Traditional rulers in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have lamented the nonchalant attitude of various administrations since 1990 to agitations by indigenes of the territory.
The monarchs wondered why it has been difficult for the Federal Government to appoint an FCT indigene as a minister or upgrade Abuja to a status of a state to enable the people to enjoy the rights and privileges associated with it.
They raised the concerns at a National Dialogue on Rights of FCT Original Inhabitants, organised by the Resource Centre for Human Rights and Education (CHRICED) in Abuja, at the weekend.
With the theme, ‘Building Resilience, Fostering Recovery: FCT Original Inhabitants and the Struggle for Justice,’ the event was part of activities to mark the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, which comes up tomorrow.
Chairman of the FCT Council of Traditional Rulers, the Ona of Abaji, Alhaji Adamu Yunusa, who lamented the non-recognition of the indigenes at the Federal Executive Council (FEC), called on the government to be fair to all.
Represented by Mansur Sule, the monarch demanded that the FCT indigenes should be treated like every other Nigerian.
“The donation of our ancestral land to government is remarkable for the unity of the people and the peaceful co-existence of the citizens, but we are not getting commensurate appreciation from the country. The people should do us justice to see we are given our rights. We just want to be treated like any other Nigerian. It is high time they gave us our right,” he said.
Etsu of Kwali, Alhaji Shaban Audu, noted that the indigenes had sacrificed a lot for the FCT, adding that what they needed was equal opportunity.
“We have sacrificed a lot. Though we remain grateful to the government because certain things had been done, more needs to be done for the socio-political advancement of the people,” he said.
Executive Director of CHRICED, Ibrahim Zikirullahi, said the injustices suffered by the indigenes might continue due to the activities of selfish politicians, who benefit from the present system.
He said the government must address the plight of the natives to avoid the breakdown of law and order in the capital city.
“FCT indigenes made enormous sacrifices to provide space for Nigeria’s capital. Therefore, the government can no longer ignore the voices of the original inhabitants. They are landless, don’t have representatives in the federal cabinet and of course, even their children don’t have a place they can call their own. They have been suffering discrimination over time.
“We are supporting them to re-awaken their voice and put their issues before the government and the international community. They are going about their case lawfully and peacefully and perhaps maybe that is why the government is not listening. We are telling the government that it is not only those that are violent and unholy that it should discuss and negotiate with. It is high time they listened to the original inhabitants.”
On her part, Executive Director, Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA), Faith Nwadishi, advocated the political, economic and cultural rights of the original inhabitants.
Nwadishi also said the 1999 Constitution Review that was carried out by the National Assembly would have been a golden opportunity for the 9th Assembly to etch their names in gold when the history of the FCT would be discussed.