Agriculture, Renewable Energy, Education, IDPs Top Agenda as Kerry Meets Governors in Abuja
The US Secretary of State, Mr John Kerry yesterday met with some states governors namely Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Abdulfatai Ahmed (Kwara), Kashim Shettima (Borno) and Mohammed Abubakar (Bauchi) to discuss issues of agriculture, renewable energy, education, internally displaced persons (IDPs) among other issues challenging the north-east and other parts of the North.
Briefing journalists after the meeting, Borno State governor, Shettima, said the Secretary of State meeting with them reviewed insurgency in the northeast and the challenges it posed to the development of the region were among the issues discussed.
He said: "We had very fruitful, cross-pollination of ideas with the US Secretary of State, John Kerry. The issues we dwelt on included enhancing the well being of our people and ensuring stability in the Nigerian nation.
"We discussed the issue of insurgency and other security challenges in all subregions of northern Nigeria. But fundamentally we made him to realise that underneath the mayhem by Boko Haram lies the real cause which is poverty. And we called on him to come in with their American support in the areas of job creation largely in the areas of agriculture and mining.
"We spoke on education which is essential for any society because the whole world is becoming knowledge driven. We requested for support in the area of girl-child education and gender empowerment. And of course we sought for support in strengthening our health care facilities and health insurance that will really enhance the values of lives of our people. Because most of our problems are issues that can be attended to at the primary health care level."
Shettima said that power generation through renewable energy was also discussed.
He said no society could grow without adequate power support.
"So we requested for support in the area of renewable energy be in solar of wind," he added.
He explained that in spite of the advancement in science, nothing could replace personal contact in diplomacy.
He said: "We were quite pleased by the warm reception and deep commitment to Nigeria by the Secretary of State and we are happy with the outcome."
Shettima said that by May 29 next year, all Internally Displaced Persons would have been returned to their original homes.
He said: On the issue of resettlement, the bulk of IDPs are from Borno State, the population of Maiduguri has swollen from two million to three million now. And where there is a will there is always a way.
"Believe me by May 29th next year we want our people to go back to their homes. We are going to marshal whatever resources with or without international support to see that we have restored the dignity of our people.
"We cannot wait for eternity for manna from heaven from international community to develop our communities. The biggest IDP camp is in Kenya, the Kenyan government has finally summoned the political courage to close down that camp.
"In most of the camps there is challenge of early marriages, child prostitution, drug abuse, of gangsterism etc. The sooner we close them down the better. In any case no matter how good life is in the IDP camp there is no place like home. We want to restore their dignity, we commencing the rebuilding of Bama.
"By May 29th next year, believe me, you will hear very little about IDP camp. We will adhere to the Kampala Convention, we will not compel anyone in IDP camps to go back to their community. But you know our people, they carry their poverty with dignity and they are willing to go back home."
He thanked Buhari for saving MaidugurI saying, "We have to give credit to the president, a year and half ago Maiduguri was on the verge of falling into the hands of Boko Haram, 20 local governments were under their control but now most of our communities have been liberated and once full peace is restored we see nothing that will stop us from moving our people back to their communities."
Also speaking on the meeting, Kwara State Governor said one area that was emphasized was how to take the meeting beyond being a talk show.
He said that there was a need for the governors to see it driven under actionable plan that would translate to the expected goods and services for the people and truly strengthen the synergy for improved service delivery.
Answering questions from journalists, the Borno State Governor said that a holistic approach would be employed to resolve the crisis created by Boko Haram.
He said: "Well, unless we want to engage in an endless war of infliction, security is just one way of pursuing peace in the north east and Nigeria as a whole.
"We are on the same page with the Federal Government. We are adopting a holistic approach encompassing the political , economic as well as the security elements in securing peace in the country.
"Because the Boko Haram is not a uniform outfit with shared ideology and focus, their perspective differ alot. Is like Bamuda triangle, in one hand you have the economically induced Boko Haram who are amenable to dialogue who can lay down their tools and be part of the reintegration process of the deradicalisation process of the rehabilitation and resettlement process. And then we have the die-hard, those that have been called the nihilists, people who are hell-bent on a sucide and there is very little you can do and you cannot even talk to them from a position of weakness.
"Now we can talk to them because we are in the position of strength and we amenable to dialogue. I can assure you that the federal government is equally amenable to dialogue but the dialogue has to be conducted with credible leadership of Boko Haram."
Shettima said that Kerry had shown deep commitment to the Nigerian nation.
"He has shown the willingness, zeal, passion to support us, is for us to follow up and ensure those policies materalise," he added.
Also speaking, the Sokoto State governor, Tambuwal, said in specific terms, Kerry made commitments specifically on education with particular emphasis on girl-child education, commitment on health care and renewable energy.
He said: "On renewable energy, we talked on the programme of President Barak Obama and on Power Africa and overseas private investment operations, interventions in funding renewable energy projects across the north in particular. Namely: solar energy and wind energy."
When the governors were asked whether they discussed humanitarian crisis in the northeast with Kerry, the Borno State Governor said the issue of humanitarian crisis was dear to the United States and that a chunk of the World Food Programme was being funded by the USAID.
He said: "The most important thing is that for us as a nation, the most fundamental thing is for us to recognise nobody can solve our problems. We have to take charge of our destiny and do what is right to take care of the needs of our people.
He said governors did not discuss security with Kerry because, 'it belongs to the exclusive list in our constitution and is not something we have authority to discuss with visiting delegation.'