The Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED), Original Inhabitant groups, and CSOs urge President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR, as he prepares to release his ministerial list, to include FCT Original Inhabitants.
Considering the decades-long marginalization and political relegation endured by the Original Inhabitants of the FCT, who gave up ancestral lands for which they have not been adequately compensated by the Nigerian State, this call becomes imperative.
In the speech announcing the creation of Nigeria’s new capital of Abuja in 1976, the then-head of state, General Murtala Mohammed, promised that the original inhabitants of the territory who needed to be relocated for planning purposes would be resettled in places of their choice at the expense of the government.
However, 47 years after that solemn promise made by the Nigerian government to the Original Inhabitants of the FCT, it has not been fulfilled, and the people who gave up their lands have largely been relegated to spectator status in the politics and administration of their country.
For instance, when Nigerians in other states are voting for governors and members of their Houses of Assembly, the original inhabitants and other residents of the FCT are excluded and forced to be onlookers while other citizens participate in this crucial exercise of democratic rights. Little wonder, original inhabitant communities located away from the façade of the highbrow city center, are plagued by the absence of or inadequate basic amenities.
Added to this is the injustice of subjugating and relegating the original inhabitants who made monumental sacrifices for the unity and collective well-being of all Nigerians. Their fundamental rights have been serially violated through the discriminatory practice of deliberately refusing to include them in key governance structures and processes.
It is sad to note that since the creation of the FCT through the promulgation of Decree 6 of 1976, no Original Inhabitant of the FCT has held the position of Minister of the Federal Republic, depriving them of representation in one of the country’s most important governance structures.
For decades, the rest of Nigeria has ignored the original owners of the land that is now the Federal Capital Territory, thereby depriving them of recognition and honour for their enormous contributions to the Nigerian project.
As the nation awaits the release of President Tinubu’s ministerial list, the question is whether the President will take the first big and bold step toward redressing the decades-long injustices meted to the FCT Original Inhabitants by appointing one of them to his cabinet, or whether he will continue the perpetuation of injustice against them, just like his predecessors.
While cabinet appointment of FCT Original Inhabitants will not address all issues of marginalization and political exclusion affecting them, it will serve as an important first step in demonstrating their contributions to Nigeria’s growth and development. Importantly too, including Original Inhabitants in the governance of the country through structures such as the Federal Executive Council (FEC), the National Assembly, and the judiciary, as well as the creation of a special State for them, will reduce the anger of the people, particularly among the youth, women, and people with disabilities.
Including the original inhabitants in key governance processes will amount to protecting and promoting their fundamental rights under Section 42(1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended which states that: “A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person (a) be subjected either expressly by, or in practical appreciation of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizen of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinion are not made subject; or (b) be accorded either expressly by, or in practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria or other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religion or political opinion.”
We, therefore, urge the government to begin to rectify the historical wrongs committed against the indigenous in the FCT by granting them a ministerial position. Another denial of the original inhabitants’ participation in a key governance structure such as the Federal Executive Council (FEC) would be a continuation of the injustices they have endured for decades.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
Comrade Dr. Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi, Executive Director, Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education
Ambassador Hannatu Aze Usman-Nga, Executive Director, Association of FCT Traditional Rulers Wives
Chief Isaac David, President, Abuja Original Inhabitants Youth Empowerment Organisation (AOIYEO)