introduce to radically change the quality, quantity and character of education we give our people.
‘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.
‘At this meeting, we are hoping to put to rest the issue of the Almajiri phenomenon in line with our resolve and actions taken last year which saw us returning Almajiri children across the Northern states back to their original States. Despite the successes we recorded, we have to consolidate and ensure that the returned children are fully integrated into the regular system and further windows for resurgence are completely blocked.
‘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. Our traditional rulers are the custodians of our cultures and values and have also continued to play very crucial roles in mobilizing, sensitizing and orientating the citizens towards embracing the desired roadmap on issues. However, the institution has complained of perceived neglect and lack of defined roles in the governance architecture of the country. All these we shall discuss at this meeting.
‘We cannot avoid talking about the legacies of our founding fathers particularly our revered Premier Sir Ahmadu Bello who worked with vision to set up institutions and corporate interests for the benefit of the people of our region. Today, some of these institutions are struggling to survive while others have already gone aground.
‘We cannot allow the situation to go beyond this, hence the need for us to take a deep look at what we can do to turn the tide. Just yesterday, I was at the Ahmadu Bello University and the Kaduna Polytechnic where the stories further confirmed the urgent need for intervention.
‘Perhaps there is no place that this intervention is most needed than in turning our huge population to an advantage where are people engaged to contribute to the growth of the region and the nation. Youth engagement has therefore become an emergency that we must manage with all sense of duty to avoid unpleasant consequences of inaction or non-challant. We do not have the luxury of time to wait any longer.
‘COVID-19 has imposed upon us a new normal where we do not only have to consider the health consequences of the disease, but also its socio-economic impact. Already, we have discussed and taken several steps individually and collectively in conjunction with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 towards ensuring the safety and well-being of our people.
‘This we shall continue to do as we work with our people to ensure that preventive measures are adopted while the conspiracy theories about vaccines are demystified.’