The leadership of traditional institutions in the Federal Capital Territory on Saturday raised concern over the “non-challant” attitude of various administrations to agitations by their indigenes since 1990.
They expressed surprise why it has been difficult for the Federal Government to appoint an indigene as Minister of the FCT or upgrade Abuja to a status of a state to enable the people enjoy the rights and privileges associated with the office.
The traditional rulers raised the concerns at a national dialogue on Rights of FCT Original Inhabitants, organised by Resource Centre for Human Rights and Education with the theme, “Building resilience, fostering recovery: FCT Original Inhabitants and the Struggle for Justice”, as part of activities to mark the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples which comes up on August 9.
The Ona of Abaji and Chairman of the FCT Council of Traditional Rulers, Adamu Yunusa, lamented the non-recognition of the indigenes at the helm of affairs at the Federal Executive Council with a call on government “to be fair” to all.
The monarch, represented by Mansur Sule, said the FCT indigenes should be treated like any other Nigerian is treated.
“The donation of our ancestral land to government is remarkable for the unity of the people and the peaceful co-existence of the citizens but we are not seeing commensurate appreciation from the country.
“The people should do us justice to see we are given our rights.We just want to be treated like any other Nigerian is treated.“It is high time our right is given to us”, he said.
Etsu of Kwali, Alhaji Shaban Audu, noted that the indigenes had sacrificed a lot for the FCT, adding that what they needed was equal opportunity.
He said, “We have sacrificed a lot. Though we remain grateful to the government because certain things had been done, more needs to be done for the socio-political advancement of the people.”
Executive Director of CHRICED, Dr. Ibrahim Zikirullahi, said the injustices suffered by the indigenes might continue due to activities of “selfish politicians” who benefit from the present system.
He said the government must address the plights of the natives to avoid the breakdown of law and order in the capital city.
Zikirullahi said, “The FCT indigenes made enormous sacrifices to provide space for Nigeria’s capital. Therefore, the government can no longer ignore the voices of the original inhabitants. They are landless, 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 have been suffering discrimination over time.
“We are supporting them to reawaken their voice and put their issues before the government and the international community. They are going about their case lawfully and peacefully and perhaps maybe that is why the government is not listening. We are telling the government that is not only those that are violent and unholy that it should discuss and negotiate with. It is high time they listen to the original inhabitants.
“The constitution says the government to take over land for public use but not for them to confiscate lands and begin to sell. If we are in a statement where justice works the original inhabitants should be collecting land. Hardly do we have any tribe that doesn’t have a presence in Abuja and if we want to have peace there is need for us to address the problems of the OIs.”
He wondered why the government has refused to obey series of court judgements meant to address the agitation of the indigenes, adding that CHRICED is considering how it can enforce those rights that have been given to them by the court.
“We know that our lawmakers are the number one lawbreakers in the land and we have seen them serving as rubber stamp to the executive, especially when you have a system where the government is weak and clueless. Today, the lawmakers we have are those who feel that the marginalisation of FCT indigenes advanced their course. We are asking the OIs to sit up,” he said.
The Executive Director, Centre for Transparency Advocacy, Faith Nwadishi, advocated the political, economic and cultural rights of the original inhabitants.
Nwadishi also said that the 1999 Constitution Review process that was carried out by the National Assembly would have been a golden opportunity for the 9th Assembly to etch their names in gold when the history of the FCT would be discussed.