The Indigenous people of Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, have warned that should the country eventually break up, they will seek an independent status.
They said they would ask the United Nations to govern the 8,000sq kilometres territory through a transitional arrangement until it can become an autonomous city-state with socio-political and economic sovereignty.
They however, declared their support for a united Nigeria based on proper devolution of governmental powers rather than dismemberment of the nation as canvassed by separatist groups.
Their resolution was contained in a statement by the President of the Original Inhabitants Development Association of Abuja, OIDA, Pastor Danladi Jeji, and signed by the Media Adviser, Sumner Shagari Sambo.
According to OIDA, “We have watched with dismay as federal authorities and security agencies look on as separatist and expulsionist groups have a field day calling for dismemberment of Nigeria or giving quit notices to fellow Nigerians. We condemn all of these shady characters and agitations in strong words.
“Nigeria is bigger than all of us but it is also not non-negotiable as erroneously believed in some quarters, especially by those in power. Abuja natives believe that we can re-negotiate the content of the Nigerian constitution and structure of the federation by devolving more powers to the states and other constituent parts such as the FCT.
“Abuja natives believe in correcting state-sanctioned injustices in Nigeria through peaceful, political, legislative or judicial methods rather than unilateral declaration of secession or expulsion of non-indigenes through violent means hence our recent approach to sue the federal government last year at the ECOWAS Court of Justice for forceful usurpation of our ancestral lands and denial of several human and democratic rights by the 1999 Constitution (as amended). The judgment of which we await.
“We have in years past canvassed for decentralization of powers to natives and residents so that we can freely elect our own governor, have an FCT House of Assembly, an FCT judiciary and expand the democratic space through more representatives in the National Assembly rather than the present military contraption in which a minister, who knows half to nothing about the area, is appointed to govern the Territory while the 1999 Constitution sametime refers to the President as ‘Governor’ of FCT (see Section 299). This has often led to neglect of satellite towns, suburbs and rural communities in the territory as a result of the activities of the city-centred minister and decadent administrative structure. This shows that Nigeria’s grundnorm is faulty and needs urgent amendment.
“We are minorities consisting of nine tribes and bourgeoning residents who have a right to self-determination hence none of the majority regions or ethnicities should think that we will go with them. We urge more peace and unity at the moment but should the Nigerian federation be dissolved, we shall have no choice than to seek an independent status from the northern or southern groups agitating for separate countries at the moment. Like Kosovo, we shall seek the United Nations’ administrative, civil and military support to declare an autonomous status of self-government.
“In our earlier memoranda to the National Assembly and National Conference, we asked for a constitutional amendment to allow for more governmental structures, proper interpretation and implementation of Sections 147, 299, 300, 301 and 302 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) so that FCT natives and residents can elect their governor, have a minister, have three senators, six House of Representative Members, seventeen area councils and an FCT House of Assembly among other demands. Also, we demanded that the demolition and confiscation of homes, settlements and farmlands belonging to original inhabitants of Abuja should be stopped forthwith, unless where and when compensation and resettlement is duly undertaken in accordance with the provisions of Sections 44 and 297 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).”
The group also kicked against the recent decision of the FCT Minister, Mohammed Bello to close down all zonal land allocation offices in the six area councils within the FCT describing the action as callous and non-consultative but with the capacity to infuriate natives thereby leading to a breach of public peace. We maintain that these lands are within the purview of the local councils and their chairmen.
It added, “We call for an immediate reversal of the policy by the FCT administration as it will be too burdensome for our people to always be coming from interior communities to Area eleven for minor land disputes that should ordinarily be settled by land officials at local levels. Moreover, this action runs contrary to the provisions of the Land Use Act of 1978 and several judgments against the FCT administration in the past.
“The Supreme Court has clearly stated in its judgment that Customary Land Title has not been abolished by the FCT Act via case number SC/187/2000 filed by Abaji Area Council against the Ministry of Federal Capital Territory with judgment delivered on 27th November 2000 by Justice SMA Belgore. Hence, there is no justifiable reason for closing down such zonal land offices in the first instance.”
The group demanded that the Minister include FCT natives in the FCT Land Allocation Committee and advised him to always consult with all relevant elected, traditional and civil society organizations like OIDA before taking such critical decisions so as to prevent public disorder.