It is my great pleasure to warmly welcome Your Excellencies, my dear colleagues from Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Taraba and Yobe States to this historic, all-important occasion.
- The aim of this historic consultative meeting is to close ranks among our States and chart a way forward for the North-East subregion, it will give us the chance to interface and dialogue on the ways to follow in order to attain our aspirations and objectives.
- Over the last decade, the North-East subregion has been in the news for various reasons. A devastating insurgency that kills thousands of people and displaces millions, debilitating climate change effects that endanger the livelihood of millions of people along the Chad basin and beyond, coupled with desertification with its attendant environmental damage has led to a systematic decline in the quality of life of our people, making the NE the most underdeveloped subregion in the country.
- As leaders, we have to take on these challenges with all sense of responsibility. More so because, the things that unite us are far more than the ones that divide us. We are one people bound by common geography, history and destiny. Poverty, disease, hunger and agony have no eyes. The resultant effect of all these which originated from the BH insurgency has led to the current state of dilapidation in the quality of life of our people.
- The prevailing security situation poses an existential threat to our subregion. And therefore, necessitate the need for us to convene this gathering in order to come up with a united front that can address our collective challenges as a subregion. I’m sincerely grateful to my colleagues and brothers from Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Yobe and Taraba States for answering this call. History will remember us for this bold initiative
- The security situation and its attendant humanitarian effects usher in a donor industry that has its pros and cons. On one side, donor agencies provide the much-needed interventions to stabilize our communities and prevent an all-out humanitarian emergency, on the other side, some unscrupulous elements/entities are seeking to commercialize the suffering of our people. The solutions, my dear colleague and brothers, is not to throw away the baby with the bathwater. The solution lies in our ability to create, implement and enforce a common regional framework for coordinating donor-driven humanitarian interventions across our subregion. I have already shared these concerns privately with all of you at different fora. On our part, Gombe State has created an office to properly coordinate the activities of donor agencies and development partners. Even as we remain grateful to our local and international partners for their help, the solutions to our problems must spring from within rather than outside, if it has to be sustained.
- Another corollary to the security situation and under-development in the North-East is the establishment of the North East Development Commission, the NEDC. We are grateful to the President and the national assembly for this timely intervention. But beyond all the slogans, we must be willing to learn lessons from our history. For the NEDC to position itself as a truly development agency that is capable of creating positive impacts on our people, it must avoid the pitfalls of similar agencies like the NDDC in the Niger Delta. The NEDC should operate as a unique driver of development in the subregion. This can be achieved by creating a strong synergy with all our States and promoting wider consultation among relevant stakeholders. The objective of the NEDC should not be just to execute projects, but to execute those projects that have immediate impacts on our population, that increase the resilience and capacity of our people and institutions to deal with both present and emerging challenges.
- Your excellencies, the issue of the Lake Chad Basin is another topic that affects our livelihood on a regional scale. Over the past 6 decades since independence, the Lake Chad has shrunk to 1/10th of its original size. This deteriorating state of affairs pose serious threats to our security and livelihood. The shrinking Lake Chad Basin has led to the loss of livelihoods for millions of our people who rely on the Lake Chad for food as farmers, fishermen and traders. it has also led to declining fauna and flora, thus pushing our nomadic population south-ward, bringing them into contact with farmers and exacerbating farmer-herder tensions with all its awful consequences. The Lake Chad is no less an international issue as it is regional to us, and we must maintain close collaboration with our neighbors in the Chad basin through the federal government to reverse the receding basin and the debilitating effects that are fueled by climate change. The solution to this problem is generational, it cannot be achieved in one single term or by a single government. That’s why we launch a tree planting campaign in Gombe that is committed to planting 4 million trees under the Gombe Goes Green Initiative, to combat desertification, soil erosion and deforestation. Efforts are also in place to phase out firewood and tree-felling in order to transit our people to sustainable energy sources.
- Power supply is another issue of great concern to our people. Electricity is one of the biggest enablers of development through large scale industrialization and the proliferation of small-scale businesses. Our ongoing challenges with power transmission and distribution have been of great concern to all of us. While we are open to developing and diversifying our energy mix in order to power our homes and industries, we should work towards creating the enabling environment for peace, stability and economic development in our subregion.
- The issue of the Mambilla Hydropower plant is central to the development and industrialization of our region and the country at large. As the largest such project in the country and the second largest in Africa, the project offers great opportunity towards regional energy independence and prosperity. We are glad to hear that all the legal issues surrounding the project have been resolved and the project will soon takeoff. Our people have been waiting for this for too long. Given the size of the project and the potential impacts it will have on regional and local economy, we are pleased by the executive order 5 signed by Mr. President requiring international companies to ensure 30% local content participation in all projects. This opens up a lot of opportunities for our artisans, engineers, welders, fabricators, suppliers, manufacturers across all segments of the entire project value chain. On our part, we have to do everything to prepare our people so as to take good advantage of those opportunities.
- The discovery of oil in the North-East has been received with great fanfare by our people. Oil and gas no doubt open up a new window of opportunity for our people, but it also comes with its own challenges. The narrative of resource curse in the developing world (especially Africa) is one that we must all try to avoid. The experience of the Niger Delta is there for all of us to see. We have seen how oil exploration without commensurate investment in the development of local host communities endangered the livelihood of our indigenous communities and created an explosive cocktail of social, political and economic discontents.
- To avoid this scenario, we need to promote collective ownership and shared responsibility in the management of our region’s oil wealth. This means, first investing in the welfare and education of host communities to enable them drive the process and committing oil companies to a set of best practices in oil exploration, exploitation, environment management and sustainability.
- Today, our subregion stands on the crucible of history, at a moment of serious challenges. But beyond those challenges lies great opportunities. Our subregion is well endowed with a fertile land and precious solid minerals, coupled with our hardworking and industrious people, the challenge is now on us leaders to harness our tremendous human and material potential a colossal scale that will put our region on the path of long-term growth and sustainable peace and prosperity. This dream, my dear colleagues and brothers, is achievable only if we come together via a united front that is galvanized to confront our challenges. The decisions we make as leaders today will determine the fate of our region tomorrow. The ball is now in our courts.
- Once again, I thank all my colleagues for honoring our invitation. It is my belief that the outcome of this consultation will open a new chapter of cooperation and development for our people. I wish everyone a safe return to their various destinations.
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