The Arewa Economic Renewal Forum (AERF) has requested a strategic blueprint for the rapid renewal and economic transformation of Northern Nigeria, by harnessing its abundant resources to address the region’s challenges.
The group noted that a developed North would impact positively on entire Nigeria’s economic growth and prosperity.
The Arewa Economic Renewal Forum (AERF), a regional economic renewal movement expressed optimism that February 2023 is the time for the North to take her destiny into her hands and restore lost glories by throwing its weight behind any candidate with a viable economic blueprint for the restoration of the region.
Chairman of AERF, Ibrahim Shehu Yahaya who stated this at the maiden press conference of members of the group on Tuesday in Abuja disclosed that over the years, the North has suffered an epileptic form of leadership borne out of a 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.
He observed that the resultant consequence of not tapping the abundant resources of the region for the benefit of its people is the prevalence of abject poverty, substandard education, lack of access to credit financing and other negative underdevelopment indicators in the region.
The group lamented that “the Northern region of the federation accounts for over 70 per cent of the total arable landmass in Nigeria, geologically created in such an advantageous way that it could allow for 12 months 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 per cent of the landmass is fully utilised for agricultural purposes”.
Similarly, it noted that out of the over three million hectares of potential dry season agriculture river basins, less than one million hectares is efficiently utilized yet Nigeria has about 10 river basin development authorities in existence for over 45 years.
The AERF expressed worries 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.
Consequently, Alhaji Yahaya stated that “we have the worst human development index, with an estimated 87 million 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 of 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 northeast and northwest 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 a deliberate policy of the 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
“The Bank of Industry (BOI) 2019 annual report shows a disproportionate and unfair distribution of financing/loans to enterprises across the various geographical zones in Nigeria with the south’s N191.7 billion superseding that of the entire North’s share of N41.4 billion more than four times.
“Over the last five years, about seven of the biggest banks in Nigeria by the 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 or Nigerian banks have 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, the AERF added, “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 a 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”.
The group warned that failure to do so will be at the detriment of the candidate’s electoral bid as we await to pledge our unalloyed support and galvanise massive vote for any of the contenders who brings forth the most viable and acceptable blueprint in line with our demands”.
Members of the AERF pledged to continue pressing for their demands till Northern Nigeria gets its fair share of development.
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