The leadership of traditional institutions in the Federal Capital Territory on Saturday expressed concerns about the “nonchalant” attitude of several governments towards agitations by their indigenous people since 1990.
They expressed their surprise as to why it was difficult for the federal government to appoint a native as the minister of the FCT or to upgrade Abuja to state status so that the people can enjoy the rights and privileges associated with the office .
Traditional rulers voiced their concerns during a national dialogue on the rights of FCT aborigines, organized by the Resource Center for Human Rights and Education, under the theme: “Building resilience, promoting recovery: FCT aborigines and the struggle for justice”, as part of activities to mark the International Day of Indigenous Peoples, which will take place on 9 August.
The Ona of Abaji and Chairman of the FCT Council of Traditional Rulers, Adamu Yunusa, deplored the non-recognition of the natives at the helm of affairs at the Federal Executive Council calling on the government to be “fair” with all .
The monarch, represented by Mansur Sule, said the FCT natives should be treated as any other Nigerian is treated.
“The gift of our ancestral land to the government is remarkable for the unity of the people and the peaceful coexistence of the citizens, but we do not see a commensurate appreciation of the land.
“The people should do our justice to ensure that we get our rights. We just want to be treated like any other Nigerian. “It is high time we were given justice,” he said.
Etsu of Kwali, Alhaji Shaban Audu, noted that the natives had sacrificed a lot for the FCT, adding that they needed equal opportunities.
He said: “We have sacrificed a lot. While we remain grateful to the government for doing certain things, more needs to be done for the socio-political progress of the people.”
CHRICED Executive Director, Dr. Ibrahim Zikirullahi said the injustices suffered by the natives could continue as a result of activities by “selfish politicians” who take advantage of the current system.
He said the government must address the plight of the natives to avoid disrupting public order in the capital.
Zikirullahi said: “The FCT natives have made huge sacrifices to accommodate Nigeria’s capital. That is why the government can no longer ignore the voices of the original inhabitants. They are landless, have no representatives in the federal cabinet, and of course not even their children have a place to call their own. They have faced discrimination over time.
“We support them to make their voices heard again and bring their issues to the attention of the government and the international community. They handle their case lawfully and peacefully and maybe that’s why the government isn’t listening. We tell the government not only to discuss and negotiate with those who are violent and unholy. It is high time they started listening to the original inhabitants.
“The constitution says that the government should take over land for public use, but not that they confiscate land and start selling it. If we are in a statement where justice works, the original inhabitants should be collecting land. We have almost no tribe that is not present in Abuja and if we want to have peace we have to deal with the problems of the OIs.”
He questioned why the government refused to comply with a series of court rulings aimed at addressing the agitation of indigenous peoples, adding that CHRICED is considering how it can enforce the rights given to them by the court. .
“We know that our lawmakers are the biggest lawbreakers in the country and we’ve seen them serve as a stamp for the executive, especially when you have a system where the government is weak and clueless. Today, the legislators we have are the ones who feel that the marginalization of FCT natives has set their course forward. We ask the OIs to sit up straight,” he said.
The Executive Director of the Center for Transparency Advocacy, Faith Nwadishi, advocated for the political, economic and cultural rights of the indigenous peoples.
Nwadishi also said the 1999 Constitution revision process conducted by the National Assembly would have been a golden opportunity for the 9th Assembly to etch their names in gold when discussing the history of the FCT.