Being Text Of The Speech Delivered By His Excellency The Executive Governor Of Borno State, Honourable Kashim Shettima On The Occasion Of The Working Visit To The State By His Excellency The President And Commander – In – Chief Of The Federal Republic Of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Gcfr, At Town Hall Meeting In Maiduguri On Thursday, 7th March, 2013
It is a rare privilege and honour to welcome most warmly, on behalf of the Government and good people of Borno State, His Excellency, the President, Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, to our very beloved State, Borno, and in particular, to the historic city of Maiduguri, which we locals fondly call Yerwa.
2. Mr. President sir, we indeed are genuinely glad to have you in our midst today, not only because of the legendary inclination of the Borno man and woman to be good to their visitors, especially august and special ones like you, but also because of the symbolism of your visit. Few will dispute the fact that these are no ordinary times in our continued struggle and quest for nationhood. For us here in Borno in particular, this period will definitely go down as one of the most challenging of epochs in the annals of our long, eventful and proud history. To have your august presence in our State today therefore, kindles a ray of hope for us, and leaves us with an enthralling sense of optimism. Only last month, His Excellency, the Vice-President, Arc. Mohammed Namadi Sambo, GCON, had also come calling to show solidarity with us. Your visit today, coming as it were in God’s chosen time, therefore represents the ultimate icing on the cake. Mr. President wushe kinshero, sannu da zuwa. I also extend our special welcome to all the dignitaries in your entourage particularly Members of the National Assembly, Honourable Ministers, Special Advisers and Service Chiefs.
3. Your Excellency, as you are no doubt aware, the challenge of insecurity of the scale we have been confronted with in the last three years or so can constitute a huge distraction to governance. The unfortunate insurgency spearheaded by the Jama'atu Ahlis Sunnah Lidda’awati Wal Jihad, a.k.a Boko Haram has left in its wake a heavy toll of death and destruction. No less than 1500 lives have been lost while hundreds of millions of Naira worth of property have been destroyed, not to mention the unquantifiable loss occasioned by the crippling of businesses and other economic activities. Our experience during the period under reference has emphatically brought home to us the wisdom of the axiom that peace is a necessary pre-condition for development. However, we have refused to allow the situation deter us as we have embarked on a single minded pursuit of the developmental aspirations of our people. In spite of all the odds, we have not relented for a single moment in our determination to provide quality service for the people of Borno in the areas of education, health, agriculture, water supply, roads, decent and affordable housing and general infrastructure among many others. By the special grace of Allah (SWT) we have worked day and night and judiciously utilized our resources for the greatest good of the greatest number of our people.
4. While we are indeed doing our best and intend to do even more in the days, months and years ahead to achieve our mission of re-inventing and re-engineering Borno, it is an open secret that our resources are severely limited. Even in relatively stable times, resource scarcity has been one of our major banes. Conflict and strife and their unpleasant consequences have exacerbated this resource scarcity further. More than ever before, we need all the help we can get to fight the scourge of poverty and ignorance. I make bold to state categorically that the many crises the world over, including the insurgency we are faced with today are in the main borne out of extreme poverty and social exclusivity. If one successfully disconnects the Boko Haram ideology from poverty, one may find it difficult to separate the fertile grounds for recruiting new foot soldiers of insurgency from the lack of employment that keeps them on the streets, making them volatile to collecting pittance to execute mortal plots.
To successfully combat this menace, we need to tackle these underlying causes of the problem, and to do that speedily and without further damage to societal cohesion, the support of the Federal Government is critical. I am aware that some 30 citizens of Borno were amongst beneficiaries of business grants under the Federal Government's ‘You-Win’ business promo in which youths were invited and encouraged to initiate business plans after which the best plans were rewarded with grants. We thank the President for this creative programme. As a government, we have from our first days in office declared an unspoken emergency on jobs creation through integrated Agriculture and vocational skills. So many of our youths have been taken off the streets, thousands of jobs have been created through our different agricultural programmes. Only last week, 50 youths returned from Thailand after three-months train-the-trainers theoretical and practical courses on integrated agriculture, others were trained in Benin Republic and our own farms in Nigeria, including the Sabore farms in Adamawa. Many of our youths now know how to make bricks, roofing tiles and interlocks while they also know how to assemble them to build houses, roof them and interlock the streets. There is still so much to be done to make our youths productively self employed.
5. For the avoidance of any doubt Your Excellency, we have no intention of abdicating our responsibilities to our people. We are at all times alert to the covenant we signed with them which we intend to keep to the letter. We also appreciate the decision of the Federal Government to cite in Borno State projects like the CBN’s Entrepreneurship Development Centre (EDC) for the North East Zone which aims at fighting the curse called unemployment and the Financial Inclusion Initiative pilot scheme which provides the poor with access to financial services. However, we feel very strongly that to make life even more abundant for our people, we need to have a far more productive and sustainable partnership with the Federal Government. In our view, the best way to proceed with this is to draw up a Marshal Plan that will pay attention to the critical areas of development in the Northeast in general and Borno State in particular, that require the immediate intervention of the Federal Government, and which if attended to, are capable of rapidly bringing succour to the lives of our teeming people as well as ameliorate the current security challenge besetting us.
6. Specifically, Your Excellency, we suggest that the following, among others, should constitute part of the proposed Plan:
a) The recharging of the fast shrinking Lake Chad through the diversion of water from River Congo. I am very much aware of Mr. President’s commitment in this regard through his active participation with other heads of governments of member states of the Lake Chad Basin Commission. I urge sustained commitment.
b) The facilitation for the quick exploration and exploitation of oil in the Chad Basin area as seismic analysis shows large deposits of hydro carbons so that Borno State can join the league of oil producing states.
c) The completion of the 330 KV Line from Gombe to enable the State enjoy a much improved supply of electricity.
d) The construction in the State of a solar and/or wind-powered energy farm with an installed capacity of thirty (30) kilo watts. The combined effect of c) and d) above in boosting economic growth and development, especially wealth creation and employment generation in our State, your Excellency will agree with me, will be enormous.
e) The accelerated completion of the Kano-Maiduguri dual carriageway, the only one of its kind in the entire North East Zone.
f) The reconstruction/rehabilitation of the following Federal roads in Borno State which are in total state of decay and dilapidation:
Maiduguri – Ngala Road, Maiduguri – Bama – Banki Road, Bama – Gwoza Road, Dikwa – Monguno – Baga Road and the Maiduguri – Biu – Kwaya-Kusar Road.
g) The taking over form the State Government of the construction of the Damboa-Chibok-Mbalala Road
h) The upgrading/remodelling of the Maiduguri International Airport
i) The rehabilitation and refinancing of the Lake Chad Irrigation Project
j) The accelerated completion of the long-standing Biu Dam Project
k) The accelerated completion of the Maiduguri (Bulumkutu Axis) Water Works
a. The establishment of a Federal Polytechnic or College of Education in the State
7. It is important at this juncture to draw Mr. President’s attention to the fact that even the limited resources which accrue to the State have been further depleted, first by the logistic and other forms of support we render for the operation of the Joint Task Force (JTF), and secondly and more recently, by the unanticipated expenditures we have had to incur since the senseless burning of schools and other public infrastructure by insurgents and common criminals started across the State. In essence, we now have a situation in our hands in which resources meant for providing other vital services for teeming population are being diverted to the reconstruction of the burnt schools, thereby further impoverishing the State and its people. We are therefore calling on the Federal Government to kindly come to our aid by directing the UBEC, TET-FUND and/or any other relevant agencies of government to take over the reconstruction of these schools.
8. Furthermore, we also appeal to the Federal Government to seriously consider Borno State for assistance in the area of flood control the same way it is treating other flood prone States. Already, the State Government has demonstrated strong commitment to tackling this problem across the State. For example, Government has awarded a N14 Billion contract and work has actually commenced for the provision of infrastructure including a road network and drainage system to Bulumkutu, a densely and highly populated area in the Maiduguri Metropolis which is aimed partly at tackling the perennial problem of flooding in the area. Works are going on in Mobbar LGA for putting in place flood control measures and for the construction of 750 houses for villagers sacked by flood in 2012. We are even going further with programme that aims at eradicating stalk houses in our villages and replacing them with modern low-cost brick-houses at no cost to be borne by the villagers.
9. Mr. President sir, I deliberately delayed the most important issue that should occupy the minds of all of us here, that is the much discussed issue of peace negotiations especially with the recent offer of ceasefire made by some members in the leadership of the Jama'atu Ahlil Sunnah Lidda’awati wal Jihad, Boko Haram in common parlance. As a people and Government of the State most affected by this insurgency, we most passionately welcome this development because the peace process must start from one step. Getting just a person can lead to getting hundreds and more. Our focus must be on the way forward and not distraction.
I wouldn’t play to the gallery by being too elaborate on this because it is a national security matter that is best discussed in closed doors.
Mr. President, while we thank the Federal Government for the intervention to contain the insurgency in our State and other affected states across the country, I wish to appeal that more efforts should be geared towards the deployment of cutting edge technology so that rapid success may be attained. The widespread deployment and use of CCTV cameras, devices for the detection of arms, ammunitions, bombs and explosives will go a long way in ameliorating the situation. That said however, we are convinced beyond any doubt that the ultimate resolution of this crisis lies in the resort to a political solution. Without prejudice to the use of other solutions, we must be ready to embrace the spirit of dialogue and negotiation to end this dark phase of our life as a nation in general and Borno State in particular.
10. Finally, Your Excellency, while I pledge our faithfulness to, and express our willingness to cooperate with, the Federal Government to bring development to our people, I crave your indulgence to enjoin you and members of our entourage to fully avail your good selves of the traditional and widely acclaimed hospitality of Borno people which we were associated with for over 1000 years before now.
We wish you a very successful working tour of our State and a safe journey back to Abuja and God’s mercies and blessings.