The northern region has been damaged so much that it would take about 20 years to rehabilitate it, former military head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, said yesterday.
This is coming on the heels of statements by governors of north-east states and the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) that the federal government is not doing enough to address the region's insecurity and underdevelopment.
General Abubakar made this comment yesterday at the 'Conference on the North and Strategies for Sustainable Development' organised by the Arewa House, Centre for Historical Documentation and Research, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, in Kaduna.
"It will take 20 years to revive the north. A lot of damage has been done. It is when you go round that you will appreciate the extent of damage done to the region. We have to work together to build it," he said.
According to him, the north is also suffering from a lack of unity which it was known for.
"Certainly, if there is unity, we will not be here; because there is no unity, that is why we are in Arewa House trying to address the issue," he said.
Speaking on national security, the former head of state said that "every Nigerian is a security officer' and that everyone should contribute to containment efforts by providing useful information for government to work with in curbing the menace.
"Be the government watchdog and also watch your communities," he advised Nigerians.
Former governor of Benue State and Senate minority leader, Mr. George Akume, who also spoke at the conference, declared that there cannot be development without peace. He described as unacceptable the total disregard for the sanctity of human life in parts of the region.
"What is happening in the north today is very sad; there is no integrity, honour and values," he said, adding, "As leaders, we must be accountable."
Anglican Bishop of Kaduna Diocese, Bishop Idowu Fearon, blamed political, traditional and religious leaders of the north for the backwardness of the region.
"Our politicians must threat us as human beings. Leaders must make themselves available to the people. If the north must develop, we must begin to be accountable to the people and serve them," he said.
North-east governors, ACF blame FG
The apex northern socio-cultural group, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), has faulted the federal government for its inability to stop the insecurity that has continued to ravage the country.
This was part of the issues raised in a communiqué issued to newsmen in Kaduna yesterday at the end of the group's National Executive Council (NEC) where matters bordering on security challenges created by acts of terrorism, armed robbery, kidnappings and militant activism in different parts of the country and by the Boko Haram in the north were featured. The meeting was chaired by the council's deputy chairman, Alhaji Saidu Barda.
The communiqué which was signed by its national publicity secretary, Anthony Sani, said that ACF considered the recent killings of prominent northerners by gunmen as worrisome, particularly the allegations and controversies surrounding the killing of General Mohammed Shuwa, especially since nothing has been done to apprehend and prosecute the perpetrators.
The forum, therefore, urged the federal government to institute a high-powered commission to investigate such controversial murders, and other killings, with a view to unravelling the truth.
On the disturbing trend of bomb explosions targetted against national security establishments, with particular reference to the Jaji military cantonment, the Forum said such trend should not be allowed to continue.
Towards this end, the group appealed to government to thoroughly investigate the incident at Jaji, and not to apportion blames until the conclusion of the inquiry.
The ACF, which said it was concerned that the authorities appear to be taking different actions that were identical in nature, remarked that such actions were liable to different interpretations, including the likelihood of injustice and victimisation of officers involved.
On the impending national census, the forum urged all northern governors, political leaders and traditional rulers to be alert and mobilise people for the exercise.
Meanwhile, disturbed by the insecurity and backwardness facing the region, the north east governors, under the aegis of the North East Alliance for Transformation [NEAT], finally converged yesterday in Bauchi to brainstorm on the numerous problems of the area with a view to addressing them.
The event which took place at the Yankari Games Reserve, Bauchi, was attended by the governors of the sub-region, members of state and national legislatures, traditional rulers and other prominent personalities from the zone.
In his address during the occasion, the chief host and governor of Bauchi State, Isa Yuguda, explained that the summit became imperative in view of the dwindling fortunes of the north east. He lamented that the sub-region had remained the least developed in all sectors in the country.
The governor admitted that the deteriorating situation in the zone was not lack of resources but the failure to harness the abundant resources for its socio-economic development, and declared that the status quo could be allowed to continue.
According to him, "It is rather paradoxical that in spite of the arable land, abundant solid minerals and tourism potentialities with which the north east is endowed, it still ranks as the least developed in the country. To address the socio-economic problems of the region, however, calls for collective effort by all stakeholders who should bring their wealth of knowledge and experience as well as pool their resources together. It is against the backdrop of this reality that the idea of a regional summit was conceived by the governors of the region."
Yuguda added that the summit was expected to serve as a forum for participants from the six states of the region and beyond, to rub minds with intellectuals, members of the private and public sectors as well as the international community towards finding enduring solutions to the teeming problems bedevilling the zone.
However, the governor of Borno State, Alhaji Ibrahim Shettima, disagreed with Yuguda, choosing instead to blame the federal government for the woes of the region, pointing to alleged marginalisation of the area through projects execution.
He said the high rate of unemployment and abject poverty in the north east were the factors that brought about the present insecurity, killings and bombings perpetrated by the Boko Haram militants in the area.
He, therefore, urged the federal government, led by President Goodluck Jonathan, to fulfil its promise of providing the 2.2 million jobs in order to address youth restiveness and overcome the current security challenges destabilising the country.
Also speaking, the governor of Gombe State, Ibrahim Dankwambo, backed all the assertions made by his Borno State counterpart, saying even though the former was in an opposition party, he was fully in support of his opinion on the region's woes.
Earlier in his opening remarks, the chairman of the summit, Gen. T.Y Danjuma, represented by Major General Tanko Nuhu Abdullahi, had advised that the summit be not just a ' talk show' but that the states governors implement the decisions taken.
Others who spoke on the same matter were the acting governor of Taraba State, Alhaji Garba Umar; deputy governor of Yobe State, Alhaji Abubakar Aliyu, and the deputy Senate Leader, Abdul Ningi.
Others who attended the summit include President Goodluck Jonathan, who represented by the minister of national planning, Dr. Shamsuddeen Usman; emirs of Bauchi, Ningi and Dass; lawmakers in the state and National Assembly from the zone and other stakeholders.
LEADERSHIP gathered that, recently, the north east elders, under the auspices of the North East Forum for Unity and Development (NEFUD),had organised same summit in the state which was unanimously boycotted by the six state governors of the sub-region over the allegation that it had a hidden political agenda.
This, our correspondent reports, compelled the meeting to end abruptly without the inauguration of the proposed action committees that would liaise with government to solve the problems of the zone.
How Nigeria can stop terrorism - EU
Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) yesterday said that unless the federal government adopts a sustainable, holistic and integrated approach as well as the use of intelligence-led policing, efforts to stop terrorism may fail.
Speaking through its leader, Instrument for Stability, European External Action Service, His Excellency Tim Jones, made this comment when he led a delegation to the Ministry of Interior to undertake a feasibility study on how anti-terrorism campaign was doing in the country, in order to ascertain how the union can support the transformation agenda of Mr. President.
Mr Jones buttressed the point that security was vital to the growth of a given nation, and thus requires fast response.
Acknowledging that he had received reports of high level violent and devastating breaches of security in Nigeria, he, however, said that the European Union did not have readymade answers to recent security threats, and that it could only achieve results with the support of security agencies in Nigeria, particularly the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, (NSCDC), Nigerian Prisons Services (NPS) and others.
Jones further explained that the proposed aid to Nigeria was part of EU's agenda to assist distressed countries find lasting solution to the challenges of insecurity. This was even as he revealed that the body already had a multi-disciplinary team in Abuja to look at different areas of tackling the issues in Nigeria.
On his part, the minister of interior, Comrade Abba Moro, who was ably represented by the permanent secretary, Mrs. Daniel Nwaobia, described the proposed aid in the area of counter- terrorism as a welcome development in view of the current security challenges facing the country.
He appealed that adequate support in the area of training of the para-military services on intelligence gathering, counter terrorism and modern technology for identifying, tracking and diffusing improvised explosives devices (IEDs) and other explosives for the staff of the Civil Defence and Immigration Service. This, according to him, will enhance their capacity to safeguard lives and protect critical infrastructure and national assets against terrorist attacks.
The minister further appealed to the judiciary and other concerned authorities to address the issues associated with prisons in order not to make it a breeding ground for terrorists.
Buttressing his point, Comrade Moro, expressed fear that lumping harmless awaiting trial inmates with violent extremist offenders could result in the recruitment of unsuspecting inmates into terrorist causes.
He said that apart from denting the country's image, the activities of terrorists were directly hampering the inflow of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), especially in the northern parts of the country.