GOV. ORTOM, ISHAKU, MIDDLE BELT FORUM DECLARE SUPPORT FOR RESTRUCTURING
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, Taraba State Governor, Darius Dickson Ishaku, traditional rulers from the Middle Belt and the umbrella socio-political association of the Middle Belt people, the Middle Belt Forum have declared total support for calls for restructuring of the Nigerian federation, citing various contradictions and imbalances in the current structure of the federation.
They made their positions known today at the Conference organised by the Middle Belt Forum in conjunction with J.S Tarka Institute of Political Studies, Gboko, and the Centre for Research Management, Benue State University (BSU) held at the College of Health Sciences, BSU, Makurdi.
Governor Ortom, represented by his deputy, Engr Benson Abounu said the country as it is presently structured is sick and needs an injection to be given ”intravenously” to make it work. He lamented that in spite of the unique position of the Middle Belt of Nigeria as the anchor on which the country rest; the area is badly treated, arguing that with the diversification of the Nigerian economy towards agriculture, the Middle Belt; the belt of food production in Nigeria cannot be taken for granted.
He said that the entire Middle Belt is under siege and called for unity and synergy among the people to enable them to overcome the problems confronting them. He advocated the establishment of an economic integration commission that will help activate and boost the economy of the area.
Governor Ortom stated that the call for restructuring is gaining more acceptance across the country and expressed joy that the Middle Belt is spear-heading the campaign. He thanked Governor Darius Ishaku for standing up for his people and the leadership of the Middle Belt Forum for giving direction to the struggle for justice and equity in the country.
Governor Darius Ishaku said the need for restructuring is great, adding that if carried out, some of the problems, occurring in the Middle belt today will not be happening. he particularly called for a review of the security architecture in the country.
He called for unity among states in the Middle Belt and a roadmap for the development of the Middle Belt, explaining that economic freedom should take precedence over political freedom.
The Tor-Tiv, Prof. James Ayatse, who said he was speaking for all his colleagues in the entire Middle Belt and not just the Benue State Traditional Council, expressed their full support for restructuring. Among many things, the traditional rulers called for state police, power sharing and rotation of offices, resource control and review of revenue allocation in favour of states.
Prof. Ayatse who called for specific roles to be assigned to traditional rulers said they do not support the merger of states as is being suggested in some quarters.
Prof. Iyorwuese Hagher, a Presidential aspirant, who gave a keynote address, “Middle Belt consciousness and the road to social justice in Nigeria” said for people of the Middle Belt, what they need is economic restructuring and the need to be adequately valued for the labour of slavery and injustices they have suffered. He called for a Marshall plan to enable the people to combat the pervasive poverty of the region.
There were several speakers at the event, among them, the President, Middle Belt Forum, Dr Bitrus Pogu, the chairman, Middle Belt Forum Elderts Forum, Commodore Dan Suleiman (RTd) and former Benue State military governor, Col. Aminu Isa Kontagora (rtd), who is also a presidential aspirant.