The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has written President Muhammadu Buhari, alleging marginalisation of the region through the instrumentality of the 2016 Budget.
The forum, in the letter endorsed by elder statesman, Ambassador Yusuf Maitama Sule, said in a 10-paragraph letter dated March 16, 2016 that the North was being shortchanged under the president.
The letter read: “We convey to Mr. President our sincere felicitations and pray God to continue to guide you as you steer our national affairs through these difficult times. We have consulted a broad spectrum of opinions in the North, and decided to meet with you and present advice and suggestions that will assist your administration. This is our token contribution to your efforts, and it is made with sincere intention to assist you.”
The Northern elders said that the North was being shortchanged, as according to them, the budget lacked equity.
They also said that the president needed to allocate massive projects to the North in the next three years to ensure that the economy of the area is enhanced.
According to the Northern elders, government’s spending on recurrent aspect of the budget was also skewed against the North, alleging that 75 per cent of the civil service was made up of citizens from the three geo-political zones in the South.
The letter read further: “We have conducted some analysis on the 2016 Budget estimates which Mr. President submitted to the National Assembly. We are concerned over the absence of equity in the allocation of, particularly, capital spending. The three geo-political zones in the North are severely shortchanged.
“For a region deserving greater resources and attention, as well as the political backbone of your administration, this situation will pose serious problems for your administration.
“We advise Mr. President to review the proposed allocations in consultation with the National Assembly. We wish to draw Mr. President’s attention to the fact that over 75 per cent of all federal government public service employees are from the three geo-political zones in the South. This means that virtually the same percentage of recurrent spending will go to Nigerians from the South.
“Finally, we advise Mr. President to flag agriculture and water resources and exploitation of the North’s natural resources and rehabilitation of its infrastructure as priorities for the budgets of the next three years.”
On the government structure, the verdict of the NEF was damning. The forum described Buhari’s team as weak, urging him to immediately establish an Economic Management Team.
The group wrote: “We have noted the need for improvements in the human and institutional capabilities which aid Mr. President in governing the nation. As economic difficulties and demands for good governance become more challenging, the quality of advice and support Mr. President will require will need to be substantially raised.
“We urge Mr. President to establish an Economic Management Team and conclude appointments of key officers and advisers. Where there are evident weaknesses and gaps in skills, competences, experience and integrity, we urge Mr. President to take steps to address them.”
On Boko Haram, the Northern Elders asked the president to probe indications that the sect still controls some areas near Maiduguri as well as possible foreign conspiracy in the insurgency war.
“We commend Mr. President’s resolve in improving our general security concerns, and urge you to deepen your personal involvement and scrutiny over the state of the fight against Boko Haram.
“We advise that all avenues should be exploited to further cripple and isolate this insurgency as well as improving the quality of intelligence and integrity of the leadership of the Armed Forces.
“We advise Mr. President to look into allegations that Boko Haram still has a substantial presence in many areas near Maiduguri and in other towns and villages.
“Mr. President should also look into possible complicity of foreign nations in the fight against Boko Haram and take firmer steps to protect our nation’s security against subversion.
“On management of religious-related threats, we strongly advise Mr. President to improve monitoring of potential sources of both internal and external subversion and hostility and counter them,” the forum said.
Meanwhile, the NEF also asked President Buhari to tackle insecurity of lives and properties in the North, especially kidnapping and cattle rustling, which they said had been on the increase.
The forum wrote: “Cattle rustling on industrial scale has devastated one of the major pillars of the Northern economy. This disaster is now being compounded by kidnapping of persons on an alarming rate. Inter-communal conflicts, particularly in states in the North Central are also resurfacing after a lull, following Mr. President’s election.
“We appeal to Mr. President to direct major improvements in basic policing of our communities and investigate possible collusion of law enforcement agencies in these crimes.”