From Noah Ebije,  Kaduna

The Northern Governors’ Forum (NGF) has expressed grave concerns over the alarming increase in the number of out-of-school children in the region, labeling it as a pressing issue that demands immediate attention.

Speaking at its meeting in Kaduna, yesterday, Chairman of the forum, Governor Muhammadu Yahaya of Gombe State, decried  that Northern Nigeria currently shoulders the unfortunate burden of hosting the highest number of out-of-school children globally. He emphasised the urgency of addressing the

This is as Governor of Kaduna State, Uba Sani, called for a Marshall Plan to develop the region by pooling the states’ resources to develop roads, rail, solid minerals, energy infrastructure and agriculture.

Governor Yahaya noted that a long term economic development was paramount to tackling insecurity in the region, just as he lamented that Northern Nigeria currently bears the burden of the highest number of out-of-school children in the world which he noted could compound security challenges.

The NSGF chairman while addressing the meeting of governors in Kaduna, yesterday, said the situation was an unacceptable reality that the leaders must address with every sense of urgency.

“Economic development is paramount to our region’s prosperity. We consider economic development as the long-term solution to our security challenges. In this regard, the revitalisation of the New Nigeria Development Company (NNDC) is at the heart of our economic agenda for northern Nigeria. We must also explore innovative ways to invest in critical infrastructure capable of unlocking the huge industrial and economic potentials of the northern region. I urge us not to lose focus, but to strive, sustain and enhance the legacies of our founding fathers.

“Human capital development is very critical to the progress and prosperity of our region. It is deeply troubling that Northern Nigeria currently bears the burden of the highest number of out-of-school children in the world. This is an unacceptable reality that we must urgently address. Every child deserves access to quality education and the opportunity to develop the skills necessary to succeed in today’s rapidly changing global economic landscape. As leaders, we have a moral obligation to invest massively in education and skills development, healthcare, and social services in order to unlock the full potential of our youth and empower future generations.

“Environmental sustainability is equally crucial to both our present and future. Climate change, unsustainable agricultural practices, and population growth pose significant challenges to our communities. We must adopt holistic approaches that promote environmental conservation, sustainable agriculture, and responsible resource management so as to safeguard the livelihoods of our people and preserve our natural heritage for generations yet unborn.

“Regional integration remains a cornerstone of our collective vision for a prosperous northern region. Let us deepen our collaborations in infrastructure development, human capital enhancement, trade, security cooperation, and cultural exchange. Together, we can unlock the full potentials of our region and ensure inclusive growth and shared prosperity in the ever-competitive Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“Security remains top on our agenda. During our last meeting, we reaffirmed our willingness to work with the Federal Government in order to provide lasting solutions to the security challenges bedevilling our region. Since then, we have had various engagements with the National Security Adviser, service chiefs, coalition of northern civil society groups, and other relevant stakeholders on charting a way forward for sustainable peace and stability in northern Nigeria. As the nation continues to deliberate on the issue of state police, it is important that we begin to explore state policing models that are built on the foundation of cooperation and collaboration amongst our northern states.

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“Let me use this opportunity to express our deepest sympathy and unflinching support to our colleagues and the people of Kaduna, Katsina, Niger, Plateau and Zamfara States, who have been facing unprecedented security challenges recently. Let us stand together in solidarity by offering our firm commitment to supporting our fellow northern brethren during these difficult times.

“I would like to thank our host governor, the governor of Kaduna State, and my other governor-colleagues for honouring this meeting. This meeting is a demonstration of our collective resolve, determination and unity. Our people are looking up to us in this period of extraordinary challenges. We cannot afford to fail them. I am confident that with your support and cooperation, we will overcome any obstacle and achieve our shared aspirations for a brighter future for the northern region and Nigeria at large.

“It is with great humility and a sense of responsibility that I address you once again as the Chairman of the Northern States Governors Forum. As we convene today, I am reminded of the collective strength and resilience of our northern people, and I am honoured to lead our efforts in addressing the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead,” Governor Yahaya said.

Earlier in his welcome address, the host, governor Sani, argued that every synergy on economic Marshal plans would reinvent the economy of Northern Nigeria and help it tackle the challenges of insecurity and poverty.

He also reiterated his earlier call for a common strategy and operational plan to tackle insecurity, through establishment of a command and control centre to coordinate their joint security efforts.

“At the inaugural meeting of the Forum held on December 15, 2023, we resolved to stand united in our commitment to addressing the security and developmental challenges facing Northern Nigeria. We also resolved to address the environmental challenges affecting Northern Nigeria  threatening rural livelihood, pushing farmers into conflict with herders and adding to the general level of poverty and insecurity,” he recalled.

“Since the inaugural meeting, we have individually and collectively fashioned workable strategies and implemented some measures to tackle our security challenges. We have made remarkable progress in degrading criminal elements laying siege to our communities.

“The Federal Government under the dynamic, focused and courageous leadership of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has demonstrated total commitment to winning the war against terrorism, banditry, kidnapping and other forms of criminality. It has strengthened partnership with northern states and sustained its support to us. But challenges still remain.

“Today’s meeting, dear colleagues, affords us an opportunity to look at our successes and challenges so far in the war against terrorism, banditry and kidnapping and fashion new strategies for a final push against these enemies of development. It is for this reason, dear colleagues, that I wish to reiterate my earlier call for northern states to develop a common strategy and operational plan to tackle insecurity. Let us establish a command and control centre to coordinate our joint efforts.

“Dear colleagues, I also urge us to re-strategise and come to a conclusion on forging a common approach to the development of Northern Nigeria. We have been working assiduously in our respective states to address our developmental challenges, but the disturbing development indices in Northern Nigeria requires a collective and sustained effort.

“We need to fashion a Marshall Plan for the development of Northern Nigeria. Let us pull resources together to develop our road, rail, Solid minerals and energy infrastructure. Agriculture is another key area we can pull resources together to reinvent the economy of Northern Nigeria,” Governor Sani said.