By Moshood Isah
Basically, with a mere mention of Borno and Yobe states, what comes to the mind of Nigerians is virtually the same. The two states, including others in the North East, are synonymous with insecurity. The insecurity in the states has stalled major activities there.
An average resident of these vulnerable areas is psychologically drained and mentally affected with the spate of heinous activities afflicting the region. In a nutshell, no one is safe at any juncture, including the troops. Even the chief executives of these states have become hapless like their populace, because virtually all the allocation they receive goes in the same direction: bringing back security which seem to have lost its way to the state. There seem to be no succour for the people of the region until recently.
The recent visit by President Goodluck Jonathan to Gombe State for the Second North East Economic Summit proved to be the most memorable one because of the assurance of government immediate economic intervention in that region. During the visit, the President unveiled a new economic package aimed at boosting economic development in the North Eastern part of the country. This decision is coming in the wake of an attack on the airport and military formations in Maiduguri. The violence and destruction this region has experience with the dreaded insurgency have made the decision long overdue.
President Jonathan said the government was evolving an intervention programme specifically targeted at accelerating the pace of socio-economic development in the North-East geo-political zone of the country. He said the restoration of peace and security in the zone was essential for the successful implementation of the measures and actions envisaged in the intervention programme. The President, therefore, called on governments, traditional rulers, community leaders and the people of the North-East to give their full support to the armed forces and security agencies currently operating in the area to ensure the return of peace and normalcy.
There is need for the states in the region to come alive again, especially with economic activities that will enable the populace survive. The government is very determined to intervene in the predicament of this region as the Federal Government was currently consulting with state governments in the zone to define a shared vision, workable strategies and responsibilities of all stakeholders for the economic resurgence of the region. This shows the readiness of this administration to help the region with immediate effect.
Even a cynical critic will laud the effort of the President in bringing sanity back to the violence-ravaged region. Despite its effort in managing the security situation in the region, the government is still ready to implement effective programmes that will accelerate the pace of post-crisis recovery and development. This will surely give the government and people of the region a sense of belonging with regards to government transformation activities. Thus, government is ready to pounce on the vast and fertile lands in the region to make sure that agricultural activities begin to thrive in the region. Cash crops like groundnut, cotton, Gum Arabic, tea, coffee, oil palm and even cocoa could be profitably grown in the North-East. This will engage a considerably large number of individuals, especially the jobless and hopeless youths in the region.
There is no gainsaying that the unemployment rate in the region has triggered the alarming crime wave as idle youths become readily available for recruitment by insurgents. In this vein, economic investments in the region will help engage the youths and prevent them from being used as pawns in achieving heinous objectives. This will ultimately revitalize the economy of the North Eastern states which is currently ravaged by the activities of the dreaded sect. The timeliness of the intervention would boost productivity and socio-economic development, and further alleviate poverty in the region.
Needless saying that poverty and hopelessness have also contributed to the condition the region has currently found itself.
Meanwhile, there should be continuous, indeed assiduous, effort towards ending the security threat in the region. Security consciousness should be the watch-word as emergency management is everyone’s business. Thus, this is the only way the economic intervention can be fruitful.
We should now anticipate free flow of goods and services within the region and neighbouring states. We also hope the communication line which has been barricaded for more than six months will be gradually restored so that populace will no more feel ex-communicated from the nation. The government should make sure it lives up to its promises so that the previous lack of hope in the administration will remain a thing of the past.
I believe strongly that Nigeria and Nigerians have no reason to be poor or deprived of their means of livelihood that could provoke ordinary citizens to engage in criminalities for survival.
While Borno, Yobe and other North-Eastern states should heave a sigh of relief on the government’s intervention, the people in the areas should also put their hands on the deck towards eradicating illiteracy, ignorance, poverty and joblessness.
*Mr Isah, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Garki, Abuja