…Acknowledge Ekiti template in curbing herdsmen menace

…Examine causes of incessant kidnap, especially of pupils

By Leke Adeseri, South-West Editor & Daud Olatunji

ABEOKUTA—South West Governors yesterday met in Abeokuta, capital of Ogun State, where they expressed their resolve to forge ahead with the regional integration plan, especially in key sectors such as agriculture, security, economy, among others, in the overall benefit of the Yoruba nation.

All the governors of states in the region, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode (Lagos), Senator Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Senator Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo) and Mr Ayodele Fayose (Ekiti), were present at the meeting convened at the instance of Development Agenda for Western Nigeria, DAWN, Commission.

Southwest Governor’s Forum: From right: Oyo state governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi; governor, State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola; Ondo State governor, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu; host governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun; Lagos State governor, Mr. Akinwumi Ambode and Ekiti State governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, during the Southwest Governor’s Forum, at Mitros Residence, Gateway Annex Ogun State,yesterday.

The  governors vowed to launch a joint security task force to combat the menace of herdsmen, kidnapping, particularly of school children, and cultism among other threats to lives and property of the people of the region.

Ekiti state govt’s template

Indications emerged that yesterday’s meeting  acknowledged the Ekiti state government’s template in dealing with the menace of herdsmen to curb the incessant killings by cattle rearers.

The Ekiti State anti- grazing law stipulates, among others, that grazing must be from 7am to 6pm on a daily basis and that the government would allot portions of land to each local government area in that regard.

“Anyone caught grazing on portions of land or any farmlands not allotted by government shall be apprehended and made to face the law.

“Any herdsman caught with firearms and any weapon whatsoever during grazing shall be charged with terrorism.

“Any cattle confiscated shall be taken to government cattle ranch at Erifun and Iworoko Ekiti communities.

“Any farm crop destroyed by the activities of any apprehended herdsman shall be estimated by agricultural officers and the expenses of the estimate shall be borne by the culprit.

“Any herdsman who violates any of these rules shall be imprisoned for six months without option of fine,” the law stipulates.

According to reliable sources at the meeting, the governors also critically assessed the disturbing issue of kidnapping particularly of school children in the region. Economic and geographic causes of the development were examined. The issue of creeks through which militants move captives was also looked at.

The governors said that the artificial boundary of states, religion, political affiliations shuold not be a barrier to regional development. All the states were then encouraged to significantly improve bilateral and multilateral cooperation to foster regional development.

Agreements

They agreed that the competitive advantage of constituent states will be harnessed for sustaining regional interest.

The also agreed;

*That DAWN should develop a revenue optimisation strategy for constituents states of the region.

*That in order to improve food security of the region, DAWN should convey a regional agric summit to be held in Ibadan.

*That approval is given for the establishment of Western Nigeria Export Development Initiative to drive the export potentials of the region.

*That synergy of DAWN Commission, Oodua Group and critical stakeholders should develop a framework to drive the commercial and industrialization competitiveness of the region.

*That a Committee be set up for the codification of our values and ethos as an instrument of Yoruba uniqueness to strengthen our identity and unity of purpose.

*And finally, that this forum should be known henceforth as Western Nigeria Governors’ Forum”

Earlier, the governors in their opening remarks  lamented that the splitting of the Old Western Nigeria into states by the Federal Government during the era of states creation had not only robbed them of oneness, but also hampered the region’s pace and socio – economic development.

They also observed a minute silence for Dipo Famakinwa, who until his death last April 21, was the Director – General of the DAWN Commission.

Amosun, the host governor in his welcome speech, said instead of state creation to “build bridges,” it left the Yoruba land “digging trenches for protection against their own brothers and sisters.”

The governor recalled that many landmark achievements were recorded in Yoruba land when it was under one regional economic umbrella during the time of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, as the Premier of the Western Region but advised that the time has come for them to unite, promote and re – enact the pre-eminence and achievements of the South-West in the Nigerian Federation.

According to him, the onerous task on the hands of the Southwest Governors today  is to lead the people to further prosperous living and  “Economic Self-Determination for South-West Nigeria.”

Amosun said: “as a region, it is important that we promote the pre-eminence and achievements of the South-West in the Nigerian Federation. This in reference and in particular to the greatness we have achieved as a people when we were together as a Regional Government in Nigeria.

“We will recall those laudable feats made us the envy of other Regions. Time and space will, definitely, not permit me to begin to list the giant leaps that the South-West took as a Region between 1957 and 1967 particularly under the leadership of the late sage, Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo.

“Permit me to list a few. We have physical infrastructure such as the Cocoa House at Ibadan, which was aptly named after the source of its funding; the Agodi Secretariat at Ibadan; and the different roads that connect our towns and cities some of which are still standing the test of time. We also have the educational infrastructure of which we are still benefiting from today.

“Indeed, many of us seated in this room are beneficiaries of the Free Education Programme of that time. It is the same Free Education Programme that culminated in the establishment of a University that was once the most beautiful campus in Sub-Sahara Africa, the then University of Ife, and now appropriately named the Obafemi Awolowo University, at Ile-Ife.

“We cannot also forget the economic infrastructure; we have the O’odua Group as the umbrella Investment House for the commercial enterprise of the Region such as the Sketch Publication; the Wemabod Estates; the Lafia Hotels; the Premier Hotel at Ibadan; the Area J4 Forest Reserve, etc.

“However, the creation of States from the old Western Region in 1976 which should have been an impetus for further socio-economic development have been allowed to create artificial boundaries between our people.

“ And, to further worsen the situation, some of our people are also making themselves available as instruments of division because of their selfish political gains. The consequence is that our people begin to see themselves as a people of one State or the other rather than as a sub-unit of the entity of the Yoruba people.

“This is not without its attendant challenges of intra and inter-State boundary disputes which have worsened security in some States and, hampered socio-economic development. Instead of building bridges, some of our people are digging trenches for protection against their own brothers and sisters.

“My dear brothers, the onerous task on our hands is to lead our people to further prosperous living. That is why the chosen Agenda for this meeting “Economic Self-Determination for South-West Nigeria” with special focus on “South-Western Nigeria Export Initiative” is very apt.

“Instead of the bowl-in–hand practice that each of the States seeks from the Federal Allocation, the time has come for us to map out strategies to harness the natural resources of the entire Region for further socio-economic development of the South-West Region as a whole and for more prosperity for our people.

“One of such approaches is to identify the export potentials of the Region. This will bring not just more revenue but also increase the availability of foreign currencies which will, by extension, make the Region a stronger player on the international market stage.

“We can do this by exploring and strengthening the different areas of comparative advantage of our States which will then be pooled together for further development of the different States and the entire Region as a whole. We have seen it done as a Region before, so it is not as if it cannot be done. All we need is the will and commitment to make it happen.”

In his remarks , Aregbesola, said the Old Western Nigeria recorded greater feats when it operated as single state than what obtains today as six states.

“If we look critically at the achievements we had as a singular state of Western Region, we must be mindful of the fact that as a singular state then, we achieved more then than now when we are divided into six states.

“ We must identify our strength, unify those strengths and explore the strength for the benefit of our people. We use the development to galvanise our potentials,” Aregbesola said.

Governor Abiola Ajimobi, in his remarks,  said there were gains to be tapped from the numerical strength of the yoruba people, stressing that should the six Southwest states elect to pull together, they would amount to over 60 million population and fit to become a country.

“ I will like to plead for not only inter – governmental relationship but also inter-personal relationship. Six of us combined, we are talking about more than 60 million people and that is more than a country.

“ We are also talking of a landmass which can stand as a mini-country. If you look at each state in Southwest, if we make use of the potentials available to us , we are bigger than many countries in the world.

“We are as a region, very formidable region, we must only talk it, we must act it. We reinstate and reinvigorate the concept of Omoluabi. Success is not money but character and industry,” he said.

In his brief remarks Ambode said he aligned with the economic and political integration of Southwest states as espoused by his colleagues, explaining that it was of great significance to the nation.

Fayose said “ I want to align myself fully with the development agenda of Southwest. The forum represented the interest of all us in Yoruba nation. It called for cooperation and collaboration of all the governors to make success of the region.

Akeredolu who was inaugurated as a member of the forum being his first time he would attend the forum after his emergence as governor of Ondo state, said “ development agenda for Southwest Nigeria is a great idea when the governors meet to discuss issues of common interest. It is a great task for all us, we have great challenges and we must be prepared to face these challenges, united we stand, divided we fall.

“This meeting transient political interest, we are brothers.

In a communique issued at the end of the meeting with the theme: “Economic Self-Determination For Western Nigeria: The Export Alternative,” and read by the host governor, the governors approved the setting up of a Joint Task Force and action to contain all forms of security threat in the region to guarantee safety of lives, property and prosperity of the people.

The Governors also declared zero tolerance for crime and criminality in the region henceforth.

While declaring that the artificial boundaries, religion and political affiliation would no longer constitute barrier to the region’s development, the Governors also directed DAWN Commission to develop a 25-year Western Nigeria Development Master Plan, while all the States in the regions were encouraged to significantly improve bi-lateral and multi-lateral cooperation to foster regional development.

The Governors also resolved to harness the “competitive advantage of all the States in the region for sustainable regional development,” while DAWN is to develop a revenue optimization strategy for States in the region.

In order to improve the food security of the region, the Governors directed DAWN to convene a regional Agric Summit to be held in Ibadan, while approval as given for the establishment of Western Nigeria Export Development Initiative to drive the export potentials of the region.

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