NORTHERN elders have asked President Muhammadu Buhari to upwardly review capital allocations to the North in the 2016 budget, claiming that the region was shortchanged.
This is as the elders advised the president not to buckle in dealing with the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), and urged him to ensure that the full weight of the law was brought against the agitators.
The elders in a five-page letter signed by elder statesman, Amb. Yusuf Maitama Sule equally enjoined President Buhari to continue to show sympathy to initiatives that channel “funding and expertise to the North from the country as well as from international financing and other support sources.”
The letter entitled ‘Advice on National Issues ‘was written under the aegis of Northern Elders Forum (NEF) on March 7.
Describing allocations for capital projects given to the North-east, North-west and North-west as inadequate, the group claimed that the region was shortchanged.
It reminded the president that the backbone of his administration is the North and cautioned that if the allocations were not upwardly reviewed, it would pose a huge problem for his government.
NEF said: “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 capital spending.
The three geo-political zones in the North are severely shortchanged.”
The group continued: “For a region deserving greater resources and attention as well as being 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.”
The Northern elders said the South already had advantage over the North in terms of the number of federal civil servants, a situation it said meant that the south would enjoy allocations for recurrent votes.
The forum further contended: “We wish to draw Mr. President’s attention to the fact that over 75 percent 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.”
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, competencies, experience and integrity, we urge Mr. President to take steps to address them.”
On national security, NEF urged President Buhari to look into allegations that Boko Haram “still has substantial presence in many areas near Maiduguri and other towns and villages.” The elders called for measures that would help improve the “quality of intelligence and integrity of the leadership of the Armed
Forces.” Focusing specifically on what it called the threat posed by IPOB to national security, the forum said: “We commend Mr President’s stand and disposition towards the threats posed by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and advise that in addition to allowing full weight of the law to be deployed against these threats, Mr. President should support initiatives which isolate this threat among Igbo people.”
Recommending on ways of rehabilitating the Northeast ravaged by insurgency, the body called for the establishment of North-east Development Commission in addition to other development strategies.
It counseled that the commission should be well funded and deliberately assisted to function effectively.
On what the president should do to revive the economy of the North, NEF said: “We recognize that Mr President has a national mandate and we do not intend to ask for what does not belong to the North.
However, the level of poverty, which is increasing particularly in relation to the rest of the country, represents a serious threat to the region and the unity and survival of our dear country.”
The group charged the president to continue to give special attention to economic and welfare needs of the region.
In a reaction to the issues raised by the Northern elders in respect of the 2016 budget, the House of Representatives last night gave assurance it would look into the grouse of the North
In a telephone chat with a Sunday Sun correspondent, Spokesman of the House of Representatives, Hon. Abdulrazak Saad Namdas, promised that every gray area would be addressed in fresh negotiations with the Presidency in respect of provisions in the budget for capital projects.
“We are still awaiting response from Mr. President on the budget before we open further discussions,” Namdas said.
Further efforts made to speak with some other notable lawmakers were unsuccessful as they did not pick their calls or respond to text messages as at the time of filling this report.
Also reacting to the request to the president on Biafra agitators last night, the National Leader of a faction of the Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Uchenna Madu dismissed it as nonsense.
Madu described the northern elders as a bunch of old men talking nonsense.
He added: “By the letter to Buhari, they have accepted the failure of their kinsman in governing the country and now acting in frustration.
“They should not deceive themselves in the old Biafra.
The new Biafra runs in the blood of every Igbo man and nobody can stop it. The letter asking Buhari to deal with Biafra agitators has no meaning because they cannot crush or stop Biafra. The Northern elders or whatever they call themselves can go to hell.”