It is my honour and privilege to warmly welcome Your Excellencies and other distinguished guests to this meeting of the Northern States Governors’ Forum. You may recall that at our last meeting in September 2015, we had made a number of resolutions in respect of some wide ranging crucial issues affecting the Northern States which, most decidedly culminated in the setting up of some Committees, each of which was given specific Terms of Reference and mandated to undertake insightful analysis of the issues at stake and come up with implementable recommendations. One of such Committees is that of the Attorneys General and Commissioners for Justice of the 19 Northern States, which was mandated to critically examine the criminal justice system of Northern Nigeria and determine how best to incorporate certain emergent criminal offences like kidnapping, cattle rustling, deadly communal clashes and inciting religious preaching, which have not been adequately covered by the Penal Code or not at all. The Committee, as Your Excellencies may recall, was also charged with the responsibility of examining the activities of the so-called sponsors of terrorism as well as those who, for whatever reason, induce their children, especially young girls, to commit despicable crimes like suicide bombings; and suggest some form of statutorily acceptable punishment. It is expected that the Report of this high powered Committee of eminent persons would be presented today for deliberations.
Another equally important Report to be presented at today’s meeting is that of the Consultant’s Committee which was established to assess and articulate the various multi-sectoral challenges facing the Northern States with a view to coming up with a common position, in our determined efforts to address these challenges in collaborative partnership with the Islamic Development Bank. You may recall that consequent upon a deliberate resolution of the Forum, I had the privilege to lead a top level delegation to the Headquarters of the Islamic Development Bank in Jedda Saudi Arabia, for special consultations with the management of the Bank on possible ways of attracting their assistance in addressing some of the core challenges we, as a region, are facing.
The delegation included Their Excellencies the Executive Governors of Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano and Nasarawa States as well as top officials of the NNDC, some professional consultants and other relevant stakeholders and senior officials. In reaction to our various presentations, the Bank’s President, Dr Mohammed Ali had given us a strong indication of the IDB’s declared intention to initiate a comprehensive and constructive plan for the reconstruction of the Northern Region. This, according to him, entails possible intervention of the Bank in human capital development, Agriculture, poverty alleviation and improvement of infrastructural facilities, among others. The Consultant’s Committee was formed to specifically articulate our priority needs in a manner that could easily facilitate the intervention of the Bank in an all-encompassing and implementable way and present them to the IDB. I wish to reiterate here that in seeking the intervention of the Bank, we have not violated any law of the land. As I had indicated in another forum, we knew our statutory obligations at every stage of the process; which was why we had in our delegation a senior official of the Federal Ministry of Finance, who is in charge of the IDB desk, to monitor the proceedings and guide us, if need be, to ensure that everything was done in accordance with the statutory requirements guiding foreign assistance.
The meeting would also deliberate on the Report of the Committee set up to determine the legal framework of the Northern States Governors’ Forum as an entity, which is also expected to be presented today. Furthermore, the Reports of the Committee on the New Nigerian Newspapers and update by NNDC are due for presentation and shall form part of our deliberations.
Your Excellencies, it is also pertinent to, as part of our deliberations, make an insightful and thorough review of the current security situation in the region, with specific reference to the Boko Haram insurgency, cattle rustling, the lingering deadly clashes between farmers and cattle rearers, as well as the intermittent incidents of armed banditry and kidnapping, all of which have generally been regarded as part of the major factors responsible for the formidable developmental challenges we found ourselves in.
In respect of the insurgency in the North East and as someone from the epicenter of the crisis, I can confidently confirm that the insurgency has been irredeemably halted and the insurgents themselves completely subdued.
What remains now are few isolated pockets of suicide bombings which the recalcitrant remnants of the insurgents use as a last resort to attract attention and create unnecessary panic among the general population. Our profound gratitude obviously goes to Mr President for fulfilling his promise to bring the insurgency to a complete halt. We also like to extend our sincere appreciation to our gallant Military and other security agencies who, buoyed up by the President’s enthusiastic support and adequate and regular supply of the required Military hardware and welfare incentives, were able to relentlessly pursue the insurgents and destroy their infrastructure, with the consequence that all the areas hitherto under their control or influence have been recaptured. We called on Mr President to ensure the full restoration of civil authority in the recaptured areas in order to pave way for the safe return of our IDPs. This undoubtedly entails the reconstruction and rehabilitation of public institutions and structures such as Local Government Secretariats, Police Stations, Prisons, Hospitals and Clinics as well as schools, all of which were either partially or completely destroyed by the insurgents.
Subsequently, officers of the Nigerian Police and those of the Civil Defence Corps could be deployed to maintain law and order and also stave off any intrusion into these communities. In this way, our IDPs would be conveniently repatriated back to their homes while our soldiers who are in charge of the recaptured areas could be deployed to continue with their onerous task of pursuing the insurgents until they are totally decimated.
In the North West and North Central, the security situation is alarming as the issues of cattle rustling, kidnapping, banditry and the persistent conflict between farmers and cattle rearers are gradually assuming unacceptable proportions. It has therefore become a strategic imperative for us to take a hard look at these formidable challenges and work out strategies on the most effective ways of not only reversing the trend but also overcoming them once and for all. Whatever resolutions we can come up with would be communicated to the appropriate authorities for obvious analytical examination and possible implementation.
We must again commend our President and Commander-In-Chief for his decisive intervention in the Agatu crisis in Benue State by ordering the Chief of Army Staff and the Inspector General of Police to personally visit the area and strategically assess the situation with a view to beefing up security not only to restore normalcy but also to forestall similar conflicts in future. While still on the subject of security, I would like to seize this opportunity to make a passionate appeal to members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria to avail themselves at the Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by the Kaduna State Government in order to present their case. The Tribunal, as we know, consists of people of unimpeachable integrity and respectable professional standing and it would be grossly improper for them to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Tribunal or the integrity of its proceedings without presenting their case.
On a final note, I would like to commend some of my colleagues for conducting a biometric exercise in their respective Civil Service to determine the actual number of their workforce, with a view to, among other things, unlocking employment opportunities for thousands of our unemployed youths.
This is no doubt symptomatic of your ardent determination to overcome the challenges associated with unemployment and at the same time it underlines our collective will to meet the legitimate expectations of our people.
Thank you and God bless.
OPENING REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, HON. KASHIM SHETTIMA, THE EXECUTIVE GOVERNOR OF BORNO STATE AND CHAIRMAN OF THE NORTHERN STATES GOVERNORS’ FORUM ON THE OCCASION OF THE MEETING OF THE FORUM AT HASSAN USMAN KATSINA HOUSE, KADUNA ON FRIDAY, 29TH APRIL 2016