The Federal Government yesterday said the activities of the Boko Haram insurgent group are killing the economy of the northern geo-political zone.
Information Minister Labaran Maku said the region was further being impoverished.
He spoke after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Maku said: “Terrorism in places like Kano is destroying the North as it hits at the heart of the development of the region.”
He said the North was in need of peace.
The minister said the region is behind in infrastructure, in literacy level, in industraliation and other development indices.
This, he said, has made it imperative for northern leaders, elders and other stakeholders to rally round the government and get involved in bringing insurgency to an end.
He said: “The attack on Kano is so significant because Kano has always been the commercial centre of western Sudan for the past 500 years. Ever before the evolution of Nigeria, Kano is the economy of the North and the economy of Niger Republic and it is the economy of Chad; it is the economy of northern Cameroun. So, when you destabilise Kano, you threaten the foundation of economic and social well being of all northerners. So what has happened is violence and this is what we want all those involved in it to understand and all stakeholders in the North and Nigeria to understand that if any part of this country is in need of peace today, it is northern Nigeria.
“From all the statistics, we are still behind in infrastructure, in literacy level, in industraliation; so, we need peace and this peace will only be made possible when all stakeholders are involved and I have seen a gradual process. You saw last week that the Vice-President had a meeting with all northern governors and they agreed on certain things. We also saw the conference of the Arewa Consultative Forum with all traditional rulers and they also agreed on certain things and what we expect to evolve in the months ahead is for those decisions to be concretised in terms of structures of surveillance of community cooperation and integration in the search of peace in the North.”
He added: “If you go and attack Sokoto for example, Sokoto is the spiritual headquarters of all Muslims in the country. The Sultan of Sokoto is officially recognised as the leader of Muslims in Nigeria. He is the prime leader and authority of Islam. So, if, for example, anybody threatens to attack Sokoto, what is the benefit? And that is why we continue to say that we do not see much of religion in what is happening, because if Sokoto is virtually an Islamic centre and the headquarters of the Caliphate that spreads Islam to most parts of Nigeria and even Southwest, so if you go and attack Sokoto, in what way does it affect the cause of Islam if it is Islam they are fighting for?”
He said the Federal Government’s approach to the crisis has been consistent.
Maku said: “The first approach that government has taken is to develop the capacity to contain it, to defeat it, to fight it as it unfolds until we are able to overcome it. You have seen this in the last one year, particularly the government has consistently invested in security and the results are paying off. If you look at what has gone on in the last few months, you have seen that gradually our intelligence services, particularly, have improved significantly in their capacity and reach and a lot of arrests are being made, almost routinely.
“The whole issue about terror is intelligence really. The physical deployment of troops is important but because we are not fighting a standing army, what is required is intelligence and the Federal Government has invested on it.
“In spite of all these, it is the understanding of the Federal Government that those involved in terror attacks are our children. Yes foreigners are involved but they do so in partnership or in collaboration with some Nigerians and because they are our citizens, we have continued to call on them to lay down their arms; whatever grievances they have can be better realised by bringing those grievances in an orderly way to the government at all levels.
“Some of those grievances are not even with the Federal Government, but whatever grievances that they have, the mere fact that they have grievances and they have taken to violence pre-supposes that we should listen to them, in spite of the fact that as a government we must defend innocent citizens, some of whom have lost their lives in the course of these terror attacks.
“But the President said we must know who we are dialoguing with because members of this terror groups operate underground and because they operate underground, talking to them is a more difficult process.
“But the President has turned in the olive branch. It is not a happy thing for Nigeria to deploy its military forces against some of its citizens, therefore it is not something we are doing out of choice.”
On the Boko Haram tape aired by the NTA, Maku said: “It could be true, it could be false. It takes more than having names published or broadcast by a group to establish the veracity of the claims. We don’t just take it on the pages of newspapers because you report a story; whether it is NTA, radio or video, it takes more than that to establish the veracity of a claim. So, our doors are open to every formal channel of communication for the evolution of a process that should lead to a dialogue. So, the government is clear; we are ready to dialogue.”