Determined to find a lasting solution to the several problems plaguing the northern part of the country, notable elders and leaders of thought from the north have again, gathered in Minna, Niger State.
The meeting, which was convened by former head of state General Abdulsalami Abubakar and chaired by Adamu Ciroma, came barely five days after a similar one held in Abuja that was tagged “Peace Forum”
At the meeting were former military president General Ibrahim Babangida, former vice president Atiku Abubakar and some retired generals, retired judicial officers and media executives from the north that included the chairman and editor in-chief of LEADERSHIP Newspapers Group, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah.
The convener of the meeting, which held behind closed doors, General Abdulsalami, in his opening speech, said, “I am worried about the direction and consequences of a number of developments in our nation. Ordinarily, elders like us would take comfort in the belief that God Almighty has rewarded our own past endeavours with successors who should worry over matters of national security, the state of the economy and governance generally.”
The former head of state added “It would have been their lot to find solutions to problems that confront our people today and ours would have been to pray for them, but these are not ordinary times.”
Apparently setting an agenda for the meeting, he said the cumulative effect of rising security challenges was deterioration of the economy, particularly of the north.
According to Abdulsalami, the situation had made it imperative for the elders to lend their voice for genuine solutions and put ideas in perspective, as well as give hope to the hopeless, especially in the north.
Consequently, he said, the meeting was structured on four sub-themes - the current security situation, the political environment, reviving northern economy and strategy on how the north could contribute to the development and stability of the nation.
Speaking to journalists, former military president Babangida said, “It is the initiative of General Abdulsalami about the situation in the country which we are now getting involved in to get solutions to the problems facing the country.
“This generation knows what the country means to us, so anytime we see little problems that can aggravate the situation, we try to find solutions,” Babangida said, adding that the problems facing the nation desired the contribution of elders, leaders of thought, traditional rulers, religious leaders and political leaders.
Alhaji Ciroma in an interview noted, “Everybody is trying to put in his best in order to help this country survive. Most of the problems require the instrumentality of government. We are to discuss and make recommendations to government; north is part of Nigeria.”
Others present at the meeting were: Archbishop John Onaiyekan, Bishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Senator Jibril Aminu, Sheik Ahmed Lemu, former Kaduna State governor Lawal Kaita, General John Shagaya and a host of others.
Niger State governor Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu came to the meeting briefly during the lunch break.
Northern coalition meets in Abuja
Meanwhile, at the earlier meeting of a coalition of Northern leaders, academics, professionals and businessmen which held at Asokoro, in Abuja, yesterday, the coalition among other resolutions stated that the north rejects the current obnoxious revenue allocation law and calls for its immediate review in view of its being lopsided, unfair and detrimental to the interest of all Nigerians, including the real people of the oil-producing states it appears to favour superficially.
Arguing that oil-producing states were equally victims because the revenue accruing to their states on the basis of obnoxious derivation over-weighted formula was far beyond their executive capacity to manage, the coalition noted that as a consequence, that it would encourage corruption and hyper-inflation in those states, their neighbours and the country at large.
Continuing, it stated that ‘this revenue allocation law also stands in violation of the international law with particular reference to the International Law of Sea Convention (LOSC). The LOSC treaty, which has since come into force (1982), is the principal governing law for all maritime resource issues.”
The LOSC, it explained, was one of the most comprehensive treaties in international law and clearly stipulated in its various parts and annexes that oil and all forms of wealth found on the continental shelf or the international sea bed must belong to the countries and not just to administrative/political units (littoral states) adjoining the physical sea.
The Asokoro, Abuja meeting further stressed that the revenue allocation law as it stands is a violation of a subsisting Supreme Court judgment viz: AG of the Federation Versus AG Abia State and 36 others (2002) reported in 6 NWLR part 765 on pages 542-905.
“The law is an encouragement to the political class to ignore the ecological devastation as a consequence of oil-related activities while financing and encouraging terrorist agitation and criminality in that part of Nigeria for political blackmail, extortion and ransom,” it maintained.
The meeting, which also condemned the practice by governments in awarding oil blocks and crude oil liftings to top military generals, cronies of parties or persons in power and fraudsters, added “We strongly recommend the revocations of all those oil blocks and oil-lifting contracts and urge a comprehensive review of all manner of refined products import contracts.”
Calling for “the arrest of all military generals and dishonest businessmen, local chiefs and warlords involved in criminal bunkering,” the coalition urged that the current status of Abuja as the Federal Capital Territory, whereby land belonging to identifiable peoples and communities is forcibly taken away to make way for a so-called Federal Capital development with virtually no compensation must be addressed.