Original Inhabitants Development Association of Abuja (OIDA), has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to send a bill to the National Assembly that would amend the act setting up FCT.
The call is coming as Abuja marks 40 years of its creation as the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria.
In a statement by its President, Pastor Danladi Jeji, OIDA, the group said the February 3rd, 1976 pronouncement of Abuja as Nigeria’s capital by Major General Murtala Muhammed has multiplied the misery and woes of the original inhabitants of the FCT with natives lagging behind in terms of education, political, economic and social opportunities.
Jeji said “as we recall the annexation of our lands forty years ago by the Nigerian government, we remain dismayed by General Murtala who erroneously referred to this area as ‘virgin land with sparse population’. How could a land be virgin and populated at the same time? This was the first contradiction. Infact, the imaginary ‘virgin land’ was later confirmed by ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo as homeland to over 400,000 indigenous Nigerian citizens who had settled, cultivated and adapted to this geo-climatic area since prehistoric times.”
“Thus, the demolition of our homes, farmlands and land-grab by the federal government, politicians in power and wealthy land speculators in different guises have become the order of the day since 1976 without due compensation or regard for our existence as humans.”
Jeji further lamented that “unlike other citizens of Nigeria, we are stateless people with our children constantly mocked as stateless Nigerians, our lawyers presently do not have opportunities to become Chief Judges, our politicians do not have opportunities of becoming commissioners, state house of assembly members or governors, our civil servants are short-changed from rising to positions of permanent secretaries or Head of Service, the development of our communities are at the mercies of strangers who are appointed by leaders at the federal level who hardly know the yearnings of our people. Our constitutional rights to self-determination have been usurped by the Nigerian state thereby rendering us stateless.”
The people however, appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to restructure the governance of the FCT by introducing a bill in the National Assembly for urgent constitutional amendment to allow FCT to fully operate as a second-tier system of government.
“We want subsequent presidents of Nigeria to relinquish their 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 FCT so that they can freely elect those to govern them directly rather than the indirect rule presently obtainable in the territory.”
Jeji also added that “we want the right to elect our governor and have an FCT House of Assembly driven by our people to make laws for our people and residents. We are also asking for the establishment of an FCT Original Inhabitants Development Commission.”
OIDA 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.) noting that “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.
The natives 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 since 1976 as a result of its ultimate failure to compensate the natives with the 1978 compensation figure of N2.8 billion.
Warning the Federal Government of the consequences of neglecting the original inhabitants of the FCT, OIDA said “the denial of natives the right to fully participate in the political, economic and other rights granted to fellow Nigerians is tantamount to denial of our fundamental human rights. Our rights should be restored and our properties be adequately compensated for justice.”
The president asked the nine indigenous tribes of the FCT namely, Amwamwa, Bassa, Egbura, Gade, Ganagana, Gbagyi, Gbari, Gwandara and Koro to unite and forge a common front for the emancipation of Abuja natives.