The Arewa Economic Renewal Forum has called on the administration that will succeed President Muhammadu Buhari on May 29, 2023 to come up with visible roadmap to reviving the comatose Northern industries, harnessing virgin resources and utilisation of demographic advantages for the empowerment of people in the region,
The Forum stated this during a press briefing held on Tuesday in Abuja.
Speaking at the event, the Chairman of AERF, Ibrahim Shehu Yahaya said it had become compelling for anyone vying for the position of the President to come up with a “Strategic Blueprint for the Rapid Renewal and Economic Transformation of Northern Nigeria.”
According to him, failure to do so will be at the detriment of the candidate’s electoral bid, adding that the Forum awaits to pledge its unalloyed support and galvanize massive vote for any of the contenders who brings forth the most viable and acceptable blueprint in line with its demands.
He said, “As we eagerly look forward to the 2023 General Election with keen hope for a peaceful, free and fair election, we the Arewa Economic Renewal Forum (AERF) – a regional economic renewal movement – 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.
“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.
“No doubt, the size and dimension of the population of the Northern region displaces in terms of size any other African country apart from Nigeria itself. In other words, if this region would have been a country of its own, it would still remain the most populous country in Africa and one of the 10 most populous in the world.”
He lamented that while the Northern region of the federation accounts for over 70 per cent 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, only about 23 per cent of the landmass is fully utilized for agricultural purposes.
Similarly, he stated that 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 45 years.
Yet, he stated that the inability of successive administrations to exploit these resources in mainstreaming human development as the most dominant factor in development planning has remained the region’s greatest albatross.
Yahaya added, “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.
“While in education, Northern Nigeria represents about 70 per cent of Nigeria’s population of out of school children, holding a record 13 million out of 20 million out of school children. This trend is exacerbated by insurgency and banditry across the north east and north west zone.
“In terms of Access to Finance and Credit for Investment and Development from the National Financial System, the Northern Region has consistently over the last 10 years been shortchanged sometimes by deliberate policy of government and private financial institutions
“The gross distribution of development and investment finance by government institutions and other financial institutions has always been skewed in favour of other regions, enterprises and institutions in Nigeria.”
He stated further that over the last five years, about 7 of the biggest banks in Nigeria by policy do not accept real estate asset as collateral for any business in the entire North except assets in Abuja
“Over the last 10 years, loan portfolios for Nigerian banks has equally been in favour of other regions and to the disadvantage of the entire Northern region with some slight exceptions for Abuja
“This same trend is visible in other financial institutions including development finance institutions owned by government and special intervention funds provided by budgets and or central bank of Nigeria special intervention financing
“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 nations 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,” he added.