The management of traditional institutions in the Federal Capital Territory expressed concern on Saturday about the “non-provocative” attitude of various administrations in the face of the agitations of their natives since 1990.
They expressed surprise at the difficulty for the Federal Government to appoint an indigenous person as FCT Minister or to elevate Abuja to statehood to allow the people to enjoy the rights and privileges associated with the office.
Traditional leaders raised their concerns during a national dialogue on the rights of FCT-origin inhabitants, organized by the Resource Center for Human Rights and Education on the theme “Building Resilience, Fostering Recovery: FCT Indigenous Peoples and the Struggle for Justice,” as part of activities to mark the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples which falls on August 9.
The Ona of Abaji and Chairman of the Council of Traditional Leaders of the FCT, Adamu Yunusa, lamented the non-recognition of indigenous people as the helm of affairs in the Federal Executive Council with a call on the government to “be fair” to all.
The monarch, represented by Mansur Sule, said the natives of the FCT should be treated like any other Nigerian.
“The gift of our ancestral land to the government is remarkable for the unity of the people and the peaceful coexistence of the citizens, but we do not see commensurate appreciation from the country.
“The people should give us justice so that we get our rights. We just want to be treated like any other Nigerian is treated. It is high time we were given our right,” he said.
Kwali’s Etsu, Alhaji Shaban Audu, noted that the natives had sacrificed a lot for the FCT, adding that what they needed was equal opportunities.
He said: “We sacrificed a lot. Although we remain grateful to the government because some things have been done, there is still a lot to be done for the socio-political advancement of the people.
CHRICED Executive Director Dr Ibrahim Zikirullahi said the injustices suffered by the natives could continue due to the activities of “selfish politicians” who benefit from the current system.
He said the government must address the plight of the natives to avoid the breakdown of law and order in the capital.
Zikirullahi said, “The natives of the FCT have made enormous sacrifices to provide space for the capital of Nigeria. Therefore, the government can no longer ignore the voices of the original inhabitants. They don’t have land, they don’t have representatives in the federal cabinet, and of course, even their children don’t have a place they can call their own. They suffered from discrimination over time.
“We help them raise their voices and bring their issues to the government and the international community. They are dealing with their case legally and peacefully and maybe that is why the government is not listening. We tell the government that it must not only discuss and negotiate with those who are violent and impious. It is high time they listened to the first inhabitants.
“The constitution says the government should appropriate the land for public use, but not that it should confiscate the land and start selling it. If we are in a statement where justice works, the original inhabitants should collect land. We rarely have a tribe that is not present in Abuja and if we want to have peace we have to tackle the IO issues.
He questioned why the government has refused to obey a series of court rulings designed to respond to indigenous unrest, adding that CHRICED is considering how to enforce the rights granted to them by the court.
“We know our lawmakers are the biggest offenders in the country and we’ve seen them serve as a buffer to the executive, especially when you have a system where the government is weak and clueless. Today, the lawmakers we have are the ones who feel that the marginalization of the FCT natives has advanced their course. We ask the IOs to sit down,” he said.
The executive director of the Center for Transparency Advocacy, Faith Nwadishi, has defended the political, economic and cultural rights of the original inhabitants.
Nwadishi also said that the 1999 Constitution review process led by the National Assembly would have been a golden opportunity for the 9th Assembly to engrave their names in gold when the history of the FCT was discussed.