As the Kaduna Economic and Investment Summit (KADInvest 2.0) came to a close in Kaduna on Thursday, Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufa’i toed the same line with Emir of Kano Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, as he said some Northern Nigerian states are as backward as Afghanistan.

This was as Kano State Governor, Alhaji Abdullahi Umar Ganduje said, a survey has revealed that, there are more than three million Almajiris in Kano State, majority of whom he said are foreigners from Niger Republic, Chad and other neighbouring African countries.

The two Governors and their Zamfara colleague, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari spoke during the grand finale of the Kaduna Economic and Investment Summit (KADInvest 2.0) in Kaduna on Thursday.

According to Governor el-Rufa’i, “Yesterday, the Emir of Kano, His Royal Highness, Muhammadu Sanusi II, made certain observations about the state of northern Nigeria within the larger Nigeria context. Because the truth of the matter is when you look at human development in the indices of Nigeria, they hide a lot of information, they saw us as middle-income country, they saw that we are making progress in terms of education and health care.

“But when you disaggregate this number and look at them from zone to zone, from State to State, it is very revealing, it shows for, instance, that some States in Nigeria are as backward as Afghanistan in terms of education, health care and opportunities. And many of the States in the North-west are afflicted with these challenges.

“So, unless we recognise that within the larger Nigerian context, we have some common problems in this region. We have the largest number of out-of-school children, we have the largest number of girls not completing basic education, we have the lowest levels of women giving birth in hospitals and health clinics, we have the highest infant mortality rate, we have the highest maternity mortality and morbidity rate.

“Unless we recognise that and come together, and address our common challenges, we will continue to pull Nigeria backward, in my opinion, and that is the last thing we want. And this is why, very early in the administration, we approached ARDP to help us put together a group of thinkers, experienced technocrats to think through these problems and help us map out an agenda because as Dr Bugaje pointed out the North-west has the largest density of water resources in Nigeria, in fact, in the west Africa sub-region.

“So, by constructing small dams and focusing on agriculture, we will be able to feed, not only Nigeria, but most of the sub-regions. Every day, between 12 and 20 trucks come from the Niger Republic to buy maize and soya beans in Kaduna State, for instance. Dauna market in Kano is the largest grains market in the West Africa sub-region, attracting traders from 4-5 countries. So we have an opportunity to build on the long gesture of history of Kano as a commercial centre, Sokoto Caliphate as the centre of learning, and many other natural and artificial endowments to create a viable and sustainable economic area in the North-west. And this is what we have been working.

“For us in Kaduna State, regional integration is inevitable. The first challenge we faced that brought this topic to the table was the security challenge of cattle rustling, kidnapping and rural banditry that afflicted many States in the North-West, and we realised very early along with my colleagues that unless we came together, all seven States of the North-West, and we even brought in Niger State, which is not in the North-West, unless we collaborated together, we will not be able to address these issues holistically because if we attack the bandit in one State, they will just cross over to another State.

“So, I think that was what planted the seed for many of us; the inevitability of regional integration, and we met, and working together with all the other States, we deployed resources to degrade the capability of cattle rustlers which has been successful so far. Cattle rustling are not over, but it has been largely degraded, and that, in my view convinced us in the Kaduna State government that the way to go is to cooperate on every platform along these lines.”