Chairman of Northern Governors’ Forum and Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, yesterday, inaugurated a 30-member Special Committee on Youth and Civil Societies development in the region in response to recent #EndSARS protests across the country.
This was one of the resolutions reached at their meeting on November 2 in Kaduna.
The committee inaugurated in Kaduna has Emir of Zazzau, Alhaji Ahmad Nuhu-Bamalli, as chairman.
Terms of reference of the committee include working out ways of prioritising different programmes for youth development and their inclusion in the governance architecture in Nigeria and the north in particular.
The committee, which was given eight weeks to submit its report was also mandated to make other recommendations it deemed relevant.
It is also saddled with the responsibility of creating a robust interface with the civil society within the region to facilitate engagement and dialogue on ways to address its challenges.
“This committee is very significant not only because of recent issues related to the EndSARS protests and its subsequent hijack that led to looting and vandalisation of public and private properties.
“It will important because of strategic role that youths play in the socio-economic and political development of the nation.
“We are well aware that youths form a bulk of the population of the region and the nation and as such have a great role to play in the destiny of the country.
“Their voices must not only be heard, but their opinions and views should always be carried along,” he said.
Lalong noted that youths in the region have numerous challenges, which included unemployment, illiteracy, crime, drug abuse among others.
“As leaders, we must not only address these challenges, but also engage the youths in a manner that they own the process to make any initiative successful and long-lasting,” he said.
He stressed that the target was to change “the fortunes of our youths from despondency to hope and from few opportunities to vast windows for self-realisation and wealth creation”.
He said the region is blessed with human and material resources particularly in agriculture, which if properly harnessed, can turn around the unpleasant condition of the youths.
He, however, said the required environment must be created by tackling the current challenges of insecurity in the region.
“We have supported a comprehensive reform of the policing architecture in the country, far beyond the scrapping of SARS, to the implementation of Community Policing and funding and training of police personnel.”
He said northern governors were not opposed to the scrapping of SARS, but only disagreed with the blanket condemnation of the police, which could erode the confidence of hardworking policemen.
On the forum’s support for the regulation of social media, Lalong said it was necessary to have some mechanisms in place.
He said this would help ensure that those misusing the social media or put the lives of others in danger were held accountable.
He noted that the stand of northern governors on the issue was deliberately taken out of context by many for reasons best known to them.
“The reality is that we are also confronted with the negative use of the social media for the transmission of fake news, hate speech and incitement. This was very evident even in these recent events when innocent persons were maligned, falsely castigated and even put in danger or attacked.
“This again reminds us of the need to do something to ensure responsible use of the social media space for development and accountability.
“No one can suppress freedom of speech and expression in a democracy. At the same time, no one should also be allowed to suffer or be endangered through the abuse of such freedom by the irresponsible use of social media by others.
“For the avoidance of doubt, this position does not intend to gag, muzzle or suppress freedom of speech and expression of Nigerians.
“We are only advocating for responsibility and accountability as any of us can be victims of fake news, hate speech and incitement. Freedom of expression as we all know does not equal irresponsibility.”
Members of the committee include: Sen. Ibrahim Hassan Hadejia, Women Affairs Minister, Mrs. Pauline K. Tallen, Kaduna CAN Secretary, Rev. Sunday Ibrahim, JNI Secretary-General Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, and Secretary to the Government of Kaduna State, Balarabe Abbas Lawal, who serves as secretary.