Northern region in crisis, needs help to avert Afghanistan scenario, El-Rufai pleads

• Says populist anti-grazing laws by Southern govs not implementable
• Southern presidency can rebuild the North, Ohanaeze replies NEF
• NEF’s position capable of setting Nigeria on fire, Gani Adams, Yoruba groups say

Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, yesterday, declared that only a huge investment in the country’s education sector by the nation’s political leadership will avert the scenario in Afghanistan and stave off the deteriorating security besetting the nation, especially the northwest region.

He spoke yesterday at a forum tagged, ‘Human Capital Development Communications Strategy Validation Meeting’ organised by the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo-led National Economic Council (NEC) in Abuja. Prof. Osinbajo was represented at the event by his Chief of Staff, Dr Ade Ipaye.

Making his submission, the Kaduna State governor warned that if education was not put on the front burner by the political leaders, the scenario will not augur well in the region and will eventually become worse than the development in Afghanistan.

“I represent the Northwest zone in Human Capital Development Council and as you know our part of the country is afflicted with the highest number of out-of-school children. Some of the highest poverty rates and some of the highest dropout rates are in our schools.

“As if that is not enough, many of our schools are now closed due to the insecurity in our boarding schools, making our educational situation even worse. Our health statistics are not better. Our region is in crisis.

“We have the largest population of any geopolitical zone in the country. That is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing if we keep the population healthy, educate the children and give them skills for the future. Because, if they’re not educated and are not healthy, they feel hopeless. This is what we’re seeing with our insecurity. Most of the bandits we arrest have never gone to school. They have no notion of religion, whether Christianity or Islam, and they have no hope.”

The Kaduna governor further criticised the approach adopted by his Southern colleagues in handling the open grazing crisis, insisting that the anti-open grazing law being passed by some states is not implementable.

Condemning the politicisation of the matter with what he termed ‘enactment of populist legislation by the states’, he advised his Southern counterparts not to dissipate energy on anti-open grazing laws that cannot be implemented, saying ranching and not open grazing is the solution to the ongoing farmer/herder clashes.

Speaking with newsmen after a visit to the National Secretariat of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja, he said: “The Northern Governors’ Forum has already taken a position that open grazing is not a sustainable way of livestock production.x

“And we must move towards ranching, but moving towards ranching cannot be done overnight. We have to plan, we have to have resources and we have to implement it sensibly. It is not a matter of populist legislation or saying tomorrow this or that. It is not a solution.

“What is unhelpful is the politicising of the situation with legislation that you know that you cannot implement.” Explaining steps taken by his administration to address the issue, El-Rufai said he has embarked on the construction of a ranch that will take care of over 1,500 Fulani families at the cost of N10 billion, revealing that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has supported his state with N7.5 billion out of the N10 billion required to build a ranch.

“We need billions of Naira. This is just one ranch that is costing us N10 billion. I have 14 grazing reserves in Kaduna State and I will like to convert them into ranching. Do I have 14 times N10 billion naira? I don’t.

“If the Federal Government will give me N140 billion, I will convert the other 13 into ranches and make sure that nobody comes out with a cow or sheep in Kaduna State because I will have enough ranches to take care of everybody. That is the solution.”

On the controversy surrounding the collection of Value Added Tax (VAT) revenue, he said: “We took a position in the Nigeria Governors’ Forum not to comment on the VAT issue because it is still going through the court process. And until the Supreme Court makes a final pronouncement on the matter, anything that you see today can be changed.

“Even the states that have passed legislation, the Supreme Court can override them. So, I am reluctant to comment on it. But people think that VAT is a sales tax. It is not. VAT is a special kind of tax. And there are many ways to look at it and I am sure that at the appropriate time, the NGF will look at it and take a position. But until then I am reluctant to comment on a matter that is still going through the judicial process.”

HOWEVER, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) believes the north is rich and can survive on its resources without the “billions” accruing to Southern states.x

NEF Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, on Tuesday when he featured on Arise TV’s ‘The Morning Show’ breakfast programme, had said the region could survive without the Southern money.

Reacting to the tussle between states and the Federal Government on the collection of VAT, Baba-Ahmed said: “I will advise that we wait to hear what the court says. However, even the fact that it has become an issue suggests that we really do need to address the fundamentals and the manner in which the federation works.

“We have always supported restructuring. We have always asked for a major and genuine shift initiative either by groups or the National Assembly so that matters like this be addressed properly. If we don’t do that now, then we should get a leader that would do that in 2023.

“The north wants restructuring; the north wants fiscal federalism. We are a rich region and we can live on what we have, even if we don’t have the billions that accrue to others states. Our poverty is not a kind of problem that we would break this country over.”

RESPONDING, the Chidi Ibeh-led Ohanaeze Ndigbo, yesterday, cautioned the leadership of NEF to allow the rotational presidency to scale through in 2023 as attempts to thwart it will bring huge catastrophy on Nigerians, that will lead to disintegration of the country.

In a statement in Abakaliki, the Secretary General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, warned NEF to desist from the pursuit of abnormalities capable of sinking the unity of the country on the altar of ethnicity and nepotism but place the survival and restructuring of the country above all other considerations.

He maintained that only a Southern presidency from the Igbo bloc will care for the North and redeem her of maladies and poverty ravaging the region.

“It is obvious that the North cannot afford to offer remedies and antidotes to the myriad of problems destroying the region, especially, poverty, Boko Haram insurgency, terrorism, and banditry which was the self-made political weapons designed for capturing the 2015 presidency,” the statement noted.

ALSO, the coalition of Yoruba self-determination groups, yesterday, chided Baba-Ahmed over his comments on retention of the presidency. In a statement in Ibadan, the Secretary-General of the groups, Dr. Steve Abioye, said: “For as long as the Northern elites continue to see themselves as the sole determinants of the future of this nation, then peace will continue to elude us as this will continue to breed instability and they will continue heating up the political space with their reckless and irresponsible statements.

“We are solidly behind our governors who have unequivocally maintained that power must rotate to the South come 2023. No amount of intimidation or threats will deter us from achieving this.”

Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba land, Iba Gani Adams, also flayed Baba-Ahmed over his recent comments on 2023, saying the NEF chieftain’s outburst only exposed the domineering agenda of the North, capable of setting the nation on fire. Baba-Ahmed had on a television interview boasted that the North had the votes to retain the presidency and would not play second fiddle to any other part of the country, come 2023.

Speaking yesterday in Ibeju, Lagos, during the maiden edition of Egbe Festival, organised by the Olokun Festival Foundation (OFF), Iba Adams also expressed concern over the growing debt profile embarked on by the Federal Government, saying such a huge debts profile is capable of wrecking the country.

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