The agitation of the indigenous peoples of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for compensation and full indigenous status in the territory has been going on for a very long time. ELEOJO IDACHABA examines the unrest and the position of the government.
In the recent past, several groups claiming Indigenous status in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have made headlines calling on the government to give the territory its place of honor among other states in the federation.
While this unrest has been going on for some time, the resurgence has intensified recently following the Senate’s rejection of a bill to recognize mayoral status for the territory. By this, the aspiration of the natives to assume the post of mayor in which they can have a strong bargaining power in the country has been abandoned.
One such group is Abuja Grassroots Advocacy Project (AGAP). His main advocate, Comrade Yunusa Yusuf, at a recent press briefing in Abuja with the stakeholders present, threatened a mass protest that would cripple the territory if the National Assembly did not review the status of mayor. and bill rejected by the Senate.
They therefore advised the government not to blame them for the civil unrest that would occur if the bill was not reconsidered and passed, even though they vowed that they “can no longer tolerate” their alleged marginalization by the government.
He said, “We want to give a clear warning that since we are not considered Nigerians like other citizens, lawmakers should visit this FCT as if they too are foreigners coming to a foreign country. Since we are not Nigerians and lack an identity, the country has nothing to offer us.
“From now on, we have decided that we are not going to wait another four years. northerners among them, who have just voted against the bill on the status of mayor of the FCT.
Another group, Abuja Original Inhabitant Youths Empowerment Organization (AOIYEO), has also intensified its agitations for the identification of Abuja, the national capital, with mayoral status to ensure the maintenance of what they have called the equity and inclusive governance in the territory.
Its Secretary General, Yahuza Abubakar, leading other members at a press briefing, said: “Abuja deserves a leadership that would reflect the spirit of the young and the ambitious because of its nature and the electorate Crescent.
“There is a lack of community participation in the decision-making processes by the natives of the territory, a development that puts the natives at a disadvantage in the scheme of things.”
For his part, the secretary general, Coalition of FCT Indigenous Association, Barrister Christopher Dada, noted that the territory had been administered without any resistance when no one took them seriously.
He denounced the crisis situation between indigenous tribes and locals who operate on different frequencies in Gbagyi lands, saying that “unfortunately no one seems to be talking on the basis of compensation” for them.
According to him, “People are rapidly becoming landless because they have been tactically disposed of their land by the government apparatus or absentee privileged owners, but why does such a calamity easily come upon our people? What went wrong with the previously peaceful people? »
According to him, the national coordinator of the Greater Gbagyi Development Initiative of Nigeria (GG-DIN), Prince Gbaiza, said that “the right thing must be done because if people have nothing left, the legacy of the Gbagyi man will die out”. ”
“The Gbagyi have become enemies of each other. This is why Kwali and Bwari may have non-natives as traditional chiefs, but nothing seems to happen; that is why our politicians can be killed and the heavens have not fallen; that is why our houses are demolished, the lands seized without compensation and the heavens cannot weep. Will this happen in the Niger Delta, South East, South West or any of the northern states? »
Sympathy from CSOs
In what appears to be solidarity with the indigenous demand, nine civil society organizations (CSOs) stormed the National Assembly last week to protest against the rejection of the territory’s proposed mayoral status.
The CSOs are the Resource Center for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), the Youth Empowerment Organization of the First Inhabitants of Abuja, the Association of Wives of Traditional Leaders FCT, the Mairo Women Foundation, Helpline Foundation for the Needy, Abiodun Essiet Initiative for Girls, Center for Environmental Sustainability and Development Awareness, Center for Socio-Economic Research and Development, Center for Transparency Advocacy, and HipCity Center for Innovation .
Speaking at the protest, CHRICED Executive Director Dr Ibrahim Zikirullahi said the rejection of mayoral status for the territory “amounts to legitimizing the exploitation and marginalization of indigenous people”.
Such action, he said, “creates the false impression that people who seek non-violent means of achieving self-determination will be ignored, which does not bode well for the country.”
He said: “Unfortunately, following the results of the vote on the proposed amendment, some issues critical to the welfare and well-being of the original inhabitants have not passed.
“Three of these relevant issues are the creation of an FCT mayor’s office, the appointment of a FCT minister to the Federal Executive Council and the allocation of a specific number of seats in the National Assembly to women. .
“So if the issues strongly advocated by grassroots people cannot see the light of day in the constitution review process, what is the point of rushing and wasting scarce resources across the country on behalf of the hearings of revision of the constitution?
As all the unrest continued, Blueprint Weekend’s investigation revealed that, in accordance with the plan laid down by the government, the first settlers in the territory who would be displaced by the siting of the seat of government in Abuja were to be compensated. Since no one has so far been willing to comment categorically on the extent of compensation, a senior official in the Federal Capital Territory Administration Ministry who does not want her name printed because ‘she is not allowed to speak about it, told this reporter that the shouting and shouting about monetary compensation for the territory’s first settlers is because the government has not been clear on the question. According to the woman, “what the government sees as compensation is the relocation of some natives to the hinterland where houses have been built for them.”
“Some people were asked to move to new settlements where houses were built for them, but what these people wanted were not houses. They wanted money, not houses, but over the years no government has come out to say categorically that A and B have been paid.
“There is no sincerity in the way the issue has been handled by every government since 1999. The military administration has even tried to identify and build new settlements along the Dei Dei-Zuba highway and what they now call Apo Resettlement, but bro, do you think the natives are stupid?
“Even if some of them who were forcibly asked to leave their ancestral lands and settle in these settlements had agreed, by now they would have been asked to move again due to the pace of ongoing development. That’s not what they want. They want to be paid to take back their land so they can do whatever they want with their money and that was the deal.
She added that “the government is not sincere with the truth, that’s why no one can come out to say who and who was compensated. So far some settlements of Garki and parts of Jabi are still standing in the city center as it is difficult to ask them to leave now unlike what the army did to the displaced people of Wuse, Asokoro , Maitama and parts of Garki.
Moreover, speaking with this journalist, Julius Dangana, a native of Gbagyi who resides in Kuje, but works in the town, lamented that everything about compensating the first FCT settlers was a fluke. He said it was unfortunate that people were only talking about displaced people from Asokoro, Wuse, Maitama and others, but asked, “What about places like Kuje, Kwali, Bwari, displaced communities along airport road now taken over by army and some parts? of Gwagwalada that the natives were forced out of their ancestral lands in favor of developers and government agencies? »
He said: “As we speak, no one knows the extent of the psychological damage this has caused to the natives and their children. It’s like a ticking time bomb going off in the future. They think they can deprive people of their rights forever? Wait and see the result in the future. There is no peace in all these arrangements if this anomaly is not corrected.
“Compensation not only monetary”
This reporter made frantic efforts to speak with an MFCT official and the minister’s spokesperson about the issues, but no one was willing to provide information. However, a source very close to the FCT minister speaking on the status of compensation for the indigenous peoples of the territory, revealed that compensation, especially in the FCT, is not something the government can do. purely and simply. He said the compensation process in Abuja is complex, especially since the money with which to do it immediately is not readily available to the government.
“The FCT administration and the Compensation and Resettlement Department have been focusing on the Federal Capital City (FCC) on compensation and resettlement. Indigenous peoples like those of Jabi, Garki, Wuse and others were previously compensated and duly resettled. Let me add that so far the FCT is still in the process of compensation and resettlement. Like I said earlier, it’s not something that comes easily,” the source said.
Further Blueprint Weekend investigations revealed that offsets are also underway in terms of agricultural projects and government-led water projects in the Kwali and Gwagwalada Regional Councils of the territory.
In 2015, hundreds of protesters under the umbrella of the Coalition of Indigenous Residents from the territory’s six regional councils staged a protest over this same issue as they alleged marginalization by the federal government.
The natives said they had organized the protest to demand what they called a second tier government in Abuja to bring the government closer to the people, although they also expressed dissatisfaction with the way the natives d ‘Abuja would have been treated in the composition of departments and agencies under the federal government. Capital Development Administration (FCDA).