By KENNETH DARENG

DISTURBED by the collateral damage suffered by the nation as a result of years of tackling the challenges of internal security and other conflicts –inherited by the Buhari administration which had almost crippled the country’s key sectors of development, President Muhammadu Buhari along with 19 All Progressives Governors met last week in Jos. At the meeting they took a critical look at measures that would galvanize solutions in sectors such as education, health, transport and social investment that will key into the NEXT LEVEL agenda of this administration.

The President  was represented at the parley by the Secretary to the Federal Government (SFG) Boss Mustapha. The meeting was in huge success as it had in attendance Governors under the platform of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF). They met with stakeholders to parley on policy synergy between state and Federal Government to reposition local governments for excellent service delivery in order to achieve the fundamental goals of local governance.

The parley with the theme : “Strengthening Public Service Delivery” focused on five key areas of internal security, education, transport, health and social investment. And the aim is to facilitate the development of a commonly shared service delivery framework for local governments, effective oversight from states and form a synergy with the Federal Government.

According to the Director General of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Mr. Salihu Lukman in a press statement issued in Abuja, he said, “The aim is to reposition the local governments for excellent public service delivery to achieve the fundamental goals of local governance”.

He further noted that, “Some agencies under those ministries like Primary Health Care Development Agency, Universal Basic Education Commission, Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) will join in highlighting the priority issues”.

Lukman also stated that this parley at the end will influence programmatic relations between the federal government and APC-controlled states in the area of strengthening local governance which he said  will introduced some new initiatives that the APC states can act upon towards instituting new efficient management models for further consideration and approval.

President Buhari had at the parley assured Nigerians that the APC administration is committed to improving the welfare of its citizens. And that this administration has remained justifiably proud of the singular achievement of bringing our economy back on track from recession and placed it on the path of growth and competitiveness in the last four years especially, in the areas of human capital development, infrastructure development and prosperity.

“Early in 2019, Nigerians overwhelmingly re-elected me as their president. That election was a referendum on not just my leadership but also on our parley.

“Similarly, some governors were re-elected while new ones also came on board. To whom much is given, much is expected. It is therefore incumbent on us to meet the expectations of our teeming population and there shall be no room for excuse.

According to President Buhari, “As a consequence, we are currently on a positive trajectory of food self-sufficiency especially in some staple crops. We have also put in place several social investment programmes that have resulted in increased school enrollment and nutrition. We are set to get to our desired destination as much more needs to be done”.

He further said that the decision to focus at the parley on yet another set of four key sectors namely: transport, health, education and humanitarian disaster management constitute shared responsibilities. Considering the fact that they are on the concurrent list of legislation which also requires a deeper role for both the states and the federal government to play.

Noting also that, “The federal government has made huge investments in the transportation sector especially the railway and road network. And in recognition of the importance of humanitarian   affairs and disaster management, I recently created a new ministry headed by a Minister of full cabinet rank. This underscores the focus of my administration in ameliorating the challenges of the present and future faced by all Nigerians, especially the vulnerable ones as records have shown that the APC Government since 2015 has made tremendous progress in these sectors and we are determined to do more”, Buhari added.

The President also used the parley to renew the call upon state governments to double their support in the anti-corruption battle. Stating, “As the gains of our collaboration continue to face the danger of annihilation if corruption persist at sub-national levels. Going forward, we must all work towards building a socially cohesive society in which the resources of the country work for all.

“We will continue to apply public funds in such a way that no section of the country or segment of the population will suffer social exclusion”.

On the wave of insecurity across the country, President Muhammadu Buhari said, insecurity has remained a big challenge for us all. We remain determined to subdue this challenge and secure the country more than ever before. And while the protection of lives and property is a primary responsibility of government, it is also incumbent on the citizens to share in this responsibility, as security is a collective responsibility”.

According to the President, Nigeria is on a renewed growth trajectory, noting; “We will do everything within our powers to sustain the current economic recovery efforts. We will continue to reinforce our macroeconomic policies to achieve sustainable economic stability and growth. We will also continue to ensure that the growth comes along with more jobs and a fair and just distribution of the national wealth”.

Meanwhile, Kebbi State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Bagudu has said that the All Progressives Congress, APC Governors Forum’s synergy with President Muhammadu Buhari was aimed at improving governance and the lives of Nigerians.

Bagudu said that the parley was to reflect on those key areas the country is grappling with as challenges.

SUNDAY STANDARD gathered that this is the 3rd Federal Government Progressive Governors Forums parley on policy synergy that was held in Jos.

The PGF Chairman, Alhaji Abubakar Bagudu recalled that the second FG-PGF Parley was held in Birnin Kebbi in 2017 and focused on four key sectors: agriculture, economy, social protection and education.

According to him, this edition critically assessed transportation, health, education and humanitarian and disaster management. Also speaking, Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State said it was a great honour for the state to host the very crucial meeting organized by the Progressive Governors Forum whose focus was to strengthen public service delivery in APC states and the nation at large.

Lalong said that as an APC state, his administration was fully committed to the party’s vision of providing accountable, responsible and responsive leadership to the people.

However, prior to the parley of the All Progressives Governors in Jos, the Secretary to the Government of the State (SGS), Prof. Danladi Atu while laying the tone of the meeting at a press briefing stated that; “the essence of the parley of the Progressives Governors who fall under the APC is to enable them exchange ideas and ensure that the manifesto of the APC is maintained and to provide good governance, all inclusive government.

“The parley will provide opportunity for states to have a peer review of what is happening in each state and at the federal level to enable them learn and advise each other for a better and credible nation.

“It is expected that issues of economic diversification ranging from mining, agriculture, anti-corruption, social development, security among others will be the main focus”, Atu said.

SUNDAY STANDARD findings revealed that the parley had representatives of the local government areas to gauge the feelings and perceptions of Nigerians on the APC administration, in addition to a presentation by the Plateau State government and how it has fared amidst challenges.

Speaking to the SUNDAY STANDARD on the outcome of the PGF meeting, a politician in Jos, Mr. Maxwell Audu said the move by the APC governors is a welcome initiative but would have preferred a bi-partisan approach because of the torrents of challenges at the moment ranging from economic hardship to corruption, massive unemployment and insurgency across the country.

“This is not an APC problem, it affects all of us irrespective of party, religion or ethnic divide. I want to leverage on the speech of Governor Simon Lalong during the parley where he said, “if you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.” Therefore, I expected the APC to involve even the opposition parties in searching for a way forward for those key sectors which in my opinion is quite timely for our leaders to begin to put national interest above personal interest so that Nigeria can attain its desired developmental objectives particularly at this moment where Nigeria is still struggling with the hangover of economic recession.

But to Nathan Pokyes, the only way out is for both the states and federal government to close ranks in addressing the issue of insecurity first. For without dealing with that you cannot even talk of finding any meaningful solution to transportation or health, neither can education be on the right pedestal of progress because, “you have to be first and foremost secured and stabilised before you think of moving further,”  Pokyes added.

Also expressing his opinion to the SUNDAY STANDARD, Mark Deshi, a political analyst said, the fact that, “the parley is focusing attention on critical key areas like internal security and humanitarian and disaster management as well as health, education and transportation is commendable because; these are areas where successive governments in the past have neglected and today almost every state in Nigeria is battling with these challenges”.

What is most important is for all the stakeholders to put all hands on deck with genuine and sincere purpose of dealing with these challenges. It only requires the political will and we can overcome all these challenges. We have seen other countries suffer from conflicts, wars and economic recession and have been able to come together and pull their strengths, potentials and resources together and today it is history. My worry is that in this country, we don’t actually walk the talk. And until we take concrete steps in addressing issues we cannot get to the promise land,” Deshi quipped.

Governor Lalong had during the parley stressed the need for the Progressives Governor’s Forum (PGF) to come up with practical and effective ways of tackling insecurity which has manifested into other criminal activities such as banditry, kidnapping, farmer-herder clashes, ethno-religious crisis and other violent crisis. This view is shared by Gwom Jugu whose family were recently displaced by bandits in Bachit Village of Plateau State.

According to Jugu, “There is still more work to be done especially in curbing the menace of insecurity particularly around the surrounding villages of Barkin Ladi and Riyom which is hampering farming activities and other social aspects of human interaction. And worse of all, economic activities around my village is completely paralysed as markets have closed, schools are closed and the only primary health centre is also closed. In fact we are refugees in our land”.

Perhaps, given the antecedents of events that have created the challenges weighing heavily on both the Federal and state governments, it necessitated the need for an urgent synergy on the part of the  PGF in order to give succour to the citizens across all the APC controlled states.

Many political observers have in the recent past expressed concern on the lack of concerted effort on the part of elected officials who despite promises made during the campaigns on  expectations to address the mirage of poverty, insecurity and other criminal activities ravaging the society; yet according to a clergyman Rev. Tanko Nomah, “our leaders are still disconnected from the masses. That is why most of them cannot justify why they were elected in the first instance. The expectations of ordinary Nigerians is that government must guarantee the protection of human lives and property in order to meet the basic needs and aspirations of its citizens .

“We want to see the change as promised by President Buhari. And the NEXT LEVEL must not be on paper but must be seen in practical terms through good policies and programmes as well as projects that  would impact positive change on the lives of millions of Nigerians.

However, it should be put on record that the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the ruling party in the country has taken a bold step to meet those nagging challenges headlong both at the national, state and local government’s levels which has recorded tremendous progress in reshaping the economy, rebuilding infrastructure and laying the path for job creation thereby improving security across the country. However,  many observers are of the opinion that a lot still needs to be done with a genuine political will.

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