President Muhammadu Buhari said on Thursday that criminals who were terrorising the country should be dealt with accordingly, without resorting to ethnic profiling. He reiterated that government shall continue to deal with insurgents, bandits, kidnappers and other criminal elements who constitute threat to innocent citizens across the country.
Speaking while declaring open a meeting of the 19 Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF) and Council of Northern Traditional Rulers at the Government House, Kaduna, Buhari who was represented by the Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari said, “Criminals are criminals and should be dealt with accordingly as such, without resorting to ethnic profiling”.
He said he had already tasked the new Service Chiefs to device new strategies that will end the ugly situation where the lives of people continue to be threatened by hoodlums and criminals.
He said the meeting between the NSGF and the Northern Traditional Council provides a platform for deep reflection and dialogue on pertinent issues affecting not only the north, but the nation as a whole.
“No doubt, this kind of robust engagement provides a veritable platform for deep reflection and dialogue on pertinent issues affecting not only the Northern Region, but the nation as a whole.
“These include the unity, peaceful coexistence, security and other parameters of development”, Buhari said.
He commended the efforts of the NSGF for their “contribution towards National Growth and development, especially in this challenging period in our nation’s being where certain fundamental issues of our corporate existence need to be frankly deliberated upon and actionable resolutions reached.”
According him, the meeting came at a time when the nation was making steady progress in addressing the many challenges impeding development and progress. “We are providing critical infrastructure such as roads, railways, airports among which are critical to economic prosperity of our people as well as economic opportunities for our citizens to pursue legitimate aspirations that grow the economy.
“At the same time, we are confronting the various dimensions of security challenges that continue to slow down the emancipation of our people from poverty and economic deprivation”, Buhari said.
He urged them to discuss and devise ways of building stronger collaboration with the security architecture and the people in defeating criminality across the region and the nation at large.
Buhari said further that: “It is pertinent to note that the increased realization of our security, democracy indices are inextricably linked.
“Democracy and rule of law promote stability and in turn reinforces the power to assert freedom and economic progress of our people.
“This thread of interconnection needs support of the Northern State Governors Forum and entire citizenry of the country as any amount of positive sacrifice would be beneficial in bringing about National development and security of our Nation.
“Government also notes with satisfaction the deliberate actions of the 19 Northern States Governors’ Forum of inclusivity in addressing the challenges of governance and National development. “This is demonstrated in today’s event, wherein the Forum intends to receive and deliberate on the reports from Committees that were put in place to critically look at certain challenges of the region.
“I have been informed that the issues that will be on the table are diverse and cut across various sectors. These include economy, security, youth development, industrialization, energy development, role of traditional rulers in governance, the Almajiri phenomenon, and many others which are not just peculiar to the Northern Region, but also affect other parts of the country. With the calibre of persons in the various Committees, I have no doubt that far reaching recommendations will be advanced and adopted for the good of the region and the nation.
“Your Excellencies and other critical Stakeholders, I urge that these crucial and robust reports should be assiduously studied and implemented without delay. “This is because we are not short of policies, but often faced with challenges of implementation. You will be leaving a landmark record in ensuring that the are not left to rot on the shelves but used for the good of all.”
He assured the NSGF of support and collaboration in implementing some of the resolutions of the meeting that may require the participation of the federal government.
Buhari also advocated for synergy between the NSGF and other forums in the other regions for the collective good of our Nation.
“You should endeavour to compare notes and peer-review one another to exchange ideas and adopt best practices for the good of the people you govern” he said.
He said the NSGF “for rising to the occasion to de-escalate the recent tension arising from clashes between herders which resulted in the loss of lives and properties. According to him, the efforts of the forum in engaging all parties and supporting the efforts of the Federal Government have gone a long way to ameliorate the situation.
“We need to sustain this tempo to attain total calm.
“Today’s gathering also demonstrates the collective will of the people of the Northern part of this country to promote living together and staying amongst all Nigerians irrespective of our ethnic and religious differences.
“I urge that the spectrum of this kind of engagement to be widened to cover all communities and geopolitical zones of the country. The Federal Government would be willing to partner with you on that”, he said.
The President also drew the attention of the governors to some of the very key issues bothering the Northern region and the country that require collective efforts to resolve.
These issues, according to him, are, “population growth, agriculture value chain that is anchored on diversification and improved yields, as well as the revival of industries and other economic opportunities for job creation.”
“I shall be keenly waiting for your resolutions on these and other issues as we work together to ensure a change”, he added/
Earlier in his opening address, Chairman of the NSGF and governor of Plateau state, Mr. Simon Lalong, called on participants at the meeting to be open, frank and honest in discussing “all the matters that have held us down as a region.”
“We must break down such limitations and move our region, people and ultimately our nation to the next level”, he stressed.
Lalong lamented the security situation in the north, saying that the NSGF shall continue to engage other stakeholders “as we seek solutions to the cases of insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, and other criminal activities.”
He said, “At all times, we must identify, isolate and punish crime no matter who commits it rather than resort to labeling and generalization that shields the criminals and generates tension for the innocent”.
According to Lalong, the abduction of school children in Government Science Secondary School Kagara, Niger State as well as travelling passengers were instances of the difficult situation being faced in the north and called for theredoubling of efforts in overcoming the challenges .
“This meeting provides us the opportunity to do so”, he added.
Speaking further, Lalong said: “On the issue of herder-farmer clashes which has in recent weeks generated serious concerns because of the harsh rhetoric from various parts of the country, we remain firm that this is a matter that must be carefully addressed with an open mind and without sentiments.
“While we agree that open grazing is no longer sustainable for obvious reasons, the Forum has also keyed into the National Livestock Transformation Programme (NLTP) as a veritable option that will go a long way in ending these clashes through organised ranching.
“We therefore continue to appeal to our colleagues in other parts of the country and indeed all Nigerians particularly opinion leaders to be cautious in their utterances and actions so as not to provide the oxygen for the exploitation of our fault lines to the detriment of our nation.
“As for enhancing the economy of the North, we should be able to rise from this meeting with concrete steps to take on how best to create opportunities for our teeming youth population. “We must ensure that we productively engage our people by reviving our moribund industries that once employed thousands as well as see to it that agriculture is driven by value chain addition.
“We have the manpower and potentials to not only end poverty and hunger, but also drive the economic diversification of the nation in line with the policy direction of the Federal Government.”
In his remarks, the Chairman of the Northern Traditional Council who is the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, called for continuous dialogue to find solutions to the challenges facing the north.
He said “For decades things have been going bad and they were not addressed, therefore, it is easy to destroy, now the governors are trying to build”.
He said it will take time for the the problems to be tackled, stressing that the people will have to be patient.
“It will take time, but people will have to be impatient. Of course people will ask how long do we have to be patient? Almighty Allah knows the patient ones.
“But I know people are enduring, but the governors must be in a hurry to do their bid”, the sultan said.
He said traditional rulers will continue to encourage the governors, pray for them and partner with them.
“We are there to offer our various inputs. I assure you…We must come out with possible solutions to these problems. We must continue to chat, never to give up, we must continue to discuss. We must never get tired of sitting down to talk on issues.
So we must not fail our people, we will not fail our people inshallah.
“Therefore we want to assure the governors that we will support the them, we will contribute to support your actions”, the sultan said.
The meeting was attended by governors of Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Jigawa, Nasarawa, Yobe, and Adamawa, while Borno, Kogi, Zamfara were represented.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan was also represented by Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives.