The Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, said on Saturday that the present level of poverty and underdevelopment in the Northern parts of the country should not be allowed to define the future of the region.

Osinbajo gave the advice in his address to the summit organized by the Northern Re-Awakening Forun (NRF),tagged:“Building a Safe,
Secure and Economically Inclusive Northern Nigeria’’.

Although Osinbajo expressed worry that the poverty level in the 19 Northern sates was high he, however, called on the people to evolve strategies to stem the tide.

“`The Northern states occupying about 70 per cent of the land mass of the country have the highest infant and maternal mortality rate as well as the lowest rate of child enrollment in schools.

“They have the highest number of unemployed young people, and of course faces the challenge of inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflicts including the Boko Haram terrorism.’’

According to Osinbajo, the National Bureau of Statistics 2015 figures show that the poorest 10 states in Nigeria are in the North with the exception of Ebonyi state.

He, however, noted that dismal as some of the conditions and statistics might be, “it should not define our future or that of our children. ”

“We can point to the past to draw some inspiration from the lives of some of those who gave all to ensure that the vast majority of our people do not remain in want and poverty.

“History reminds us of the visionary leaders in Nigeria, who fired our imagination through their vision, diligence and selfless service.

“Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Malam Aminu Kano, J. S. Tarka, and countless others who clearly understood the varied issues afflicting the region, thought over them thoroughly, laid out plans and worked selflessly to realize them.’’

He said the new crop of leaders should note that their past leaders did not live or fight to enrich themselves, but rather they lived to enrich the lives of the people.

“They did not leave vast personal estates behind, but their names and legacies live in the hearts of the people.’’

Osinbajo said he was convinced that if there was the will to think thoroughly through our challenges with clarity and sincerity of purpose the glory of the latter days would surely be greater than the former.

The VP said the Federal Government was committed to action on all issues that affect the lives of Nigerians in any part of the country.

He said the administration had been active in interventions in the North East, due to the immediacy of the crisis in that particular axis of our nation.

“Within our plan is a short term strategy for immediate alleviation of hardship as well as a long term plan to build the infrastructure that most closely affects the economic life of the most vulnerable citizens of our nation.

“We will make the interventions work but more importantly we want to build institutions that live on and make more of an impact in the years to come and beyond.’’

He, however, observed that the government could not end poverty without a vibrant economic policy.

He said the Federal Government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari believed that Conditional Cash Transfer, School Meal Programme, Universal Health Care Insurance and other social protection programmes were critical to addressing the concerns of the poor.

Osinbajo noted that the time had come to take a Bottom-Up approach in economic planning.

He said:“We must plan, budget and draw up policies that show that we realize that over two thirds of our people are desperately poor.

“Governments must understand their roles not as an end in themselves but as institutions formed primarily for the welfare of the majority of the people.

“We believe that this is the change that Nigerians are yearning for in this season in the nation’s history.”

In a paper on developing a marshal plan for the North, Borno Governor, Kashim Shettima, advised Northern elite to shun old practices that inhibited development of the region and pursue education as a priority.

The governor noted that attempts were made in the past to divide the region for political gains but said the region should come together and collectively tackle the challenges confronting the people.

He said that while insurgency and illiteracy were major challenges, the problem of population explosion in the region should be taken seriously in the overall interest of the people.

The chairman of the NRF, Malam Mohammed Kumalia, called for multi-sectoral and international collaborations in addressing the problem of poverty in the region.

As a way forward, he urged the states in the region to devote at least 40 per cent of their budgets to education as the foundation for development of human and other resources.

Kumalia called for free education from primary to secondary school level and that necessary legislations should be made to ensure compliance by parents.(NAN)

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