GOV SHETTIMA RAISES ALARM OVER POVERTY IN THE REGION
Even as he acknowledged collaborative efforts between the Federal Government and his government to stem the tide of security challenge occasioned by the menace of Boko Haram, Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima has admonished the Federal Government to spare a thought for developmental institutions and agencies that will stimulate development in theNorth, just as it is doing for the Niger Delta region.
Shettima made the appeal when some members of the Peoples' Democratic Party [PDP] National Working Committee, [NWC]
paid him solidarity visit in his office. The team had earlier met with Gombe State Governor Ibrahim Dankwabo, in Gombe, as part of its condolence visits to the north eastern states under the siege of the Boko Haram sect.
While Shettima identified poverty as the basic reason for the pervasive violence in the zone, he expressed concern over what he called, a complete delink between the affected states in the North and the Federal Government:
'The bottom line is poverty. We have to work on it. I believe that the Federal Government would key into some of our agenda, because for now there is a complete delink.
'We have several programs for the Niger Delta; we have the amnesty. We have the Amnesty Program; we have a ministry for the Niger Delta affairs. We have a special adviser on Niger Delta; we have Niger Delta Development Commission [NDDC]. We have 13 percent derivation, seven different programmes, pandering to them!
'Yet, all the funds that accrue every month to the six states of the North East with a population over 20 million is not up to what accrues to Bayelsa State with a tiny population. The whole of Bayelsa is not up to one ward in Maiduguri metropolis! How can there be equity? How can there be peace and the nation is a continuum?
'Every Kuwaiti, has its own Iraq. We are all one and anybody who feels he is indifferent to the problems of Boko Haram or the problem of the North is just engaging himself in delusion. We are all one, we are one nation and what binds us together cannot be easily dismantled, or severed. I believe we can work as a people to find solutions to our common problem.
'I was reading a newspaper, one senator from Rivers State said no to dialogue with Boko Haram. Okay, let us review the dialogue we had with Niger Delta militants. Has he come here? Does he know our problem?'
Shettima warned that if there was no concerted efforts to stem the tide of violence in the zone by engaging the youth in gainfully employment, the zone would become practically inhabitable in the next five years:
'For now, we have to do it in our enlightened self interest, because nobody would stay in northern Nigeria, believe me in the next five years! Believe me, nobody!! None of us here is prepared to.
'Somebody was telling me that he went to greet the Sultan of Sokoto, when he came out the areas boys came and knocked on his car and were asking for money. If you refuse to give them, they will scratch your car. Another friend was telling me that his wife and driver were in his Prado jeep in Kano. Some boys came and broke the windscreen and
said, 'you bastards, you are enjoying the comfort of an airconditioned car and we are suffering!' So, the bottom line is poverty. We have to work on it.' Earlier, while receiving the team in Gombe, Dankwabo declared that his government was ready to dialogue with the sect for the sake of peace, security and development of the state and the zone:
'Lots of lives were lost which are irreplaceable, properties were destroyed and many more challenges. I want to thank you on behalf of the good people of Gombe State for the concern and to assure our party, the PDP, that we will do everything possible to shun violence. We would do everything possible to tolerate dialogue and call on whoever is ready to dialogue with us in line with the principle of PDP, to bridge the gap of misunderstanding, so that there would be peace, progress and development.
'I also want to assure you that some of the victims that lost their properties, we have taken measures to support them. But those who lost their lives, it is most unfortunate, lives are irreplaceable.' National Organizing Secretary of the PDP, who led the team to the two states, Alhaji Abubakar Mustapha, restated the call for dialogue with the sect, to find lasting solution to the violence threatening peace in the North:
'We believe security is everybody's concern. Without it, there will be no meaningful development. Investors will never be encouraged to put in their fund and the unemployment trend will then persist, with its associated crime. So, we ask people of goodwill to come together and dialogue. Even during wars at the end of it all, people must come round and discuss and we believe that's the only way out.
'The PDP as a party condemns in totality, violence and terrorism and call on all those whose responsibility it is, to take all steps necessary to bring this to an end. We believe enough is enough. We have been saying that Nigeria deserves to be among the top 20 countries, by 2020 and this would be a mere dream, as long as peace is not with us.'