The Northern Governors’ Forum on Thursday lamented the effect of the Boko Haram insurgency on the North and pleaded with members of the violent Islamic sect to accept the planned amnesty for them by the Federal Government.
The Chairman of the forum and Niger State Governor, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, stated this while receiving the report of the forum’s Committee on Reconciliation, Healing and Security, in Abuja on Thursday.
Aliyu, who said the activities of the insurgents had led to destruction of many lives and property, also advised the Federal Government to complement the resolve of the forum by taking into account, the findings and recommendations of its committee.
“Members of the insurgent group are called upon for immediate ceasefire; accept the offer made by the Federal Government and come forward for dialogue and eventual submission of arms,” the governor said.
Boko Haram Leader, Abubakar Shekau had 0n April 10, said the sect members did not need anmesty because they believed they had done nothing wrong. He stated that it was the Federal Government that needed pardon by the group whose activities in the past few years had led to the loss of at least 3,000 lives and property worth millions of naira in parts of the North.
“Surprisingly, the Nigerian government is talking about granting us amnesty. What wrong have we done? On the contrary, it is we that should grant you (a) pardon,” Agence France Presse had quoted him as saying in Hausa language.
But Aliyu, who said the governors were determined to ensure that the amnesty succeeded, explained that “the formation of the Reconciliation, Healing and Security Committee was as a result of recurring incidence of violence and wanton destruction of lives and property which crippled the economy of Northern states and paralysed socio-political activities of the region.”
He therefore urged “the Federal Government to operationalise and streamline critical components of the (proposed) amnesty in line with conclusions of this committee (Northern governors’ committee) towards successful and sustainable achievement of the noble objectives of the peace process.
“This will no doubt go a long way in evolving a robust framework for peace building and enforcement, wealth creation, and economic regeneration in providing practicable solutions to the security challenges.”
The chairman said it was time Northerners began to see themselves as one because they were treated as such in other parts of the country irrespective of their ethno-religious backgrounds.
He also decried what he called an increase in the fraud associated with fuel subsidy payments which, according to him, was now a case of outright stealing with nobody asking questions.
The forum’s chairman noted that the masses believed that governors were doing nothing over the development.
He said, “Today, we were asking a question when reports of issues came ( at the National Economic Council meeting); we were asking: ‘how many of you people have gone to the filling stations and bought fuel at subsidised rates?’ Very few, where is the subsidy going?
“There were some people discovered to have lied and collected money in the name of subsidy. Where are they? Today, we are told that there is more thievery in our oil sector than before.
“The illegal bunkering and the stealing of oil are affecting what comes to the federation account. Why because, if you catch one thief and you do not punish him, an honest man will think that it is better to become a thief than to be honest. We must as individuals, as parents and administrators, stop these things. We must punish those who have been caught.”
Giving a background of the formation of the Northern Governors’ Forum Committee on Reconciliation, Healing and Security, Aliyu said, “You may wish to recall that concerned about the destruction, killings and instability in the northern states, and in response to these challenges, the committee was set up on July 26 , 2012 and inaugurated on August 22 in Abuja.”
Aliyu said the first step towards peace process begins at the family level through proper upbringing of children and adherence to moral obligations.
He added that the governors would soon meet in Kaduna to study the recommendations contained in the report with a view to implementing them.
In his remarks, Bauchi State Governor, Isa Yuguda, said, “We have investigated enough, we have killed our people enough, the entire northern Nigeria is filled with our own blood, that of our wives, our parents and our grandparents without reason.
“We must appreciate that in the Nigerian nation, we are talking about 400 tribes and only 20 are from the South . The remaining are in northern Nigeria. I have about 50 tribes in Bauchi.
He said Islam got to Southern Nigeria first before it came to the north and pointed out that Muslims in the South were living in peace with Christians.
“Why are they not killing themselves? he queried, saying there is a lesson those in the north must learn from the South.
Governor Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State said, “The north is a sleeping giant. It has potential in terms of human and material resources. Its eminent sons and daughters have performed credibly well in the affairs of this nation for decades. There is no excuse for the north to keep hurting itself.”
Earlier, Chairman of the Committee, Ambassador Zakari Ibrahim, observed that the insecurity in the north had dire consequences for the corporate existence of Nigeria.
He recalled that the committee submitted its interim report on February 14, 2013 and requested an extension of time to enable it to complete its assignment.
Zakari said, “The north has suffered very serious economic, social and psychological devastation with relationships among the people severely fractured. Specifically, the underlying sources of insecurity in the northern states are deeply rooted in the following:
• Economic inequality and narrowing opportunities, conflicts and unhealthy competition among ethnic and religious identities , ownership and access to resources (land and territory), unequal access to political power among groups and the feeling of lack of respect; and
• Appointments into traditional headship positions, the deterioration in personal and inter-group relationships, poverty, illiteracy and ignorance, widespread impunity, injustice and disregard for the rule of law.”
Zakari said those factors were surmountable if serious consideration was given to some of the recommendations in the committee’s report.
He added, “Your excellencies, the people of the north are tired of having committees formed every time a crisis erupts, while the recommendations of reports of the committees are hardly implemented.
“It is the collective view of the committee members that the north must get its act together. For too long, it has been seen by the rest of the country as lagging behind despite its huge human and natural resources.”