Leaders and elders of the Middle Belt region of the country on Thursday have put heads together on how to develop and move the region forward.
This was as they lamented the poverty and marginalisation of the region by successive governments in the country..
Speaking at the 3rd Middle Belt Leaders’ Conference held in Abuja, the Chairman of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), and former Minister of Information, Professor Jerry Gana, lamented that most of the infrastructure and projects that would bring development to the region were being neglected by government.
He however called on the federal government to complete Ajaokuta steel complex and not to carry over the project to the next administration, adding that if it were in other region it would have long been completed.
His words: “We want more states in the Middle Belt. If the will of the people is for more states to be created, then the National Assembly should ensure that more states are created. Infrastructural problem especially roads in the Middle Belt are terrible.
Ajaokuta steel should be completed and should not be carried over by this administration. Why the complex is not completed is because it is in the Middle Belt, if it were to be in other region it would have long been completed. We should apply every political pressure to ensure this project is completed. Nigeria has enough resources to complete Ajaokuta now.
“Middle Belt is so well endowed with massive land and mineral resources that our people should have no business with poverty. Yet, we have very serious situations of tragic poverty and marginalisation. How can our region be so rich but our people so poor?”
He ascribed the problem in the region to poor agricultural productivity, weak industrial base, very poor infrastructure, weak and corrupt institutions, devastating security problems and conflicts, poor leadership with poor vision and very weak access to financial resources for development.
Gana said that the only way of proffering solution to the lingering problems is for the leaders and elders of the Middle Belt to resolve and set in motion very powerful forces of development in the region, adding, “we cannot continue to have such a rich region, yet remain so poor. We must seek to understand the nature of our crisis and find effective solutions.”
The former National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Audu Ogbe, who spoke on the topic ‘Creating Wealth Through Agricultural Transformation of the Middle Belt,’ noted that in spite of the progress made in professions and politics generally by the Middle Belt, the people cannot be counted among Nigerian industrialists, bank owners, big traders, importers, exporters among others.
“We have not done badly in politics, but by now it should be clear to us that wherever politics and participation in government become the only industry, there cannot be much progress and peace,” he said.
Ogbe noted that the region has good soil and climate, lamenting that government spends $20 billion on food importation annually. The region, he said, can supply 25 per cent of the foods if given the necessary assistance.
He said: “In this agriculture credit is near impossible and I am speaking from experience. A combination of genuine economic and financial considerations, dirty politics and prejudice stand between us and the realisation of our lofty dreams.”