Governors of the 19 northern states and traditional rulers from the region are meeting in Kaduna to find lasting solutions to rising insecurity and economic downturn plaguing the region.
Stakeholders who spoke at the opening of the meeting yesterday blamed falling standards of education and disunity among various groups as the causes of tension and insecurity in some parts of the North.
Chairman of the Northern States Governors Forum (NSGF), Kashim Shettima of Borno State, said the region which used to be Nigeria’s wealthiest had conspired against itself to be reduced to the laughing stock of the world.
He said “Northern Nigeria today is blighted by a deadly (albeit retreating) insurgency, rural armed banditry, cattle rustling, ethnic and religious conflicts, the underlying causes of which are poverty, illiteracy, social exclusivity and severely limited economic opportunities.”
Shettima said there was need for urgent action to reverse the present ugly trend “we have since begun doing some ground work. For instance, the NSGF has last year, set up a committee of Attorneys General of the 19 States to review the criminal justice system of Northern Nigeria with a view to amending the penal code to stipulate penalties for criminal offences prevalent in the North today which were not envisaged by the penal code.”
He said traditional rulers had sustained the time tested and noble tradition of championing the causes of their people through provoking debates.
“This very fundamental debate bordering on the educational backwardness, pervasive poverty and underdevelopment as well as persistent insecurity of Northern Nigeria should not only form the underlying basis for holding this extraordinary meeting but must continue, in our enlightened self-interest as leaders, to perpetually preoccupy our thoughts, plans, programmes and actions.”
Also speaking at the event, Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, said the traditional institution was worried by insecurity in the North, especially recent happenings in Southern Kaduna, kidnapping, cattle rustling and the state of IDPs.
He said the usage of places of religious worship to preach hatred and violence was worrisome as it tended to divide rather than unite the people. He added that violence continued to thrive because impunity had been allowed to thrive and people were not being punished for crimes.
“We are therefore strongly supporting more measures taken and to be taken by Governors of the Northern States, especially the Governor of Kaduna State. We must all strive to achieve lasting peace in the north in particular and the whole country in general,” the Sultan said.
The Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai on his part said political, traditional and religious leaders must rise and condemn the incessant killings and destruction of lives and properties in the Northern region.
“I believe that one of the major issues that would occupy our time is to discuss the security challenges bedevilling this part of the country, especially clashes between herdsmen and local communities, terrorism, kidnapping, cattle rustling, among others. As we all know, traditional institutions are the closest organ of government to the grass root. Your participation on issues of security therefore cannot be over-emphasized.
“The security situation has become ever more worrisome, as people who have co-existed peacefully for several years have now allowed some unscrupulous elements to instigate them to take arms against one another, leading to the wanton destruction of lives of innocent and law abiding citizens. This is not only reprehensible but most condemnable. It therefore, becomes incumbent on us to assist Government and Security Agencies in bringing all kinds of criminal elements in our midst to justice, without regard to their ethnic and religious pretensions,” el-Rufa’i said.
The governors acknowledged the direct correlation between collapse of education, agriculture and industries with the current restiveness in several parts of the region.
The meeting continues today after which a resolution on the way forward is expected.