By Chijioke Okoronkwo
President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed surprise that the Super Eagles of Nigeria who at present are participating in the African Cup of Nations in Egypt are being owed allowances.
Gov. Simon Lalong of Plateau State disclosed Buhari’s feelings to State House correspondents on Monday after a private meeting with the president at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said that football was a unifying factor in Nigeria; hence players’ motivation must be taken seriously.
Lalong, said that aside the plight of the Super Eagles, his visit was on behalf of his state and in his capacity as the new Chairman of Northern Governors Forum.
“I came in to have a discussion with the President; of course many of you know I just came back from Egypt where we went to cheer the Super Eagles and I also brought him back the concerns of those players that are there.
“I think he promised to handle the matter immediately; football is a unifying factor in Nigeria; we shouldn’t joke with it; if we bring back the cup; it will cement our relationship and that is one of it.
“Some of the concerns they raised is that many of their allowances were not paid and the President expressed surprise that he signed these allowances and they are not paid to them.
“I was a footballer and it is not like before when you play football out of patriotism; now it is combined with the economic aspect; but you bring people, definitely you must ensure; especially from the ministry that they are paid their allowances.
“We went there for the joy of it and the day we went there, they won their match and we left yesterday. I understand they lost.
“Defeating Guinea and expecting Madagascar to defeat us is a surprise; but I think with good motivation, these boys will bring back the cup.’’
He said he would formally take over as the Chairman, Northern Governors’ Forum on July 2 in Kaduna and thereafter create a roadmap for peace and security in the North.
The governor said he was mulling convening a Northern Security Summit immediately.
On the controversy generated by the proposed `Ruga’ Settlements Programme, Lalong said that `Ruga’ should not be anything that would bring controversy going by the level of sensitisation that have been done.
According to him, he is a member of the Food Security Committee and also a member of the Herdsmen/Farmers Committee.
“We have gone a long way on this issue; and we have said that the only solution that can address the herdsmen/farmers problem is the Ranching Policy.
“Remember that at one time, we have gone far when some people called it Colony and it created controversy.
“Again, we have gone far; and then we are hearing some other things; what they are talking is the same thing we are talking about.
“But they think when they mention ‘Ruga’, maybe, it is particular to a particular tribe; but what we are doing is all encompassing for the benefit of all Nigerians.
“I have said particularly in my state that animal husbandry, livestock rearing is not a prerogative of one tribe; everybody must get involved and that is what we have done in my state when we registered.’’
Lalong said that Plateau would put the structures to encourage and train youths to key into the programme.
He said that at present, permanent secretaries and retired civil servants who will also get involved in it were being trained.
The governor said that some states applied for the programme, adding that it was not Federal Government that was imposing it on any state.
“To the benefit of the president, he has not imposed on any state; it was voluntary and they said any state that is prepared to do that to address the problem of insecurity should come out and apply.
“So, some of the states applied and we are at the pilot scheme; and some mischief makers will start bringing terms to cause confusion in the country; it very unfortunate,’’ he said.