interviewBy Andrew Agbese, Ahmed Mohaamed Mahmud Lalo
Jos — President of the Anaguta Development Association Mr. Pius Gimba speaks to our correspondents on the recent Supreme Court judgement which confirmed that the area known as Jos North belongs to the Anaguta ethnic group. He also explains why the Anaguta cannot ask for the relocation of the Gbong Gwom from Jos North.
What is the genesis of this squabble that led to the Supreme Court judgment that affirmed the ownership of Jos to the Anagutas?
There has been the issue of ownership of land between Gwong district which falls within Anaguta Land in Jos North, extending by historical facts over Building Material Market (Map M60 of 1993) and Du and Gyel districts in Jos South populated mostly by the Beroms. The dispute has created problems in tax collection in Dong, Tudun wada and Kabong areas all in Jos North presently.
The district head of Gwong, the Ujah of Anaguta, has his own traditional rulers as ward heads in Dong, Tudun Wada and Kabong collecting government revenue and community tax on his behalf in the name of Gwong district.
Even before the creation of Jos North, that problem of ownership had been lingering. During the census of 1991, there was a serious crisis among these communities which eventually failed to allow census officials to carry out the exercise in Dong, Tudun Wada and Kabong. In fact the 1991 census has no records of these areas because of the problem.
Sequel to the persistent problem, the Dong community, through its paramount ruler, appealed to government to set up a commission of inquiry to determine the ownership of these areas among the trio of Gwong, Du and Gyel districts.
So, the then military governor late Colonel Joshua Madaki set up a commission headed by Justice Lucky Emefo to determine the ownership of those areas. As the committee was trying to conclude its report and submit to government, the districts of Du and Gyel, apparently feeling that the report would not favour them, went to court.
But the committee concluded its report and submitted it to the state government. Up to today, the report is yet to be implemented. Of course the report indicated that the disputed areas belong to Gwong district, not Du or Gyel. Not satisfied, they went to court and challenged government's authority over setting up the commission.
They went to the High Court here in Jos and the judgment came out in favour of government saying that it has authority to set up a commission to determine any dispute. They then appealed to the Customary Court of Appeal and the court upheld the judgement of the High Court. After that they went to the Supreme Court in 2002.
So we are claiming victory because we called on the government to set up a commission to determine the owners of the place which it did and the report, though yet to be implemented, gave the ownership of the disputed areas to the Gwong community, that is Anaguta Chiefdom.
With this therefore, we are expecting government to implement Justice Emefo committee report which confirmed that Du and Gyel have no place in Jos North. It is therefore clear that the judgment has put to rest the ownership claim of the areas.
Some of the areas that you mentioned are still controlled by the Beroms. How comes you own Jos while the Berom largely occupy Gwong district?
The issue is that of ownership and not habitation. The land must first belong to someone and anyone living there should subject himself to the authority of the owners and not try to claim it.
We are not saying that the Berom man living in Jos should leave the territory but he should be submissive to the authority of Gwong district.
The ward head of Dong is an Afizare man who is under the authority of the Ujah of Anaguta. The acting district head of Tudun wada is under the authority of the Uja of Anaguta. The district head of Kabong is Berom, so we are saying that if a Berom man is a district head in these areas, he should be under the authority of the Ujah of Anaguta.
But what is the status of Ujah of Anaguta?
He is a second class chief.
Do you mean other second class chiefs should also come under him?
Chiefdoms are created on the basis of land ownership but chiefs can be upgraded.
So what would be your submission on the planned creation of new chiefdoms?
By this landmark judgement, the present Jos North L.G.A. is entirely Gwong, which is Anaguta Chiefdom. So there should be no chiefdom within chiefdom. You cannot create chiefdom out of Jos North, it cannot work! We can only have one chief, that is the Ujah of Anaguta.
The Gbong Gwom's palace is in Jos North. What is going to happen with this landmark judgment?
Concerning the issue of Gbong Gwom, we use to have Jos division including Bassa that is Pengana, Irigwe, Rukuba, Berom, the Ganawuri and now the Anaguta chiefdom. All were in Jos Division under the Gbong Gwom. But now the Pengana, Rukuba, Iregwe and Atyen have their own chiefdoms, leaving 11 districts including Anaguta. So out of eleven districts, ten are Berom districts. That is why you see anytime the Gbong Gwom stool is vacant; the Berom man will emerge because they have more districts. So the issue is that, the Gbong Gwom is residing within one of the eleven districts, which is Gwong. The law allows it. But it is time that we have our own independence, we want total autonomy.
In what way has the Supreme Court judgment added pep to the report of the Emefo Commission?
Yes, the judgment has now given more value to the recommendation of that commission because it confirmed that government acted in order by setting up that commission. If not because of the lingering cases in court, government would have implemented the report and any case of land ownership would have been put to rest long ago.
But has the Anaguta lost anything while the case persisted in court?
We have lost many things in the course of the struggle. Some people even lost their lives. But we consider this as part of the price we had to pay for the struggle. However, we were pained that we were losing our identity but we thank God that it has now been restored.