Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
The Arewa Economic Renewal Forum (AERF), a regional economic renewal advocacy group has charged presidential and Northern gubernatorial candidates to come out with a clear socio-economic development blueprint for the region’s economic rejuvenation, in particular and Nigeria as a whole.
It made its position known at a press conference in Abuja, yesterday.
AERF said that it was prepared to mobilise support for any candidate with a clear plan on how to return the region to the path of economic viability, irrespective of that candidate’s party or religious affiliations.
“we have determined that February 2023 is the time for the North to take her destiny into her hands and restore lost glories by throwing our weight behind any candidate with a viable economic blueprint for the restoration of Arewa,” the Chairman of the Forum, Mr. Ibrahim Yahaya, said.
He regretted that irrespective of the human and material resources in the region, its human development index remained the worst in the country due to a faulty leadership selection process and bad leadership.
While in education, Northern Nigeria represents about 70% of Nigeria’s population of out of school children, holding a record 13million out of 20million out of school childreen. This trend is exacerbated by insurgency and banditry across the north east and north west zone.
“Over the years, Nigeria and especially the North have suffered epileptic form of leadership borne out of lacklustre attitude of elected persons to engineer the much-desired economic prosperity by exploiting regional assets, demographic potentials, geologic advantages and agricultural benefits for economic, infrastructural and human development.
“The resultant consequence for our region is poverty, substandard education, lack of asses to credit financing and other negative underdevelopment indicators.”
Mr. Yahaya said further, “The Northern region of the federation account for over 70% of total arable landmass in Nigeria, geologically created in such an advantageous way that it could allow for 12months of agriculture as it is traversed with river basins and aquatic reservoirs that would allow for three seasons of harvest every year, yet, only about 23% of the landmass is fully utilized for agricultural purposes.
“Similarly, out of the over three million hectares of potential dry season agriculture river basins, less than one million hectares is inefficiently utilized yet Nigeria have about ten river basin development authorities in existence for over 45years.
“Yet, the inability of successive administrations to exploit these resources in mainstreaming human development as the most dominant factor in development planning has remained our greatest albatross.
“Consequently, we have the worst human development index, with an estimated 87million people living on less than $1.90/day yet none of the top ranked five economies in the world – Norway, Ireland, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Iceland – are more naturally endowed than Nigeria and indeed the North.
“In terms of Maternal Mortality, Nigeria has about 512 maternal deaths per 100,000 births as at September 2022 with a large percentage of these concentrated in the North.
“As the 2023 general election inches closer, we are at a crossroads and are constrained to reserve the pool of our vote for a candidate with our interest at heart as we will no longer settle for less.
“Against this backdrop, we demand a “Strategic Blueprint for the Rapid Renewal and Economic Transformation of Northern Nigeria,” from all aspirants gunning for the nation’s top job and the plan must entail visible roadmap to reviving comatose Northern industries, harnessing virgin resources and utilisation of demographic advantages for the empowerment of our people in terms of education and wealth creation.
In his remarks, Mr. Rabiu Hassan said that the group had identified the ideological issues affecting the human capital development in Northern Nigeria and had was engaging traditional and religious leader with a view to finding a common ground on tackling the challenges.
According to him, the forum was determined to exploit every available resource towards making the development of human capital in the region and by extension Nigeria, as according to him, “there has been a missing link on how to make man more useful to himself and the society.”
He noted that the 13 million out-of-school children in Northern Nigeria constituted a grave danger that must be addressed before it manifested in the destruction of lives and property, as had been witnessed in the parts of the country in over a decade.
“Any insecure part of Nigeria or under-thriving part of Nigeria will affect every part of Nigeria,” he said,
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