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2019: 7 Northern Govs hold closed-door meeting with Buhari

* Say they believe in continuity
* Gov el-Rufai: Severance package for sacked teachers ready

Seven Northern governors on Friday held a closed door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari after the Friday Juma’at service at the State House Mosque, Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The state governors, who met President Buhari behind closed-door were Abubakar Bello (Niger); Ibrahim Gaidam (Yobe); Yahaya Bello (Kogi); Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano); Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna); Jibrilla Bindo (Adamawa) and Simon Lalong (Plateau).

But speaking to the State House correspondents after the meeting, Governor Ganduje claimed that the coming together of the seven governors was coincidence and not for any purpose.

He said, “We are seven in number here but we came separately not for any purpose but after the Friday prayers, we decided to say hello to Mr. President. It is just coincidence that we met in the Mosque and some joined us later and we decided to go and greet him.

When asked on the best way forward in resolving the Fulani herdsmen crises with farmers, Ganduje said, “The president met with stakeholders from the affected states and I think a suggestion has been put forward by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development concerning the colony and I think eventually that is the answer.”

But Governor el- Rufai interjected when Ganduje was asked his response if people insinuate that the meeting was all about 2019, insisting that the governors wanted Buhari to contest the 2019 presidential election.

Governor el-Rufai said, “We are politicians and those of us you see here want the President to contest the 2019 election, we have no apologies for that.
“We believe in Mr. President. We want him to continue running the country in the right direction. People can speculate about 2019 we have no apologies.”

On whether those speculating that the meeting was about the 2019 election were right, el-Rufai said, “Whether they are right or wrong is besides the point. Everybody is entitled to its own opinion but as governors, and most of us here with the exception of Yobe Governor are first time governors, we are interested in the continuity and stability and we want the president to continue with that.

“Like our leader, the Kano Governor said, we just happen to be here by coincidence and we went to pray and decided to felicitate with the President and we feel satisfied that anytime we see him, he is getting better and better.”

When further asked whether he directed the police to stop workers from marching to the Government House in Kaduna on Thursday to protest the alleged sacking of about 21,000 teachers in Kaduna State, el- Rufai said the right to protest was guaranteed in the 1999 Constitution (as amended), saying that he was not in the state that day.

He said, “I did not direct the police to stop the workers, I was not even in Kaduna. For me the right to protest is guaranteed in the constitution, provided you don’t go violent and you don’t violate any laws.

“I think the concerns of the police is because of the precarious situation in the country particularly in Kaduna made it unsuitable to have such protest. And the last time they did such a thing they attacked the State House of Assembly, a legislator for which they have filed criminal charges.

“So, this is the concern, the concern is break down of law and order and not protest or strike. They are free to do so but it will not change our position.”

The governor also ruled out the possibilities of recalling the sacked teachers, saying that the state government had made provisions for their severance package.

He said, “There is nothing to step back on. Is a well thought out position we took one and half years before we made the decision and we will not change it. We have announced that in line with the public service rule, we will pay three months severance pay and we have provided incentives for those that are retiring to go through the retirement training.

“Those that are interested in farming, we have the reserve land available and for those that want to go into trade, we have micro credit to support them. But they are not suitable as teachers, they can do other things and the government will do other things to support them.”

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