The Indigenous people of the Federal Capital Territory under the banner of the Original Inhabitants Development Association of Abuja, OIDA have celebrated their FCT Heritage Day with a call on the Nigerian government to democratize the system of governance in the Territory.
The people are asking the President to relinquish his powers as Governor of FCT and the National Assembly to also relinquish its powers as the House of Assembly for the FCT to the original inhabitants and residents of the Territory so that they can freely elect those to govern them directly rather than the indirect rule presently obtainable in FCT.
In a speech at the occasion, President of OIDA, Pastor Danladi Jeji said “we are not asking for a new state but we are asking for the President of Nigeria to relinquish his powers as the Governor of FCT and the National Assembly to also relinquish its powers as the House of Assembly for FCT so that we can have the right to elect our governor and have an FCT House of Assembly driven by our people to make laws for our people. We are also asking for the establishment of an FCT Original Inhabitants Development Commission.”
Jeji said the maiden FCT Heritage Day cultural festival “is a day to showcase the rich cultural heritage of the nine indigenous tribes of the Federal Capital Territory namely: Amwamwa, Bassa, Egbura, Gade, Ganagana, Gbagyi, Gbari, Gwandara and Koro. It is organized to show how peaceful and accommodating we have been to all Nigerians in the centre of unity.
The president of the association said some of the achievements of the socio-cultural group include the sensitization of their people in the 13 chiefdoms of FCT and a sizeable portion of the 858 communities in FCT on developmental challenges facing them and the submission of a memoranda to the National Assembly for the full implementation of the provisions of Section 299 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which states that “The provisions of this Constitution shall apply to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja as if it were one of the States of the Federation”.
The group also said it was packaging a professional documentary film to tell the story of the displaced original inhabitants of the Territory and their level of statelessness since the inception of the FCT.
Jeji concluded by saying “as we celebrate our rich cultural heritage to show how peaceful we are, we call on the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Minister of FCT to rectify the developmental challenges facing FCT original inhabitants by not taking our patience for granted. As the nation embarks on another Constitution review, we are calling for the democratization of governance structures in the FCT to fit our huge population.”
A guest lecturer and former INEC Commissioner representing FCT, Barr. Musa Salihu while presenting a paper titled: “Abuja at 37: An insider’s assessment of the problems and prospects of the Original Inhabitants of the Federal Capital Territory” also called on the Nigerian government not to shy away from owning up to the fact that it had woefully failed to compensate, resettle or reintegrate FCT original inhabitants.
“ It is thirty-seven years today and the people were neither resettled nor left in their own right to live as citizens of FCT. They have been shortchanged, dehumanized and made to pay very dearly for the things they did not bargained for.”
Salihu traced the hardship and challenges facing the original inhabitants of the Territory to the defective legal framework known as Decree No. 6 of 1976 (now FCT Act, Cap 503 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.) He said, “In legal parlance, the provisions of section 6 of the FCT Act is null and void because of its obvious inconsistencies with the Constitution. But be that as it may, the Act has remained the only legal instrument that is being used” by the Nigerian government to administer the FCT.
In another paper presentation, Professor Mailafiya Filaba of the Nasarawa State University in a paper titled “Annihilation of the indigenous inhabitants of the FCT, Abuja” warned the Federal Government of the consequences of neglecting the original inhabitants of the FCT.
“The denial of the indigenes the right to fully participate in the political, economic and other rights granted to other Nigerians is tantamount to denial of their fundamental human rights. Their rights should be restored and their properties be adequately compensated for justice.”
There were goodwill messages from the Nigerian government by the Honourable Minister of State FCT, Mrs Olajumoke Akinjide who was represented by Mallam Aminu Ibraheem at the occasion.
The FCT Heritage day was organized by OIDA in conjunction with the Alliance for Credible Election, ACE.