THE Kaduna Economic and Investment Summit (KADInvest 2.0) came to a close in Kaduna yesterday with Governor Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai declaring that some Northern states are as backward as Afghanistan.
His position came as Kano State Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje said a survey has revealed that there are more than three million Almajiris in Kano State, majority of whom he said are foreigners from Niger Republic, Chad and other neighbouring African countries.
The two governors and their Zamfara colleague, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, spoke at the grand finale of the economic and investment summit in Kaduna yesterday.
El-Rufai said: “Yesterday, the Emir of Kano, His Royal Highness, Muhammadu Sanusi II, made certain observations about the state of northern Nigeria within the larger Nigeria context. Because the truth of the matter is when you look at human development in the indices of Nigeria, they hide a lot of information. They saw us as middle income country, they saw that we are making progress in terms of education and health care.
“But when you disaggregate this number and look at them from zone to zone, from state to state, it is very revealing. It shows for, instance, that some states in Nigeria are as backward as Afghanistan in terms of education, health care and opportunities. And many of the states in the Northwest are afflicted with these challenges.”
He urged Northern leaders to recognise that within the larger Nigerian context, the region have some common problems.
“We have the largest number of out-of-school children, we have the largest number of girls not completing basic education, we have the lowest levels of women giving birth in hospitals and health clinics, we have the highest infant mortality rate and we have the highest maternity mortality and morbidity rate.
“Unless we recognise that and come together and address our common challenges, we will continue to pull Nigeria backward, in my opinion, and that is the last thing we want.
Ganduje, while lamenting the state of the region, stressed the need for the seven states of the Northwest to identify the economic advantages they can use to move the region forward and tackle their common social problems.
He said: “These seven states, should try, identify the economic advantages that we can lay our hands on as to move this region forward. And what are the social problems that we are having? In Kano, we undertook a survey and we found out that we have more than three million Almajiris and Almajiri syndrome is one of the serious problems that we have in the Northwest geopolitical zone. What we discovered from our survey is that many of these Almajiris come from Niger Republic, some from Chad, Northern Cameroon and some from other states of the north west.”
He thanked the Kaduna State governor for creating this kind of environment for them to come together to discuss the economic integration of the north west zone.
Yari said the Northwest integration is important and key, considering that the zone has advantage than any other zone in the country, when it comes to agriculture.
In his words: “We have the land, we have the people, we are the most populous zone and so we have to take advantage of that. When you talk about education, in the North, we are backward but we have comparative advantage from one state to the other.
“I have seen one index that shows that about 65 per cent of our people are leaving in poverty. As long as we fail to fix education, getting those children out of school back to school and put the necessary infrastructure in place, we will still be behind.”