Africa's richest man and president of the Dangote group, Aliko Dangote has challenged northern leaders to wake up from their lethargy and provide leadership that will lift the region from extreme poverty and wants.
In a keynote address at the fourth edition of the Kaduna Investment Summit in Kaduna, Dangote said the investment needed to generate employment can only be provided by private investors and called on state government in the region to provide the enabling environment to attract investors to the region.
He said if the 19 northern states had 10 governors in the mold of Nasir El Rufai's, the region would be on the path to greatness
According to him, with the right investment in Agriculture, the north will be an oasis of prosperity adding that there is no country with such fertile and arable land that has the level of poverty witnessed in the north .
"Nigeria is bedivelled with many developmental challenges but with abundant capital,human and natural resources. Our country human developmental indicators rank poorly when compared with h global averages. Nigeria is ranked at 157 out of 189 countries in the areas of human development index.
"While the over all social economic considerations in the country is a cause for concern, the regional imperative are infact very alarming. In the north western and North eastern part of Nigeria, more than 60% of the population live in extreme poverty. It is instructive to know that the 19 northern states which account for over 54% of the country's population and 70% of its landmass collectively generated only 21% of the total sub national internally Generated Revenue in 2017.
"Northern Nigeria will continue to fall behind if respective state governments do not move to close the development gap and that is why we are always saying that the biggest challenge we have and what We are always praying for is to have ten governors like Mallam Nasir El Rufai's.
"Closing this gap requires multi layer investment and government will not be able to muster the needed funds. Only private sector can raise the amount of capital require to find the kind of investment required. Government must create a conducive environment that will trigger a huge inflow mof private capital into the private sector of the economy. Private investment will create jobs and will go Long way to erase the challenge of unemployment and poverty. As more people get employed, you will notice a sharp decline in some of the social vices now prevalent in our society. Kaduna State is a shining example of this. While several states are taking steps in this direction, only a few like Kaduna are making visible progress.
"As the capital of the former northern region, Kaduna continues to lead on several matrix. Kaduna currently has the highest WAEC pass rate in the north and second highest IGR generation in the northern part of the region after Kano" he noted.
On the way forward for the region, Dangote called on the 19 northern states to identify areas of comparative advantage and provide information and data on the opportunities available in their states in order to attract private sector investors.
"As private sector investment propels an upsurge in economic activities, the financial viability of state governments will also improve. State governments will have more money to invest in human capital development and the rampant cases of insecurity as we have it now will subside. The north must focus on harnessing it's massive agric potentials in terms of both production and processing.
No region with such agricukture potentials should be this poor. We have what it takes to turn around our fortunes and I pray all the19 governors of the northern states will wake up and follow the foot steps of Kaduna State government. Given the vast tracts of arable land and conducive condition, I think in the next ten years, Agriculture can generate more revenue and prosperity than oil that we have now if we have the right commitment" he said.
He said the Dangote Group is ready to partner with any state government that creates enabling environment for investment in the state.