NORTHERN leaders, mainly former political office holders from the zone, on Tuesday canvassed against the implementation of the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference convened by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.
The northerners said the Jonathan’s government had its agenda for setting up the confab and that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari could not work with the outcome of the 2014 conference.
The northern ex-political office holders, under the aegis of the Northern Reawakening Forum, asked Buhari to convene a fresh National Conference, specifically to address some pertinent issues affecting the North-East and other parts of the region.
The demand was contained in a communiqué issued at the end of the forum’s summit and retreat with the theme, “Rebuilding a safe, secure and economically inclusive Northern Nigeria.”
Chairman of the NRF, who is also a former member of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Mohammed Umara Kumalia, read the communiqué in Abuja.
The NRF summit was declared open by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) and in attendance was the Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, who presented a paper entitled: “Development of a Marshal Plan for Northern Nigeria: Specific Agenda for Northern Governors.”
Also at the summit were the Governor of Bauchi State, Mohammed Abubakar; Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom; and Governor of Kebbi State, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu.
Although Kumalia and other members of the NRF participated actively during the 2014 confab, the group insisted that the nature of the new confab the group was advocating would focus on how to rebuild the North-East region, which has been destroyed by activities of the Boko Haram Islamic sect.
According to him, the demand is necessary because the North East has been marginalised.
He said, “The North has the highest number of people below $2.00 a day; 71.5 per cent of the population in the North-East live in poverty and more than half are malnourished. A 2013 World Bank Report showed that poverty in 16 out of the 19 Northern states have doubled since 1980. The North has the lowest literacy rate in the country. Lagos is at 92 per cent, Kano 49 per cent and Borno less than 15 per cent. Sixty Five per cent of Northern girls and 53 per cent of boys are not in school compared to only 20 per cent for the South-East.
“We call on the Federal Government to convene a National Conference for the development of the North-East to put together a short, medium and lon-term vision for the development of the zone. The last National Conference was convened by the Peoples Democratic Party government. You do not expect this (All Progressives Congress) government to take hook, line and sinker what was put in place by the last government. It was convened by the PDP government and unfortunately the PDP lost the election. You do not expect the opposition then (APC) to accept the resolution of the previous government, which had its own objectives and of which this government is not aware.
“What are the problems in the North-East? Has anybody tried to ascertain the problems in the North-East? The essence of the national conference is to analyse the extent of damage done to the North-East. The working document would be used to rebuild the region. There is no resemblance between the conference we are proposing and the 2014 National Conference. Many things have been destroyed and we need people with experience to discuss how the area will be settled.”
The NRF also resolved that issues of health care, youth empowerment and education, security and human suffering, good governance and accountability, as well as IT and Infrastructure should be pursued by the Federal Government within the next 12-24 months.
The summit asked the Northern governors to facilitate the development of an economic blueprint for the region.
The group commended the Dangote and T.Y. Danjuma Foundations and encouraged other individuals to participate in philanthropic activities in Northern Nigeria. It also promised to collaborate with relevant health care agencies with a view to engendering the use of best practices in health care delivery and the deployment of modern facilities and equipment.
The forum said it would encourage Northern states to deliver health care support and services by engaging existing structures and programmes, such as indigenous Non-Governmental Organisations, the National Emergency Management Agency, Red Cross and international organisations for migration.
The summit was also attended by representatives of the Northern Governors Forum, civil society groups, corporate organisations, NGOs and key development partners, such as DFID, World Bank, African Development Bank and the UN.
There were also representatives of the Central Bank of Nigeria, NEMA, National Population Commission and National Planning Commission, among others, at the summit.
Some of the executive members of the NRF areKumaila, a former Minority Leader, House of Representatives; Mr. Jack Yakubu Pam from Plateau State, who is forum’s deputy chairman; Alhaji Tajudeen Dantata, a business man; Aliyu Ahmed Wadada, former Member, House of Representatives; Aisha Dukku , a former Minister of State, Education and currently a member of the House of Representatives; and Mallam Saidu Malami, a former commissioner in Nassarawa State.
Others are Alhaji Adamu Modibbo; Yusuf Hamisu Abubakar, a former Executive Secretary, Petroleum Trust Development Fund; Salam M.K. Ahmed, a former Director General, Pension Commission; Suraj Yakubu, a former Executive Secretary of Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission; Dr. Bilkisu Magoro, Hajiya Amina Jambo and Hajiya Fatima Saleh. PUNCH