The North is not intimidated by calls for restructuring of the nation and is ready to discuss the issue if the right cards are put on the table.
This was part of submissions following a two-day retreat by the Northern Senators Forum (NSF) in Katsina State yesterday.
According to the Forum, the region was not afraid of any “sensible and meaningful arrangement provided it guarantees justice, equity, fairness and the unity of all Nigerians”.
It described the matter as ambiguous, even to “proponents, without clear terms and directions on how to go about it”, adding, the North would, at a later date, take a “well articulated, firm and common position” on restructuring, in collaboration with other northern members of the National Assembly.
The Forum also resolved to map out a Marshall Plan for development of the region, saying the proposition would be carried out in partnership with critical stakeholders, its House of Representatives counterpart and the Northern Governors Forum.
A communiqué signed by NSF chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, said the Plan would be all embracing.
The retreat discussed “the huge infrastructural deficit” in the North, noting that this challenge has weigh down socio-economic advancement, hence “the need to design an all embracing Marshall Plan for the development of the region”.
The NSF said: “The insecurity of lives and property and the lack of capacity of the state to adequately guarantee the most fundamental of rights are the most critical challenges facing the region in particular and the country in general.
“The prevalent ethno-religious crises in the region are politically motivated and have little or nothing to do with religion. The alarming statistics of out-of-school children and the number of learning institutions in the region explains why it is educationally and economically backward, in addition to poor budgetary funding and bad governance.”
Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki had declared the retreat open on Tuesday, with the governors of Katsina, Kebbi, Borno and Sokoto in attendance, alongside Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, former Inspector-General of Police Ibrahim Coomasie, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, Dr. Usman Bugaje and others.
Speaking earlier, the Sultan urged politicians to improve the lives of Nigerians, berating those who merely use the electorate to win votes. He also called on government at all levels to implement programmes that could move the country forward.
Afenifere, a pan-Yoruba social-cultural organisation, however insisted Nigeria needs a devolved structure and return to a parliamentary system of government.
The group’s national treasurer, Chief Supo Shonibare, warned that the country could not survive as a united entity amid monumental infrastructural challenge.
In a phone call with The Guardian, he said: “Afenifere welcomes urgent actual actions on our prescription that we need to not only conceptualise. We have been doing that for years, but also engage in practical actions on the discourse on the necessary structure able to resolve the agitation for devolution, and the need to increase our ability to reduce the costs of running government.
“It is good to want to increase the country’s agricultural produce and explore the idle mineral deposits in the North, one however needs a structure able to allow those in the North make the necessary economic decisions without a ‘quango’ at the centre determining issues of licensing and legal framework (but) able to assure investors of speedy resolution of contact disagreements within the region where these activities will be carried out.”
He described the Federal Government as an unwieldy wasteful entity, absorbing 70 per cent of the country’s expenditure with very little to meet infrastructural deficit requirements and education.
Also, Second Republic politician, Chief Guy Ikokwu, said each state or zone should be given responsibility as it was during independence so that each state would take up the responsibility of its children, workers, education, agriculture, industry and infrastructure.
“If the country is restructured, the economy will rise. At the moment, the economy in the Northern and Southern states are only growing by one percent. That is why there is a lot of criminality in the country and lots of hunger such that people are now selling their children for a bag of rice. It is something that has never happened in before. With a restructured Nigeria, there will not be a do-or-die affair of who wants to become president.”