The Northern Elders Forum, a leading pressure group comprising of prominent elders in the North, is reconvening today in Abuja to consider its next line of action after waiting in vain for President Goodluck Jonathan almost three months after he promised to respond promptly to important recommendations towards returning the country to peace and progress tabled before him at a meeting with the group at the Presidential Villa on May 30, 2012.
The Forum under the leadership of Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule, Dan Masanin Kano, decided to seek audience with the President following a meeting convened to take stock of events of great concern to the people of the North which are capable of posing a threat to the unity and development of the country as a whole where recommendations and demands were drawn up and a delegation raised to present them to the President for urgent action.
During the meeting held behind closed doors at the Villa, the President had promised to give the Forum a feedback “in the next few days” which was welcome by the delegation as an indication of the importance he attached to the issues brought before him by the northern elders.
“To our dismay we have heard nothing from the President since that meeting in May, so we have to reconvene to decide what to do next in pursuit of the much expected prompt action towards resolving the issues at stake,” one of the elders told LEADERSHIP last night.
The burning issues brought to the President’s attention for urgent action by the delegation of Northern Elders Forum were broadly categorized under “security challenges facing the country in general and the north in particular” and “the manifestation of various developments and events which can constitute a threat to the unity and development of the country” but the Forum emphasized its concern over threats to national unity.
On the problem of insecurity, the group denounced the current approach of the Joint Task Force, JTF, assigned to end the Boko Haram insurgency and called on the federal government to resume talks with the sect. “It is the only way out,” it said.
The group accusing the JTF of extra-judicially executing thousands of innocent northerners under the pretext of trying to smoke out the sect members.
The forum, LEADERSHIP further gathered stated: “While concerned seriously about the activities of the Boko Haram sect, which we condemn in its totality, the elders are equally concerned about the behaviour of security personnel, especially soldiers deployed throughout the north to preserve the peace and protect lives and property. Their mode of operation is unprofessional and has led to loss of many lives in the north.
“In Maiduguri alone, available records indicate the figures of those that were killed by the JTF to be in the thousands, most of whom were apprehended, arrested before they were extra-judicially executed and destroyed no fewer than 50 houses in the neighbourhood of Shehuri North and Abbaganaram wards of Maiduguri .
The elders said that the escalation of the activities of the sect was a result of misjudgement by the authorities, which led to the poor handling of the sect’s activities since 2009.
They also debunked the allegation that the Boko Haram sect was a creation of northern Muslims with frustrated political ambition seeking to make the country ungovernable by putting a wedge between Christians and Muslims in the north.
Charging the president to advise the JTF to change their mode of operation to engender mutual respect and trust between them and the populace, the northern elders also urged the federal government to reconsider and implement the recommendations of the Borno Elders Forum, the Galtimari committee report and other similar recommendations.
Issues presented by the forum included: instituted corruption in the private and public sectors, arbitrary and indiscriminate retirement of senior officers in the armed forces and the police, suspicious relocation and creation of military installations in some parts of the country and downgrading of exploration activities for hydrocarbons in the north. They called for a special allocation for the exploration and exploitation of the vast oil, gas and solid mineral sectors in the north.
Other issues raised were the disparity in revenue allocation, which they said ignores the injunction of promoting even development; disparity in appointment into federal public service – they called for 50 per cent upgrade in the next three years for the North; and gross disparity in the siting of federal projects as evidenced in the 2012 budget.
The elders group, protested the continued closure of borders and observed that it has debilitating effect on trade and commerce and thus called for the establishment of an arid zone development commission to tackle desertification in the north, as well as the dredging of the Lake Chad and the Benue River, and acceleration of the various hydro-electric power projects. They called for the provision of adequate grazing reserves along the gazetted cattle routes to address the incidents of clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers.
Governors inaugurate committee on Boko Haram
Disturbed by the protracted security challenges confronting the North, the Northern States Governors Forum (NSGF) will today inaugurate a 40-man committee that will engender reconciliation and also improve security situation in the region.
Chairman of the forum and Niger State Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu stated yesterday that the Northern Governors were determined to put an end to the cycle of violence that has led to the loss of several lives and property in the region.
A statement signed by his chief press secretary, Danladi Ndayebo, said the forum has left no one in doubt about its concern for the general welfare of its people and would therefore do all that is humanly possible to engender peaceful co-existence, unity and development in the entire region.
The Forum added that the committee comprises very eminent personalities from diverse backgrounds, with a mandate to fashion out strategies to address the disturbing state of insecurity, and proffer practical and enduring solutions.
The committee includes Ambassador Zakari Ibrahim, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, Prof. Tijjani el-Miskin, AIG Hamisu Ali Jos (rtd), HRH Emir of Ilorin, Ibrahim Sulu Gambari and Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, AVM Mukhtar Mohammed, Gen Martin Luther Agwai, HRH Nde Joshua Y. Dimlong, Sheikh Ahmad Lemu and Mrs Aisha Oyebode.